Salmon Chowder loaded with tender salmon, smoky bacon, buttery potatoes and sweet corn will be love at first bite!
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salmon CHOWDER RECIPE
This Salmon Chowder recipe is a spinoff of my beloved Clam Chowder recipe. I lived in Solana Beach for five years (by the Del Mar racetrack in San Diego) in my late teens/early twenties and down the street was the iconic Fish Market with the best seafood chowders. Since then, I’ve created my own beloved New England Clam Chowder recipe and now I’m excited to introduce you to this even easier Salmon Chowder recipe!
This fish chowder recipe is perfection in all its warm, rich and creamy, cozy, adeptly seasoned glory. Even my husband who doesn’t love salmon couldn’t stop at two bowls. When Friday night came around, we both wanted leftovers instead of going out!
So, if you’ve either tried fish chowders or stews and they weren’t your cup of tea, or if you’ve been wary about trying them, please try this recipe – you will not be disappointed!
Why you will love this Salmon Soup
- It’s hypnotically delicious. In addition to the seductive tapestry of textures from the rich creaminess to the tender potatoes, juicy salmon and pops of sweet corn, this recipe is blushing with flavor thanks to sautéing the vegetables in bacon fat and butter, bottled clam juice, chicken bouillon, and herbs of dill, oregano, basil and thyme with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to kick it all up a notch. Can we say the best fish chowder recipe ever?!
- It’s easy to make, all in one pot. The best part about this recipe is it’s just as fabulous as clam chowder but so much easier! No scrubbing or steaming clams – just chop, sauté and simmer! Even the roux is made in the same pot making cleanup a breeze.
- It uses accessible ingredients – including the salmon! While those lucky enough to live near the coast enjoy access to the abundance of fresh fish, frozen salmon works equally will in this Salmon Chowder recipe and takes just minutes to thaw.
- The salmon is juicy tender. The fish chowder is simmered for 15 minutes until the potatoes are buttery soft and then the salmon is added the last few minutes to ensures its tender, juicy perfection.
- It’s a meal-in-one chock full of protein, veggies and starch. Just add some no-fuss sides like a simple green salad and crusty bread and dinner is served! It’s the perfect easy dinner for any night of the week.
- It makes fantastic leftovers. This Salmon Chowder recipe makes a large, hearty, filling pot, but no worries because the leftovers are still amazing the next day – or even better! That means you can even make it ahead of time on purpose for those busy nights.
Fish chowder recipe ingredients
This Salmon Chowder recipe is made with easy to find ingredients, namely vegetables, aromatics, liquids and salmon. Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients as you wish. In addition to salmon (discussed above), you will need:
- Bacon: Adds incredibly rich flavor to the entire fish chowder. You’ll cook the bacon first, then use some of the grease for sautéing the vegetables. Part of the cooked bacon will simmer in the chowder and the rest is used as a garnish for added texture. Use thick cut bacon because it holds up to the simmering heat, leaving you with a wonderful meaty texture that compliments the salmon instead of sliced bacon which wilts away.
- Butter: Is combined with some of the bacon drippings to sauté the vegetables. We don’t use all bacon drippings or the bacon-y flavor is a little too strong. Use unsalted butter otherwise reduce the salt in the recipe and salt to taste.
- Potatoes: Yukon gold potatoes are the best for chowders and soups because they retains their shape well and are hard to overcook. These potatoes taste soft, buttery and melt-in-your-mouth tender without ever tasting mealy unlike Russet potatoes that can fall apart.
- Celery: Use two stalks of celery chopped on ¼-inch dice.
- Carrots: Also, two carrots chopped on ¼-inch dice.
- Onion: Use one diced yellow onion. When a recipe doesn’t specify a specific onion, use yellow onion, it’s the universal onion for cooking. You may substitute with 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder if you’re in a bind.
- Garlic. 4-6 garlic cloves, depending on your garlic love or substitute with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Clam juice: Is sold in 8-ounce bottles by the canned clams/tuna, or if you’re strongly opposed, you may substitute with additional chicken broth. So, what is this magical clam juice? Clam juice harbor intensely flavored liquids (sometimes called “liquor”) inside their shells which are released when the clams are steamed in water, infusing it with a briny but fresh essence of the ocean. In turn, the clam juice adds a dose of clean, crisp, salty flavor of the sea to the chowder. It’s that extra something-something that elevates the recipe without being discernable or overpowering.
- Chicken broth: Use low sodium chicken broth otherwise your fish chowder may be too salty. Using low sodium broth also allows us to use chicken bouillon which amps up the flavor. I don’t suggest swapping the chicken broth for vegetable broth because it doesn’t have the same satisfying flavor.
- Chicken bouillon: The bouillon enhances the natural flavors and mimics the saltiness of the ocean for an even richer, deeply satisfying flavor without making the broth taste like chicken. You can use granulated bouillon (powder), bouillon cubes or better than bouillon. Add the bouillon to the fish chowder without dissolving in liquid first. If using cubes, you will need 2 cubes which you crush up and then add directly to the broth.
- Half and half: I often don’t keep half and half on hand, but keep heavy cream on hand. If you’re like me, you can substitute the half and half with half cream and half milk. For a healthier alternative, you may substitute the half and half with evaporated milk mixed with ½ tablespoon additional cornstarch.
- All-purpose flour: Helps thicken the Salmon Chowder by creating a roux. You may substitute with gluten free all-purpose flour.
- Cornstarch: Also helps thicken the chowder by mixing with the half and half; this allows us to use lower calorie half and half as opposed to heavy cream.
- Seasonings: Herbs such as dill, basil, oregano, thyme and basil infuse the chowder with earthy goodness. You may use dried or three times the amount of fresh. Salt and pepper awaken the entire soup and red pepper flakes add a slight kick of heat, which you really can’t taste but rather cut through the creamy half and half.
Salmon Soup variations
This Salmon Chowder recipe is indulgently comforting in its classic ingredients and flavor, but feel free to mix up the ingredients to make it your own or as needed for dietary restrictions:
- Shortcut Salmon Chowder: To make this recipe in a hurry, use canned salmon, pre-chopped mirepoix and garlic and onion powder. You can also stock up on pre-diced or frozen diced onions and jarred fresh or frozen minced garlic (frozen tastes way better). Alternatively, I highly suggest investing in an onion chopper and a garlic press – they are culinary game changers! Now, almost all of the prep work is done, turning this recipe into a “dump and simmer,” winner!
- Canned salmon: If you’re not picky about your salmon, you can use 4 (6 ounce) cans of drained boneless skinless salmon.
- Alternate fish: Substitute salmon with other firm fleshed fish like cod or halibut.
- Clam chowder: This recipe uses all of the same ingredients as clam chowder – except for clams! To turn this into clam chowder, you’ll need 3 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped/minced clams in clam juice. See this recipe for exactly how to make it.
- Swap veggies: Carrots, onions, celery and corn are classic in fish chowder – but there’s a lot of flexibility! Green beans, peas, bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash or fresh spinach or kale would be tasty. Add green beans, bell peppers and cauliflower the last 10 minutes of cooking so they don’t overcook. Add leafy greens at the end of cooking to wilt and frozen petite peas at the end just to warm through.
- Alternate herbs: Mix up the flavor profile by mixing up the herbs. You can increase the dill or thyme or swap in tarragon.
- Omit the bacon: If you’re trying to save some calories, opt for turkey bacon or skip the bacon altogether. You’ll need to add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the butter when sautéing the veggies in place of the bacon grease.
- Half and half substitute: Use evaporated milk whisked with a total of 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
- Make it lemony: Add a splash of lemon juice and/or lemon zest.
- Dairy free: Use olive oil in place of the butter and your favorite dairy free substitute such as Oatly Barista edition or coconut milk in place of the half and half.
- Gluten free: Use gluten free flour – the rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
HOW TO MAKE salmon CHOWDER
- Step 1: Cook bacon. The key to cooking thick bacon is to cook it over medium so that the fat renders completely without letting the bacon burn. This gives you a great base for sautéing the vegetables. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease – we want some bacon flavor – just not that much!
- Step 2: Sauté the vegetables. Melt in some butter then sauté the onions, celery and carrots. Next, sauté the potatoes, garlic and red pepper for 30 seconds to unlock the flavor, followed by the flour for one additional minute. Cooking the flour eliminates the raw flour taste and smell.
- Step 3: Add the broth and seasonings. Add the clam juice and deglaze the pan by scraping up any pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan – these are flavor gold! Add the chicken broth, corn, some of the cooked bacon, chicken bouillon, bay leaves and all seasonings.
- Step 4: Simmer. Simmer the fish chowder until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- Step 5: Add the salmon. While the chowder is simmering, chop the salmon into 1 ½ inch pieces and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Stir in the half and half followed by the salmon. Simmer gently until the salmon is cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
- Step 6: Serve! Serve the chowder ladled into bowls topped with remaining bacon and toppings of choice such as green onions, oyster crackers, dill and/or thyme.
How to thicken Salmon Corn Chowder
Everyone has their own opinion as to how thick a chowder should be. For fish chowder, we use a roux to thicken the chowder then stir in ½ tablespoon cornstarch mixed with half and half at the end of cooking. This 2-part method produces a luxuriously rich and creamy chowder, but if you would still like it thicker, you can thicken the chowder by adding flour, cornstarch or other thickeners such as mashed potatoes or beans. Here’s how:
- Mash potatoes: Remove some of the potatoes, mash them and return them to the chowder. Mashed potatoes are a natural thickener. Alternatively, you can microwave a few potatoes separately, mash them and add them to the chowder.
- Add creamed corn: Add one can of creamed corn to add corn flavor and thicken the soup.
- Puree soup: Remove 1-2 cups of the soup and puree it in your blender or food processor. It will add body to the chowder while preserving the flavor and not overcooking the salmon.
- Puree beans: Add cannellini beans to a blender along with some of the chowder. Puree until smooth to create a paste. Stir back into the chowder and warm through.
- Cornstarch: Whisk 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch with ¼ cup broth or water until smooth then whisk it back into the chowder. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Repeat if needed.
- Flour: Flour is half as potent as cornstarch so you will need twice as much. Remove about ½ cup soup, whisk in 2-4 tablespoons flour with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the chowder. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Repeat if needed.
Salmon Soup Recipe tips
This Salmon Chowder recipe is pretty straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind when making the recipe:
- Don’t cook bacon at too high of heat. The bacon should be cooked over medium heat, or medium-low if your skillet runs hot, until the fat is rendered and then you may turn it up to finish crisping up. If you cook bacon at too high of heat, you’ll end up with the chewy bacon and the seemingly oxymoron of slightly burnt bacon that’s also slightly under-cooked because the fat is not adequately rendered.
- Don’t burn the bacon! If you burn the bacon, your entire dish will be ruined because the burnt drippings will permeate throughout the chowder and that is all you will taste.
- Scrape up the golden bits. After you cook the veggies in flour, there will be golden bits on the bottom of the pan – these are flavor gold! Make sure to scrape up the bits when you add the clam juice.
- Don’t skip the clam juice. It’s like bouillon of the sea and will give the fish chowder a richer, more complex flavor than just using chicken broth.
- Don’t forget to stir. The chowder can stick and burn due to the roux, so make sure you are stirring every few minutes.
- Cook the potatoes until tender. You want the potatoes to be fully cooked before adding the salmon otherwise you’ll end up with crunchy, tough potatoes that will ruin your chowder. By using Yukon Gold potatoes instead of Russets, you don’t need to worry about them falling apart or overcooking.
- Don’t overcook the salmon. The salmon should be added only after the potatoes are tender because it is a delicate fish and can easily overcook. Gently simmer the chowder with the salmon so it doesn’t become tough and make sure to test for doneness right at 5 minutes; remove from heat immediealty when it’s done.
- Don’t undercook the salmon. If your salmon doesn’t easily flake apart after 5 minutes, it needs to cook for few more minutes.
- Add fresh herbs at the end. If using fresh herbs, use three times the amount of dried and stir them into the fish chowder with the half and half. Fresh herbs can lose their lively, vibrant color and aroma if cooked for too long.
- Scale the recipe up or down. This Salmon Chowder recipe can easily be scaled up or down by using the sliding scale next to the servings in the recipe card.
- Adjust the consistency to your liking. The “chunkiness” of the fish chowder is personal preference. For a less chunky chowder, simply add additional broth or half and half at the end of cooking.
- Be prepared to add additional liquid. The chowder will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add a splash of additional broth or half and half if not immediately serving or when reheating.
How to serve Salmon Chowder
Finish off your hearty bowl of Salmon Chowder with some reserved crispy bacon pieces, chopped green onions or chives, and oyster crackers for an added explosion of YUM!
I also love serving this fish chowder with a big chunk of crusty bread, garlic bread or dinner rolls. It is also delicious with a big green salad like Caesar salad, wedge salad with blue cheese ranch, cucumber tomato salad, apple salad, or green bean salad. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can also throw in winter fruit salad with honey lime poppy seed vinaigrette.
Making Fish Chowder ahead of time
The flavors of this Salmon Chowder recipe get better the next day so it makes amazing leftovers! It will thicken as it stands overnight in the refrigerator so just whisk in a little milk before reheating.
How to store Salmon Corn Chowder
- Storage: Let the Salmon Chowder cool to room temperature, cover and store in your Dutch oven or transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
- Stove: Reheat large batches on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through, adding additional broth or milk as needed.
- Microwave: For smaller batches or individual servings, transfer soup to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel. Microwave for 90 seconds, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
Can I freeze this Fish Chowder Recipe?
As a general rule of thumb, cream based soups and chowders do not freeze well because the texture can become unpleasantly grainy as the dairy and fat separate. You can still freeze the chowder with these expectations, or swap the half and half for evaporated milk mixed with extra cornstarch to help thicken it up.
- Cook: Cook the soup according to recipe directions but use evaporated milk in place of the half and half whisked with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
- Cool: Allow soup to cool completely before freezing to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and prevent it from entering the “danger zone.”
- Package: Transfer soup to an airtight freezer safe container or freezer bag. You can even use sandwich size plastic bags for individual portions. Squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn and label
- Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw/Reheat. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat per above instructions.
LOOKING FOR MORE CREAMY SOUP RECIPES?
- White Chicken Lasagna Soup
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- Chicken Gnocchi Soup
- White Bean, Ham, Tortellini Soup
- Bacon Ranch Chicken Chowder
- White Chicken Chili
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Slow Potato Soup (Lightened Up)
Tools Used in This Recipe
Salmon Soup Recipe
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- 8 strips of thick cut bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 stalks celery, chopped 1/4-inch
- 2 carrots, chopped 1/4-inch
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 1/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- pinch-¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 8 oz. bottle clam juice
- 15 ounces corn – fresh, canned or frozen (not thawed)
- 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon (granulated, cubes or better than bouillon)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp EACH dried dill, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- oyster crackers
- fresh dill or thyme
- chopped green onions or chives
- In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons grease. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the remaining drippings over medium heat.
- Add the clam juice and deglaze the pan by scraping up any pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add corn, 2/3 of the cooked bacon, chicken bouillon, bay leaves and all seasonings through pepper and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn't burn. Meanwhile:
- Chop the salmon into 1 ½ inch pieces and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt.
- Once the potatoes are tender, whisk the half and half with the cornstarch until completely smooth then stir it into the chowder. Add the salmon and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through, gently stirring occasionally.
- Discard the bay leaves. Taste and season with additional salt/pepper to taste. For a thinner or less chunky soup, stir in additional half and half or chicken broth.
- Serve the chowder topped with remaining bacon and toppings of choice such as green onions, oyster crackers, dill and/or thyme.
- Salmon: Feel free to use fresh or frozen, thawed salmon. If you’re not picky about your salmon, you can also use 4 (6 ounce) cans of drained boneless skinless salmon. You may also use another firm fleshed fish like cod or halibut.
- Clam juice: Is sold in 8-ounce bottles by the canned clams/tuna. I don’t suggest skipping – it’s like bouillon of the sea and will give the fish chowder a richer, more complex flavor than just using chicken broth. If you are opposed, than substitute with chicken broth.
- Chicken bouillon: Add the bouillon to the chowder without dissolving in liquid first. If using cubes, you will need 2 cubes which you crush up and then add directly to the broth.
- Half and half: You can substitute the half and half with half cream and half milk.
- Evaporated milk substitute: Swap the half and half with evaporated milk mixed with a total of 1 tablespoon cornstarch (as opposed to ½ tablespoon when using half and half).
- Turkey bacon: If you’re trying to save some calories, opt for turkey bacon or skip the bacon altogether. You’ll need to add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the butter when sautéing the veggies in place of the bacon grease.
- Dairy free: Use olive oil in place of the butter and your favorite dairy free substitute such as Oatly Barista edition or coconut milk in place of the half and half mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
- Gluten free: Use gluten free flour – the rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
- Shortcut Salmon Chowder: To make this recipe in a hurry, use canned salmon, pre-chopped mirepoix and garlic and onion powder. You can also stock up on pre-diced or frozen diced onions and jarred fresh or frozen minced garlic (frozen tastes way better). Alternatively, I highly suggest investing in an onion chopper and a garlic press – they are culinary game changers!
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
- To store: Let the Salmon Chowder cool to room temperature, cover and store in your Dutch oven or transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
- To freeze: As a general rule of thumb, cream-based soups and chowders do not freeze well because the texture can become unpleasantly grainy as the dairy and fat separate. You can still freeze the chowder with these expectations, or swap the half and half for evaporated milk mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. To freeze, let the chowder cool completely, transfer to an airtight, freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- To reheat: Reheat on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through, adding additional broth or milk as needed or microwave for 90 seconds, stir, then continue to microwave for 30-second intervals, if needed.
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