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New England Fish Chowder

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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
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Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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. 

76 comments

  • Can you make this in the crockpot?

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Kate. Good question. I have been thinking about this because a crock pot is so convenient, but honestly do not know if I could recommend that. I think you really risk overcooking the fish, and letting the dairy cook for so long could make the broth texture a little off over time. The good news is that the chowder does come together quickly in a pot over the stove! I hope this helps (even though it may not be the answer we hoped for). Either way, I hope you enjoy!

  • 5 stars
    Oddly enough, today I got all the ingredients to make one of my childhood favorites. I thought I’d see if anyone knew the authentic Maine Fish Chowdah recipe, like Moody’s makes it, and published it on the web. I was delighted to see it on your site! Thank you for sharing this with a wide audience to enjoy and pass down the generations!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Kate! That’s wo wonderful to hear. It’s so great that you also know how good the Moody’s chowdah is! I’ve tried a lot of chowders in Maine, and Moody’s Diner is the best I’ve found. Thanks for trying the recipe and all the best.

  • 5 stars
    I made this exactly as written with just one substitution; halibut instead of cod. I had some halibut I’d purchased on sale a few weeks ago in my freezer and rather than make a trip to the grocery decided this was a great way to use it. I’ve never had this type of fish stew (but have made clam chowder many times) and am now a convert! This was truly excellent-as are all the recipes I’ve made from your site. The only change I might make next time is to add another 1/3 to 1/2 lb. fish just because I love fish. I also didn’t feel that peeling the potatoes was necessary. Thanks for a very tasty recipe and great way to start ’24!

    • Unpeeled

      So glad you enjoyed this and thanks for the nice note. Happy New Year!

  • 5 stars
    I never leave ratings on recipes, but this one deserves it. I live in Maine and have eaten fish chowder my whole life. This recipe is the most authentic, old school chowder I’ve ever made. It’s basic and easy. The simple ingredients allow the flavors of the fish, onions, butter and cream to stand out without being overpowered by herbs, thickening agents and other ingredients . The only change I made was to add more fish, because I love fish. As we say in Maine, “It’s a keepah!”

    • Unpeeled

      Wonderful! Thank you so much, Karen, for the great review and comments. It was important to me to get an authentic Maine-style, New England fish chowder. I always look askance when a chowder is super thick. This recipe adapted from Moody’s in Maine is right from the source 🙂

  • Randy Keller

    5 stars
    Such a good taste of Maine. This is the real thing. Most real Maine fish chowders are simple and not too thick, and this is just right.

  • The best fish chowder recipe, and I am from Maine, so I would know! I love this simple but delicious chowder.

  • Used fresh sea bass this was amazing and being from Rhode Island ….. well 2 empty bowls can’t wait to make again didn’t change anything else thank you!!!!

  • 5 stars
    I have eaten at Moody’s diner several times over the years and always got the chowder because it is so good. I was thrilled to discover this recipe and agree with the reviews that it is easy and has a wonderful flavor even without bacon. Just like Moody’s.

  • My Mom was from Boston and her brother would visit every Summer bearing gifts of fresh seafood and his ability to create amazing food! One of everyone’s favorite was “Fish Chowder”, Boston accent and all! This recipe was perfectly delicious and so reminded me of my Uncle Larry’s, it was absolutely delicious! The only addition I made was adding celery to the onion, butter and bay leaf step! Thank you for the wonderful and tasty memories!! I will make this again!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Laura and thank you so much for this lovely comment! Celery is a lovely addition, and how nice to be able to pair this chowder with your wonderful memories. Thanks for writing.

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

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