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Fish Soups Can Warm You Up in Cold Weather

new england clam chowder

There is nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup on a cold, stormy day. The weather seems to call out for simple, hearty meals that are filling and warming. I tasted lots of great fish soups on a recent trip to Scandinavia and was reminded how lucky we are in the Pacific Northwest to have access to fresh seafood.

My favorite cold-weather soups are seafood chowders—brothy reds or creamy white ones. Soups are good for using leftovers so experiment with these recipes by adding bits and dabs of what’s on hand to make each pot unique.

Lobster is traditional in bouillabaisse, but it’s not local and it’s expensive. I’d rather include Northwest salmon or local mussels. If those options aren’t available, canned salmon is a great addition.

These recipes don’t include blood-pressure-raising salt, often overly abundant in commercial or canned chowders, cioppino and bouillabaisse. Canned soups can contain as much as 1,800 milligrams of sodium in one cup—that’s more than the amount recommended for an entire day for adults.

Making a good broth will add so much flavor to your soup. Try this experiment next time you buy a can or box of commercial broth: taste it cold, before it goes in your soup pot. Most commercial broths are tasteless, or offer only a salty taste, not much else. Homemade broths sparkle.

Next time you have shrimp in the shell, freeze the shells and save for homemade broth. Or, go ahead and boil with some carrots, celery and onions and then freeze the broth. You can do the same thing with fish heads, chicken bones, or other leftover meats and veggies.

Salmon or Seafood Chowder

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, best if homemade
  • 4–6 large potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups frozen corn
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 cups milk, or powdered milk mixed with water
  • 4 cups of leftover white fish, cooked salmon, shrimp, canned clams or canned salmon
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 8 green onions, chopped

In a large pot, sauté yellow onions in oil. Add broth and potatoes. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10-20 minutes. Add corn and thyme. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add milk and fish and simmer 5 minutes, stirring. Sprinkle with pepper and green onions. Makes 8 servings; freeze the extra for later.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 340, Carbohydrates: 42 grams, Protein: 28 grams, Sodium: 134 milligrams

Northwest Bouillabaisse

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 2 cans low-sodium tomatoes
  • 4–6 cups homemade fish stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2–3 pounds of various white fish, salmon, shellfish, shrimp, clams, mussels, canned clams, and/or canned salmon
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1–2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Leftover cooked rice, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads, optional

Sauté onion and garlic in oil in large soup pot. Add potatoes and cook a few minutes, until most cubes are golden. Add canned tomatoes, bay leaves, saffron, pepper and fish stock. About 5 minutes before serving, add cooked fish and shellfish or canned seafood. Serves 6.

Nutritional Information (with salmon and not including optional items):

Calories: 500, Carbohydrates: 40 grams, Protein: 45 grams, Sodium: 169 milligrams

Contributor Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards: the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award and the Joel D. Kopple Award for significant contributions in renal nutrition. See more recipes at

Posted in Food