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 c 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. 7.8.14

    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.

  2. 7.8.14
    Amber said:

    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 :)

  3. 7.8.14
    Kory said:

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

  4. 7.8.14

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

  5. 7.8.14
    Sara said:

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


  6. 7.8.14

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

  7. 7.8.14
    Lily said:

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

    x Lily

    • 7.8.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      It’s all a function of how much I’m in the kitchen! June wasn’t so good since I was traveling a lot.

  8. 7.8.14
    Abby said:

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

  9. 7.8.14
    Ghazaleh said:

    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.

  10. 7.9.14

    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.

    • 7.9.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thanks so much for the rec, Monica! I’ll definitely check it out :)

    • 7.9.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      PS — Just looked it up and LOVE! Thank you thank you!

      • 7.10.14

        Oh I’m so glad! You’re so welcome. I joined our Dumbo CSA last season and it has changed my life. Fresh veggies for everyone!! :D

        • 7.10.14
          Victoria McGinley said:

          It’s funny, back in SF, it was like a right. Here, you really have to seek it out. So glad these new options are popping up tho!!

  11. 9.12.14
    Lauren said:

    Looks delish, beautiful photos too!


  12. 9.24.14
    jenn said:

    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!

    • 9.24.14

      Hi Jenn! Nope, definitely won’t break it — the wine will just add acidity and brightness, but you can add that back in at the end with a splash of white wine vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, like I’ve suggested. Replace the wine with extra seafood stock to deglaze at that step. Hope you enjoy!

  13. 11.6.14

    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.

  14. 3.18.16
    P Hazel said:

    i was just enjoying a cup of tea when i had a sudden urge to think about fish chowder so i came up to my computer to look for seafood assorted mixes and then an appropriate recipe rather than winging it myself being a good cook at anything soup[sorry not blowing my own horn] just love all soup any time any season – all season food for me and my daughter who is now grown but if you knew her she would tell you about my split pea soup got the craft from my late mother who was the best

  15. 7.28.21
    Barbara Davis said:

    This was soooooooo incredibly delicious!! My 15 y/o son had 3 bowls & my husband had 2! I added a jar of clam juice few sprinkles of fish sauce & one small chopped onion. I also added the juice from the can of clams. YUM!! Might have to double it next time as there’s only about 1 bowl left now!

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