Smoked salmon chowder with baby potatoes and corn in a light creamy broth is a cozy Seattle style chowder that’s ready in 30 minutes!
smoked salmon chowder is pure comfort food
Thirty minutes of easy prep means you won’t have to worry about lunch or dinner for several days. This smoked salmon chowder is pure luxury in a soup pot, believe me. And the flavor? It’s built right in thanks to the rich smokiness of the salmon, fresh dill, and a hint of sweet paprika. While regular seafood chowders are associated with the new England coastal states, smoked salmon chowder hails from Seattle Washington where smoked fish is almost a religion. If you’ve ever been to Pike Place Market you might have had their famous smoked salmon chowder. My recipe differs from that one, but I think it’s even better.
what you’ll need for easy smoked salmon chowder
- smoked salmon
- I use hot-smoked salmon which is fully cooked. Look for hot-smoked salmon in shrink wrapped packages in your supermarket fish section. I used the leftovers from my Smoked Salmon Platter. Can you make this soup with cold-smoked salmon? Yes. You’ll get a different flavor and texture to your soup, but you can certainly use it.
- baby potatoes
- there’s no need to peel baby potatoes. Leave them whole if very small, or quarter if larger. I’m loving The Little Potato Company bagged potatoes because they’re all the right size, and already cleaned so they’re super convenient.
- corn kernels
- sliced off the cob, or use good quality frozen kernels. I love the sweet crunch from the corn, but smoked salmon chowder does not require it, so feel free to leave it out if you prefer.
- whole milk makes the best chowders.
- I like to enrich the broth with some cream, but if you are watching calories or fat intake, feel free to omit and just add more milk.
- a small amount of flour makes a roux with the olive oil and butter to give the broth body without over-thickening it.
- olive oil
- fresh dill
- you can use dried in a pinch.
- bay leaf
- use either smoked or sweet paprika. This adds flavor and a rosy blush to the soup. You can also use Old Bay Seasoning instead.
- black pepper
what is a chowder?
Chowders are thick, chunky, mostly dairy based soups often made with potatoes and various types of seafood. Chowder is very much a North American soup, dating back to the colonists in New England, although it may have originated in the maritime regions of England and France. (One notable exception to the dairy based rule is Manhattan clam chowder, which is tomato based.) Chowders can be also be vegetarian, as in my favorite Corn and Cheddar Cheese Chowder or my Jalapeño Corn Chowder. And they don’t have to be super thick like the stodgy ones you get in restaurants or supermarket soup bars. In my opinion the best chowders are only slightly thickened, so the broth has a little body but is still light.
how is chowder different from bisque?
Bisques are also creamy seafood soups but they are smooth, not chunky. Bisques are often enriched with some sort of alcohol (my Creamy Shrimp Bisque has a touch of cognac and sherry, and my Smokey Pumpkin Chipotle Bisque calls for sherry as well.)
HOT SMOKED VS COLD SMOKED SALMON
The only real difference between the two is the temperature at which they’re smoked:
hot smoked salmon is dry brined with a mix of sugar and salt. The fish is hot smoked in a smoker or smokehouse where temperatures reach 120F-220F so the salmon is actually ‘cooked’ and has a flakey texture.
cold smoked salmon is also dry brined but is smoked at between 70F and 90F. Cold smoked salmon is essentially raw, and has a translucent appearance and a silky texture. It must be thinly sliced before serving.
tips for making smoked salmon chowder
Fish tends to fall apart in soups ~ to help avoid this I break my smoked salmon into relatively large chunks or shreds. I add it at the very end, and once I add the fish I’m careful to stir the soup as little as possible, and very gently.
Careful with the salt ~ I didn’t add any to my soup, the smoked salmon is salty enough. But taste for yourself before serving.
For a thinner broth (and a gluten free chowder) ~ you can leave out the flour entirely. The soup will be slightly thinner.
Prefer fresh salmon? See my Salmon and Corn Chowder.
Milk based soups can curdle ~ my cooking method prevents this. After I add my milk and cream I bring the soup up to a simmer (not a boil!) and then cover, turn off the heat, and let it sit on the stove. The heat in the pan finishes the cooking without direct heat that can curdle the dairy. This helps the fish stay intact, too. Add your final squeeze of lemon to individual servings, not the pot.
Chowders taste better the next day ~ if you can make this a day ahead you’ll enjoy deeper flavor. Just reheat gently on the stove. (It will thicken as it chills, but when you heat the soup it will thin back down. Add more milk if you do find you need to thin it down the next day.)
If you want more fish flavor ~ as written this recipe makes a mild milky broth flavored by the smoked salmon and dill. You can get a ‘fishier’ flavor using a bit of fish base, or even cooking the potatoes in fish stock or clam juice.In my opinion the smoked fish does a fine job of infusing the broth.
Other add ins ~ celery, fennel, and carrot would all be good additions. Bacon…always. Some recipes for smoked salmon chowder include capers, and even cream cheese as part of the broth.
If you want a pinker hue to your smoked salmon soup ~ add a small bit of tomato paste. It will add a deeper ‘salmon’ hue without flavoring the chowder.
what to serve with smoked salmon chowder
- Masa Harina Biscuits
- Everything Bagel Knots
- 3 ingredient biscuits that will change your life
- Buckwheat Honey and Caraway Rolls
- Hatch Chile Cornbread
- Cornmeal Biscuits
Smoked Salmon Chowder
- 1 – 1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes (do not peel) Note: if your potatoes are quite small like mine, leave them whole. If they are larger, halve or quarter them.
- bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb smoked salmon, flaked into rough shreds. (Be sure to check for any tiny stray 'pin bones'.)
- fresh cracked black pepper
- fresh dill ~ use this to taste.
- lemon wedges
- salt to taste Note: I save the salt until the very last minute. Taste and only add as needed.
- Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to just barely cover them. Add a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until just tender. Check with thie tip of a sharp knife, which should slide in easily. (We are going to use the potato cooking water, so don't discard.)
- Meanwhile heat the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until softened and translucent. Add the paprika and flour to the pan and sauté for a couple more minutes. This is a simple roux and you are not looking for it to brown.
- Add the cooked potatoes and their water to the soup pot, stirring to combine. The broth will thicken a little right away.
- Add the corn kernels.
- Stir in the milk and cream and bring the pot up to a simmer, but do not boil.
- Stir in the salmon and fresh dill. Season with fresh cracked black pepper and a little more paprika, if you like.
- With everything at a simmering temperature, I cover the pot and turn off the heat. I like to let the soup steep for about 15 minutes on the stove.
- Reheat just before serving, and taste to see if you want to add salt.
- Serve the soup with a squeeze of lemon and more fresh dill.