Recipe: The Best Seafood Chowder

recipe adapted from ina garten's seafood chowder

seafood chowder recipe

elegant seafood chowder

I think if I could only eat seafood and vegetables for the rest of my life, I could definitely make it work. I just adore fresh fish and shellfish. There’s something about it that feels special and luxurious, no matter the occasion at a restaurant or how might be preparing it at home. Granted, depending on the seafood it can sometimes be a little pricey, which is why I save dishes like this Seafood Chowder for a special treat. It’s based off a wonderful recipe from (who else?) Ina Garten, and I love how fresh and elegant it tastes versus its more ubiquitous, creamy, and — meh — gloppy counterparts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the classic white New England clam chowder can be a thing of beauty, but I think it’s rare to find a truly great one, and most of the time, they’re so rich they just make my stomach hurt.

Ina’s version is unique in that it doesn’t have a purely dairy base, so it feels lighter while you eat it (I say feels because, let’s be honest, this recipe still calls for LOTS of butter and a touch of cream!). I built off her base recipe and added in additional flavorings, such as fennel, herbes de provence, white wine, and lemon — I think it gave the chowder a little southern French touch. We cooked up a batch of this on the Fourth, and despite the French flavorings, I thought it was deeply patriotic. For while the dish has its origins on the western coast of France, it was extremely popular during colonial American times, what with the abundance of seafood on the east coast (if you want to food-nerd out, check out this article on the history of chowder).

History lessons aside, if you love seafood, I promise you will love this chowder. I’m already scheming up another “special occasion” so that I can splurge and make it again! Here’s what you do: 

Seafood Chowder

adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe
Serves 6

1 stick butter (8 tbsp)
1 small fennel bulb, fronds and tough stems removed, cored and medium diced (about 3/4 cup fennel, diced)
1 small onion, peeled and medium diced (about 1 cup onion, diced)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into half rounds (about 1 cup carrot, diced)
1 Yukon gold potato, washed and medium diced (about 1 cup potato, diced)
2 celery, cleaned and medium diced (about 1 cup celery, diced)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 ear corn, husk and silks removed and kernels cut from the cob (can also substitute 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels)
1/4 all purpose flour
1 tbsp dried herbs de provence
1/2 c dry white wine (a Sauvignon Blanc is great here)
1.5 qt seafood stock (see note)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tbsp of juice)
6 large sea scallops, cut into quarters if they’re extra big, cut in half otherwise
1 lb 15-20 count shrimp, peeled and deveined and tails removed
1/2 lb halibut or other firm white fish, cut into large cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream
— white wine vinegar to taste
— Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
— finely minced chives and chopped parsley, for garnish

What you do:
In a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the stick of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add in all the vegetables: the fennel, onion, carrots, potato, celery, garlic and corn. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until the onion is very softened and translucent, and the potatoes are barely cooked. Sprinkle in the flour and the dried herbs, then stir so that they mix with the butter and vegetables. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the flour is able to toast a bit.

Pour in the white wine, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to release any browned bits. Then, add in the seafood stock. Bring to a slow boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, covered, to allow flavors to come together. Add in the lemon zest and juice, then taste and season the broth with salt and pepper to your liking. Reduce the heat to low, and then gently add in the seafood. You don’t want to vigorously stir the chowder at this point, otherwise you could break up the fish. Just gently fold everything together, and let the seafood cook for 7-10 minutes, uncovered. It’s done when the shrimp turn bright pink and the fish and scallops are firm and springy to the touch. Pour in the heavy cream and gently stir. Finally, taste the broth again and check for seasoning. I found it needed a little splash of white wine vinegar, so that the acidity could balance everything out — but you might like it just fine. Season again with salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle the chowder into big bowls, and garnish with chopped chives and parsley. Serve with good crusty bread and white wine!

Note: many premium grocery stores will carry homemade seafood stock near the fish counter. If you can’t find it, you can use boxed; the Kitchen Basics brand is a good bet (look for the blue box).

Images: Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese


  1. I wish I ate/liked seafood! It always looks so delicious and has great health benefits. Well, either way, this still looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  2. Amber said: replied:

    This is actually one of my favorite soups! Nothing beats a hot bowl of clam chowder and a fresh piece of warm bread in the winter. Adding more seafood to the pot (literally) only makes it that much better. Thanks for sharing :)

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  3. Kory said: replied:

    Yum! This looks delicious! I’m a huge fan of any and all seafood, so I definitely need to give this a try.

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  4. Drew Elizabeth said: replied:

    You always have the best looking recipes! Must try this since I am a huge fan of seafood :)

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  5. Sara said: replied:

    Love seafood in the summer! Can’t wait to try this recipe :)


    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  6. Annie Reeves said: replied:

    This sounds amazing! I’m going to have to take the time to actually try it out. Thanks for sharing!!

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  7. Lily said: replied:

    I love that you’ve been posting more recipes lately! this looks delicious!

    x Lily

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  8. Abby said: replied:

    Victoria! This looks amazing!! I mean anything Ina makes is gold, right?

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  9. Ghazaleh said: replied:

    sounds soooo good, but maybe a too many ingredients for a rookie like me. Have you been to Bar Crudo in SF? Their seafood chowder is to die for.

    8 Jul 2014 | Reply
  10. Monica Stolbach said: replied:

    Great recipe! I remember you mentioning having a hard time with groceries in NYC, esp the mediocre produce from Fresh Direct (I agree!) – I thought of you when I just learned about GrowNYC’s new “Fresh Foodbox” program. It’s like a CSA without the commitment.

    9 Jul 2014 | Reply
  11. […] Seafood Chowder via VMAC & Cheese.  Not everyone likes to eat soup in the warmer months, but something about this recipe seems so fresh and refreshing.  […]

    25 Jul 2014 |
  12. Lauren said: replied:

    Looks delish, beautiful photos too!


    12 Sep 2014 | Reply
  13. jenn said: replied:

    Love the recipe.. does the wine make it or break it for this recipe? My family doesnt do alcohol but i would love a good seafood chowder!

    24 Sep 2014 | Reply
  14. Victor Johnson said: replied:

    Victoria, that seafood chowder looks way too delicious. I must get my hands on the necessary ingredients to concoct this obviously incredible dish as soon as possible! Thanks for the amazing recipe, seriously.

    6 Nov 2014 | Reply

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