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New England Fish Chowder

Stop fishing for the perfect fish chowder recipe. It’s this.

This creamy New England fish chowder recipe tastes surprisingly light, and is full of chunky fresh fish and potatoes, with a delicate, satisfying flavor. Best of all? This Maine haddock chowder is super easy to make.

new england fish chowder with haddock

There’s something particularly good about a nice, simple chowder. All soups have a special homey, satisfying quality. But this easy, creamy New England fish chowder recipe takes it to the next level. It’s surprisingly light, and full of chunky fresh fish, potatoes, and a delicate, satisfying flavor. This is the haddock chowder recipe I’ve enjoyed during Maine summers since childhood.

Simple to make and full of flavor despite the lack of common chowder ingredients like bacon or clam juice, this fish chowder recipe will take your taste buds straight to Bar Harbor or Cape Cod.

You’ll also like: Coconut Fish Chowder With Greens and Herby French Potato Salad

chowder ingredients haddock potatoes onion milk

What’s the Difference: Fish Chowder from New England vs. Manhattan

Maine- or New England-style chowders — clam chowder, fish chowder, lobster stew — have a milk or cream base.

Manhattan chowders, on the other hand, contain no cream. Instead, these soups use a tomato broth, and usually have vegetables like carrots and celery, seasoned with herbs like parsley and thyme.

When Was Fish Chowder Invented?

The generally-accepted wisdom is that creamy New England chowders became popular in the early 1800s, when it was served at Boston’s (still-famous) Union Oyster House, the oldest continually-operated restaurant in America. The style of soup, already well known regionally, spread throughout New England from there.

Meanwhile, down the coast, Rhode Island’s Portuguese immigrant fishing communities traveled back and forth from New York City’s Fulton Fish Market in the mid-1800s, bringing with them their Mediterranean-style tomato and vegetable fish soup. Allegedly. The history of this exact fish chowder recipe is less clear.

pot of New England fish chowder with haddock and milk

What is the best thickener for fish chowder?

What thickens this New England fish chowder? Not much. This fish chowder recipe does not use any thickeners like flour or cornstarch.

Traditionally, Maine-style fish chowder is not thick and gloopy, but rather more milky and broth like. The chowder will thicken slightly, however, thanks to the starch in the potatoes. This fish chowder with potatoes and milk yields a haddock chowder recipe that is creamy but not thick, brothy but not watery.

A Note on Substituting Heavy Cream

This recipe calls for heavy cream or half-and-half. Half-and-half contains an equal mixture of heavy cream and whole milk, thereby slightly reducing the overall fat and calories.

I do not recommending substituting heavy cream or half-and-half in this recipe. The total quantity is only half a cup, divided among multiple bowls of finished soup.

What type of fish is best for New England fish chowder recipe?

Use very fresh, meaty white fish for the best fish chowder recipe.

Haddock would be the top choice for this fish chowder recipe. Cod also works very well. Make sure the bones and skin have been completely removed. You want a meaty, lean white fish.

Oily, strong-tasting fish like salmon, swordfish, tuna, and the like are bad fish choices for fish chowder. Likewise, delicate white fish like sole or flounder is not substantial enough and will break apart.

New England Fish Chowder: Recipe Notes

This recipe comes together quickly, with a prep time of 15 minutes, cook time of 40 minutes, and a total time of about an hour. The ingredients are simple:

  • White fish like haddock or cod
  • Yellow onion and Yukon gold potatoes (don’t use red potatoes; the starch amount is not right)
  • Dairy like butter, evaporated milk, and cream
  • A bay leaf, 1 1/2 tsp salt and some fresh-ground pepper

What should I serve with this soup?

Oyster crackers make the most authentic accompaniment to this fish chowder recipe. But warm buttermilk biscuits straight from the oven are often served with chowder as well, and taste even better.

fish chowder recipe with haddock

new england fish chowder recipe

New England Fish Chowder

An authentic, easy, creamy New England fish chowder recipe adapted from Maine's famous Moody's Diner.
This fish chowder is made simply with milk, potatoes, and good, fresh fish. The finished consistency will be milky more than thick, in true Maine style. Serve with buttermilk biscuits or oyster crackers.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: chowder, easy chowder recipe, fish, fish chowder recipe, maine, new england, New England fish chowder, soup
Servings: 4 people


  • 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut to a medium dice
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound fresh haddock or cod fillets, picked over for bones
  • 1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • cold water
  • fresh minced chives and oyster crackers, to garnish (optional)


  • Dice the potatoes and onions.
    PRO TIP: Keep cut potatoes from discoloring by covering them in cold water until ready for use.
  • In a soup pot, melt half the butter over medium-low heat. Add the diced onions and bay leaf and cook, stirring, over medium heat until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add the diced potatoes and add enough water to the pot to cover the potatoes and onions. Cover and gently boil until the potatoes are just fork tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Lay the whole fish fillets on top of the potatoes and onion. Add the evaporated milk and the half-and-half or cream. Do not stir. Cover and cook at a simmer, without stirring, for about 15 minutes. Check the pot once or twice to make sure the liquid does not boil.
  • Check to make sure that the potatoes have fully softened, and the fish is cooked and flakes apart easily. Add the rest of the butter, the salt, and a good dose of fresh black pepper. Stir gently to combine and break the fish apart a bit. Taste for seasoning.
  • Top your fish chowder with fresh minced chives and serve with oyster crackers or hot biscuits.


This New England fish chowder recipe makes a creamy soup that is comes together in about an hour. Unlike very thick chowders, this Maine-style fish chowder has more of a milky broth consistency, lightly thickened with potatoes. 
This haddock chowder is best eaten within a day or two. Feel free to add a couple slices of bacon and a sprig of thyme if you like. Cook the bacon with the diced onions in the beginning, and add the thyme along with the bay leaf. 


  • Mrs. P.

    5 stars
    Made as is using cod because could not get haddock. Five stars.

  • 5 stars
    I’ve made this about 8 times–finally leaving a review. Simple and so good and I love that you don’t need any bacon in it at all.

  • 5 stars
    I have made many chowdah coming from being raised in N.England .
    This fish Chowdah is a true New England chowdah loved it

    • Unpeeled

      So glad you liked it! What a lovely comment, especially coming from someone who knows what she’s talking about!

  • Laurel P.

    5 stars
    Easy to make and very good. I used chicken broth and milk but I think next time I will just follow the recipe as is. thank you.

  • Sullivan

    5 stars
    I found this to be an excellent and truly authentic Maine fish chowder.recipe. Big hit and I will make it again.

  • Sunny Murphy

    I like the recipe however my original recipe calls for 1 large onion diced small and 2 stalks of celery diced small with Old Bay Seasoning to taste.

    • Unpeeled

      Celery is a great addition, and you can never go wrong with Old Bay! Thanks for the note!

  • 5 stars
    Simple and comforting. I like clam chowder but not a fan of the thickness of it so I loved the brothiness of this fish chowder. Thank you

  • 5 stars
    In the interest of full disclosure, I did tweak this recipe, but it is an absolutely amazing base to stat with! I did add 3/4 cup small diced celery, the onions & a scant cup of thawed “Butter & Sugar” corn I had from this summer. Sautéed it all with the bay leaf. Then added the potatoes & covered with chicken broth. After 10 minutes added the fish, evaporated milk, half & half and a decent shake of Old Bay Blackening Seasoning. Let it simmer for 10+ minutes. Seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper & about 1 teaspoon of Seasoning Salt.
    It was absolutely amazing and I’m a born & breed New Engländer, this is spot on!, even better the next day!
    Thank you for a easy, delicious recipe,, although I did alter it., It’s now my go to “‘Fish Chowda” recipe!! It’s truly “Wicked Good” & a must try!!

    • Unpeeled

      Wicked good–high compliment indeed! Thanks so much, Deb!

  • I’m a native New Englander and Chowda Snob. Made this today, using salt pork and added shrimp and bay scallops to my cod. It is by far the best recipe for real flavorful chowder with simple ingredients. No bottled stock or fancy seasoning here. OMG Awesome!

    • Unpeeled

      So glad you liked it! What great adaptations. I want to try your shrimp version next time I make it–yum.

  • Virginia

    5 stars
    I’ve been looking for a fish chowder recipe that didn’t have clam juice. Im allergic. Just made this one. It’s perfect!!!! I also added 1 minced garlic, thyme and corn and made some cheddar biscuits as well. DELISH!!!!.

    • Unpeeled

      Wonderful! And what nice additions. I am so glad that you liked it.

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