Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (2024)

When we first saw Cullen Skink on a menu we had absolutely no idea what it was, but this hearty Scottish smoked haddock soup is now one of our favourites!

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (1)

What is Cullen Skink?

Cullen Skink is a rich and creamy smoked haddock soup that borders on being a chowder, it’s packed full of flavour and can easily be eaten as a main meal as well as a starter. If you’re coming to Scotland, it is a must-try (see 50 Scottish foods to try here)!

Like many traditional Scottish dishes, Cullen Skink is actually a really simple recipe.

But the method you use to bring together the main ingredients of potatoes, onions, and smoked haddock is what gives it a deliciously creamy and satisfying taste.

It is much more of a meal than just a plain old soup!

Scroll to the end or use the table of contents below to be taken straight to the Printable Recipe Card.

Table Of Contents

  1. What is Cullen Skink?
  2. Why is it called Cullen Skink?
  3. What’s the difference between Cullen Skink and Seafood Chowder?
  4. Things you’ll need to make Cullen Skink
  5. Ingredients for Cullen Skink
  6. How to make Cullen Skink – Step by step method
  7. Variations to Cullen Skink
  8. Can Cullen Skink be reheated?
  9. How long does Cullen Skink keep for?
  10. Printable Cullen Skink Recipe Card
  11. More Scottish Soup Recipes

Why is it called Cullen Skink?

Cullen Skink is named after the town of Cullen in Moray, near Aberdeenshire. Sure, it might be easier to call it Scottish fish chowder, but then we miss out on the fun of asking visitors what exactly they think it is and hearing their varied responses!

Lots of Scottish foods are named after their location of origin, like Dundee Cake, Arbroath Smokies, and Forfar Bridies.

Originally Cullen Skink was a type of beef broth made from the front legs of cattle, and the word skink was used to mean a shin or knuckle of beef.

Around the early 1890s, smoked haddock was in a much more plentiful supply than beef around the area of Cullen, as the village had become specialist in producing it, and so it was used to make a simple smoked fish soup instead.

Move forward over a hundred years, and Cullen Skink is now found on menus across Scotland! Many places have their own take on the dish so it’s worth trying in different areas to see how it deliciously differs. It can be eaten as a starter or a main and is generally served with bread – be warned it’s very filling!

We took a trip to the Moray coast a couple of years ago but unfortunately, it was a Sunday when we visited Cullen and we were unable to find anywhere to serve us a Cullen Skink. Just another reason to return to this beautiful part of Scotland, however!

While we regularly make fish chowder at home we had never tried to make Cullen Skink before, thinking we would need some sort of specialist ingredients or method to do so.

However, we’re happy to say that when we began researching the process, we discovered that making your own Cullen Skink is actually really straightforward once you know what you’re doing.

Which is what we’re here to help you with!

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (3)

What’s the difference between Cullen Skink and Seafood Chowder?

Because Cullen Skink is made with smoked fish, it gives it a smokier taste than you’d expect from a chowder.

The main ingredients are smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. You might have additional vegetables in a fish chowder and multiple types of fish or prawns in a seafood chowder.

Things you’ll need to make Cullen Skink

You’ll need two pots/pans to make the Cullen Skink; ideally at least one should be non-stick so the milk doesn’t stick as easily.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (4)

Ingredients for Cullen Skink

There are a few variations to how this Scottish soup is made, but you’ll find that the base is always smoked haddock, potatoes, and onion.

This recipe makes two full bowls of soup, but you can easily scale it up to serve more people.

  • 25g butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 400g potatoes
  • 280g smoked haddock (approximately 2 fillets)
  • 300ml whole milk (about 1 and 1/4 cups)
  • 300ml boiling water (about 1 and 1/4 cups)
  • Optional – Parsley to garnish
  • Optional – Fish stock cube
Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (5)

What type of smoked haddock do you need?

There are lots of different kinds of Smoked Haddock. Traditional recipes used the full fish which was then de-boned mid-cooking, but these days it’s much easier to use fillets.

Most recipes we looked into called for “undyed smoked haddock”. We weren’t able to source that at this time so just used the dyed kind we found in the supermarket fish section.

The only reason we can imagine they suggest undyed is so the soup doesn’t go as yellow, but it doesn’t make any difference to the taste.

The amount is usually what comes in the pre-packaged smoked haddock in the supermarket but there’s no problem using a bit more or less.

Ultimately use what you can manage to get! The only important thing is that it’s smoked as this is what helps to give the soup its flavour.

What if you can’t get Smoked Haddock?

If Smoked Haddock isn’t available where you live then you can try whatever you can get in terms of smoked white fish. Smoked Cod would be the next best thing. Smoked Mackerel has a stronger fish flavour but is possible.

Halibut or other white fish would work, and you can always add liquid smoke.

Do you need fish stock?

We have fish stock cubes on hand in our pantry and sometimes I add them to our homemade Cullen Skink but other times I don’t.

It depends on how “fishy” you want it to taste and how much flavour the soup absorbs while you’re cooking it.

If you’re making it quickly and eating immediately then it may not have as much flavour as if you leave it to reheat later.

I always taste when it’s ready to serve and then add a whole or even just part of a fish stock cube if I think it needs a little more depth to the flavour.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (7)

How to make Cullen Skink – Step by step method

The full ingredients list and method is listed in the recipe card at the bottom of the post, this can also be printed, but here’s a breakdown of each step with a few more tips!

Ideally, you’ll want to have 2 pans on the stovetop at the same time. Try to use a non-stick pan for the haddock and milk so it doesn’t stick.

Put the milk and smoked haddock skin-up (if there is any) into a cold pan and allow to sit. The milk should cover the whole fish. Don’t turn the heat on yet.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (8)
Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (9)

Finely chop an onion and peel and cube the potatoes so they’re an inch or so in size.

Heat your other pan and add the butter and onion and fry for around 5 minutes until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the potatoes for a minute before pouring in 300ml of boiling water. It should cover the potatoes and onions. Now cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are cooked through.

If you want to add leeks then you could do so at the same time as the potatoes.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (10)

Meanwhile, heat the milk and haddock gradually. You’ll want a low heat so the milk doesn’t burn and you’ll need to move the milk around every now and then to stop it from sticking to the bottom. It will take about 5 minutes or so for the milk to heat up and then you want to cook the fish for a further 5 minutes.

Remove the smoked haddock from the milk with a slotted spoon, turn the heat off and keep the milk to one side.

Allow the fish to cool slightly so you can remove any skin or bones and discard them. The skin should easily peel off the back of a fish with a little help from a knife if necessary.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (11)

Take a masher or fork and mash about a quarter of the potatoes in the pan roughly. You don’t want to mash too much and it doesn’t need to be perfect, this will just help to thicken up the soup.

Add the milk to the pan of potatoes and onions and stir for a couple of minutes to combine. it’s important you bring them to the same temperature and keep stirring so that you don’t have an oily layer from the butter and fish.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (12)

Use a fork to separate the smoked haddock into large chunks then add to the pan and stir gently through. Also, salt and pepper to taste. Adding a little parsley can give an extra hint of flavour too.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (13)
Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (14)

At this point, you can taste the soup and see if it is fishy enough for you. The point of allowing the haddock to sit in the milk is so it will absorb some of the flavours. Sometimes this doesn’t always come through enough so adding a bit of fish stock can help intensify the flavour.

If you do feel it needs more flavour then this is when we crumble in all or part of a fish stock cube.

This is also at this stage you can add a couple of tablespoons of cream if you want a richer, creamier taste.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (15)

And there you have it, a rich and creamy Cullen Skink ready to serve with a garnish of parsley and ideally some crusty bread, enjoy!

Variations to Cullen Skink

Cullen Skink generally only has potatoes in it, but leeks are a popular addition. Fry the leek with the onion to allow it to soften.

As mentioned, cream is also another common addition to Cullen Skink, but we prefer ours without it as it’s already a rich smoked fish soup.

However, if you like to have a richer taste then you can add a couple of tablespoons of double cream and stir through just before serving.

We find if you plan to have Cullen Skink as a starter or light meal it doesn’t need the cream, but you might want to add it to a full meal for a fuller, heavier taste.

If you can’t get smoked white fish, then try adding a few drops of liquid smoke to it instead.

Can Cullen Skink be reheated?

You can easily make this dish in advance and reheat on the stovetop, making it a quick and easy meal or something to serve as a starter at a dinner party.

If the soup has thickened too much then add a dash of milk or water and stir thoroughly.

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (16)

How long does Cullen Skink keep for?

Up to 2 days in the refrigerator, if you actually have any leftovers, it’s not something that happens in our house!

It can also be frozen if you want to make a bigger batch and save some for later. Make sure the fish is covered in liquid and freeze once it’s cold for up to 3 months. However, soups with cream added can separate after freezing so if you do want to add it then hold off until after defrosting and reheating.

Printable Cullen Skink Recipe Card

Yield: 2

Cullen Skink Recipe

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (17)

This traditional Smoked Haddock soup is deliciously tasty and satisfying. It can be served as a starter or main, usually with crusty bread. The smokiness of the fish adds the flavour to the soup.

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 30 minutes

Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 25g butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 400g potatoes
  • 280g smoked haddock (approximately 2 fillets)*
  • 300ml whole milk (about 1 and 1/4 cups)
  • 300ml boiling water (about 1 and 1/4 cups)
  • Optional - Fish stock cube*
  • Optional - Parsley to garnish*
  • Optional - 2 tablespoons double cream*

Instructions

  1. Put the milk and smoked haddock skin-up (if there is any) into one pan and allow to sit. The milk should cover the whole fish. Don’t turn the heat on yet.
  2. Finely chop an onion and peel and cube the potatoes.
  3. Add the butter and onion to a pan and fry for around 5 minutes until the onion is soft but not brown.
  4. Add the potatoes for a minute before pouring in 300ml of boiling water. Cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the milk and haddock gradually, moving the milk around with a wooden spoon every now and then so it doesn't stick. It should take about 5 minutes or so for the milk to heat up and then cook the fish for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the smoked haddock from the milk with a slotted spoon and keep the milk to one side.
  7. Allow the fish to cool slightly and any skin or bones and discard them.
  8. Take a masher or fork and roughly mash about a quarter of the potatoes. You can just do this in the pan, no need to take any out.
  9. Add the milk to the pan of potatoes and onions and stir for a few minutes to combine.
  10. Use a fork to separate the smoked haddock into large chunks then add to the pan and stir gently through. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add parsley or cream if you choose to.

Notes

*Smoked Haddock

Traditional recipes used the full fish which was then de-boned mid-cooking, but these days it’s much easier to use fillets.

Most recipes called for “undyed smoked haddock” but you can use dyed if you need to, the soup may just be a little more yellow but will taste the same.

*Fish Stock

If you’re making the soup quickly and eating immediately then it may not have as much flavour as if you leave it to reheat later.

We always taste when it’s ready to serve and then add a whole or even just part of a fish stock cube if we think it needs it.

*Parsley and Cream

Neither of these is essential but parsley is often added as a garnish and brings a little more of a herby flavour to the soup, and cream is sometimes added if you would like a richer, creamier taste.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 623Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 168mgSodium: 1429mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 5gSugar: 13gProtein: 49g

The nutritional data in this recipe is provided by a third party and these values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed.

More Scottish Soup Recipes

  • Scottish Lentil Soup – a delicious red lentil and ham hough soup (can be made vegetarian!)
  • Tattie Soup – classic Scottish potato soup
  • co*ck-a-leekie Soup – Chicken, leek, and rice soup, the Scottish version of a chicken noodle soup!
  • Scotch Broth & Vegetarian Scotch Broth – made with barley and vegtables

Pin for later!

Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (18)
Simple Cullen Skink recipe - Scottish Scran (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tyson Zemlak

Last Updated:

Views: 6771

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tyson Zemlak

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Apt. 662 96191 Quigley Dam, Kubview, MA 42013

Phone: +441678032891

Job: Community-Services Orchestrator

Hobby: Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Metalworking, Fashion, Vehicle restoration, Shopping, Photography

Introduction: My name is Tyson Zemlak, I am a excited, light, sparkling, super, open, fair, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.