Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder in 20 Minutes

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Growing up I ate Nova Scotia seafood chowder probably once a week, usually on Fridays.

It’s not only something you eat at home but it’s a mandatory menu item in Nova Scotia restaurants as well.

Like all great Nova Scotia food, recipes are passed down. This is my grandmothers seafood chowder recipe. Although she’s passed, we still use her recipe. 

Although I now add Old Bay seasoning to it, just like I use it for my snow crab cakes.

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    And I still make it often. When I visit my sister I bring enough with me to eat for dinner and hopefully for lunch the next day.

    As long as everyone doesn’t eat it all that evening. 

    She’s the only one at her house who likes it. With two young children she doesn’t have the luxury of making food solely for herself.

    So I like to think of it as a new tradition.

    She is always so happy to have it and this seafood chowder recipe takes 20 minutes so how could I deny her of it. 

    Nova Scotia seafood chowder in a vintage bowl on a black wooden background.

    Chowder in Nova Scotia is Serious

    Nova Scotia Although many people ask me where to eat lobster in Nova Scotia, locals don’t eat it in restaurants. We eat it at home.

    But Nova scotia seafood chowder? Now that is a local thing.

    Maritimers love to discuss which restaurants have the best bowls. And friends share their secret touches.

    People have opinions on how thick it should be, if there should be bacon in it and the best side accompaniment – fresh roll or saltine crackers.

    And even if we make it at home, we still eat it out!

    It is very common to have an order of a cup of fish chowder and a half sandwich on the menu.

    And if it isn’t written people will ask – because somehow it’s acceptable to order half of a sandwich.

    I’ve never seen this anywhere other than the Maritimes.

    Chowder mix sold in the Maritimes to make fish chowder, on a white background.

    The Secret to Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder

    Outsiders think the secret to great chowder is fresh seafood, but that’s accessible everywhere.

    In fact if you pop into any grocery store and head to the seafood counter you’ll find “chowder mix” which are the trimmings of seafood for the day.

    A mixed bag of seafood you can cut your time and expenses in half by buying one of these.

    Sadly chowder mix not exist in Toronto. Or in many other cities.

    Nova Scotia chowder in a vintage bowl on a wooden background.

    In this case you just need to go to your fishmonger and ask if they have fish scraps for soup. Or buy your favourite fish and cut it up into 1 inch pieces.

    Often I’ll buy fish scraps and then add some bay sea scallops and shrimp to it. If it’s a special occasion I’ll add lobster.

    Seafood Chowder Ingredients

    • 1 large potato
    • 1 lb chowder mix or your favourite seafood
    • 1 celery stalk
    • 1 medium onion
    • 1 carrot
    • 2.5 cups homogenized milk
    • 1/8 cup of flour
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
    • 1 tsp cornstarch
    Nova Scotia seafood chowder in a vintage bowl on a wooden background.

    Nova Scotia Fish Chowder Questions + Substitutions

    This is an easy seafood chowder recipe, but I understand that people always have questions like:

    Can I Freeze Seafood Chowder?

    If you use milk with a fat percentage greater than 2% you can technically freeze this Nova Scotia seafood chowder.

    However, it’s not going to be fantastic as cooked potatoes don’t thaw well. We have never even considered freezing it because there’s never any left. 

    Can I Make Seafood Chowder in Advance?

    The best part about making Nova Scotia seafood chowder is that it is actually better the next day.

    At the very least I will make it first thing in the morning for dinner that evening to allow the flavours to meld.

    When I make it in advance I adjust Step 7 of the recipe to later that day – I’ll add the cornstarch when I reheat the seafood chowder so that I’m not overcooking the fish.

    Can I Use Skim Milk in Seafood Chowder?

    Of course you can!

    But I do not recommend it.

    Some Maritime seafood chowders are very decadent and use cream, just like this mussel chowder.

    My grandmother’s recipe is what we ate weekly so you need to be somewhat moderate about it.

    But also you want the chowder to have a bit of thickness to it.

    This calls for 2.5 cups of homogenized milk (3.25% milk fat), although sometimes I’ll cut it with half 1% milk if I’m making it for someone watching their calories.

    I’ve also made it entirely with 2% milk, which is fine but I don’t like it as much. 1 cup of homogenized milk in Canada only has 160 calories.

    This is not a calorie buster recipe like this PEI seafood chowder, which uses whipping cream.

    Also don’t skip the butter, and please don’t use margarine. The point is to give it a rich, buttery flavour. 

    Fish chowder in a vintage bowl on a wooden background.

    Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder Recipe

    Restaurants often use bacon or pancetta and cream to win diners over. 

    I think this is acceptable, but it’s not the way my grandmother made it. 

    I once made this seafood chowder for my family when my grandmother was alive, and perhaps had the greatest compliment.

    My grandmother leaned in mid-way through her chowder and told me mine was better.

    Little did she know the chowder she made me as a child was an inspiration for my own.

    Nova Scotia seafood chowder with cream in a white bowl.

    Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder

    Yield: 6-8 servings
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Total Time: 20 minutes

    This creamy seafood chowder is a great weeknight meal in 20 minutes and tastes better the next day.


    • 1 large potato diced
    • 1 lb chowder mix
    • 1 celery stalk diced
    • 1 medium onion diced
    • 1 carrot diced
    • 2.5 cups homogenized milk
    • 1/8 cup of flour
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
    • 1 tsp cornstarch mixed in 1/2 cup water


    1. In a pot saute onion, celery, carrot in butter for 2 minutes over medium heat.
    2. Add potato and cook 1 minute.
    3. Add old bay seasoning and cook an additional minute.
    4. Add chowder mix and toss 1/8 cup of flour to coat.
    5. Add 1 cup water and put lid on for 5 minutes.
    6. Remove lid, add milk and cornstarch/water mixture.
    7. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.
    8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 198Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 651mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 7g

    Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    1. Yummy!

      Eloquent, aren’t I?

    2. Ayngelina,

      Usually, I enjoy whatever you write. But today, the chowder recipe really, really hit home.
      I know, it’s just a recipe. But it’s the one I needed for tonight.

      But what is Old Bay seasoning? I could ask my Nova Scotian wife, but I’d rather surprise her. (I’m just an American, so I plead super-ignorance) πŸ™‚


      1. A very nice flavoring. I t sounds delicious. If it’s good enough for your grandmother, it’s got to be great!

        And Jeff, Old Bay seasoning should be in your grocery store. Try the one that carries the biggest variety.

      2. Ayngelina Author says:


        Old Bay is actually more popular in the US than Canada but Curt is right that you can find it in any major grocery store.

        If you don’t want to buy it just for the chowder I found this Old Bay substitution online:

        1 tablespoon ground bay leaves
        2 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
        1 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
        1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
        3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
        1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
        1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
        1/2 teaspoon paprika
        1/2 teaspoon red pepper
        1/4 teaspoon ground mace
        1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

    3. Mmmm….love chowder!!! Will have to give this recipe a try!!! (what is a chowder mix????)

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Chowder mix is just a package of miscellaneous seafood that you can buy. Like most stews, chowder was a way to use the ends and leftovers of seafood. I couldn’t find it when I was in Toronto so I just bought it all separately. All you need is some shellfish, white fleshed fish and salmon is nice too.

    4. 30 day meatless challenge.. on a website called bacon is magic ..!! NO!! LOL. well, u did good to cut out the cream. Probably even more damaging that the meat i tell ya;) Your chowder looks divine.. Your grandma has good reason to be proud:P

    5. Annette | Bucket List Journey says:

      Love, love, love chowder and happy to see this healthier version!

    6. Caanan @ No Vacation Required says:

      Sounds delicious. Love that you found a way to make it more healthy.

      Trumping Grandma’s chowder is a true accomplishment. Kudos to you.

    7. Ayngelina,

      Are you from Nova Scotia originally? We are headed there on a cruise in October. Can’t wait to see that area in the fall!

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Yes I was born in North Sydney, grew up in the Annapolis Valley and went to university in Halifax. It wasn’t until after university that I moved to Toronto for work.
        How long will you be in Halifax?

        1. Elizabeth says:

          Hello Angelina, I was born in North Sydney, grew up in Westchester, a village not very far from Tatamagouche and went to NS Teachers College in Truro. I live in the Annapolis Valley now. Thank you for the tips and recipe .

          1. Ayngelina Author says:

            Let me know how it works out for you!

    8. I’ll have to try to make this one!

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Just remember you can’t use anything with less fat than 2% and you will be fine.

    9. Debbie Beardsley says:

      I’m so glad fall and winter are quickly approaching because I love soups, stews and chowders! I’ll have to put this into use soon.

    10. Ahh if only I could make this in Spain! There’s no way in hell I’ll find chowder mix here I guess a trip to Gibraltar is in the works!

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Oh yes you can! I should have explained better.

        Chowder mix is just a package of miscellaneous seafood that you can buy. Like most strews, chowder was a way to use the ends and leftovers of seafood. I couldn’t find it when I was in Toronto so I just bought it all separately. All you need is some shellfish, white fleshed fish and salmon is nice too.

        1. This recipe is so easy and tastes great. I was looking for new ways to serve salmon. We usually eat it at least once a week but my youngest son doesn’t like it very much. This made salmon a winner with him. I also like to add fennel and leek.

    11. David @ MalaysiaAsia says:

      If only I stuck to cooking 20 years ago (I’m a chef graduate btw), I would probably print this out and give it a shot at the kitchen.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        You are a chef graduate? But what happened, why didn’t you continue in cooking?

    12. I’m sold…this looks so delicious, and I love that it is a little more healthier than the original!
      What a nice compliment from your grandmother πŸ™‚

    13. Michael Figueiredo says:

      That sounds absolutely delicious!

    14. You write AND cook!!
      Looks delish….

    15. Love how you’re trying to go meatless – this looks really nice and creamy!

    16. Looks like what we call fish soup up here. Nom nom… (Not often you hear of a mother who doesn’t like carrots, btw :))

    17. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy says:

      It’s so rewarding to take on a new recipe and make it work. I’m not a chowder fan but my spicy chili gets a few raves now and then.

    18. Thomas | Jus Getaway says:

      I love new recipes and this sounds yummy. I actually think this will be great even without seafood (not really a seafood person).

    19. It made me smile to read you use grated carrot in your chowder. πŸ™‚ My Mum does the same thing and it is delicious and adds great color. πŸ™‚

    20. This is so sweet. πŸ™‚ I loved clam chowder as a kid (I still do, but haven’t had it for ages). Thank you for the recipe, I’ve been on the search for new ones that are classics. I’ll have to incorporate yours into my Fall and Winter cooking. πŸ˜‰

    21. Ok, I am trying it this weekend. I love chowder! Also, such a great compliment from your grandma.

    22. Cathy Sweeney says:

      Delicious! Did you tell your grandma that she was the inspiration?

    23. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I have tasted Chowder only in San Francisco. I never had homemade Chowder before, I think I will try your recipe one time =D

    24. FOOD! I love chowder and I think I would love to sprinkle a little bacon on top of this- sounds perfect for the chilly nights we will soon be having.

    25. YUM. How is the meatless challenge going?

    26. Emily in Chile says:

      It both looks and sounds delicious…I might have to try making some!

    27. Looks delicious! I was travelling around the East Coast last week and I had many seafood firsts – including squid, scallops and lobster!!! πŸ˜€ YUM

    28. Lovely. πŸ™‚ I’ve never tried chowder before.

    29. Madeline Crews says:

      I was born in NOrth Sydney also
      Lived on Stanley Street across from Central School. I live in Halifax Now, and I am searching where to buy Old Bay Seasoning here. Tried Super Store, They don’t cary it anymore. Any suggeestions other than make my own.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I don’t think you can buy it anywhere it Canada but I think you can order it online from the States.

    30. Hi, that looks like a great recipe. Could you please clarify the cornstarch measurement? I’m not sure if it means 8 oz by weight or 8 tsp of cornstarch?? in 1/2 (??cup) water
      Thanks so much. I can’t wait to try this recipe.
      I have spent a lot of time over the last 10 years in the Annapolis Valley, (mostly around Middleton) visiting my friend. It is a very beautiful place.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Hi Sue

        Add one tsp of cornstarch to 1/2 cup of water. Make sure it is thoroughly mixed or you’ll get clumps in your chowder.

    31. Old Bay seasoning is available at Wal Mart here in New Brunswick.

    32. Ruth Collins says:

      Just finished a bowl of this delicious seafood chowder! My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I found a pk. of seafood mix at a local supermarket and I added a tin of clams! We love Oldbay seasoning so it turned out awesome! Will be making it again!

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I’m so thrilled to hear that, clams would make a great addition.

    33. This was AMAZING!! I couldn’t find Old Bay seasoning so made my own and it still turned out delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I’m thrilled to hear it!

        1. You can buy Old Bay in most grocery store, Sobeys, is also available at Pete’s Frootique in Halifax and Bedford, NS.

          1. Ayngelina Author says:

            Good to know!

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