Wild or Smoked Salmon Chowders

Hot-Smoked Salmon

Hot-Smoked Salmon

by Cat, Feb 6, 2014 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

When I was a kid, we had landlocked sockeye salmon, aka Kokanee, in our beautiful Flathead Lake, and in the fall when they’d run up the river to spawn, people would snag them when they tried to jump the small dam up-river. Because they would die after spawning, by this stage they weren’t much good cooked, but they were delicious when hot-smoked, and would keep well in the refrigerator through the winter if wrapped and sealed.

During the regular fishing season, people caught many of these salmon, and froze them in paper milk cartons filled with water, to keep them from getting freezer burn. They were delicious throughout the winter, and leftover salmon made excellent bisque or chowder.

Hot-Smoked Salmon Chowder

I saw this recipe on Fine Cooking.com (1) and just had to give it a try, adapting it to use mostly cream instead of milk. I love salmon any way it is prepared, and right now we’re having sub-zero winter weather; a hot salmon chowder will just hit the spot.

It calls for ‘hot-smoked’ salmon, which is cooked while being smoked – as opposed to remaining in the raw state like lox. My local grocer hot-smokes fish that approach their sell-by date.

2019 update: I have a vac-sealed package of Tony’s hot-smoked salmon (from Oregon City, Oregon) that I want to use for this chowder. But it’s been in my fridge since February 2016, and I forgot all about it. Can I still use it, or should I toss it? According to eHow (3): [After hot-smoking,] “Some companies will then vacuum seal the fish and cook it, much like the canning process, allowing for a shelf life of up to five years.” The Tony’s package says must be kept at 38°F or lower, and my fridge is usually 40°F, plus I don’t know if it was cooked after sealing, so I don’t think I’ll use it. Instead, I bought a new package of Tony’s hot smoked salmon flavored with lemon and pepper to use for my Dec 2019 testing.

If you cannot find hot-smoked salmon, DO NOT use cold-smoked salmon (like lox), as it will not work in this recipe. Instead, try the next recipe (Wild Salmon Chowder), or cook some fresh salmon, or use leftover fresh salmon, and flake it as described in the recipe.

I use a range for the amount of flour/starch, because don’t like my chowder too thick so I use the lower end of the range. Alternately, I could use the full amount and add more broth or water to make more chowder, but then I’d need more salmon.

This recipe also includes leeks, potatoes and fresh dill. Mmm. The original serves 4; I’ve reduced it to serve 2.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • Prep:
  • 1 small leek, white and light green parts only
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1 – 2 small red or small new potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 – 4 oz. hot-smoked salmon
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill weed
  • Cook:
  • 1 – 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp unbleached white flour or Tbsp tapioca starch, or ½ – 1 Tbsp Organic cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk (raw or LTST pasteurized – not ultra-pasteurized), or ¾ cup milk plus ¼ cup cream
  • 1 cup homemade Fish Stock  (or ⅓ cup clam juice and ⅔ cup filtered water)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 – 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Equipment
  • 3 bowls for prepped veggies and salmon
  • 2 – 3 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan


  1. Prep veggies: Halve leek (white & light-green part only), rinse well between the layers, then slice thinly, enough to make ½ cup; thinly slice celery, enough to make 2 – 3 Tbsp, and combine with the leeks. Scrub potatoes, then slice into ½” dice, about 1 ¼ cups; set aside separately with the bay leaf.
  2. Prep salmon: Remove skin and bones from smoked salmon, then flake into bite-size pieces, about 1 ½ cups. Chop fresh dill, or measure dried dill weed, and add to salmon.
  3. Chowder: Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and celery; cook, stirring about 6 minutes, until tender. Add flour/starch and stir to make a roux; cook 1 minutes.
  4. Measure milk and fish stock (or clam juice and water) in 2-cup measure, then slowly whisk into the veggie-roux, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add potatoes and bay leaf, and continue to simmer gently until potatoes are tender, 10-12 minutes.
  6. Measure cream, add dill and lemon juice and stir to combine. Add to saucepan with the salmon and cook about 1 minute, stirring, until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

Testing (Hot Smoked Salmon chowder)

I’ve made this a few times, but somehow my recording of earlier testing got lost.

Testing 12/14/19: Made as written, using Tony’s Hot Smoked Salmon with Lemon and Pepper (Tony’s is a great seafood source from Oregon City, Oregon, near where I used to live). Used dried dill weed, unbleached white flour for the roux, yellow Fin potato; whole raw milk plus cream, and homemade fish stock (frozen, then thawed before using). Prepared in my Le Creuset saucepan (enamel coated cast iron) for even heat. Result: It was fairly quick and easy to prepare, and the result: Delicious!

Wild Salmon (or Lox) Chowder

Sept 2008

My friend Gayle in Austin, Texas, sent me a cookbook for my birthday: The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups.  The author, David Ansel, lives in the same Austin neighborhood where Gayle recently bought a charming house.  David asserts he titled his book as a rebellion against the “fast and easy” food craze that is leading our diets astray.

So, for my birthday, I bought some wild king salmon, the last of the season, to try my first recipe from his book, and it was, of course, a hit.  But I did make a few modifications.  First, it is sized to serve a herd; I cut it in half.  I couldn’t find fish stock in my local grocery, and I don’t have any fish heads, bones, etc. saved up to make my own, so I used clam juice and water (always a good substitute for fish stock, in a pinch).  And I used much less of it because I didn’t want to dilute my salmon down to nothing.  I didn’t have enough cream, so I used mostly whole milk enriched with a bit of cream.  The result was wonderful.

You can also use leftover cooked salmon, or cold-smoked salmon (lox), and flake it.  This version serves 2-4.  Double the salmon if serving as a main dish. I also include a single serving version (1 main dish serving or 2 side-dish servings).

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 4 servings:
  • ¼ pound raw butter (1 stick, or ½ cup)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup unbleached white flour, or tapioca starch (amount depends on how thick you want the chowder; I use the larger amount)
  • 1 baking potato or 2 small red potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups homemade Fish Stock (or 1 cup clam juice and 2 cups filtered water)
  • ½ pound wild-caught salmon or lox, skinless, and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 cup raw cream (or part whole milk, part cream)
  • Unrefined sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and paprika (optional), to taste
  • 1 serving:
  • 2 ½ Tbsp raw butter
  • ¼ – ⅓ onion, diced; or 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 baby carrot (or ⅓ regular carrot), chopped
  • ⅓ stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 – 3 tsp unbleached white flour, or tapioca starch (amount depends on how thick you want the chowder; I use the larger amount)
  • 1 small red potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup homemade Fish Stock (or ⅓ cup clam juice and ⅔ cup filtered water)
  • 2 – 3 oz wild salmon, skinless, and cut into bite-size chunks (or leftover, flaked)
  • ⅓ cup raw cream (or part whole milk, part cream)
  • Unrefined sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and paprika (optional), to taste
  • Equipment
  • 3 bowls (for veggies)
  • 3 quart saucier, or stock pot OR small saucepan for 1 serving version


  1. Prep:
    • Chop onion; place in a bowl or a pile;
    • Chop carrot and celery, and place in second bowl or pile;
    • Cut potatoes into ¼- ½” dice; and place in a 3rd bowl or pile
  2. Chowder: Melt butter in saucier over medium-low heat.
  3. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes.  Add chopped carrot and celery; cover and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in flour/starch, then diced potato and fish stock.  Increase heat to bring soup to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain simmer and cook until potatoes are al dente, about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove all visible bones from salmon chunks/flakes; add to sauce pan with cream (or milk and cream mix).  Simmer 5 minutes more.  Do not let soup boil; just keep at a slow simmer.
  6. Season to taste and serve.


  1. Fine Cooking.com recipe (finecooking.com/recipes/smoked-salmon-leek-chowder.aspx)
  2. The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups, by David Ansel
  3. eHow: ehow.com/about_5397344_long-keep-smoked-salmon-fridge.html

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