Seafood Chowder With Saffron

If you love seafood, this seafood chowder is sure to delight with it’s complex flavors and short cooking time. Be sure to serve it with crusty bread to soak up all the broth.

(Disclaimer: I tested this recipe about 7 times, so you’ll find some pictures with substitutes from my final recipe. It’s OK to use a few substitutes!)

Seafood Chowder

Delicious Seafood Chowder!

Unless you live near a coast, seafood is often found in the frozen section of your grocery store or at the butcher counter, where it has been thawed but was previously frozen. That’s totally OK!

For us here in Michigan, the Mitten State, we can get local fish from the Great Lakes or one of the many inland lakes. But if you’re not an avid fisherman, frozen seafood is completely fine to eat. It tastes great, is good for your heart (Omega whatevers) and can be cooked in a lot of different ways.

Plus, shrimp don’t live the Great Lakes, as far as I know, so if I want shrimp, it’s going to have to be frozen.

The good news is you can thaw your cod and shrimp in a very short period of time while you dice your shallot and garlic and stage the rest of the ingredients. A little cold running water, 5-10 minutes (maybe a little longer for the cod) and you’re good to go.

Fish Chowder

Spice Up The World

The key to any dish is the spices you use. Whether that’s simple salt and pepper or something more complex, it flavors everything. Aromatics are the next important ingredients, whether that is onion, celery and carrot (or mirepoix in French cuisine) or onions, celery and bell peppers (the holy trinity in Creole/Cajun cuisine, and which I use my Not So “Dirty” Dirty Rice). There are similar mixtures that form the basis for all types of cuisines across the world. In this case, the aromatics are shallots and garlic, and the spices are ground saffron, coriander, salt and pepper of course, and thyme.


I grow my own thyme, basil and rosemary, so I had fresh thyme sprigs on hand. If you don’t, you can usually find them at your local grocery store or substitute dried thyme. Just remember that a tablespoon of fresh thyme equals a teaspoon of dried thyme.

I, erm, might have learned that the hard way in my early cooking days. That particular roasted vegetable dish went in the garbage and pizza was later delivered.

Start With Aromatics and Spices to Build Flavor

After heating up your Dutch oven (or other stock pot) and olive oil over medium heat, sauté the garlic, shallot, coriander, and thyme for about 2-3 minutes until the shallots are translucent, then add the saffron and stir for another minute. Be sure not to burn your garlic! If it looks like the spices are sticking to the pan or the garlic is browning, add a little more olive oil.

Saffron and Aromatics for Fish Chowder
I’ll be honest, in this picture, I used onion because I didn’t have shallot on hand as usual.
It’s OK to substitute!

Then add in the chicken broth, clam sauce/juice and diced tomatoes. Don’t drain the tomatoes, btw. Also, clam sauce/juice can usually be found in the Italian section of your grocery store. It might be a bit tricky to find as it’s usually with the specialty items like capers, but most large chains will stock it.

Or, you can pick it up at Amazon. This is the brand I use. (Note that I am an affiliate.)

You’ll want to increase the heat at this point, then reduce it as it begins to simmer. Add the drained beans, salt, pepper, and lemon juice–and you want that goodness to simmer for at least 5 minutes. Longer, if you have time, to really build the flavor.

Saffron Fish Chowder
By the way, when I made it that particular time,
I used thyme leaves I had frozen last summer
rather than sprigs.
It’s a very forgiving recipe!

Now For The Seafood In The Seafood Chowder

Nestle the cod fillets in the broth and let them cook for a good 2-3 minutes without stirring. Then add the shrimp, mussels and, if using, baby spinach. Stir as little as possible to keep the cod intact, and add additional broth or water if needed to keep the seafood covered.

Also, this is one of those moments where you can just dump in frozen shrimp and frozen mussels. They’ll cook up quickly enough.

Saffron Fish Chowder

Be sure to check the doneness of the cod and discard any mussels that don’t open. Unopened mussels = bad. Very bad.

And make sure you serve the fish chowder with a hunk of crusty bread. Or, you can be like me, and just drink the broth right out of the bowl!

Saffron Fish Chowder

Seafood Chowder With Saffron

If you love seafood, this chowder is sure to delight with it's complex flavors and short cooking time. Be sure to serve it with crusty bread to soak up all the broth.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course, Soup
Keyword: Fish, Mussels, Shrimp, stew


  • 4 fillets cod about 4 oz each
  • 1/2 lb shrimp deveined, shells and tail removed
  • 1/2 lb mussels
  • 1/2 cup shallot diced
  • 2 cloves garlic diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus more
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 4 cups chicken broth plus more if needed*
  • 10.5 oz can white clam sauce/juice
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes undrained
  • 15.5 oz can cannellini or northern beans drained
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, lightly packed optional
  • Fresh thyme leaves for garnish (optional)


  • If your cod or shrimp are frozen, run them under cold running water for 15-20 minutes, or until thawed.
  • Meanwhile, dice the shallot and garlic, and measure out your spices for ease of use later.
  • Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large sauce pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add shallot, garlic, coriander and thyme sprigs. Sauté, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until shallots are translucent.
  • Add saffron and stir to combine for 1 minute. If needed, add additional olive oil to keep the combination from sticking to the Dutch oven.
  • Add chicken broth, clam juice/sauce, and diced tomatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Add drained beans, salt, pepper, lemon juice and hot sauce, if using. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium. Nestle the cod into the broth, ensuring that each fillet is fully covered by liquid. Cover and cook for 2 minutes without stirring.
  • Add shrimp, mussels and baby spinach, stirring as little as possible to keep the cod fillets intact. Add additional broth or water to ensure all of the seafood is immersed. Cover and cook 5 minutes until shrimp is pink, mussels have opened, and the cod is flakey.*
  • Taste broth and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Removed thyme sprigs, if used. Serve with crusty bread and garnish with fresh thyme leaves, if desires.


*You may need additional broth or water to ensure the seafood is entirely covered during the final cooking phase. 
*To ensure the cod is completely cooked, you may need to break apart a larger fillet to test its doneness. However, the fillets do tend to break apart on their own. 

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