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New England Fish Chowder

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5 from 8 votes

This classic fish chowder is a New England staple. It’s creamy but not too thick, loaded with lots of fresh cod, potatoes, and of course, bacon!

When it comes to hearty, comforting, classic dishes, nothing beats fish chowder. This isn’t any ordinary fish chowder; it’s made the New England way (like this Lobster Roll Recipe!). I’m a New Englander by heart and by home, so fish chowder is pretty much in my blood. I’ve had so many amazing bowls of chowder over the years, but this recipe really does take the cake.

What makes a great fish chowder, you ask? Creamy but not too thick, a flavorful base, and loaded with all the things (cod, potatoes, and bacon, duh). Great fish chowder equals this fish chowder. Onward march!

Fish Chowder Recipe

It’s creamy like my Corn Chowder, without being too thick. It’s SO flavorful, from bacon that’s rendered in a big pot, leaving the drippings, and then sautéing veggies in the drippings with a big pad of butter. The smell of your kitchen will be unreal! Using clam juice instead of a broth or water base adds more flavor, as big pieces of fresh cod and chunks of potatoes simmer on the stove. It’s really the best “cuppa chowda” you’ll ever have!

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Fresh cod – use fresh cod, not frozen cod. Either fillets or loins work; whichever is fresher.
  • Bacon – applewood smoked bacon is the way to go! Its smoky, slightly sweet flavor is perfect in fish chowder.
  • Clam juice – instead of using broth or water, clam juice is the perfect base for fish chowder. It’s the liquid drained from freshly shucked clams and has a slightly briny, sea-like mineral sweetness.
  • Heavy cream – this fish chowder is creamy yet not too thick, thanks to the perfect ratio of heavy cream and clam juice. Stay away from milk or half-and-half that can curdle during heating.
  • Celery stalks – celery adds sweet freshness.
  • Russet potatoes – potatoes add creamy, soft bites. Russets stand up well in chowder.
  • Sweet onion – sweet onion adds, you called it, sweetness (and texture).
  • Garlic – a little garlic always makes everything better.
  • Butter – sautéing veggies in butter is the way to go, adding richness and flavor that is truly unparalleled.
  • Bay leaves – bay leaves are a classic component in chowder and other soups, adding complexity and fragrance.
fish chowder ingredients

How to Make Fish Chowder

This is how to make the best fish chowder! Full instructions in the recipe card; this is an outline!

  1. Cook.

    Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserve in a bowl, and drain fat, leaving drippings in the pot.Cook bacon until crispy.

  2. Sauté.

    Melt butter in the pot, then add celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté veggies until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes over medium heat.

  3. Dice.

    Turn off heat, and peel and dice potatoes into ½ inch cubes.

  4. Add.

    Add diced potatoes, clam juice, and bay leaves to the pot.

  5. Boil.

    Cover and gently boil for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.Boil potatoes until tender.

  6. Stir.

    Stir in cream, large cod chunks, and crispy bacon.

  7. Heat.

    Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until cod is opaque and flaky.Gently simmer fish chowder until cod is flaky and cooked through.

  8. Finish.

    Carefully remove bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper.

  9. Serve.

    Stir gently and serve immediately!Serve fish chowder immediately.

FAQs

What’s the best fish to use in fish chowder?

You can’t beat cod in New England fish chowder! It has a mild flavor that soaks up lots of delicious broth, a firm texture that’s less prone to falling apart than many of types of white fish, and it’s widely available and relatively affordable. You can use haddock, halibut or pollock if preferred.

Can I use other seafood?

Yes, you can! Make sure to pre-cook the seafood and add a few minutes before serving to heat through. You can add clams, crab, shrimp, lobster, and/or Seared Scallops!

How do you thicken fish chowder?

While this fish chowder is creamy, it is not super thick. If you prefer an extra creamy fish chowder, increase the heavy cream and reduce the clam juice amounts to 3 cups cream and 2 cups clam juice.

Can you use milk or half-in-half instead?

I don’t recommend it. Milk or half-and-half can curdle when heated. If you prefer a lighter, thinner fish chowder, increase the clam juice and decrease the heavy cream amounts to 1 cup cream and 4 cups clam juice.

Expert Tips

  • Choose cod fillets or loins, depending on which is freshest.
  • Slice the cod into big chunks; as it cooks, it will naturally flake into smaller pieces!
  • Cut the potatoes just before cooking to prevent them from browning.
  • My favorite clam juice brand is Bar Harbor (this is not an ad!).
  • Avoid using milk or half-and-half that can curdle when heated. While this chowder is creamy but not thick, if you prefer a thinner fish chowder, adjust by using more clam juice and less cream.
  • If you prefer to use salt cod instead of bacon, go for it! Salt cod is salty and meaty, not smoky like bacon.

What to Serve With Fish Chowder

Here are some classic serving suggestions for fish chowder:

  • Herbs: sprinkle chopped parsley or chives on top of each bowl for a pop of color and freshness.
  • Crackers: serve traditional oyster crackers or saltine crackers on the side for dipping into the chowder or crumbling on top for extra texture.
  • Lemon wedges: lemon wedges on the side adds a bright, zesty flavor, cutting the richness of the soup.
  • Hot sauce: set out bottles of hot sauce or hot pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
  • Butter: add a pad of butter to the top of each bowl of chowder. This is the New England way of doing things!
  • Crusty bread or croissants: serve slices of Beer Bread, Parker House Rolls, or Baguette on the side for dipping into the fish chowder.
  • Cornbread: serve Cornbread Muffins alongside the chowder for a Southern twist.
  • Coleslaw: Vinegar Coleslaw is the perfect accompaniment, cutting the richness of the chowder, for a crunchy, refreshing side!

Storage and Reheating

Make ahead: Fish chowder is best enjoyed right away. Over time, the cod breaks apart and shreds in the broth.

Storage: While fish chowder is best enjoyed right away, store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days, covered once cooled completely.

Reheating: Reheat on medium-low heat on the stovetop, stirring every few minutes, until hot. You can also microwave the chowder in increments of 30 seconds, stirring every increment, until hot.

Freezing: Freezing is not recommended. Cream-based soups don’t freeze well and the fish itself will fall apart when thawed and reheated.

More New England Recipes You’ll Love!

New England Fish Chowder

This classic fish chowder is a New England staple. It’s creamy but not too thick, loaded with lots of fresh cod, potatoes, and of course, bacon!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American, New England
Keyword: fall, winter
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 678kcal
Author: Tastefully Grace

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pounds fresh cod cut into large 2-inch chunks
  • 12 ounces applewood smoked bacon diced
  • 3 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large celery stalks with leaves chopped
  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook bacon in a large, dry pot over medium heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pot, setting aside in a separate bowl. Drain the fat from the pot, leaving the drippings.
  • Add butter and let melt. Then add celery, onion, and garlic to the pot. Sauté veggies for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until fragrant.
  • Turn off heat, peel potatoes, and then dice them into ½ inch cubes.
  • Add diced potatoes to the pot, and the clam juice, and bay leaves.
  • Cover, and gently boil for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are just tender, stirring once.
  • Add cream, large cod chunks, and crispy bacon. Stir.
  • Cover and bring to a very gentle simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the cod is opaque and flaky.
  • Carefully remove the bay leaves without pulling apart the fish too much, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Gently stir and serve right away!

Video

Notes

  • You can use cod fillets or loins, whichever is fresher.
  • Cut the cod into large chunks. As the cod cooks, it will start to flake and fall apart into smaller pieces.
  • Peel and cut the potatoes last minute, so they don’t turn brown!
  • Bar Harbor brand (3, 8 ounce bottles) is the my favorite clam juice. This is not an ad.
  • Don’t use milk or half-and-half, as it can curdle when heated. While this chowder is not super thick, if you prefer a thinner chowder, use more clam juice and less heavy cream.
  • Some prefer salt cod (which is meaty and salty) instead of bacon (which is meaty, salty, and smoky). Feel free to use salt cod if preferred.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 678kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 182mg | Sodium: 1185mg | Potassium: 1372mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1302IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 103mg | Iron: 2mg
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picture of grace eating

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