Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink

Scottish Cullen Skink Recipe

The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
388 Calories
18g Fat
20g Carbs
35g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 388
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 10g 49%
Cholesterol 131mg 44%
Sodium 1366mg 59%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 35g
Vitamin C 15mg 75%
Calcium 270mg 21%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 952mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cullen skink, one of Scotland's most famous dishes, is a hearty soup that is traditionally made with smoked haddock. The name of this soup comes from Cullen, a small town in the northeast of Scotland. Skink is the Scottish term for a knuckle, shin, or hough of beef, so most soups made of these parts were called skink. When people in northern Scotland were unable to find scraps of beef due to economic strains but had plenty of fish to cook with, and smoked haddock was found everywhere, meat stews transformed into fish-based soups, but the name skink stuck.

In this version of the famous recipe, mashed potatoes add thickness and creaminess, while in other versions, the potatoes are added in chunks. The best potatoes for our skink would be waxier types rather than those traditionally used for mash.

This Cullen skink recipe is also known as smoked haddock chowder in other parts of Britain, and both dishes are very similar.​ This recipe is also a gluten-free dish as the only thickener used is potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pints milk

  • Small handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks separated, plus more for garnish

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 pound smoked haddock fillet, not dyed

  • 2 ounces butter

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 8 ounces mashed potato, leftover or cooked fresh

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Black pepper, to taste

  • Crusty bread, for serving, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Scottish Cullen skink recipe ingredients
     The Spruce
  2. Put the milk, parsley stalks, bay leaf, and haddock into a large, roomy saucepan.

    Milk, parsley stalks, bay leaf, and haddock in a saucepan
     The Spruce
  3. Finely chop the parsley leaves and keep to one side. 

    Parsley leaves finely chopped
     The Spruce
  4. Bring the milk to a gentle boil and simmer for 3 minutes.

    Bringing milk in a saucepan to a boil, then a simmer
     The Spruce
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for 5 minutes for the herbs to infuse their flavor into the milk.

    Saucepan removed from heat
     The Spruce
  6. Remove the haddock from the milk with a slotted spatula and put to one side.

    Haddock is removed to a plate
     The Spruce
  7. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and reserve the herb-infused milk.

    Liquid is strained through a fine sieve
     The Spruce
  8. In another, smaller saucepan, melt the butter and add the chopped onion. Cook gently until translucent, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the onion.

    Butter is melted and finely chopped onion in a saucepan
     The Spruce
  9. Add the milk and the mashed potato to the onion and stir well until the mixture has a thick and creamy consistency.

    Cooking the milk, potatoes, and onion in a saucepan
     The Spruce
  10. Flake the smoked haddock into meaty chunks, removing any bones you may find. Add the fish to the soup.

    Flaked smoked haddock is added to the saucepan
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  11. Add the chopped parsley leaves to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook the soup for an additional 5 minutes. Don't over stir, because the fish chunks might disintegrate.

    Chopped parsley leaves are added to the soup
     The Spruce
  12. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. Be careful with the salt, as the fish will impart quite a salty flavor all on its own.

    Ready to add salt and pepper to the soup
     The Spruce
  13. Garnish the soup with more chopped parsley or a little extra pepper. Serve hot with crusty bread, if desired.

    Soup is garnished with more chopped parsley leaves
     The Spruce

For a Classic Presentation

Sometimes Cullen skink is served with other ingredients to make a more filling dish:

  • A softly poached hen's egg on top adds creaminess and fat.
  • A few lightly poached quail's eggs dropped into the soup before serving adds a touch of sophistication.
  • A can of sweet corn added to the soup gives texture and, although not traditional, provides a sweet flavor.

How to Properly Store and Reheat Cullen Skink

As with all fish and dairy-based dishes, proper storage is key to maintaining food safety:

  • If you have leftovers and are planning on eating them shortly, store the soup in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to two days. Warm up on the stove but do not store again if you have any additional leftovers; those portions need to go.
  • For longer-term storage, place it in freezer bags and freeze the soup for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before heating up on the stove.
  • When reheating, do not boil the soup. With sudden changes in temperature, the fish's texture can be altered and go from flaky to rubbery in minutes.
  • If the reheated soup seems too thick, add whole milk and taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed.