This Instant Pot New England fish chowder is a healthy-ish riff on the classic creamy soup. Here, cod is gently poached with potatoes, corn, and leeks in a milk broth. With a generous topping of crispy bacon to finish this chowder, you won’t even miss the cream.
While some chowders are heavy and cream-laden, we opted for a much lighter soup that allowed the flavor of gently poached cod to shine through in a clean, thyme-scented broth. Just a little bit of bacon fat (rendered using the sauté function) infused the whole dish with richness and created a smoky base for our aromatics. For a high-impact garnish, we reserved the crisped bacon to sprinkle over individual servings.—America’s Test Kitchen
Instant Pot New England Fish Chowder FAQs
What fish can I substitute for cod?
Black sea bass, haddock, hake, and pollock are good substitutes for the cod.
Why do you use potatoes to thicken the fish chowder?
ATK relies on potatoes (rather than heavy cream or crackers) to thicken and add texture to the chowder, as the Instant Pot’s pressure function quickly turned raw potatoes and water into a starch-laden broth in which to delicately cook the fish.
Why can’t you add fish to the Instant Pot at the beginning of cooking?
Poaching the cod off-heat minimizes the risk of overcooking and results in perfect fish that pairs beautifully with smoky bacon, sweet corn, and oniony chives.
Instant Pot New England Fish Chowder
- 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot or multicooker
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 pound leeks halved lengthwise, sliced 1/2-inch (12 mm) thick, and washed thoroughly
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 3 cups water
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon table salt plus more if needed
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more if needed
- 2 cups (10 oz) fresh or frozen corn
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless cod fillets 1 to 1 1/2-inches (25 to 36 mm) thick, cut into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- Add leeks, oil, and thyme to the fat left in the Instant Pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened and lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any browned bits, then stir in potatoes, bay leaf, and salt.
- Lock lid into place and close pressure-release valve. Select high pressure-cook function and cook for 3 minutes.
- Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
- In a medium bowl, whisk milk, cornstarch, and pepper together. Whisk milk mixture and corn into potato mixture in the Instant Pot and cook, using highest sauté function, until liquid is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Turn off the Instant Pot.
- Submerge cod in cooking liquid, partially cover the Instant Pot, and let sit until cod flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife, 5 to 8 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Break up any remaining large pieces of cod.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle individual portions with bacon and chives before serving.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Pull out your multi-cooker for this refreshing, lighter take on a beloved classic. The thyme-infused broth is still comforting but without feeling heavy from a roux or heavy cream. The stock is chock-full of vegetables like tender potatoes, smoky leeks sautéed in bacon fat, and sweet yellow corn. I used cod, a neutral-tasting, firm fish that blends nicely when layered with all the aromatics. As with most dishes, the cod tasted even better the next day.
After prepping the vegetables, the cooking time is mostly hands-free thanks to a quick 3-minute high pressure zap. Note that it takes time for the cooker to come to temperature and to build pressure. Using a multicooker is not exactly “instant” but you can take advantage of the extra time. I found myself setting the table and washing up. After quick pressure release and turning off your pot, the cod fillets are poached by the remaining steam, leaving your fish delicately cooked in minutes.
Integral to the finish is the crisped bacon and minced chive garnishes, adding a finishing layer of flavor right before serving. This chowder graced our table for two nights – just be sure to have enough of the chive and bacon for both nights. Rave!
What an absolutely fabulous chowder! We tend to shy away from heavy cream-based soups so there was some resistance to trying this chowder. And what a lovely surprise this was. It was not heavy but delightfully light, feeling almost healthy to eat. We all loved the big chunks of perfectly cooked cod, tender potatoes, and delicate broth. The spicing for us was perfect. The bacon added a nice finish to our bowls. We got 6 generous servings from this recipe. We heartily recommend this delicious chowder to everyone.
Yum…just thick enough, creamy, and delicious. This Instant Pot New England fish chowder was a welcome change that delivered all the flavor with less fat than other cream-laden versions. The bacon garnish was a deliciously salty contrast to the sweet corn and leeks, and the starch from the potatoes, plus a little cornstarch, added just the right level of thickness.
Pepper is another component of this dish that really works. It adds a nice heat that perks up the blander flavors of the cod and potatoes. I’m not a fan of second-day fish, but this soup tasted just as good on night two as it did on the first. My one and only issue is with the size of the potatoes. If I make this again, I’ll cut them larger to avoid overcooking. Their small size and partial disintegration may have contributed to the soup’s thickness and creaminess, but resulted in potatoes that were mushy.
If you’re looking for a chowder that has all the flavor of traditional chowder but is much lighter in texture and just a little bit creamy, this Instant Pot New England fish chowder will work for you.
My only suggestion would be to check on the seasoning throughout as the recipe includes only a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of ground pepper until the end when you can season to taste. Adding seasoning at the end is never as good as seasoning along as you cook to ensure that the seasonings are well-incorporated, and the flavor of each component is brought through. We went along with the recipe instructions assuming there would be some saltiness coming from the bacon and the fish, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Next time, I think it would be a good idea to actually season the fish on both sides before it is added at the end and to taste the soup at various intervals to be sure the flavors are well-developed. Other than that, this is a fine version of New England Fish Chowder and would do nicely as a starter course or a meal.
This Instant Pot New England fish chowder recipe sounded too good to be true AND it used the Instant Pot, so I was intrigued. Poaching the cod off heat is brilliant; it was perfectly cooked. It’s easy (think mid-week-dinner easy) and it’s filling, without being heavy. We enjoyed a few kinds of cheese and some crusty sourdough on the side. A steaming bowl will deliciously chase the winter chill from your bones! This recipe is definitely a keeper. Much of the prep work can be done while the Instant Pot is heating up and the bacon is frying. The potatoes were perfectly done but still held their shape. The cornstarch barely thickened the chowder, but because it was so thick, it was perfect.
This recipe creates a classic New England fish chowder (or chowdah): creamy but not overly so, chock-full of fish, potatoes, and corn. Without the heavy cream, it was a little healthier than the usual chowder. We loved it. I was on the fence on the thickness of the broth: I’ve had nice, thick, and rich broth and thin, juicy broth and they both are good. This one is on the thin, juicy side. I might add a little more cornstarch to the milk next time, but if I forget, that would be OK. The crispy bacon bits as a garnish took it over the top.
Using the Instant Pot was a great way to get the dish to the table quickly and I liked the idea of poaching the fish in the liquid. After releasing the steam and adding the milk/cornstarch mixture, I kept the pot on until the liquid boiled, rather than just one minute, to enhance the thickening function. Not sure it worked because my broth remained on the thin side. I liked the idea of poaching the fish, which resulted in nice, flaky chunks. Speaking of salt, I felt like the dish needed a little more than the 1 teaspoon salt the recipe called for. Another dash or two would’ve been perfect.
Originally published February 15, 2022