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.
This creamy New England fish chowder recipe tastes surprisingly light, and is 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.
Easy to make (bonus!), 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
What’s the Difference: New England vs. Manhattan-Style Fish Chowder
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.
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. This history of the exact fish chowder recipe is less clear.
What thickens this fish chowder?
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.
What Type of Fish Is Best for This New England Fish Chowder Recipe?
The most important thing here is to use very fresh, meaty white fish in fish chowder. 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. Delicate white fish like sole or flounder is not substantial enough.
What Should I Serve With This Chowdah?
Oyster crackers make the most authentic accompaniment to this New England fish chowder recipe. But warm buttermilk biscuits straight from the oven are often served with chowder as well, and taste even better.
If you loved this creamy fish soup recipe, you’ll also enjoy:
Creamy New England Fish Chowder
- 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
- ½ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
- 1 ½ 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 with fresh minced chives and serve with oyster crackers or hot biscuits.
Sunny Murphy says
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.
Celery is a great addition, and you can never go wrong with Old Bay! Thanks for the note!
Sunny Murphy says
You are most welcome.
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
So glad you liked it! Thanks for the great note.
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!!
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!
So glad you liked it! What great adaptations. I want to try your shrimp version next time I make it–yum.
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!!!!.
Wonderful! And what nice additions. I am so glad that you liked it.
I thought it was very flavorful but I would like it a little thicker. Next time I will try a corn starch slurry.. Just not sure exactly when to do it. Before adding the water to cook the potatoes?
Yes, this is a milkier thickness for sure! Add the cornstarch slurry at the very end, just before serving.
Sharon Rhoades says
I doubled the recipe and used 1 quart of organic chicken stock in place of water, I added one can of organic corn kernels, drained, dried thyme, and at least one cup of finely minced celery. I also added a couple cloves of roasted garlic. I used one whole stick of butter to sauté the onion and celery in. I added a large handful of chopped Italian parsley. I used 2 pounds of Kirkland frozen cod filets. They are very thick and beautiful. This turned out to be the tastiest fish chowder I have ever made. Thanks for your recipe.
What fantastic adaptations! So glad you enjoyed it. That butter…yummmm.
This recipe is so simple ingredients and to make, however it was one of the best fish chowder I ever had or made!!
Fabulous! I love when a recipe is simple AND delicious, and this is definitely one of those. So glad you liked it as well.
I asked my mom (family know-it-all cook and prior Maine Restaurant owner) how to make Fish Chowder because I was given 2 bags filled about half way with some frozen white fish and I just don’t cook fish often enough to have a recipe off the top of my head. My mom, true to form, came back with her reply of: “Sauté onions. Add diced potatoes. Cover with water. When taters done, add fish. When fish done, add can milk or creamer.” Geee! THANKS MOM!!! So I went looking for a more detailed recipe… You know… something that had measurements / amounts for ingredients. I decided to check yours out and it sounds like what my grandma AND MOM used to do when I was a kid (minus the Bay leaf)… So I am making it tonight. Not sure one son, or grandson will like it… but everyone else will love the change from junk food and pasta!!! Just need to go get some potatoes and onions. I have everything else! Sa-weet! Thank you for the recipe!!
Hahaha…that is so “mom”! I hope you enjoyed the recipe and that it is what you were looking for.
How many will this recipe serve?
Hi there! This recipe will serve about 4 to 6 people.
Can you kindly suggest a salad to serve with this chowder? Thank you.
Hi! Any simple salad with vinaigrette would be great with this. I’d avoid something like a Caesar because of the competing and strong flavors, but other than that, something simple and flavorful. Some ideas would be this Strawberry Bibb Salad or this Peach Arugula Salad, with either the balsamic syrup or your own simple vinaigrette.
Looks delicious! I am not a big fan of potatoes though- any suggestions on what I could use to substitute?
Hi, Stephanie! Hmm…something starchy and simple would be the way to go. Cauliflower florets could work well here. Otherwise, I would just make the soup without the potatoes and then serve it with some good crusty bread or fresh biscuits. Hope you enjoy!
Brad (Bradley) W. Chenoweth says
Great base with tasty fresh PNW ling cod….so tasty! A bit of a modification….I start with a light roux base butter and oil with 1/3 cup flour…add some finely chopped garlic, jalapeño, onion and thinly slice fennel…..oh and a good dose of Old Bay….it is timeless and has all the right spices…the rest stayed true to recipe…oh except I did use a can of fish stock and a splash of Thai fish sauce just the right amount of umami ? thank you for a great recipe!
That really isn’t close to the original but sounds like a nice alternative!
Easy to prepare.
I would feel very confident serving this to guests.
Fantastic! So glad you enjoyed it. The ease is one of my favorite parts of the recipe.
The recipe was bland and possibly too much water? I prefer it creamier. Would you suggest adding fish juice to salvage it?
Hi, Ela. Sorry you found it bland and a bit thin! Maine-style chowder is generally a milkier soup with a thinner broth, and not too thick. If you like it thicker, You can reduce the amount of liquid, or even incorporate a cornstarch slurry as a thickener. Thanks for the helpful feedback.
Such a great recipe! Simple, comes together in no time. (Which is saying a lot for me 😉 Came out so perfectly the first time I made it, I’ve been dreaming of it ever since! It’s back on my list this week! Thank you for sharing!
Thank you so much for this note! I am so glad you enjoyed it as much as we do 🙂
Jeanne Vichosky says
Made the fish chowder tonight for dinner and used a combination of haddock and cod was absolutely delicious. Your recipe was so easy and will be making this again. So yummy!
I am so glad you enjoyed! Thanks for the kind comment. I find that the ease of the recipe is one of the best parts 🙂
Louise Samson says
As always with your recipes, absolutely delicious.
Although a bit decadent (mm mm m ——— all that butter and cream!).
Thank you ever so much.
So glad you enjoyed it and thank you for the kind comment! Enjoy the weekend–and the chowder 🙂
I was very impressed with the ease of preparation.
This recipe is a keeper.
I would actually serve to guests.
So glad you enjoyed it! One of my favorite soups. You wouldn’t think it would be so good by how easy it is, but it really is that tasty!
Love the simplicity and good flavor.
Leslie Wachter says
Fresh and uncomplicated. This was just lovely and tasted excellent. I will make this again. Served with buttered baguette.
Where I live I don’t get cod or haddock. What can I substitute with? Recipe sounds awesome
Hello and my apologies for the vacation delay! Any thick, flaky white fish will work fine. I hope you enjoy!
Vicki Dillon says
My husband & I are on the Keto diet so I just left out the potatoes. This recipe is so easy and delicious. Have made it several times already.
Honest New England chowder, just like I remember.
I loved that this was uncomplicated to make and very straightforward. Not a lot of bells and whistles. Just the right ingredients with lots of chunky potatoes and fish. Very good recipe!
That’s what I love about it, too. Good, honest chowder!
Hannah Graff says
So easy and even better the next day!
My new favorite chowder recipe
All I have is trout would that work?
Trout has a stronger flavor and different texture, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t try it out! I’d love to hear the result if you do.
Vivienne R. says
Anne V. says
full of fish and potatoes. delicious and easy to make.
This tasted just like we eat in Cape Cod. I like that this is so good without having to cook any bacon.