Two things you can never have too much of in March, Irish recipes for St. Patrick's Day and soup for the chilled to the bone weather. Irish seafood chowder fills both of those needs and could not be simpler to make. Easily adaptable using your favorite, fresh fish, this creamy soup recipe with added bacon and some vegetables is the perfect comfort food.
A lot of St. Patrick's Day recipes probably aren't really Irish recipes, like Guinness Mac and Cheese or Bailey's chocolate cake, but we all love them nonetheless. But this Irish seafood chowder actually is something you will find all over Ireland, in pubs and restaurants.
Why this recipe works
Irish seafood chowder follows the same basic principals as most fish chowder recipes. But here is why this recipe is better:
- Like other chowders, this one includes some type of fish, potatoes, onions, celery, stock and cream. But most other recipes call for a thickened cream base, usually done with a roux (flour and fat cooked together), and this recipe doesn't. This one has a creamy broth base, making it lighter and a bit healthier.
- This recipe has bacon. Slightly different than the traditional salt pork used in New England chowder.
- This recipe is extremely adaptable with the kind of fish you can use. I use different fish every time I make it. A mix is best, and preferably a little smoked fish included is traditional. But always use what you like and use what you can. Sometimes I throw salmon in here, most times I use halibut and cod and smoked haddock.
Fish and a basic ingredients are all you need for this simple recipe.
- Bacon. I mean honestly, this pretty much makes everything better.
- FIsh. Endless possibilities here.
- Potatoes. I use yellow potatoes.
- Onion, garlic, thyme.
- Old bay seasoning.
- Salt and cracked black pepper. I like a lot of pepper in soups, use as much as you like.
- Green onion. Or you could use chives if you have them
- Seafood or vegetable stock. So I make seafood stock, I use it for all sorts of things, not just this soup. You can totally make your own by cooking fish carcasses and scraps with some fragrant vegetables in water or vegetable stock (I always add a little sherry or vermouth too), whatever you don't use in this soup you can freeze. OR you can purchase fish stock, which I do anytime I don't have any. I get it here, and local (Chicago-based) people, here.
- Evaporated milk. I use half evaporated milk and half heavy cream in this chowder recipe to cut back a tiny bit on the cream. The soup doesn't have any thickeners and is supposed to be a creamy broth-based soup, not too thick.
- Heavy cream. Adds richness, creaminess and helps give a thicker broth.
SInce this seafood chowder does not include a thickening process (ie. a roux), it is fairly simple to make.
First we brown off some bacon, rendering the fat and remove from the pan.
Next we cook the onions, garlic and thyme in the rendered bacon fat and a little bit of butter.
The potatoes are then added and browned a bit in the fat. They will cook longer than the fish.
Add the stock and evaporated milk to vegetables. Cook the potatoes in the broth for a bit to soften.
Then drop in your fish, only the raw fish. If you are also using some smoked fish, this is already cooked and can go in at the end.
When the fish has fully cooked it will easily flake apart in the broth, in will go your heavy cream and a ton of black pepper.
Ingredient swaps and variations
Most soup recipes are easily adaptable and this Irish seafood chowder is no exception. Here are some ideas:
- Add shellfish. A lot of fish chowder recipes include shellfish, and shellfish is pretty prevalent in Irish cooking, so if you want add some shrimp, mussels or other shellfish you love.
- Add extra vegetables. You can totally up your veggie game by adding carrots, corn or peppers.
- Make it a little spicy. Throw in a jalapeno or serrano pepper for a spicy kick.
How to serve
Garnished with a little green onion, the cooked bacon and crusty bread is really all you need to complete this Irish seafood chowder. But I always add a little hot sauce, because I am addicted to it (Cholula or Louisiana is my go-to for soups).
Be sure not to over cook the soup. The creamy broth should be at a low simmer when you add the fish, not a rapid boil. Cook gently until just flaky. This will give the chowder good texture. Any smoked fish (which is already cooked) will go in right after the heavy cream at the end.
Other soup recipes
Soup is comforting, easy and always a crowd pleaser. Try all of my soup recipes.
- soup pot or dutch oven
- 4 oz bacon cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 onion diced
- ½ cup green onions separated into two ¼ cups
- ¾ cup celery diced
- 2 cloves garlic smashed and chopped
- 3 yellow potatoes small diced
- 1 lb fish I use a mix of cod, halibut and smoked haddock, but us any kind of flaky fish fillet you like
- 3 cups seafood stock or vegetable stock
- 1 can evaporated milk
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- Fresh thyme use 2 teaspoon of dried thyme is you don’t have fresh
- In your best soup pot or a dutch oven cook the cut up bacon until crispy and the fat has rendered. Pull the bacon out of the .pot. Pour all but 2 tablespoon of the bacon fat and add the butter to the bacon fat. Sauté the onions and ¼ cup of green onions in the pot for about a minute, until slightly softened and translucent. Add the celery, thyme and garlic and cook another minute. Add the Old Bay seasoning and season with a little salt and pepper.
- Add the diced potatoes and cook for a few minutes.
- Pour in the stock and the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- As soon as the soup is simmering turn to low and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. You don’t want the potatoes to be falling apart so don’t overdo it.
- Add the uncooked fish and continue to simmer about 10 more minutes (this will largely depend on the size and cut of the fish). If you are concerned about cook time, cut the fish into small pieces, this will ensure it cooks quickly. The fish is done when it is easily flaked into the soup. After the fish has cooked and you have flaked it, add the smoked fish (if using) in small pieces.
- Add the heavy cream and a lot of lack pepper to finish. Serve garnished with the cooked bacon and the remaining ¼ cup of sliced green onions.