Arctic Char Chowder

Chowder is different things to different people. Some insist that the word “clam” come before it or that potatoes be involved, some like a creamy broth (New England-style) and some like a broth flavored with tomatoes (Manhattan-style). We prefer the broad definition found in most culinary dictionaries that declares chowder to be “any thick soup containing chunks of food.”

The Arctic Char (or Wild Salmon) Chowder recipe sent in by Mike Cheliak for the Primal Blueprint Cookbook Challenge meets this definition and will undoubtedly unite both lovers of creamy broths and tomato based broths. Filled with generous chunks of fish and tomatoes, it is chowder that will satisfy your hunger and your need for Omega 3s and powerful antioxidants like lycopene. The bit of cream added at the end provides a delicious, rich texture but is entirely optional, as the chowder is just as flavorful without it.

Mike suggests using wild Arctic Char for this chowder, a fish that is related to both trout and salmon in looks and flavor. Its natural habitat is the icy waters of the ocean and higher altitude lakes in North America and Europe.

Unless you’re lucky enough to be Mike and have a brother who brings home wild-caught Arctic Char from his station in Canada’s Arctic North, the Arctic Char you’ll buy in a store is most likely farmed. Before you write off farmed Arctic Char completely, consider that two trusted sources, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Environmental Defense Fund list Arctic Char as a best choice for seafood consumption. It is a fish that provides high amounts of Omega-3s and is farmed in an ecologically responsible way, which minimizes contaminants. However, if you decide that farmed Arctic Char isn’t for you, or you can’t find it in your local seafood department, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is an even better choice and equally delicious in this chowder.

With a few simple steps – chop up vegetables, add canned tomatoes, broth and fish – you’ll have a pot simmering on your stove that is filled with rich flavors. We think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a chowder lover who doesn’t fall in love with this variation on a comforting classic.


  • 1.5 pounds Arctic Char (or wild salmon). Thicker fillets are easier to cut into cubes.
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomato (no salt added)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)


Make sure all bones are removed from the fish and typically for chowder, it’s best to also remove the skin. You can do this by using the tip of a sharp knife to separate the meat from the skin, or ask to have it done for you when you buy the fish. Cut the fish into 3/4 inch cubes and salt and pepper lightly.

Melt butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf.

Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fish and cream. Mix to incorporate cream and then simmer, covered or uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf. Adjust the seasoning if needed and if you have any fresh herbs on hand (tarragon or thyme are especially good) add a bit for extra flavor.

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23 thoughts on “Arctic Char Chowder”

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  1. This looks great and I think I’ll try it tonight. Approximately how many servings does this make?

    1. I made it this evening, it made one serving for my family of 5, and I had an extra serving my self. We still have half a pot full.

  2. That looks fantastic. I envision it being even better with a tiny dash of liquid smoke or smoking the salmon and adding at the end.

  3. I grew up in New England and now live in the Northwest. I too always believed that chowder meant clams only, but my eyes have been opened to many more possibilities since moving here. We have an abundance of wild salmon, so I am definately going to try this!

  4. Recommending canned tomatoes is scary. Tomatoes are highly acidic and can eat away at the BPA lining inside cans. Synthetic estrogen is no one’s friend

    1. Indeed. Do they offer tomatoes packaged in glass jars? I buy tomato paste that way, but I’m not sure I’ve seen whole, crush, or stewed tomatoes in such packaging.

      Or what about fresh tomatoes?

  5. There’s this place one city over from where I live in the West Coast, called The Lobster Shack. It serves up the best Chowder anywhere in a 3,000 mile radius. It’s so good and popular, in fact, that it imports specially-made rolls from New England just to go on the side of the bowl.

    On the rare occasions that my wife and I go there for the chowder, we enjoy every last bit of it — but we always have a mild, subconscious sense of regret that it has so much corn flour and potatoes in it.

    Although this recipe won’t truly replace the Lobster Shack’s delicious chowder, this wonderful Arctic Char chowder should curb our cravings in between. And, I imagine it’s especially good on a cold evening (and timely for the eastern board as they’re currently hit with the worse snow blizzard in over 30 years!).

  6. I just made this today, and it was unreal! I did make a couple of alterations: I used about 2 t fresh thyme at the beginning and added about 1 T fresh thyme at the end. I also used a bit more pepper than you called for. But this is delicious. Oh, and I used Pacific Natural Foods brand organic vegetable broth (low soduim). I’ve found that the broth makes a huge difference.

    I also agree with redcatbicyclitse in that it isn’t a pretty picture, but the taste more than makes up for it. Also, I ended up with about 4 servings, and I’m a pretty big eater.

  7. WOW! I made the cut list! That’s fantastic. My brother sadly has been reposted to Ottawa now (sniff). I do still have one whole fish in the deep freeze though!

    I am glad some have added their own twists! That is what food is all about…Art, fantasy and creativity.

  8. Mmmmm!!! I made this tonight and it is awesome! I made a few additions; used only 1 lb Wild pacific salmon, added 3/4 lb prawns (tail off) and a can of baby clams (I love seafood, so I thought I would experiment a little). I used crushed tomatoes (as per the recipe), but they have the consistency of tomato sauce. Looking at the pictures from the post it appears that they used chopped tomatoes (still chunks of tomatoes visible). Next time I might try a little coconut milk instead of cream (a la Thai red curry)……. Thanks again!

  9. Oh, I forgot to say that I also switched out the crushed tomatoes for diced tomatoes! I like the chunky texture better, and I also think it more closely resembles the photos.

  10. There are some sources of wild-caught arctic char available…CleanFish and Truly Wild spring to mind.

  11. This recipe was awesome. I made twice in the past week. I can’t find artic char, so I just used wild salmon, and my dogs were thrilled to scarf down the leftover salmon skins. Mmm fishy dog breath.

  12. This was a fantastic thick and creamy chowder. I made the recipe almost as called for, but only had 1 lb of salmon. I probably added more thyme as well, I just eye-balled the amount.

    I used crushed tomatoes and I’m glad I did. I think it’s what made the chowder so thick and – um – chowdery.

  13. Made this yesterday and liked it very much. I used 3/4 lb salmon and 3/4 lb scallops. Tastes even better the 2nd day!

  14. I just made an adaptation of this, and it’s delicious.
    I used:
    about 1.5 pounds of wild salmon
    1/2 cup carrot
    1/2 cup onion
    1/2 cup leek
    6 fresh tomatoes, chopped
    1 bay leaf
    3/2 cups whole milk
    pinch of salt

    I forgot to buy cream, and for some reason picked up a leek instead of the celery. Turns out that may have been a good idea, this chowder is divine.

    1. I just made this last night and it was awesome! Used smoked salmon and fresh heirloom tomatoes.

  15. There is a Scandinavian recipe that is very similar. At the end, instead of heavy cream add a stick’s worth (4oz) of good butter like Kerrygold.

  16. I just made this, and it is delicious! I used a whole stick of butter, 1/2 & 1/2 instead of heavy cream because that’s what I had on hand, and I added a dash of paprika. Yum! I used canned salmon instead of fresh because I am a poor college student. Came out awesome anyway! It’s so easy, too! I will definitely make this again. ^_^