Cullen skink is a popular hearty thick, rich and creamy soup from Scotland, made with smoked haddock, potatoes, leeks and milk.
This is a most delicious soup, it is smoky, full of flavour and so comforting that it is one of our favourite soups.
Cullen skink takes its name from the coastal town of Cullen on the northeast coast of Scotland where it is known as a hearty fisherman’s soup.
Originally the soup was made using a knuckle of beef and skink was the Scottish term for this, however in the 1980’s, beef was eventually replaced with smoked haddock due to cost and the plentiful supply of haddock in the region but the term skink remained.
This local speciality has now become so popular it ranks as one of Scotland’s most famous dishes.
It is a perfect starter for entertaining as it is so quick and easy to make (ready in just under 30 minutes), and can be prepared several hours in advance allowing the flavours to develop even further (see below).
Selecting the fish
Cullen skink is typically made using finnan haddie, haddock which has been smoked with green wood and peat in a style typical of the northeast coast of Scotland.
However, any smoked haddock will do. I usually use a couple of packets of M&S smoked haddock which has already been skinned and deboned (don’t worry if the weight come to slightly over or under 400 grams).
Poach – The haddock is lightly poached to enhance the flavours. It does not require prolonged cooking as it is already smoked. The fish will usually flake into large pieces during poaching, which is fine.
Vegetables – potatoes, leeks and an onion, chopped small so they cook quickly.
Blend – blend till smooth or to desired consistency.
Serving – serve warm with a thick slice of your favourite crusty bread.
Can you make it keto?
Yes, for a Keto version of cullen skink, substitute the potatoes with fresh cauliflower.
Make in advance
This soup can be made a day ahead which it perfect for entertaining.
Allow the soup to cool before transferring to a sealed container and keep in the fridge.
To reheat, warm it gently on a low heat in a saucepan on the stove adding a tiny bit of milk if necessary.
Your questions answered
Poaching fish in milk not only adds flavour to the milk, it gives a slight sweetness, plus the fats in the milk help the fish absorb the flavour of other ingredients, in this case the bay leaf. The higher the fat content of the milk, the more effective this will be, so try and use whole milk or half and half.
Cullen Skink will keep in a sealed container for 1-2 days in the fridge. Warm in the microwave or in a saucepan on low heat before serving.
It can be frozen the same day and kept for up to a month. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat on a low heat, adjusting the seasoning as required.
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Cullen Skink Recipe
- 400 grams smoked haddock 14 ounces, skinned and deboned
- 500 millilitres whole milk 2 cups, warm
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion chopped small
- 2 medium leeks sliced thinly
- 300 millilitres water 1 ⅓ cups, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 400 grams potatoes 14 ounces or 2 medium, cut into small cubes
- ¼ freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- Place fish, bay leaf and milk in a medium saucepan on medium heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once its starts to boil remove from heat, set aside and discard the bay leaf.400 grams smoked haddock, 1 large bay leaf, 500 millilitres whole milk
- In another medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat then add the onion and leeks. Cover and cook till softened for around 10 minutes stirring occasionally.2 tablespoons butter, 1 small onion, 2 medium leeks
- Pour in the water, salt and potatoes and half the poached haddock with all the milk. Cover and cook on a low flame till the potatoes are tender then remove from the heat.½ teaspoon salt, 400 grams potatoes, 300 millilitres water
- Blend the soup till smooth or to desired consistency and add the remaining haddock. Taste for seasoning then garnish with freshly ground black pepper and parsley and serve warm with crusty bread.¼ freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- Chop the vegetables small so they cook quickly.
- The fish will usually flake into large pieces during poaching, which is fine.
- Blend till smooth or to desired consistency.
- Serve with fresh bread.
- Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
- To reheat, warm gently in a saucepan on the stove using low heat, adding a little milk if necessary.