Nordic Fish Chowder Recipe

Though Scandinavian cuisine has gotten a turn-of-the-century facelift through the Michelin-starred restaurant, Noma, there's really nothing better on a cold, snowy day than a cozy, hearty chowder loaded with potatoes and tender fish. In Nordic countries, where salmon, cod, crab, and potatoes are staples, hearty soups and creamy stews using local ingredients are just as common as meticulously-plated elk medallions and sliced truffles. 

This fish chowder recipe developed by Michelle McGlinn draws inspiration from Scandinavian cuisine to bring the classic flavors of anise, dill, whitefish, and cream together for a deliciously-simple, warming soup. It's a bit different from creamy New England clam chowders, which thicken into a deeply rich, gravy-like texture. This chowder is flourless, thickened only by the starchy potatoes and heavy cream. It's lighter than a typical chowder, but perfect for dipping crusty breads into all year round. This chowder can be ready in less than 1 hour, making it a perfect last-minute dinner for those surprise snowstorms.

Gather your ingredients for Nordic fish chowder

To develop the chowder's flavor, you'll start with butter, a shallot, garlic, and fennel. Use just the fennel bulb first, and save the fronds for topping. Next, you'll need Pernod and clam juice. Pernod is an anise liqueur, and can be substituted with any anise-flavored spirit, white wine, or omitted entirely. If you can't find clam juice, feel free to omit it.

You'll also need a lemon, gold potatoes, and chicken or vegetable broth or stock. You can use large gold potatoes cut into chunks, or new potatoes. To finish the soup, you'll need a large piece of cod, whitefish, halibut, or even salmon, heavy cream, and salt and pepper to taste Then, top with lots of fresh dill to add that signature, fresh Nordic flavor.

Develop the chowder base

You might have noticed there aren't many seasonings in this soup, or at least, not the kind that come in little containers. The flavors in this simple soup come from the fennel, onion, garlic, Pernod, and clam juice, so it's important to spend time letting the flavors develop. 

First, in a large pot of Dutch oven over medium heat, sautée the butter, chopped fennel bulb, diced shallot, and minced garlic until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then, pour in the Pernod and let it reduce by half, infusing the aromatics with the anise flavor. Add in the clam juice and lemon juice, stirring to combine. 

Boil the potatoes

Add the peeled and diced potatoes into the pot first, then pour the broth in to cover the potatoes. If the potatoes aren't covered, just add a little more water or broth. Boil until the potatoes are tender enough to be sliced easily with a knife, or with force with a spoon, but not completely soft, since we will be adding the fish for another 10 minutes.

Cook the fish in the soup

A flaky, firm fish like cod, halibut, or whitefish is great here because it will absorb the flavor of the soup, while becoming tender and fluffy. Salmon would work great here, or you could even add in a shellfish like mussels. This recipe uses only 1 type of fish, but feel free to use several kinds for an extra-filling soup.

Lower the heat to a steady simmer, and cook the fish until opaque and very flaky. The fish may fall apart in the broth because it's so soft, but this is totally normal. Add the heavy cream at any time, and simmer with the fish for about 10 minutes. 

Serve the fish chowder

Here's the thing about this soup — leaving it to rest for 10 to 30 minutes, off the heat, changes the flavor. We can't totally explain this phenomenon, and we completely understand if you want to dive in immediately, but trust us — it's worth the wait. If anything, your leftovers will be especially delicious.

Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the fennel fronds, then top with some chopped dill. If desired, drizzle on extra cream for serving. Serve this soup with crusty rye bread, baguette, or sourdough. Serve it alongside gamey meats like lamb, or with a generous helping of Swedish meatballs and lingonberries. Recent snow have you curled up in a blanket with your chowder? Try washing it down with aquavit to warm you up.

Nordic Fish Chowder Recipe
5 from 41 ratings
Enjoy this Nordic-inspired fish chowder recipe during a snowy day, or even in the dead of summer.
Prep Time
Cook Time
close up of chowder in bowl
Total time: 50 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, fronds reserved for topping
  • ¼ cup chopped shallot
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup Pernod or white wine
  • ½ cup clam juice
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 pound gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 pound cod, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped, for topping
Optional Ingredients
  • Heavy cream, for serving
  1. Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add the fennel bulb, shallot, and garlic. Sautée until glossy and softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Once the shallots are soft, stir in the Pernod, and reduce by half. Once reduced, stir in the clam juice and lemon juice.
  3. Add the potatoes, and cover with broth. Bring it to a boil until the potatoes are tender, but not completely softened.
  4. Add the fish and heavy cream, and simmer until the fish is opaque and potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, let the soup rest for 10 to 30 minutes before serving.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, add fennel and dill fronds.
Calories per Serving 477
Total Fat 20.7 g
Saturated Fat 11.5 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 112.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 38.4 g
Dietary Fiber 5.4 g
Total Sugars 9.0 g
Sodium 1,459.9 mg
Protein 32.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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