Cullen Skink is a traditional Scottish soup made with smoked fish, potatoes, and onions. It’s the perfect soup to serve as a hearty family meal with homemade soda bread and equally at home at an elegant dinner party.
What is Cullen Skink?
Cullen skink is a traditional Scottish soup made from smoked fish and potatoes. There are many different recipes but they all contain these two ingredients.
Where does the name Cullen Skink come from?
Cullen is a small fishing port on the northeast coast of Scotland. The fishermen smoked their fish to preserve it, and this along with potatoes formed their staple diet.
Skink is a Scottish word for a shin of beef, a knuckle, or an ox-hough. As these were commonly used to make soup, it became a generic name for soup. Today it is generally only used in relation to Cullen Skink.
When would I serve Cullen Skink?
You can serve this delicious soup any time, however, it is often served on Burns Night as part of a Burns Supper celebrating the birth of the poet Robert Burns.
St Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland and St Andrew’s Day on 30th November is a day to celebrate Scottish food and culture, and ideal time to enjoy a plate of Cullen Skink.
What kind of fish do you use to make Cullen Skink?
It is traditional to make Cullen Skink with Finnan Haddie (Haddock). This is a traditional cold-smoked haddock from the Aberdeenshire village of Findon. However, if that is not available then any smoked haddock or other cold smoked white fish will add smoked flavour to this soup.
What kind of potatoes should I use?
I use Maris Piper potatoes because they hold together reasonably well but also make a creamy mash. A potato that is too waxy, like a new potato won’t mash down. Check out potato varieties at Love Potatoes.
Can you freeze Cullen Skink?
Yes, you can freeze Cullen Skink. Freeze it before adding the cream and keep for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge, then reheat very gently and add the cream to finish.
How to make Scottish Cullen Skink
This is a simple recipe but it does have a few different steps to get to the finished soup. It’s well worth it though because the Cullen Skink is so rich, creamy and delicious.
All quantities and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page
Ingredients for Cullen Skink
- smoked haddock (undyed)
- lemon zest (optional)
- bay leaf
- Place the fish fillets into a large pan with half the onion and bay leaf and cover with the milk and water.
- Bring to a gently simmer.
- When cooked remove the fish fillets to a dish
- Strain the milk into a jug or bowl to remove the onion and bay leaf.
- Once cooled, remove any bones and skin and gently flake the fish.
Prepare the vegetables
- Peel and finely dice the onion.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 cm dice.
Cook the vegetables
- Wash the pan or use a clean pan.
- Gently saute the onion and potato in the butter and oil until the onion is soft and transparent.
- Add the strained milk to the vegetables and cook until the potato cubes are just tender.
- Test the potato cube with the tip of a knife to see if they are done. The knife should enter the potato but the cubes should not fall apart.
Blend the Cullen Skink soup base
- Use a straining spoon to lift out half the potatoes, put them with the flaked smoked haddock.
- Put the rest of the potatoes, onions, and milk into a blender and blend until smooth and thick.
- Wash and dry your pan and return this soup base to the pan.
Add the ingredients back into the pan
- Finely chop the parsley and chives.
- Use a fine grater or lemon zester to remove the zest from the lemon (if using)
- Put all the remaining ingredients into the pan with 100 ml of single cream and very gently combine with a wooden spoon.
- If the soup seems too thick then add some milk until it is the consistency of thick cream.
How do you serve Scottish Cullen Skink?
Serve Cullen Skink warm with a swirl of cream on the top and sprinkled with finely chopped chives and a few chive flowers if liked.
Cullen Skink is also a popular starter in many top Scottish restaurants and makes a great appetiser in smaller portions. Chefs such as Tom Kitchin, Nick Nairn, Rick Stein, and Jamie Oliver all extol the virtues of this Scottish speciality.
More Scottish Soup Recipes from Farmersgirl Kitchen
How to make Scotch Broth like a Scot. There are as many variations of Scotch Broth as there are cooks in Scotland and this is my very popular vegetarian recipe.
Easy Scottish Red Lentil Soup is a hearty and warming soup. I’ve taken this traditional Scottish soup recipe and made it even easier to make. There are only five ingredients and one of them is water!
Leek and Potato Soup is one of my favourite winter soups. It’s rich and creamy with the delicate onion flavour of leeks and the sweet thickness of the pureed potato.
More delicious soup recipes
- Cock-a-Leekie Soup – Christina’s Cucina
- Scottish Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup – Tinned Tomatoes
- Tattie Soup – Something Sweet, Something Savoury
Scottish Cullen Skink Smoked Haddock Soup
- large frying pan or saute pan
- Sharp knife
- chopping board
- Electic Blender
- Lemon zester or grater
- Fish slice
- Straining spoon
- 1 medium onion
- 425 grams potatoes
- 15 g butter
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 250 grams smoked haddock undyed
- 250 ml milk
- 250 ml water
- 160 ml single cream
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 10 g parsley
- 10 g chives
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest optional
- Put the smoked haddock fillets in a large frying pan or saute pan and cover with the milk and water.
- Add half the onion, in one piece, and the bayleaf and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer for 5 minutes until the smoked haddock is just cooked. Remove the fish to a plate.
- While the smoked haddock cools, strain the milk into a jug or bowl to remove the onion and bay leaf.
- Remove any skin or bones from the smoked haddock and gently flake the fish, leave as many large flakes as you can.
- Wash and dry the pan.
- Cut the onion very finely, peel and dice the potatoes into 1 cm cubes.
- Put the butter and oil in the pan and heat gently until bubbling. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, then add the potatoes and cook gently in the butter until the onion is soft and transparent.
- Pour the reserved milk over the cooked onion and potato and simmer until the potatoes are just tender.
- Remove half the potatoes with a straining spoon and put them on the plate with the smoked haddock.
- Blend the remaining milk, potatoes, and onions in a jug blender or using a stick blender until the liquid is smooth and thickened.
- Either wash and dry your saute pan or use a clean saucepan and return the blended soup to the pan.
- Finely chop the parsley and chives. If using, remove the zest from half a lemon with a zester or fine grater.
- Put the flaked smoked haddock, potato cubes, lemon zest (if using), 100ml of single cream and chopped parsley into the blended soup and gently stir to combine.
- If the soup seems too thick, then add a little milk until it is the consistency of thick cream.
- Serve warm with a tablespoon of cream swirlled on top of the bowl and sprinkled with finely chopped chives and a few chive flower, if liked.