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Cullen Skink

5 from 5 votes

Cullen Skink is a traditional Scottish soup that’s made with smoked fish, and the flavor is out of this world delicious. Smoke the fish on your Traeger then make a batch of this easy soup that’s just so gosh-darn-good!

Two black bowls of Cullen Skink with bread in the background.

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Named after Cullen, Scotland, where this soup originated, Cullen Skink is a delicious soup where the star ingredient is smoked haddock. In this case, I’ve used smoked cod because that’s what I had, and cod and haddock are very interchangeable.

There are so many different versions of this amazing soup which some call chowder. Chowders tend to be thicker and have other veggies in them, but plenty call this a chowder because it is creamy and has potatoes in it. I call it skink.

Cullen Skink soup in a black bowl.

What you’ll love about Cullen Skink


  • It’s a 1-pot soup recipe that’s super simple and delicious!
  • It is hearty and satisfying and loaded with flavor.
  • It’s quick and easy to make!

What Is Cullen Skink?

Cullen Skink is one of Scotland’s most famous dishes. It’s a soup made with smoked haddock. Skink comes from the Scottish term for knuckle, shin, or tough cut of beef, so many soups made with these cuts were called skink. And c’mon, the name is amazing. I love saying Cullen Skink, and my kids thought I was nuts when I was calling this delicious soup a skink.

A top-down shot of 2 bowls of cullen skink.

Ingredients

  • Butter – I use salted butter.
  • Leeks – See my notes below on dealing with leeks.
  • Shallots – They’re like milder, sweeter onions!
  • White wine – I like cooking with Chardonnay.
  • Milk – Whole milk.
  • Potatoes – Waxy red potatoes are perfect.
  • Cream – Heavy whipping cream.
  • Smoked fish – I smoked cod on my Traeger for this recipe, but smoked haddock is traditional.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley or chives – To garnish your skink.
Labeled ingredients to make Cullen Skink soup.

How To Make The Best Cullen Skink

There are oodles of different ways to make this soup. I’ve cheffed it up, and it has a lovely flavor, texture, and plenty of chunks.

  1. Saute the leeks in the butter in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
  2. Add the shallots and sautee until softened.
  3. Deglaze the pan with white wine and simmer until reduced and most of the wine has evaporated.
  4. Add the milk to the pot, along with the smoked cod (or smoked haddock). Keep the fish whole – you just want to flavor the broth at this point. Simmer for a few minutes, then scoop out the fish.
  5. Add the diced potatoes and salt and bring the soup to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Meanwhile, chunk up the fish and when the potatoes are tender, add the fish back to the soup pot.
  7. Add the cream to the soup, season it with salt and pepper, and heat through until just boiling.
  8. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or chives, and enjoy!

2 Ways To Clean Leeks

These are my 2 favorite ways to clean leeks:

  • First trim off the root end and any wilted or discolored outer leaves. Cut off most of the dark green stem – you can save that to make vegetable stock or soup broth. Next, slice the leek in half lengthwise and rinse it under cold running water to remove any dirt or sand that may be trapped between the layers. After rinsing, cut the leeks into slices or chop them according to your recipe.
  • Or, trim the leek root end, dark green top, and outer leaves. Then, slice the leeks lenghtwise and then into half moons. Add the slices to a large strainer and rinse them under cold running water while swishing them around, to remove any trapped dirt.
Leeks.

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Leeks grow in sand and can be very sandy. That sandy grit will ruin your soup so make sure the leeks are very clean.
  • Use an alligator chopper (my favorite kitchen tool ever!) to get evenly sized tiny diced potatoes.
  • You add the smoked fish in large filets to the soup to heat it through and to extract some of the flavor from it. Then you pull out the large chunks and chop it up before adding it back in. This way the fish won’t dry out and will stay in nice spoon-sized chunks without disintegrating in the simmering soup.
  • Don’t overcook the soup! You want the potatoes and leeks to be tender, that’s all!
  • Add a pinch of cayenne if you like a bit of spice to your soup.

Recommended

Make It A Meal

Serve Cullen Skink with a heel of crusty, buttered bread and you’ve got a lovely lunch or dinner. Or, serve a smaller portion of it with a salad or sandwich. I also love serving soup and ricotta muffins. This smoked fish soup is also a great appetizer or starter before heavenly meals of Oven-Baked Chicken Thighs with onion gravy, steak, beef stew or pasta with broccoli.

Two black bowls of Cullen Skink with bread in the background.
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5 from 5 votes

Cullen Skink

A creamy soup filled with smoked fish, potatoes, and leeks, Cullen Skink is easy and oh-so-delicious. Pair a bowlful of this hearty and soul-satisfying soup with a salad or sandwich for a satisfying meal.
Course Soup, Soups & Stews
Cuisine European, Scottish
Keyword bacon soup, chowder, cullen skink, fish soup, smoked cod, smoked fish, smoked haddock
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 387kcal
Author Chef Jenn

Ingredients

  • 2 tabelspoons butter salted
  • 3 cups sliced leeks about 1 large leek
  • 1 cup diced shallots about 2 large shallots
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 pound smoked cod or haddock
  • 2 cups finely diced potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Instructions

  • Saute the leeks in the butter in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
  • Add the shallots and saute until softened.
  • Deglaze the pan with white wine and simmer until reduced and most of the wine has evaporated.
  • Add the milk to the pot, along with the smoked cod (or smoked haddock). Keep the fish whole – you just want to flavor the broth at this point. Simmer for a few minutes, then scoop out the fish.
  • Add the diced potatoes and salt and bring the soup to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender.
  • Meanwhile, chunk up the fish and add the fish back to the soup pot when the potatoes are tender.
  • Add the cream to the soup, season it with salt and pepper, and heat through until just boiling.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley and/or chives, and enjoy!

Notes

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • Leeks grow in sand and can be very sandy. That sandy grit will ruin your soup so make sure the leeks are very clean.
  • Use an alligator chopper (my favorite kitchen tool ever!) to get evenly sized tiny diced potatoes.
  • You add the smoked fish in large filets to the soup to heat it through and to extract some of the flavor from it. Then you pull out the large chunks and chop it up before adding it back in. This way the fish won’t dry out and will stay in nice spoon-sized chunks without disintegrating in the simmering soup.
  • Don’t overcook the soup! You want the potatoes and leeks to be tender, that’s all!
  • Add a pinch of cayenne if you like a bit of spice to your soup.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 387kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 522mg | Potassium: 934mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 1630IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 284mg | Iron: 2mg

A Note on Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for this recipe is provided as a courtesy and is calculated based on available online ingredient information. It is only an approximate value. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

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By Chef Jenn

5 thoughts on “Cullen Skink”

  1. 5 stars
    I have never heard of this soup before trying! It was absolutely amazing! Loved the flavor combination and the addition of fish! And you have me sold on buying an alligator chopper!

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    Leeks are a big favorite in my house, but I’d never had them with smoked fish until now – just wow. So incredibly good. Thank you for this recipe!

    Reply

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