Cullen Skink (Scottish Smoked Fish Chowder) Recipe

Cullen Skink (Scottish Smoked Fish Chowder) Recipe

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

In Scotland, this smoky chowder is a popular comfort food, keeping bellies warm and filled through the chilly winter months. It relies on a smoked fish called finnan haddie, which is a type of smoked haddock. The real deal can be ordered online and is an incredibly delicious product that's worth trying. But, with some specialty gear, you can also cold-smoke your own fish at home, whether haddock or another white-fleshed fish like cod or halibut. Aside from that, the soup is almost too easy to make—just poach the fish, sauté some onions, and cook potatoes into it, mashing them at the end for a thick, rustic texture.

Why It Works

  • Mashing the potatoes in the soup thickens the broth and creates a wonderfully rustic texture with a range of tender potatoey bits.
  • The simplicity of this soup allows the complex flavor of the smoked fish to star. Finnan haddie can more than carry the show.
  • A touch of cream enriches the soup just a bit, without making it too rich.
  • Yield:Makes about 6 cups, serving 4 to 6 as an appetizer and 2 to 3 as a main course
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes


  • 4 cups (950ml) whole milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound (450g) finnan haddie (Scottish smoked haddock), or homemade cold-smoked fish (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium (8-ounce; 225g) yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound (450g) Yukon gold potatoes, peel on or off as desired, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Finely minced chives, for garnish


  1. 1.

    In 3-quart saucepan, heat milk with bay leaf over medium heat until nearly simmering. Add fish and cook until just starting to flake. Using a slotted spoon, remove fish to paper towels to drain; set aside. Discard bay leaf. Transfer milk to heatproof mixing bowl or other container; set aside.

  2. 2.

    Wash saucepan and return to medium heat. Add butter and cook until melted. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until nicely softened but not browned, about 6 minutes.

  3. 3.

    Return milk to saucepan and add potatoes. Return milk to bare simmer. Then cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes; stir and scrape saucepan occasionally to prevent milk from scorching.

  4. 4.

    Using a potato masher or large wooden spoon, crush potatoes in pot until partially mashed. You want a good range of potato bits, some so small they thicken the broth but also larger chunks.

  5. 5.

    Remove and discard any skin or bones from fish; then flake into the soup. Add cream. Season with salt and pepper, and, if desired, stir in pinch of cayenne. Serve, sprinkling chives on top of each bowl.