Use this recipe to learn how to make prize-winning seafood chowder using seafood that's available where you live. This is a rich and creamy flavourful New England-style fish chowder that you can prep ahead!
I had my fill of seafood chowder during our trip to Nova Scotia, enjoying bowl after bowl of rich creamy broth full of lobster, scallops and haddock. I couldn't wait to get home and make my own West Coast chowder.
Today I'm sharing my basic guide for how to make prize-winning seafood chowder using seafood that is available where you live.
This New England-style seafood chowder recipe is one that I've made for years. I change it according to the type of fish or seafood I happen to have on hand. While I vary the seafood, some things I never change.
Since posting this fish chowder recipe, I've adapted it to make a delicious seafood pot pie. If you'd like your seafood tucked in a creamy pot pie with a puff pastry lid, you'll love this recipe for Seafood Pot Pie with Puff Pastry.
You'll find a complete list of ingredients with amounts in the recipe card below. Here are a few notes about what and what not to add to your chowder.
- I use smoked salmon instead of bacon for flavour so that my pescetarian friends can eat it.
- I never add clams. If I use canned clams, there's a risk they'll become rubbery, and using fresh clams requires another step to this recipe. I like to keep it easy by simmering it all in one pot, with no extra steps.
- I don't over-season it. Chowder should be fairly mild, allowing the natural flavour of the seafood to shine.
- I load it up with seafood so that, along with a salad, it makes a complete meal. I like to use a mix of fish and shellfish and usually add smoked salmon, salmon, wild white fish like cod, halibut or haddock, and shrimp or prawns. Sometimes I add scallops or crab, too.
🔪 How to make prize-winning seafood chowder in four steps
Here's a quick overview of what you'll do. You'll find complete directions in the recipe card below.
- Sauté onions and celery.
- Make a roux, then add the clam nectar and broth in which to cook the potatoes and carrots.
- Add the seafood and seasonings, and cook just until tender, watching carefully to avoid overcooking.
- Stir in the cream, heat gently, garnish and serve.
👍🏼 Helpful Tips
This is an easy New England-style chowder packed full of healthy seafood!
- I always begin by sautéing onions and celery and make the base with a roux, then add clam juice and either chicken or vegetable broth, (depending if I'm serving pescetarians or not.)
- I cook the potatoes and optional carrots in this slightly thickened broth until tender, then add the seafood, remembering that small cubes of fish and fresh shrimp and scallops take very little time to cook. It's very easy to overcook seafood. There is no option for "well done" when cooking fish, shrimp, or scallops!
- While some New England style chowder recipes advise cooking the seafood in milk, I like to cook the vegetables and fish in broth, then add the cream just at the end to produce a creamy smooth chowder. Adding it just before serving prevents the cream from curdling and keeps the texture velvety.
⏰ Can I make this ahead of time?
While it's best to cook the seafood just before serving, you can prepare much of this recipe the day before you plan to serve it. For example, you can:
- Sauté the onions and celery, make a roux and add the clam nectar and broth. Add the potatoes, carrots, thyme, bay leaf and paprika and cook until the potatoes are fork tener. Cool and refrigerate.
- If using frozen seafood, thaw, cut into bite-sized pieces and refrigerate.
- Shell and devein the shrimp or prawns, (see my complete guide to cooking shrimp and prawns for how to prepare shrimp) then cover and refrigerate.
Then, when ready to cook, gently heat the broth you've prepared. Add the seafood and seasonings and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
🍽 What to serve with Seafood Chowder
Serve with a crusty loaf of bread, or Gluten-Free Baking Powder Biscuits and a salad or fresh veggies and dip for a totally satisfying meal! It's good with this healthy Triple Berry Mixed Green Salad or Pomegranate Mandarin Salad with Avocado and Feta.
I hope you find this basic recipe helpful to create your own "prize-winning" chowder, using seafood that's available where you live!
And if you love tomato-based seafood dishes, you might like this San Francisco-style Simple Cioppino that anyone can make.
🗒 More popular seafood recipes
When you make this seafood chowder, please leave a review! I love hearing how my recipes turn out for you or how you adapted them. Thanks in advance!
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This recipe was originally posted in 2017. It has been updated with new information and photos.
How to Make Prize-Winning Seafood Chowder
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup celery, finely chopped
- ½ cup gluten-free flour blend, or all-purpose flour
- 2 8 oz. jars natural clam juice
- 4 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed into ½ inch cubes
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme,
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
- 4 oz hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
- 8 oz wild salmon, skin and pin bones removed, cut in bite-sized pieces
- 8 oz wild white fish, like halibut, cod, haddock, or sole, skin and pin bones removed, cut in bite-sized pieces
- 16 - 24 large shrimp, or prawns, peeled and deveined
- 12 scallops, optional
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 or 2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup 10% cream (called "half and half" in Canada)
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill chopped, plus more for garnish
- In a large pot or stock pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until soft and transparent but not browned, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the flour, making a roux, then add the broth and the clam nectar. Add the potatoes, carrots, thyme, bay leaf and paprika. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender but not mushy.
- Add the seafood, wine and seasonings, stir gently and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.
- Gently stir in the cream, being careful not to let to boil after this is added. Remove the bay leaf.
- Garnish with more fresh dill and serve hot.
Putting this on the meal plan for this week. Just got smoked salmon and wild salmon from Lummi that I literally can't wait to try. This recipe combines so many of my favorite things!
I know you'll love it! You're lucky to have a good source of wild salmon. Enjoy!
This is a favorite recipe in our house. I like it because I can adapt it and use whatever seafood is on sale. Always turns out delicious!
Happy to hear that!
Markus Mueller | Earth, Food, and Fire
I love how simple and clear you make the instructions here! To often chowders are loaded with ingredients. As a chef making a chowder or other creamy soup comes naturally ( I even wrote a post on how to make roux and why I love it!), but for many this way of cooking/ thickening liquids has become forgotten. Beautiful pictures, I can't wait to try your seafood chowder recipe myself!
Flavour & Savour
Markus, you're too kind! Thanks!
Flavour & Savour
Parksville is beautiful spot. We spent many happy days there on the beach, especially when our kids were little. Thanks for sharing your memories, Sharon!
Ahhh, memories. As a kid growing up on the island, we had vacations in Parksville where part of the holiday activities was digging for clams. My mom would make a huge batch of chowder, only she called it "bacon soup" or us kids wouldn't eat it. We didn't like clams. 😉 Tricky mom. Your chowder pictures brought me right back there. I'll have to try this recipe for sure. Thanks so much for sharing!