Pull out that bag of cod and frozen shrimp, we’re making Chunky Seafood Chowder today!
Any soup is a winner during the colder months, but this is the best seafood chowder recipe I’ve had yet.
With a flavorful and soothing, sippable creamy broth (made without flour), this Chunky Seafood Chowder has tons of tender (but not mushy) vegetables and chunks of seafood.
The broth on this one is thinner than, say, traditional corn chowder, and not as decadently thick as New England clam chowder. The flavorful creamy broth calls for half-and-half instead of full-fat heavy cream.
This creamy seafood chowder recipe is a complete meal—now my favorite way to make sure all of my seafood has a delicious place at my table.
So one thing to note before getting started is this recipe is a creamy seafood chowder recipe, but the broth is not thick.
No flour was needed for the base, because I wanted this lightly creamy but sippable.
Otherwise, this ALMOST a one-pot recipe! I’m so excited for you to try this hearty seafood chowder.
I replaced heavy cream with half-and-half, and butter with olive oil where fat was called for.
- Seafood cooks fast, so I pre-cooked all of my seafood, let it cool, chopped it and set it aside while I created the creamy base. This way I didn’t have to keep testing it and risking overcooking. You’ll add it all right before serving and heating it through on low. Either cook each kind of seafood in that one big pot, remove, and save the juice, or if you use pans, make sure you scrape in all that good flavor to the soup pot.
- I had no fresh herb on hand, so dried thyme, dried oregano, garlic powder, Old Bay, all went into the large pot. Anyone can make a lovely meal with savory flavor, even with just pantry spices.
- There was no celery in the house, but if you have it, chop a rib or two and add it at the vegetable stage.
- Use your favorite seafood. Any seafood is delicious seafood, am I right? Here’s what I had in my freezer:
- Large, deveined shrimp that I needed to cook and peel. I also cut these into thirds for this recipe.
- Sea scallops that I had put in my fridge to thaw and needed to use. They were fairly large (and so good I kept eating them, so I finally cut them up to go into the large saucepan). Bay scallops work great too, but it’s not what I had on hand.
- Cod filets, individually packaged in a ButcherBox bag, but I had also set these out to thaw to force myself to come up with something delicious in a large pot.
- I had some imitation crab meat that I could have used, but decided that the scallops and cod are really working that corner enough.
And that was it. About three pounds of fish, two pounds of shrimp and a quarter pound of scallops.
What kind of seafood can I use for seafood chowder?
I have literally PACKED this chowder with fish, shrimp and scallops. It’s a brothy base, not too thick, so it’s heavy on the chunks of meat and vegetables, less so on a creamy, thick base.
Keep that in mind, because you can absolutely use LESS seafood if this is a wallet-breaker as is. Cut the amounts in half and double the vegetables, if you desire.
Seafood chowder is a menagerie of flavors, and while I used a chicken stock base, I added plenty of the seafood pan juices to bring up the briney flavor.
So, I think you’ll want to stick to mild flavors or use less of the stronger fish and seafood.
I don’t recommend the following:
- Clam chowder is all clam flavor, all day long, so it doesn’t make room flavor-wise for any other kind of sea friend. So I don’t add clam juice or clams (or mussels) to my seafood chowder.
- I love salmon. LOVE it. But it does have a noticeable taste and texture that unless I was creating a salmon chowder specifically, I’d leave this out. If you need just a BIT more seafood to round out some small portions, it can’t hurt to add a single small salmon filet, skin removed first.
- Some recipes are cool with catfish, but I’d say if you can taste it ahead of time and you know it won’t have that distinctive dirt flavor (you know what I mean) it’s a perfect addition. But 99% of the catfish I’ve ever eaten tastes like the mud from whence it came, and I don’t think you’ll want that to flavor your chowder. (Unless you do, of course.)
- Lobster is a delight, isn’t it? Renee’ is a huge fan, but I would choose other kinds of seafood before I’d call lobster meat my favorite. And it’s so pricey that I would make sure it stands on its own in a bisque before I let it join a motley crew of ragtag (albeit delightful) flavors. Let’s admit it—lobster is the king of seafood from a price tag standpoint.
Right fish for seafood chowder:
- Nearly any kind of white fish, especially that which has a firm, flaky, mild flesh. Cod, tilapia, whitefish, haddock, bass, grouper, flounder, snapper, pollock, perch, sole and halibut. The beauty of a chowder is that we are adding flavor to a mélange, and more expensive fish like halibut may make for a better value in a standalone plated meal, not in a type of soup.
- Crab meat. Go with the real thing: cracked fresh or canned. I was tempted to use my imitation crab but I was worried about that weird orange streak ruining the look of my lovely bowl of creamy soup and thick chowder. Imitation crab has a super sweet flavor profile that doesn’t add much to the broth, I’ve found. In a pinch though, it will add to the protein count.
- Fresh shrimp. By fresh, I mean whatever kind of shrimp you want, just not cooked ahead of time. I buy frozen shrimp all the time. The only time I bought actual fresh Gulf shrimp, the head-on thing really creeped me out and I had nine pounds of this stuff to decapitate, devein, then cook and peel and STILL had to end up freezing more than half of it. Absolutely not worth the effort (to me). So basically, fresh, tender shrimp is great, and so is thawed, frozen shrimp, any size. I cut my big daddies into thirds for this recipe, so use your best judgment.
- Crawfish. Sure, why not? They are a lot of work to crack and cut, but the meat sure is tasty. And if you want a spicy, cajun-y chowder, by golly, you’ll want crawfish.
The bottom line
So this is chunky as all get out, with a totally sippable broth, and once you add a nice couple of biscuits or a handful of oyster crackers to a hot pot of this cold winter day comfort food, what a cozy dinner you’ll have with leftovers that will last one or two days!
Looking for more soup recipes? You’ll love: Kale Soup recipes, Shrimp Soup recipes, Classic Crockpot Soups, memorable Japanese Soups, 21 Asian Soups, smooth Pureed Soups, zippy Cold Soups, hearty Italian Soups, robust Pumpkin Soups, warming Mexican Soups, tasteful Vegan Soups, our epic list of Instant Pot Soup Recipes, and robust Russian Soups!
- 3 lb cod, or any other mild whitefish
- 1 to 2 lb raw shrimp, deveined, shell off
- 1 lb sea scallops (you can use bay scallops or imitation crabmeat instead)
- 1 c white wine (not too sweet)
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 large whole onion, lightly chopped
- 2 T Better Than Bouillon (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 t dried thyme
- 1 t Old Bay seasoning
- 1 t garlic powder
- ½ t dried oregano
- 6 c fresh, cold water
- 1 c half-and-half
- 1 large onion, peeled, loosely chopped
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled
- 3 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
- 1 c canned corn, drained well
- Several turns of cracked black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Optional: ½ c tiny pieces of torn kale for color
- Optional: 4 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled, for garnish
- Optional: Green onion, chopped, for garnish
- Thaw, clean and then pat dry all of the seafood. I highly recommend starting with deveined shrimp. Set aside.
- Peel the onion and cut into a loose chop.
- Wash, peel and cut carrots into ¼-inch discs. Cut again if desired.
- Wash, peel and cut potatoes into ½-inch chunks. Drain the canned corn. Set all vegetables aside.
- In a large pot, add just the chopped onion and olive oil til the onion is translucent, about five minutes. To this add 1 c of water and ¼ c of the white wine and bring up to medium heat.
- Place the cod filets into the bottom of the pot and cook three minutes each side. It’s okay if it breaks apart because you’ll want chunks anyway. Remove just the fish to a plate.
- Add the scallops and cook for three minutes, turn with tongs and cook another three minutes.
- Add the cleaned shrimp and cook for 1 minute. The moment they turn pink and curl slightly, remove to a plate and set aside.
- Cook any other RAW seafood you are using to the pot. Remove.
- Set aside any cooked seafood like canned or imitation crab meat for now—you’ll tump it all in (juice and all) after the base broth is done.
- Depending on the size of shrimp and scallops, cut all cooked and cooled seafood into half-inch chunks. Set aside.
- To the large soup pot, now add the rest of the water, bouillon, seasonings, potatoes and carrots. Reduce heat to low and cover.
- After five minutes on simmer, add the half-and-half and remaining wine. If using, tear the kale leaves into very small pieces and add to the pot. Stir.
- Simmer on low, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Remove lid. Add the canned corn and all of the seafood and juice from the plate it was sitting on, including any canned crab.
- Simmer on low for another 5 minutes. Some of the liquid will cook down. Add several turns of cracked black pepper. Taste and add a dash of salt as needed. If you like a heavier punch of Old Bay, you can add another ½ t now.
- Ladle into serving bowls with a biscuit or crackers. Garnish with cooked bacon and chopped green onion, if desired.
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