Fish Chowder

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Fish Chowder

star rating (7) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

I lived in Maine for 15 years, and if there's one thing every person in Maine has, it's their own secret recipe for fish chowder. Since these recipes are secret, they're never written down. And if you do manage to wheedle a recipe out of anyone, it's liable to be along the lines of "Take some fish, some potatoes, some onion...then cook it till it's done."

I enjoyed many of the fish chowders served at the countless fund-raising chowder suppers I attended, but I always felt they were lacking something. Some were too watery; some too chunky; and some just downright tasteless. So I concocted my own recipe, and it's the best fish chowder I've ever eaten, if I may so modestly say so. Unfortunately for those who are timid in the kitchen, it's a little bit vague -- just like many Maine recipes. But go ahead and try it; keep tasting till it tastes right to you, and you will have developed your own secret chowder recipe!

1/2 stick butter or margarine
1 large (or 2 medium) onions, chopped
2 large potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch pieces (they don't need to be peeled; just scrubbed and dried)
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boned fish fillet, such as cod, halibut, hake, cusk, flounder, or other plain white fish
3 cups (approx.) half and half, milk, or evaporated milk
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon thyme
pepper to taste

Melt the butter or margarine in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onions and cook till onions are golden but not brown. Put the diced potatoes atop the onions, and add water to just cover. Then lay fish (just as you bought it; not cut up, unless it's more than 1-inch thick, in which case it should be cut into pieces) atop potatoes and add water to just cover. Bring to a boil and simmer just till potatoes are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes; fish will be cooked at this point, too. Take a fork and stir soup, breaking up fish.

Add half and half/milk/evaporated milk, and stir to blend. Season to taste with salt, pepper and thyme. Heat just to a simmer, but don't actually let soup boil; let it sit for 10 minutes or so to let flavors blend. Serve hot, with a pat of butter or margarine on top.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 3, January-February 1992 issue.


  • star rating 03/28/2015
  • Darlene from Hudson, NH
  • My mother just had a heart attack this year. Her diet has now change to low fat and sodium. She was craving some chowder so I searched the internet for a recipe and found this one that fits her new way of eating. She loved it and I found it very easy.
  • star rating 12/11/2014
  • Pete from Hingham, MA
  • Just what I was looking for: amazingly easy to prepare & great tasting fish chowder. I added celery as my wife & I both like it. I bumped up the recipe by about a third just to have extra. Good thing it didn't need to be brought back to a boil after adding the half & half as the pot was filled to the brim. We ate it over 3 days & each day it does get better & better but was still very good on the first day. This recipe is a keeper!
  • star rating 11/12/2013
  • SandPebble from KAF Community
  • As has been said, very tasty and easy to make. I did add a minced clove of garlic to the onion saute.
  • star rating 09/22/2013
  • kevin from bangor, maine
  • If I had more thumbs I would give it more thumbs up. Its simple and taste great!
  • star rating 04/02/2013
  • Jigglypuff from KAF Community
  • This chowder is absolutely delicious...and impossibly simple. What a find!
  • star rating 05/30/2011
  • dianapasley from KAF Community
  • This tastes like my grandmother's fish chowder. She was born and raised in Portland Maine. It is delicately sweet ....a real treat. I can't wait to serve this tonight and see what my husband thinks. (With buttered sourdough bread, it is divine).
  • star rating 06/06/2009
  • Heidi from Rhode Island
  • I have made this recipe dozens of times since I first got the issue of the Baking Sheet it appeared in! The amount of butter in the original recipe scared me, so I cut it down to 2 TB. It is still delicious and rich. (If I was serving this to others,rather than dining on it myself for days, I might consider the 1/2 stick!) I always end up adding too many potatoes, but just follow the directions to cover with water. (The only thing is I add salt to the potato water to get the flavor in the potatoes and not just the broth.) My memory also has me covering the potatoes with water and more or less "steaming" the fish on top. I have had outstanding results with evaporated milk-- whole OR fat free, and I am usually an advocate of half and half. This recipe is so easy it is embarrassing. The flavor is of course much better on day 2, but I can never wait. Another must-do is to bake biscuits which I then toast and crumble on the chowder. One of my all-time favorite recipes-- any category-- any time.