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Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder

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Nova Scotia seafood chowder is a rich, creamy, soup that's so easy to make from scratch! This version is loaded with seafood, with bacon and fresh dill added for extra flavor.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
A bowl of creamy seafood soup topped with a pan seared scallop.

Seafood chowder plays a big part in my Maritime heritage (as do Nova Scotia oatcakes and Nova Scotia blueberry grunt). Rich, creamy, and hearty, my parents have argued this is not a traditional recipe for Nova Scotia seafood chowder because I use 35% heavy cream instead of canned evaporated milk, and I make it with bacon and dill. Either way, it’s delicious, and everyone who makes it or tries it loves it.

Once the ingredients are prepped, the soup is quick to come together—about 35 minutes. You can use any seafood you like or have on hand—fresh or frozen—however, I don’t recommend adding salmon as the flavor can sometimes overpower the other fish. Once you make this easy East Coast classic from scratch it will be hard to go back to any other version!

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💞 Why You’ll Love This Recipe

✔️ It’s a delicious way to showcase your favorite seafood.
✔️ You can make it one pot for easy cleanup.
✔️ It’s a simple recipe that always impresses guests!

📋 Ingredients

Ingredients to make seafood chowder.

Ingredient Notes

  • 35% Whipping Cream—This is also called heavy cream.
  • Lobster—The lobster must be pre-cooked.
  • Bacon—Thick-cut bacon holds up nicely. I sometimes use double-smoked bacon for extra flavor.

It’s important to note that when making substitutions in recipes, the texture and flavor may be slightly different. However, these substitutes are the best options if you are looking to change the original recipe.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Seafood—You can use any fresh, frozen, or thawed frozen seafood you like or have on hand.
  • Dill—Parsley is a fresh-tasting substitute for dill.
  • 35% Whipping Cream—You can substitute 18% coffee cream or 10% blend (also called half and half) for the whipping cream.

🎬 Recipe Video

Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top of this post, or scroll to the bottom of the post, to see the PRINTABLE recipe card with ingredient measurements and complete instructions.

👩‍🍳 How To Make Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder

STEP 1—Dry the scallops between sheets of paper towel. Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it’s almost crisp.

STEP 2—Cook the dried scallops in the hot bacon grease until golden. Remove the scallops from the pot and set them aside.

Process shots one and two to make Nova Scotia seafood chowder.

STEP 3—Add the water, potatoes, carrots, and half of the salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender.

STEP 4—Pour the cream into the pot. Bring the chowder back to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes.

Process shots three and four to make Nova Scotia seafood chowder.

STEP 5—Add the haddock, lobster, and shrimp to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.

STEP 6—Add the cooked bacon bits, chives, dill, pepper, and remaining salt to the pot. Stir well. Serve hot topped with pan-seared scallops and a sprinkle of fresh dill.

Process shots five and six to make Nova Scotia seafood chowder.

🗣Expert Tips

1. Take your seafood chowder to the next level and make lobster stock. See the recipe notes for how to do this.
2. Stir a teaspoon or two of Old Bay seasoning, or finely grated lemon zest into the pot before serving.
3. Add a tin of canned clams, including the juice, to the chowder when you add the seafood.

📝 Recipe Notes

  • Look for seafood when it’s on sale and freeze it for later.
  • Cook as many scallops as you want to serve per bowl.
  • I prefer the look and taste of pan-seared scallops but you can add them directly to the pot when you add the other seafood if you want.
  • After you add the fish to the chowder, stir it gently, especially if using haddock as it tends to fall apart easily.
  • Seafood chowder tastes better on the second day. Resting the soup overnight allows all of the flavors to fully infuse. I’d even argue the chowder tastes best on the third day.
  • Keep your chowder in a plastic or glass container with an airtight lid in the fridge for up to three days. To reheat, ladle portions into bowls or into a small pot and gently heat on half power in the microwave, or over medium-low heat in a pot on the stovetop until steamy.
  • I don’t recommend freezing chowder.

🦞 How To Make Lobster Stock

Lobster stock is a simple way to take your seafood chowder to the next level. I sometimes use it in place of water.

  1. Remove all of the meat from a cooked lobster.
  2. Place the empty shells and body on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the shells for 15 minutes at 450ºF (230ºC) or until toasted and fragrant.
  3. Place the roasted shells in a pot, cover them with water, and gently boil for one hour. Top with more water if needed.
  4. Strain out the shells, and reserve the liquid to use as your chowder base instead of water. Proceed with the recipe as written.
A bowl of creamy seafood soup on a red tablecloth.

🙋‍♀️ Recipe FAQ

How long does seafood chowder last in the fridge?

Stored in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid, Nova Scotia seafood chowder will last for three days in the fridge.

What to serve with seafood chowder?

In the Maritimes, it’s pretty classic to serve seafood chowder with a soft dinner roll or tea biscuit. Other options are crackers, a sandwich, or a simple green salad on the side.

How do you thicken seafood chowder?

If you want a thicker base than whipping cream alone offers, add a tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour or cornstarch when you add the seafood to the pot.

Did you make this Nova Scotia seafood chowder? Please rate the recipe and tell me how it went in the comments below. Also, stay in touch with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to see more delicious food and recipes!

Printable Recipe Card

A bowl of Nova Scotia seafood chowder topped with a pan seared scallop.

Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder

Author: Kelly Neil
Nova Scotia seafood chowder is a rich, creamy, soup that's so easy to make from scratch! This version is loaded with seafood, with bacon and fresh dill added for extra flavor.
4.66 from 118 votes
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Soups & Stews
Cuisine Canadian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 531 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Paper towel
  • Slotted spoon optional
  • Tongs
  • 6 quart (6L) pot cast iron or other heavy bottomed pot
  • Measuring cups and spoons or digital kitchen scale
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon
Need Metric Measurements?Use the button options below to toggle between US cups and Metric grams.

Ingredients
 
 

  • 12 large scallops, fresh or thawed frozen, see notes
  • 6 strips bacon, or 3 thick cut strips, cut into bits
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 large potatoes, washed, unpeeled, chopped into ½ inch (1-½ cm) pieces
  • 2 large carrots, washed, unpeeled, sliced into ¼-inch (6-mm) coins
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 cups 35% whipping cream
  • 1 cup haddock, fresh or thawed frozen, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup lobster, cooked, chopped
  • 18 large shrimp, fresh or thawed frozen, tails removed, deveined, chopped or whole
  • 2 tablespoons chives, fresh, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill, fresh, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground

Instructions
 

  • Sandwich the scallops gently between sheets of paper towel to dry the tops and bottoms. The drier the surface of the scallops, the better they will sear. Set aside.
  • Cook the bacon in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it's almost crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  • Keep the bacon grease hot over medium-high heat. Use tongs to gently place the scallops in the pot. Cook until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the scallops from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the water, potatoes, carrots, and half of the salt to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Pour the cream into the pot. Bring the chowder back to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the haddock, lobster, and shrimp to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the cooked bacon bits, chives, dill, pepper, and remaining salt to the pot. Stir well and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. Ladle the chowder into bowls making sure each serving gets a fair share of seafood! Top each serving with pan-seared scallops, and a sprinkle of fresh dill. Serve hot with fresh rolls or biscuits.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Look for seafood when it’s on sale and freeze it for later.
  • Cook as many scallops as you want to serve per bowl.
  • I prefer the look and taste of pan-seared scallops but you can add them directly to the pot when you add the other seafood if you want.
  • After you add the fish to the chowder, stir it gently, especially if using haddock as it tends to fall apart easily.
  • Seafood chowder tastes better on the second day. Resting the soup overnight allows all of the flavors to fully infuse. I’d even argue the chowder tastes best on the third day.
  • Keep your chowder in a plastic or glass container with an airtight lid in the fridge for up to three days. To reheat, ladle portions into bowls or into a small pot and gently heat on half power in the microwave, or over medium-low heat in a pot on the stovetop until steamy.
  • I don’t recommend freezing chowder.

Nutrition

Serving: 375gCalories: 531kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 19gFat: 41gSaturated Fat: 24gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 159mgSodium: 731mgPotassium: 776mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 4462IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 100mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Let me know on Instagram @kellyneildotcom or tag #kellyneil!

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52 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love a good seafood chowder!! I’m not able to tolerate a lot of dairy, but it’s worth it when seafood is involved! And I’m like you Kelly. Living in Newfoundland, I was exposed to seafood all my life, but really only started enjoying and appreciating it as an adult! I’d love a huge bowl of this chowder right now!

    1. Leanne, I’m similar with my intolerance of dairy. I just made this recipe using 10% Natrel (Lactose free) and it is delicious! The starch in the water from boiling the potatoes thickened it up nicely. And now I don’t have to suffer for the rest of the day 🙂 Great recipe, Kelly!

  2. 5 stars
    ahhh I’m just dying over this chowder….oh how I would love a bowl. One of these days, I just have to head to the East coast and eat my fill of lobster. Especially if you say boiling the lobster in brine is the best, can’t get that here in Alberta.

  3. 5 stars
    Being a westcoaster, I am a huge fan of seafood chowders. Lobster is usually pretty expensive here, but this chowder will be worth every penny spent. It looks absolutely delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh you know I just cannot resist commenting on any recipe remotely connected to my beloved NS! I do love a good seafood chowder, and this recipe looks great Kelly!

  5. 5 stars
    I can’t believe that you didn’t eat seafood until your 30’s!? Believe me, I’d be eating so much more if I wasn’t land-locked. I can’t wait to try this when I can get my hands on some decent seafood!

  6. Kudos to you for this recipe from my husband and myself — I made it yesterday and can only say, it is simply the very best seafood chowder that I’ve ever made! I made it exactly the same as the recipe and only added 2 tsps of Old Bay seasoning to ramp up the flavor. No disappointments here — It tasted perfect. PS it is the first time I have ever used leeks. I think the call to use leeks brings the chowder up another notch in flavor rather than using onion. Thank you again for the recipe — I will be making it many more times again!

    1. Oh hooray, I’m so glad! I keep meaning to return to this post and freshen up because it’s so tasty and I’m so happy you liked it! Thank you for letting me know. 🙂

  7. I used to hate seafood chowder until my mom told me it was ‘bacon soup’ and I loved it ever since. lol This soup looks STUNNING. And I have major measuring spoon envy. 🙂

  8. I’ve had many bowls of chowder over the years, but the absolutely best in my eyes will always be the Nova Scotia seafood chowder. I think it’s because it’s lighter than the heavy New England style, so the flavour of the seafood actually shines through. I am definitely overdue for my fix, so pinning your recipe to try out as soon as I can get my hands on some lobster!

  9. Hello neighbor!

    I ll be serving this on Christmas Eve, sounds delicious 😋
    I also was brought up around seafood in New Brunswick.
    Nothing like fresh Atlantic seafood.
    My bottled lobster will be delicious in this chowder!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. Amazing Cecilia! I’m actually making it for New Year’s Eve upon my Dad’s insistence. lol Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  10. Thank you for this recipe! My guests say this is the best chowder they’ve ever had! I wasn’t sure it was going to be enough for 6 adults so I did add more meat. It probably would have been enough though!

    1. Hooray! I made a batch on New Year’s Eve for us to eat on New Year’s Day because I find it tastes better the second and third day. You’re right, it may not seem enough for six adults, but it’s very rich! So happy you liked it. 🙂

  11. This was delicious. I had to shoot from the hip the first time because I didn’t scroll all the way down to the Pinterest part that has the measurements. I used leeks instead of chives and I added chopped parsley and a few sprigs of saffron. I omitted shellfish so that the leftovers would last longer. Fantastic dish!

  12. Thanks for this wonderful recipe. As you suggested in the notes, we made a lobster broth with the shells, which was then used for the base. The proportions of the various seafood and other ingredients were perfect. We added celery, and, because I can’t eat bacon, we substituted with turkey bacon. Instead of stovetop, we used our Instant Pot to cook the base broth and vegetables.
    Although we cannot yet travel to the east coast due to the continuing pandemic-related travel restrictions, this brings back fond memories of our travels to Atlantic Canada.

  13. 5 stars
    I tried this recipe for our New Years Eve Dinner, we are staying home due to Newest Covid outbreak. I wanted something special. O my stars, special it was. I did have to make a few changes but it was great. I used Bay Scallops because I didn’t have any Sea Scallops. I seared them and then went ahead and added to the chowder with other seafood. I also added a small sweet onion chopped small. Other than that I followed the instructions. My husband can’t stop talking about this . Thank you. Rosie

  14. 5 stars
    I made this with oysters, cockles, and manila clams. I didn’t have any dill, so i used a 1/2 tsp lemon zest instead, and added two dashes of crystal hot sauce. I made sure to barely simmer the soup to avoid curdling. After adding the shellfish in order—whole clams, chopped cockles, then the delicate oysters—I gently simmered the shellfish for only a couple of minutes to avoid any rubberiness. Truly one of the best soups I’ve ever had, and we make a lot of chowder! Thank you!

    1. Awesome! We find it hard to justify the lobster prices here out of season, but we make this chowder year round with any other seafood we like of have on hand. Love love love the idea of using clams, cockles, and oysters! Sounds amazing and I’m so happy you loved it.🦪🦪🦪

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