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Creamy Seafood Chowder

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creamy seafood

Our weather here in the Bay has been amazing, just like spring. 🙂 It’s still cold at night and in the mornings but still chilly enough for the winter warming goodness of soups and chowders.

I live 100 metres from the ocean and no matter where you live in New Zealand the ocean isn’t that far away, so I am very ashamed to say….wait for it….shock horror…..I just don’t enjoy eating seafood that much. I don’t mind fish but I’m not at all keen on shellfish or crustaceans. It does embarrass me, I feel so bad like I should be shot for treason or something and when I mention it to people I can tell they are saying to themselves “pfft a cook who doesn’t like seafood” I can sense their distaste! I just don’t like the texture or smell of it and don’t even show me a tentacle or an eye of anything like that…..ever. I was brought up in an oceanside town and I do love the sea. My family loves seafood and when I was small my favourite things to do was forage for paua around the rocks all afternoon or to spend hours digging my heels in the sand looking for pipis with my nana so I don’t really know what went wrong! I mean I know seafood tastes great (the whole world can’t be wrong), I’m just weird. Fortunately, I love cooking it for everyone else!

This recipe was passed on to me from a Chef I worked with so I’m not sure where it came from originally and I’ve only changed the measures and ingredients slightly because it was already perfectly delicious! It’s a favourite with my customers and if I run out they give me a lot of grief! It’s wonderfully thick and creamy and loaded with seafood. It’s perfect to make for a special occasion or if you are having a dinner party especially as the very first chowders were made as communal dishes. This particular lot was made because I was given some Tarakihi (a popular NZ fish) and I didn’t have time to cook it that evening so I had to freeze it. Seafood is best eaten fresh of course so chowder if perfect to make if you have some frozen.

Interesting fact (interesting because some of it has to do with PIRATES!) – The word Chowder originates from a few French words;  ‘caudroncauldron,  ‘chauiere‘ a forged kettle and the French words ‘faire la chaudiere’  meaning fish soup. Despite the French origin of the name there is no record of Chowder originating in France or England.

The word Chowder was first seen In 1870, in the fishing hamlets of Brittany, with the French words ‘faire la chaudiere’  probably arriving there with the French fisherman. It also meant a communal pot where the people of the Brittany coastal towns would each contribute something, the freshest of fish, vegetables, spices and herbs and would equally share it. There were also sign boards in front of cabarets (pubs) which had in pirate language, “Ici on fait la chudiere  or ‘here be chowder’.

The earliest chowder recipes included pork and also dry crackers broken up on top and the very first published recipe was published in the Boston Evening Post in 1751. Potatoes were added in the early 1800s and although it was originally made with water, milk was added in the late 1800s.



1 small carrot (1/2 cup when diced)
1 large stick of celery (1/2 cup when diced)
1 small onion (1/2 cup when diced)
2 large garlic cloves (or 3 medium)
2 large potatoes (or 3 small, 2 cups when diced)
2 medium-sized fish fillets (1 cup when diced)
1 raw squid tube or 1 cup raw squid rings
1 cup raw scallops
8 raw mussels, still in their shells
12 – 14 small, raw prawn cutlets (peeled, de-veined & tails removed, about 1 cup)

100 grams butter
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup standard flour
5 cups liquid vegetable or seafood stock (or dry stock mixed with 5 cups of water, according to the directions)
1 cup full cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper


serves x 8



  • If you like to you can replace all the seafood with 4 cups of marinara mix.
  • When using frozen seafood I remove it from the freezer a day before I am making the chowder and leave it to defrost in the fridge for a day…..playing it safe!
  • It pays to only purchase closed mussels as some open ones may be dead, the healthy ones will open up when they are cooked.
  • It can be hard to find seafood stock here and I find that liquid fish stock is not a suitable replacement (unless you make your own) it makes the chowder taste a bit ‘too’ fishy for my liking, but that’s just my personal taste. I think that the seafood gives it enough ‘ocean’ flavour without it being too ‘fishy’. Note* Since publishing this recipe Countdown has stocked Simon Gault’s ‘Off the hook!’ fish stock and it tastes amazing!



So….this chowder is really easy once you start cooking it…however there’s a bit of prep that needs doing first.

* Just a little ‘cheffy’ tip; always fully do your prep first and then tidy up so that your full attention is given when you are cooking your dish, I find I make fewer mistakes then 🙂

So first prepare the vegetables.

Peel and cut the carrot into 1/2 cm cubes (1/8 inch), they don’t need to be perfect just around that size. Just keep in mind that my cooking times are for the vegetables cut this small.

seafood chowder

Then wash and cut the celery stick into 1/2 cm cubes (1/8 inch) and

seafood chowder

…..then peel and finely dice the onion.

seafood chowder

Next peel and crush (or very finely dice) the garlic cloves.

seafood chowder

Also wash, peel and dice the potatoes, also into 1/2 cm cubes (1/8 inch), no bigger for these or they won’t cook through.

seafood chowder

Now to prepare the seafood.

Check the fish has no random bones and then dice it roughly into 2 cm (3/4 inch) pieces.

seafood chowder

Then get the squid tube and…..

seafood chowder

…..cut it open down one side.

seafood chowder

Next with both pieces of squid, using a small sharp knife make slices on an angle, being careful not to cut it all the way through the squid. This tenderises it and helps it to curl up when cooked.

seafood chowder

Then slice it into 1 cm (1/2 inch) strips, widthways.

seafood chowder

Now thoroughly scrub the mussel shells and remove any remaining beards.

  • Mussels attach themselves to rocks using thin, sticky membranes called “beards.” Most farm-raised mussels will come de-bearded but if you find some brown, grassy looking ‘stuff’ sticking out of the shells, pull it downwards towards the hinged end of the shell. Pull firmly until it comes out and then discard it.

Also, add the scallops to the seafood bounty and return it all to the fridge until needed.

seafood chowder

Just two final things for the prep and that’s to get the turmeric ready and to weigh out the flour.

So now you are all prepared it’s time to make the chowder.

Add to a very large saucepan the butter. Over a medium heat let it melt and then start to bubble.

Quickly add the diced celery, carrots, onion and the bay leaves. Stirring often, saute them for 5 minutes (the carrots will continue to cook through later, you are just softening them at this stage).

seafood chowder

Add the garlic and continue cooking for 1 more minute, still stirring often.

seafood chowder

Then add the turmeric and…..

seafood chowder

…..the flour and…..

seafood chowder

…..stirring constantly, still over a medium heat, cook the flour off for 3 minutes.

seafood chowder

Now add the stock and the potatoes, stir it all together and then turn the heat up to high and bring it all to the boil (this might take a while).

Once it’s boiling turn the heat down to medium/low or a temperature where the stock is simmering (a gentle/soft boil).

Now simmer it for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and cooked through.

seafood chowder

Once the potatoes are soft add the cream and…..

seafood chowder

…..all of the seafood and the pepper and continue cooking on the same heat (a simmer) for 10 minutes or until the seafood is cooked (of course this may require a taste test). Make sure you stir it often as it’s so thick it will stick to the bottom of the saucepan if you are not careful.

  • Test the chowder for saltiness, if you feel it’s not flavoursome enough you can add 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or an extra teaspoon of dry stock).

seafood chowder

Remove the bay leaves or warn your family or guests that they are in there and to just to leave them on the side of the plate as they are too sharp to eat (and taste bad, lol).

Serve hot with fresh or toasted, crusty, buttery bread! ENJOY Seafood lovers! and while you’re at it, eat my share 🙂

Storage – Store well covered in the fridge and assuming the seafood was fresh (also fresh when it went into the freezer) it can be enjoyed within 3 days. Make sure that like with all meats and seafood that it is put into the fridge within two hours and when reheated it’s very hot.


Seafood Chowder

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Yield: serves 8

Seafood Chowder

Loaded Creamy Seafood Chowder! So much seafood, so much creamy flavour! An awesome winter warmer enjoyed with a crusty, buttery slices of bread.


  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 large stick of celery
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 medium-sized fish fillets
  • 1 raw squid tube or 1 cup raw squid rings
  • 1 cup raw scallops
  • 8 raw mussels, still in their shells
  • 12 - 14 small, raw prawn cutlets
  • 100 grams butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 70 grams standard flour
  • 5 cups liquid vegetable or seafood stock
  • 1 cup full cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

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  1. Can you use maggi seafood soup mix in place of fish stock?

  2. I made this tonight- fabulous chowder! Thank you! Warmed the cockles of my heart 🙂 many more recipes on here I can’t wait to try- this is a fabulous website!

  3. Can I freeze the chowder with the seafood already in it?

    • Yes, however, doing it this way will cook the seafood and then it will cook again in the reheating so I like to freeze the base, pop it in the fridge a day before I need it to defrost and then reheat it. I then add the seafood, cooking it through before serving.

    • Well, I will make a comment as a form of marking the 10th making of this recipe. Over this time, I did several variations, mainly around type of fish and seafood that I’ve used. Occasionally I would miss an ingredient (today I was out of celery). The only modification I’ve tried that is now the norm for us is that I use coconut cream. One thing all 10 versions of this dish have in common is deliciousness. I would class this recipe as a “little black dress” of cooking, something that is at the same time delicious but also nutritious, a heart-warming winter dish and a great summer dish to use some of the catch (in summer, I tend to use coconut milk instead of cream, giving the dish a slightly lighter note). So, thank you so much for the recipe and the joy it brought to us.

      • Hello Albert. I’m so happy you used coconut cream and made this recipe your own! I love how chowder is fab for a cosy family dinner yet also can be served at a high-end dinner party, ‘little black dress’ is definitely apt! 🐟

  4. Tania, I’ve just discovered your collection of recipes and they’re just fantastic! How you’ve managed to capture all the classics and my favourites I don’t know – just so comprehensive and you give great step-by-step directions and advice which save all the guesswork. You’re definitely my go-to spot when I am looking for something to cook from now on. Happy New Year and (in a couple of days) and thanks for all the great work.

  5. I’ve done this 3years in a row 4 xmas
    What a show stopper tania

  6. I loved your photo directions absolutely lovely, may thanks

  7. Can I puree this soup with 100 % of ingredients?

    • The seafood ends up quite soft, so yes. Just get mussels that are already shelled or remove them from their shells once you have steamed them. đŸŒ»

  8. Thanks Tania! I’m in Auckland now but grew up in Taradale, so not far from where you are I guess.

    I cooked this for my wife and 16 month old son and it went down a treat. My boy devoured a couple of chowder soaked bread rolls with the veges and fish. Am plying him with water now as I didn’t expect him to hoe into an adults dish with such enthusiasm!

    FYI we had a bit of leak that needed to be used so I added that with the onion and celery… worked well I think.

    Thanks again

    • Naw, that’s so cute, bless his little cotton socks! Adding the leek was a wonderfully tasty idea (waste not, want not). I’m glad your family enjoyed it, I hope you make it again. 🙂

  9. can you freeze this recipe Tania – I’d like to make it today but know I won’t be able to eat it all within 3 days???

    • Hi Mandy 😀 Yes. I freeze it in portions. Make it up to the point where the potatoes are cooked and the cream and seafood are about to be added. Then let it cool enough to place into containers and freeze up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge (that could take a day or two!) and then reheat it (prepare seafood whilst waiting) and when it’s simmering add the cream and seafood (you’ll have to do some math here! The amount of both used in the recipe divided by how many portions you froze) and follow the recipe from there. The good thing about it is you can try different seafood combos each time to see which is your fav! Thanks for visiting 😀

  10. Whenever we have fresh prawns, I boil up the shells and freeze the liquid. It’s a really tasty stock to use in chowder and fish pie.

  11. Hi Tania!

    My husband and I tried seafood chowder during our holiday in NZ and we really love it so today I’ve given it a try and cooked it at home (in Germany) with your recipe. It has turned out really delicious even though I couldn’t use any of the great NZ types of fish, of course.
    Thanks for sharing this great recipe! 🙂

    • Hi Nina 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the recipe, it’s the most visited recipe on my website, there’s certainly a lot of Seafood Chowder lovers out there! I’ll make an effort this summer to add more seafood recipes as we are so blessed in NZ with the availability of such fresh Kiamoana.:)

  12. Wow, this was a great success at my place. Thank you for a wonderful recipe.

  13. Absolutely fabulous chowder, made it tonite for the rugby game and it was loved by everybody….pot is empty. Thankyou for your awesome recipe Tania

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed it! I would never have thought to whip up some chowder for the rugby, what a great idea and what a game eh!!

  14. Abso,utely fabulous. . Have sent he recipe to my kids in Italy and New York.

    • That’s great Sadie! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed it and I really hope your kids do too. 🙂

  15. Avatar
    Anthony Dowling

    I hoping to make this tonight, I’m thinking maybe add some fennel. What are the thoughts on this?.

    • Hi Anthony 😀 That sounds delicious! Personally I am more of a dill kinda girl but if I were to add it I’d soften the finely chopped bulb with the onion/celery/carrot and of course use the fronds for a gorgeous garnish. Please let me know what method you used and how it turns out. 😀

    • Avatar
      Anthony Dowling

      Ok i dissent (lol) add the fennel but added some parsley and some sundried tomatoes and a left over white wine maybe more than a cup. I did reduce that . The combo i feel worked. I live in Australia born in Bluff NZ so next time i’d like to incorporate the Bluff Oysters but be warned they are strong I’d recommend use them to make stock and don’t add salt at all.

      • From Bluff? No wonder you love your seafood! That sounds delicious, I look forward to hearing about any future creations from your kitchen. 🙂

  16. The best eva but need 2 make 2 x recipe!!!! Easy to prep & cook soooo tasty!!

    • That’s so wonderful that you enjoyed this Izzie, but double the recipe?! Your family must really love their seafood! Thank you for taking the time to come back and let me know 🙂

  17. Totally delicious. Best seafood chowder we’ve ever eaten.

    • That’s fantastic, thanks for taking the time to let me know you tried it and enjoyed it, you made my day 🙂

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