Fish chowder is one of my cold-weather staple recipes, and this easy, slow cooker New England Fish Chowder is a simple way to get it to the table without any tending. Savory, creamy and comforting—I’m betting you’ll be putting this chowder on the menu soon.
How to make New England fish chowder in a slow cooker
This slow cooker New England Fish Chowder is put together in two steps: a base mixture of ingredients that is cooked first so that the flavors meld and the potatoes and celery get soft, and then the dairy and fish pieces are added at the end and cooked briefly. (Dairy ingredients curdle when slow-cooked for a long time, and the fish itself doesn’t take long to cook either.) Thickening the chowder with quick-cooking tapioca works really well (when made on the stove, chowder is usually thickened with a roux). The waxy potatoes also help thicken the mixture, so opt for a round, white potato and not a starchy russet. Traditional New England fish chowder is not overly thick like the clam chowder you may have had before (from a can or even at a restaurant). In fact, it’s actually quite milky—something I learned when I moved here—and now prefer :).
What is chowder mix?
Coming from the Midwest, I had no idea what “chowder mix” was when I moved out here. No, it is not a seasoning mixture or packet of chowder or soup “starter.” Chowder mix is comprised of trim pieces or smaller pieces of various white fish species, and it’s sold at the fish counter. The chowder pictured in the photo is made from small pieces of haddock and cusk that my husband caught on a fishing expedition (the thicker, larger fish fillets he brought home were saved for baking). If you can’t find chowder mix, feel free to use just haddock or cod, or a combo of them both (I’ve even been known to add a little bit of salmon trimmings). On a chilly or rainy day, finding one of the quart-size freezer bags that I’ve labeled “chowder mix” deep in the depths of the freezer always makes me happy.
Can I make fish chowder with any seafood?
Absolutely! Make the chowder using the fish or seafood that you like. In fact, although the version pictured here features just fish, you could use shrimp, canned whole or chopped clams, or bay scallops in any combination you prefer. Feel free to vary the seafood according to what you have on hand or can get at a good price. I would avoid using strongly-flavored fish, however or it will overpower the entire dish.