Cullen Skink – the Fishwife’s Soup (Scottish Recipe)

The name is certainly a weird one. The first part of the name comes from the fishing town of Cullen in North East Scotland, while the second part refers to a soup.

Although originally it referred to a shin or knuckle bone used in soups, over time ‘skink’ was applied to any soup. In this fish soup there are no shin bones, nor should there be any fish bones either.

bowl of cullen skink
bowl of cullen skink

With my mom being Scottish I grew up with haddock being served in soup and with my dad being English there were often kippers for breakfast. These are things I haven’t eaten as an adult, so it was a trip down memory lane to try and re-create my mom’s Cullen Skink.

It is suggested you try to avoid the orange dyed smoked haddock for this recipe, but if that’s the only haddock you can get in your area then you will have to use it, as I did!

The dye doesn’t add anything extra to the soup and purists prefer not to have the orangey color in this fish soup.

You can substitute with any other white smoked fish if you prefer. Cullen skink is a fishwives recipe, so the ladies who cooked would have made do with what fish was available.

bowl of cullen skink

Cullen Skink Recipe

The Homesteading Hippy
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Cuisine Scottish
Calories 288 kcal


  • 1 pound haddock filets or any other smoked white fish
  • 1 pint milk
  • ½ pound mashed potato 2 large potatoes
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • bay leaf
  • flat leaf parsley or coriander leaves separated from stalks


  • Cut potatoes in chunks, place in saucepan with sufficient water, bring to the boil and simmer until soft.
  • Drain water and mash potatoes. If you prefer, the potatoes can be left in chunks and added to the soup.
  • Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the bay leaf, the parsley or coriander stalks and the haddock fillets.
  • Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for around 3 minutes.
    haddock poaching in milk
  • Turn off the heat and leave to let the haddock flavor infuse into the liquid for another 5 minutes or so.
  • Remove the fish and the bay leaf from the milk and set haddock aside to cool so you can later break the fish up into chunks. Discard the bay leaf.
  • Heat the butter in a separate saucepan and add the leeks that have been sliced into discs, stirring now and again to make sure they turn translucent and don't burn – this should take around 5 minutes.
    leeks frying
  • Stir the mashed potato into the milk once you have removed the parsley/cilantro stalks, or you can combine potato and milk in a blender and instead of discarding the stalks they can be blended with the milk and mashed potato.
    milk and potatoes blended
  • Add the leeks and stir the fish chunks into the soup carefully so the fish pieces remain larger to provide a texture contrast to the smoothness of the potato and milk mix and the leeks.
  • The fish is salty so you probably won’t need any extra salt – always taste before adding salt. It’s easier to add than to try and tone down an over salty dish.
  • Place the fish soup into bowls and garnish with a little chopped parsley or cilantro. If you want to add a little extra color to the bowl of soup add a fine sprinkle of dried paprika.
  • Serve with a slice of bread (link to Dutch oven articles)

You can check out even more Scottish recipes here.

cullen skink pin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating