Delicious, nutritious Nordic cod chowder with leeks and fennel

Nordic fish chowder with fennel

When I think of Scandinavia I think of cod. Not really. I think of beautiful fjords and Viking ships and blonde-haired ingenues and Wild Strawberries. All that thinking makes me hungry–for a steaming bowl of Nordic fish chowder.

In my experience the best fish for a chowder is Atlantic cod. It is mild, sweet, and delicate with a meaty, flaky flesh that makes it perfect for chowder. As a bonus, it’s also full of nutrients that women over 60 need to include in their diets.

Why cod is perfect for women over 60

The Atlantic cod lives mainly in the North Atlantic Sea and the Barents Sea. It develops a rich and complex flavor due to the slow growth in the cold surroundings. This gives a firm texture to the meat and a beautiful white appearance both cooked and raw. The meat separates into large, juicy flakes and has a slightly sweet taste.

Norwegian Atlantic cod thrives in colder waters compared to the other cod-species, like the Pacific cod. According to Seafood from Norway, the world’s largest cod stock lives in the waters outside the Norwegian coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

Full of vitamins and minerals

  • Cod may be the healthiest and leanest protein you can eat. A four-ounce serving (about the size of a deck of cards) contains 20g of protein–about one-third of the daily requirement for women.
  • It’s rich in vitamin B12, which is an important part of your body’s nerve and blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common as we age. The average recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for women over 60 is around 2.4 micrograms. A four-ounce serving provides most of that.
  • Consuming fish like cod on a regular basis can help keep your brain in good condition as you age. According to one study, eating baked or broiled fish at least once a week reduces the loss of gray matter in your brain that occurs as we grow older. Eating fish regularly may also correlate to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And cod is lower in mercury than many other fish.
  • Cod is also rich in vitamins A and D, selenium, antioxidants and Omega-3s. A portion of cod for dinner covers your daily requirement of Omega-3.

North Atlantic cod, delivered in a flavorful chowder, is a veritable bowl of health.

Infuse this chowder with Nordic flavors

What sets this chowder apart from the others is the hint of anise-like flavors from fennel bulbs, fennel fronds, and dill. Leeks and chopped fennel are sautéed, then deglazed with Pernod, an anise-flavored liquor from the South of France. The flavors linger when the soup base is built from clam broth and chicken stock.

Potatoes cut into soup spoon-able cubes cook in the broth before large pieces of cod are arranged on top of the simmering mixture. Ten minutes later it’s ready to serve. But wait–the flavor improves if the chowder sits for 30 minutes or so before dusting the top with fennel and dill fronds.

Serve with a salad of bitter greens, blue cheese, and beets. Rye bread would complement the flavors of the chowder, but a baguette or other country bread will do. A Swedish almond cake is a pleasant finish. (Make your own or pick up an almond cake from Ikea.)

How to make Nordic fish chowder

This chowder comes together in a few easy steps. Once the leeks are washed and sliced–the most time-consuming task of this recipe–it can be ready to serve in 30 minutes.

Potatoes cut into pieces for soup

Cut potatoes into one inch (or so) pieces.

Sautéed leeks and fennel

Sauté diced and sliced leeks and fennel until glossy, but not brown. Deglaze, then add the stock components and potatoes. Cook at a low boil for 10 minutes.

Pieces of cod added to stock for soup

Once the potatoes have softened, add the fish to the gently boiling mixture. Cover partially and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Fish is cooked. Chowder is ready to serve.

The chowder is ready when the fish has turned opaque. At this point a few tablespoons of heavy cream can be added but are not necessary.

Bowl of Nordic fish chowder with fennel and dill garnisih

Sprinkle chopped fennel and dill fronds on chowder before serving.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 fennel bulbs, one diced, the other quartered, fronds reserved for topping
  • 2 leeks, washed, white and light green parts cut into 1/4″ slices (not too thin or they will burn)
  • ¼ cup Pernod (or white wine)
  • 8 oz. clam juice
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 pound gold or other waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or 2 bouillon cubes and their water equivalent
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 pounds cod, cut into pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: heavy cream

For serving

  • 1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped


  • Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add the diced fennel bulb and leeks. Sauté until glossy and softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Chop the remaining fennel pieces into one-inch pieces. Add to the pot.
  • Once the leeks and fennel are soft, stir in the Pernod (or wine), and reduce by half. Once reduced, stir in the clam juice and lemon juice.
  • Add the potatoes and cover with broth. Add enough water to cover. Bring it to a boil until the potatoes are tender, but not completely softened.
  • Add the fish and simmer until the fish is opaque and potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. If using the optional cream, add it now.
  • Remove from the heat, let the soup rest for 10 to 30 minutes before serving.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, sprinkle fennel and dill fronds in each bowl.

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