Easy New England Fish Chowder

This creamy New England Fish Chowder recipe can be made with cod or any firm white fish for a light, flavorful, and simple weeknight dinner that takes only 15 minutes of prep time.

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A bowl of creamy chowder with a spoon and a piece of bread.

I grew up in a family of commercial fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, and this simple New England style fish chowder is an old fisherman's wife recipe. It can be adapted using any kind of firm, white fish, or even salmon as my mom often did.

This fish chowder recipe is easily one of my favorite comfort foods because it reminds me so much of my Mom. She always kept it really simple, and honestly, it's better that way. I’ve tried adding bacon, leeks, carrots, clam juice, and other liquids - like in my creamy, five star rated New England Clam Chowder recipe - but all of them took away from this recipe's perfect simplicity. 

If you’ve ever felt intimidated by fish chowder recipes, then this is the one for you! It only uses 7 ingredients and takes 15 minutes of hands-on time. It’s beginner friendly and uses basic ingredients that are easy to find. 

This fish chowder isn't thick and heavy like many cream-based New England varieties tend to be. It's light yet incredibly satisfying, and the flavor of the fish really shines through. If you like this recipe, make sure you add my Lobster Rolls and Lobster Corn Chowder to your menu – all New England style favorites!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Any sustainably caught firm white fish will work for this recipe, so use your favorite!
  • It’s naturally gluten-free. 
  • Simple and light, perfectly highlighting the delicate seafood flavor. 
  • Authentic New England fish chowder recipe, passed down from generations to my mom to me, and now you!
  • Beginner friendly with just 7 simple ingredients. 
  • Ready in only 30 minutes!

Ingredient Notes

Raw fish and other ingredients needed to make fish chowder with ingredients listed.
  • Potatoes - For this soup, you’ll want to use a waxy variety of potatoes like red-skinned potatoes or fingerling potatoes. Waxy potatoes will hold their form when boiled for a creamy bite. If you use a starchy potato, like russet or Yukon gold, the soup will be grainy as the potatoes break down. 
  • Firm white fish - I often use cod for this recipe, but you can use any firm, white-fleshed fish, preferably one that’s been sustainably caught. Halibut, grouper, pollock, haddock, and even salmon or sea bass are all excellent choices for this fish chowder. Avoid tuna, swordfish, and light flaky fish like flounder and snapper.
  • Heavy cream - The cream is what makes this soup “New England Style”. Heavy cream is ideal for the thickest and creamiest texture, but you can also use half and half. Low fat dairy and non-dairy alternatives will not work.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté the onion and celery with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes or until translucent. 
  2. Add the potatoes to the pot, toss to coat, then add the water, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  1. Add the fish, cover, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Stir in the heavy cream and fresh parsley, and more salt and pepper as needed. 
  2. Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

Tips for Success

  • Season generously. Simple ingredients like water and potatoes requires more salt than you might think. I find 2 tablespoons of Diamond brand Kosher salt provides the perfect seasoning, but different types of salt will vary.
  • Avoid cooking the fish too long. Ten minutes is more than enough time for the fish to cook through. The longer it cooks, the more it will flake apart and melt into the soup.
  • If you want a thicker soup, mix together ¼ cup of flour with ¼ cup of water, add it to the soup and let it boil for 2-3 minutes before adding the fish. 
  • This soup is even better after it sits overnight. Be sure to make enough for leftovers!
Overhead close up shot of a bowl of New England fish chowder.

What to Serve with Creamy Fish Chowder

I like serving this soup with a few slices of crusty bread. Dinner rolls or oyster crackers will also pair really well with this creamy soup. 

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

One of the best things about this recipe is how good it tastes the next day! Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Because of the heavy cream, this recipe won’t freeze well. 

To reheat your fish chowder soup, pour it into a small pot and heat it on the stove over low. Avoid boiling, and remove it from the heat once it’s warmed through. 

FAQS About New England Fish Chowder

Side view of a bowl of fish soup with a green Dutch oven and loaf of bread in the background.
How do you thicken fish chowder?

While this recipe is creamy, it’s not exactly thick. For a thicker texture, make a simple slurry by mixing together ¼ cup of flour with ¼ cup of water, add it to the soup and let it boil for 2-3 minutes before adding the fish. You can also make a cornstarch slurry to keep it gluten free by mixing two tablespoons of cornstarch with four tablespoons of cold water.

Can you use milk instead of heavy cream to finish fish chowder?

You can, but you’ll want to use the slurry method mentioned above to thicken the soup, as milk won’t add the same thickness as heavy cream. 

Did you LOVE this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and comment to let other readers know! I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing your creations so please tag me on Instagram @ColeyCooks!

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Easy New England Fish Chowder

This creamy New England Fish Chowder recipe can be made with cod or any firm white fish for a light, flavorful, and simple weeknight dinner that takes only 15 minutes of prep time.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 382kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion peeled and diced
  • 8 ribs celery diced
  • 1 lb waxy potatoes not russet, cut into large cubes
  • 6 cups water
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste *see note
  • 1 pound sustainably caught firm white fish such as cod halibut or haddock, cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup minced flat leaf parsley loosely packed

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot and sauté the onion and celery with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add in the potatoes, toss to coat, then add the water, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Add in the fish, cover, and simmer for another 10 minutes or util the fish is cooked through.
  4. Stir in the heavy cream and fresh parsley. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  5. Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

Notes

  • Season generously. Simple ingredients like water and potatoes requires more salt than you might think. I find 2 tablespoons of Diamond brand Kosher salt provides the perfect seasoning, but different types of salt will vary.
  • Avoid cooking the fish too long. Ten minutes is more than enough time for the fish to cook through. The longer it cooks, the more it will flake apart and melt into the soup.
  • If you want a thicker soup, mix together ¼ cup of flour with ¼ cup of water, add it to the soup and let it boil for 2-3 minutes before adding the fish. 
  • This soup is even better after it sits overnight. Be sure to make enough for leftovers!

Nutrition

Calories: 382kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 157mg | Potassium: 930mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 982IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 1mg

 

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45 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I loved reading your Mother's Day newsletter. I laughed about her shooing you away in the kitchen! You have her writing skills for sure and of course her beautiful Heart.
    She'd be soooo proud!
    143 Radio
    PS - Oh.. I willl be trying her recipe for sure!

  2. 5 stars
    I did !!! It was amazing !! Although I did add a bottle of clam juice in replacement for a cup of the water to give it more of a seafood flavor not sure how much that made a difference, but it was delicious

    1. Woohoo! I'm sure the clam juice added a little something extra to the flavor. So glad you enjoyed it!! Thanks for leaving a review!

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious and simple to make. I used frozen cod which took longer to defrost so I will get fresh fish next time. My family really enjoyed it.

  4. 5 stars
    I haven't made this yet but I have been searching through recipes and this is the best one I have found. I am just curious why you use water instead of broth or milk?

    1. Great question! The reason I use water instead of stock is because it gives a cleaner flavor. You are welcome to use a good quality fish stock, but it's really not necessary. I don't recommend using chicken or vegetable stock unless you want the soup to taste like chicken or vegetable stock. I don't use milk because the soup is finished with a bit of heavy cream. Please let me know if you try it!

  5. 5 stars
    I was looking for a "quick and easy" soup to make with some leftover fish, found this recipe, and made it tonight. MAGNIFICENT!!! And the picky teenager liked it too! I got super into soups during lockdown but didn't have much luck with chunky soup. I fell in love with my immersion blender and just concentrated on purees. VERY glad I gave the chunky stuff another try. I will definitely make this again.

  6. 4 stars
    Really enjoyed the dish but felt there was too much salt for our tastes. I will make and enjoy it again but will half the recipe salt.

    1. Thanks for your review. I will update the recipe to specify the type of salt used. I have learned that diamond brand Kosher salt is not as concentrated as Morton Kosher salt, iodized salt or sea salt. So if you used anything other than diamond brand, that could be why your soup tasted too salty. I apologize for that but glad you still liked the recipe.

  7. 5 stars
    This looks simply awesome . I would love to try it out. Could you recommend any low fat substitute for the heavy cream?

    1. I've used half and half before with good results, but I wouldn't go with anything lighter than that. You really need some fat in there to give it the creaminess. Enjoy!

      1. 5 stars
        I'm actually not very fond of dill. Or I should perhaps say I like the taste, but it often doesn't agree with my stomach for some wacky reason. But just a little in fish chowders is divine. I'm going to try your recipe with some mild fish for lunch today. 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    I just made a seafood chowder last night but this looks like a tasty one! Great photos too. Glad to be part of the Sustainable Seafood Project.

  9. 5 stars
    Coley, I never had Fish chowder before but, your Mama's recipe looks absolutely amazing. I'll have to try it using some halibut . Hope to see you in June at the SSBC.

  10. 5 stars
    This looks so great--you had me at "not as heavy as a traditional New England chowder!" I like that it's a happy medium and therefore perfect for this time of year when there's still a bit of a chill in the air but you don't want something that sticks to your ribs too much.

    So glad to be part of this initiative with you and all the others too!

      1. 5 stars
        P.S. I just made this tonight... I resisted the urge to do a "little extra here and there" and I'm SOOOO glad I didn't mess with it (as you stated)... absolutely PERFECT! Thank you, Coley... and a special thanks to your mom in Heaven!

        1. Hooray! I'm so glad you made it as is... It's VERY easy to want to embellish, so I'm proud of you for sticking to the original recipe and I'm super duper glad you loved it!!

  11. 5 stars
    Love a good chowder recipe! I lived in Maine as a child and chowder always reminds me of my time there.