Sampling Seafood Chowder in Ireland

Seafood Chowder in IrelandCreamy. Delicious. Seafood Chowder!

One of the best – and most unexpected – pleasures we discovered in Ireland was Seafood Chowder. How had I not heard of the popularity of this, in all my web searches, forum readings, guidebooks? From the very first day I sampled seafood chowder in Doolin (McGann’s, which set the standard for me), I was
hooked. I barely ate anything else when we dined out – always, the seafood chowder drew me in. What is it about seafood chowder?

First: Seafood chowder is ubiquitous, at least in the west, where we visited. We sampled Seafood Chowder in Co Clare, Co Limerick, Co Kerry, and Co Cork. Each bowl was alike in being creamy, hot, and steaming; different in the taste. Some had more fish than other seafood, while other bowls were chock full of shrimp and less visible fish.

In Kenmare (O’Donnabhain), the shrimp stared at us with sightless eyes, and we had to peel and behead. Still delicious, just a bit more work (and messy). In Sneem, my seafood chowder was punctuated with shouts of delight from fellow diners at D. O’Shea’s, rooting on the football team on TV. In Portmagee, a less chunky soup was a bit easier to eat – good for boating excursions to Skellig, no?

They all were delicious.

Second: Seafood chowder is often accompanied by that super yummy brown bread, and of course Irish butter. Sigh. Pure delight. This makes a very full meal, enough to tide you over during those long mountain drives and all that stopping to take photos.

Third: Seafood chowder in Ireland is pure gold. Try Cullen skink in Scotland (delicious, but not the same); New England seafood chowder (lots of potatoes, also delicious, not the same); and fish stew (my own, for instance) – NOT THE SAME. It’s the creamy base, the variety of seafood, the essence of Ireland in each bite.

What makes a good Irish seafood chowder for you? Most importantly, do you have a great recipe to share?

Submitted by Dr. Jessie Voigts, publisher of

Author: Guest

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  1. Mmmm … this is bringing back memories. I had my best bowl of chowder (along with a small loaf of that amazing brown bread) on a chilly, wet day in Dingle. Fabulous.

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    • Where in dingle? We just came back from a trip to Ireland and Dingle was my favorite place – I had the best seafood chowder in Doolin at O’Connors and would love to get the recipe – any ideas?

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      • It was the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had at gus oconners I would do almost anything for that recipe

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  2. This recipe comes from “The Irish Pub Cookbook”. Unfortunately, I have not made this one, but I have made many many recipes from this cookbook, and all have been fantastic.

    Seafood Chowder (recipe courtesy of Fitzpatrick’s Pub – Rockmarshall, County Louth)

    1/2 c + 2 T unsalted butter
    1/2 c all purpose flour
    4 c Milk, slightly warmed
    2 leeks (white part only), washed and sliced
    1 onion, chopped
    1 carrot, peeled and grated
    2 cups homemade fish stock, bottled clam juice, or 2 fish bouillon cubes mixed with 2 cups boiling water
    3/4 c dry white wine
    1/2 tsp minced garlic
    1/4 lb mussels, steamed, shells discarded
    1/4 lb clams, steamed, shells discarded
    1/2 lb mixed seafood (such as salmon, shrimp & scallops), cut into small pieces
    Salt & pepper to taste
    1 TB minced fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, chervil and chives

    1. In medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt 1/2 c butter. Stir in flour and cook for 3-4 minutes or until blended. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly, for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

    2. In a stockpot over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 TB of butter. Add the leeks, onion and carrot and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add the fish stock or clam juice, wine, and garlic and cook, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until stock is reduced by half. Stir in the shellfish and seafood and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the liquid is again reduced by half. Stir in the milk mixture, season with salt and pepper and simmer until heated through.

    3. To serve, ladle the chowder into shallow bowls and sprinkle with mixed herbs.

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    • No Irish Seafood Chowder would ever contain garlic. Base is celery, leeks, onion, carrot and potato.

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  3. thanks for the lovely comments – and the recipe! i can’t WAIT to try it. seafood chowder was my VERY Favorite food in ireland.

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  4. Jessie (and Corey and Liam)
    Irish singer Maura O’Connell joked to me once that Irish fish taste better because they have a better accent…

    perhaps you know she that worked in her family’s fish shop in Ennis while growing up.

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  5. great post — makes me hungry. And makes me want to head to the west coast of Ireland.

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  6. Mmmm … this is bringing back memories. I had my best bowl of chowder (along with a small loaf of that amazing brown bread) on a chilly, wet day in Dingle. Fabulous.

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  7. this is deja vu all over again, ny wife and I had very similar experiences in 2004 and 2006 and this brings it all back home, it was oct ’04, at McGann’s, in Doolin, dingle penninsula, co Clare, co Cork, Kilarney, we had seafood chowder and brown bread at every stop on our treks through the countryside, over Connor’s Pass, thanks for bringing it all rushing back, now i know it wasn’t just a dream.

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  8. As my husband will attest, I would have eaten nothing but the seafood chowder, brown bread and butter had he not insisted I at least try the other samplings. My palate remains in mourning until the soles of my shoes meet again with the heavenly isle that is Ireland.

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  9. Nothing better than having a bowl of hot Irish chowder with a pint of guiness on a cold wet day when you have a chill in your bones. Comfort food at its best

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  10. We travelled around Ireland last Summer – August 2011. As you say a bowl of Irish Chowder was one of fondest memories. Every bowl was different but each as memorable as the other! Served with the wonderful brown bread and butter ….. words fail me.

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