Gloucester “Old Salt” Fish Chowder

3.89 avg. rating (77% score) - 45 votes

Gloucester “Old Salt” Fish Chowder

The ingredients in this Gloucester “old salt” fish chowder are simple, but patient cooking will yield delicious flavor.

This recipe is adapted from the 1976 book The Taste of Gloucester: A Fisherman’s Wife Cooks, which may be ordered at the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Web site: gfwa.org.

Total Time: 45
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


  • 5 thick bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, plus extra to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 medium-size 'Yukon Gold' potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1-3/4 cups milk
  • 1-3/4-2 pounds white fish, such as hake or pollock, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Garnishes: minced fresh chives, chopped bacon


In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove all but 3 tablespoons fat from pot. Remove half the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the remaining bacon in pot.

Reduce heat to medium-low, and add onion, salt, and pepper. Cook until onion pieces are golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add flour and stir.

Add water, whisking as you go; the flour will dissolve and the mixture will thicken a bit.

Add potatoes and cream, increase heat to medium, cover pot, and simmer until potatoes are barely tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add milk.

Add fish and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.

Serve fish chowder sprinkled with chives and remaining bacon.
  • This recipe reminds me of the lovely fish chowder we used to enjoy at a small restaurant in Maine. The chowder was part of the soup/salad bar included with every entrée. Aw gee, forget the entrée, we could have made a meal on the chowder and crackers alone. I’m glad it is so easy to make, because we love it all year long. Like Ron, I agree that adding shrimp and/or scallops makes a good chowder even better!

  • This is exactly how my Mom who grew up in northern Maine used to make fish chowder. Very authentic and delicious, thank you!

  • Ron is right on. A good fish chowder requires onion, potato, salt pork, a good fish stock, and definitely more than one variety of fish. One of them should be cod, haddock or flounder, which will basically break down and disappear while the chowder is in the making. The others, I use two, will be varieties which will hang in there through the process. Try halibut chunks and shrimp, or scallops. The chowder will be lots more interesting. (A dash or two of tabasco also helps!)

  • tryed this recipe, first time chowder a bit thin for my liking of a chowder. Potatos needed a bit longer to cook still a bit hard. Second time I made this used it as a base for a Seafood chowder, I changed the milk to half and half, left all other items as is, then added 1 # haddock, 1/2 # shrimp, and 1/2 # bay scallops , made for a great chowder.

  • I have made this a number of times and love it. It is wonderful on a cold winters day like we have been having. Wonderful!

  • Hi,

    Saw this recipe yesterday and it was a cool, cloudy day in The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, on the Canadian Border, so I went to Shaw’s and purchased the fish (I used Cod, which was delicious) I used light cream and whole milk. Found it to be “just right” in consistency. Added a little onion powder for a more robust flavor? Used our own lovely fingerling potatoes. Next time, maybe a few less, as my Husband complained there were “too many” ? He complains about most anything so don’t feel bad. As older citizens, our taste buds are not what they should be, so maybe a little garlic next time with the onion! Many thanks for sharing the grand recipe. Sincerely, Karen

    PS: LOVE Yankee Magazine! Even send it as a gift to a former Vermonter, now transplanted to N.C.

  • Anonymous

    made this recipe tonight for dinner. I used a bit more bacon and used skim milk instead of whole(my family likes skim) plus I put more milk in because I like my chowder more “soupy” than traditional chowder. I loved it that way! I would agree with the other review that the potatoes need more cooking time than is indicated. Or, the pieces need to be cut smaller.

  • Anonymous

    An easy recipe– the slow cooking is really important in bringing out the flavors of the ingredients, since the recipe calls for so few. I found that my potatoes needed even longer to cook than the recipe recommends (much longer than 6-8 mins), and I might use more cream and less milk next time (the broth had great flavor but was a bit thin). Overall, though, this was a great chowder recipe that is basically foolproof.


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