This rich, satisfying Smoked Salmon Chowder is a creamy, indulgent bowl of tender chunks of potato, bites of savory smoked salmon, and bursts of briny capers.  Serve it with some crusty bread (or better yet, in a bread bowl!) for a perfectly delicious meal that your whole family will enjoy!

This rich, satisfying Smoked Salmon Chowder is a creamy, indulgent bowl of tender chunks of potato, bites of savory smoked salmon, and bursts of briny capers.  Serve it with some crusty bread (or better yet, in a bread bowl!) for a perfectly delicious meal that your whole family will enjoy!

Smoked Salmon Chowder

I know I already posted a salmon recipe for Alaska Week in my American Eats series, but I’ve got another totally different salmon recipe that I just have to share with you!  I have loved visiting the flavors of Alaska in this series of posts with my grilled soy brown sugar salmon in foil, Alaskan king crab legs, and Alaskan mixed berry cobbler with buttermilk biscuits.  Did you know that the Alaska state nickname is “The Last Frontier”, and that while some consider parts of southeastern Alaska to be part of the Pacific Northwest, it generally gets excluded from that categorization?

Today’s recipe for smoked salmon chowder is actually well known in Seattle where it is served at Pike’s Place Market, but since salmon is such an Alaskan food, I thought it fit perfectly here.  And I have other ideas for when I finally make it to the state of Washington anyway.

An image of a large pot of smoked salmon chowder, made with tender potatoes, smoked salmon, and cream.

This chowder is made with smoked salmon, which you can buy at any grocery store.  Smoked salmon can be a little pricey for what seems like a small piece, but a little goes a surprisingly long way, especially in this hearty, warm soup that is loaded with all sorts of other delicious ingredients.  Or you can even make your own smoked salmon!

When I was recipe testing for these posts, I made a batch of this smoked salmon chowder one night when my kids had swim practice and even my four-year old, who generally isn’t much of a soup fanatic, gobbled it down with exclamations of “delicious” and little groans of pleasure.  Which is notable since her typical reactions to food are either a grunted “good” or “blech”.  So for something to qualify as “delicious” to her is a big deal and I knew I had a recipe that was a keeper.

What is in Smoked Salmon Chowder?

When it comes to chowder, I have very strong feelings about one particular thing:  I do NOT like chowder that has been thickened with flour.  Okay, there are other things I have strong feelings about when it comes to chowder, but this is by far the biggest one.

It’s a huge turn-off for me to order any variety of chowder and get something that is overly thickened (or worse, gummy – ugh) when a perfect chowder for me is naturally thickened from the potatoes that give off enough starch of their own to create a wonderful, almost silky texture.  If you have never had chowder (be it smoked salmon chowder, clam, or otherwise) that is only thickened from the starch that cooks off the potatoes, please trust me on this one and give it a try!  And then there is the side benefit that by not thickening the chowder with flour, this is actually a gluten-free smoked salmon chowder recipe.

The orange-ish, salmon color of the smoked salmon chowder actually comes from the tomato paste that I add to the chowder as it is cooking.  It’s not enough to make the soup tomato-y at all – it just adds a complexity of flavor and a beautiful color that hints at the signature ingredient in this magnificent pot of chowder.

An image of three bowls of smoked salmon chowder next to a large pot of the hearty seafood chowder.

There is also a little cream cheese melted into the chowder, which adds dimension, richness, and a wonderful silky, creaminess that you don’t get with just cream.  And there are capers, which I don’t use often, but every time I do both Paul and I exclaim over how delicious they are and how much we like them!

The rest of the ingredient list consists of things you would expect to see in most chowder recipes:  onions, celery, carrots, garlic, potatoes.  I also added diced red peppers, which are one of my favorite vegetables and belong in smoked salmon chowder, even if I wouldn’t put them in clam chowder.  But you could leave them out if you don’t have one on hand.

The other ingredients are all herbs and spices to season the chowder, and while the list is long, the end result is a robustly flavored, unique and delicious chowder unlike any other you’ve likely ever experienced.

This really is one of the best seafood dishes I have enjoyed in a long time, and that’s saying something since we love seafood and eat it often.

An image of bowls of Alaskan smoked salmon chowder, made famous at Pike's Place Market in Seattle.

How to Make Smoked Salmon Chowder

  1. First, cook up some chopped bacon in the bottom of a dutch oven or large heavy duty pot.
  2. Then drain the grease and add a little butter so you can cook the onions, celery, carrots, and bell pepper until soft (about 5 minutes), before adding the garlic and cooking for 30 seconds more.
  3. Then add the diced potatoes, all the herbs and spices, the tomato paste, and the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil before dropping the heat and simmering for 10-15 minutes, just until the potatoes are fork tender.  If you are using russet potatoes instead of yukon golds, you may need to add a little extra broth as russets tend to break down a little more and soak up more broth than the yukon golds.
  4. Once the potatoes are tender, stir in the cream cheese just until melted, then add the cream and heat until warmed through, but being careful not to let the soup boil after adding the cream.
  5. Remove the soup from the heat and season with lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, to taste.  If you want to get fancy, go ahead and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.

A large white dutch oven full of smoked salmon chowder and garnished with a sprig of fresh dill.

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Smoked Salmon Chowder
Yield: 6 people

Smoked Salmon Chowder

This rich, satisfying Smoked Salmon Chowder is a creamy, indulgent bowl of tender chunks of potato, bites of savory smoked salmon, and bursts of briny capers.  Serve it with some crusty bread (or better yet, in a bread bowl!) for a perfectly delicious meal that your whole family will enjoy!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a rolling pin
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 8 ounces hot-smoked salmon, broken into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the bacon over medium heat until almost crispy, then drain the bacon grease.  Add the butter to the cooked bacon.  When the butter is melted, add the onion, celery, carrot, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the diced potatoes, dill, thyme, basil, paprika, crushed fennel seeds, tomato paste, and capers and stir to combine.  Pour in the chicken broth and increase the heat to medium-high.  When the chowder comes to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low, then let simmer for 10-15 minutes or just until the potatoes are softened and tender but not falling apart.  
  3. Add the cubed cream cheese and stir until it melts into the soup.  Add the salmon, cream, lemon juice, and hot sauce and allow the chowder to heat just until everything is gently heated through, but don't let the soup come to a boil after adding the cream.  Once hot all the way through, taste and adjust the seasoning by adding the salt and pepper, as needed, and adding more hot sauce, if you like.  You may not need any salt, depending on the saltiness of your capers and smoked salmon.
  4. Serve, garnished with a sprig of fresh dill for presentation and a loaf of crusty bread!

Notes

Red potatoes or russet potatoes also work, although you may need to add a little more chicken stock for russet potatoes, which are starchier than Yukon golds.  I have also made this with leftover grilled salmon with good results, although it doesn't get quite the same smoky flavor from using smoked salmon.

The soup can be refrigerated for 2 days and reheated gently on the stove.  

Adapted from AllRecipes.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445 Saturated Fat: 18g Cholesterol: 108mg Sodium: 1605mg Carbohydrates: 20g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 4g Protein: 14g

Have you tried this recipe?

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Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series?  Check them out below!

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Iowa • Louisiana • South CarolinaTexas