Scottish Produce Dinner Party. Edinburgh, Scotland. Including Cullen Skink, Venison loin recipes. Copyright © 2023 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Cullen Skink Soup Recipe for a Traditional Scottish Smoked Fish Soup

This post may contain paid links. If you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

This cullen skink soup recipe makes the traditional Scottish soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes, onions, and leeks, named after the town of Cullen on the coast of northeast Scotland. The thick and creamy soup will warm you up on a cold winter’s night and is the perfect starter for a Burns Supper.

If you’re looking for traditional Scottish recipes for your Burns Supper menu for Burns Night on 25 January, look no further than this traditional Scottish cullen skink soup recipe that Terence made in Edinburgh – assuming you’ve got your haggis, neeps and tatties sorted, of course.

If you haven’t, take a peek at Terence’s recipe for venison loin, haggis and roasted vegetables, for a lighter, elegant take on the hearty traditional haggis, neeps and tatties historically served at a Burns Dinner. We also have a shepherd’s pie recipe made in Edinburgh.

While Terence’s cullen skink has a more contemporary presentation, the soup itself is as traditional as a cullen skink gets. Terence served the filling soup in small glasses, as we really didn’t need big bowls of the broth when we had venison, haggis and Scottish cheeses for dessert.

This Scottish cullen skink recipe was first created for our long-running recipe series The Dish on the quintessential dishes of places we travel to and settle into. It was the last dish of the inaugural year of the series and end of our yearlong global grand tour that launched Grantourismo in 2010.

Our quest that year was to inspire you all to travel more slowly, locally and experientially, staying longer in places, endeavouring to live like locals in apartment rentals and holiday houses, and doing and learning things, including how to cook some local food.

Terence made the soup in the compact kitchen of the elegant Edinburgh apartment rental we settled into for two weeks in the Scottish capital, the last stop on that 12-month trip, so we were exhausted and full, hence the size. But by all means, make big bowls of the warming soup.

Now before I share our cullen skink recipe, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported. If you’ve cooked our recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo by supporting our epic Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon, which you can do for as little as the price of a coffee. Or buy us a coffee and we’ll use that money to buy ingredients for recipe testing.

Alternatively you could support our recipe development by buying a handcrafted KROK, the best mortar and pestle ever (we earn a small commission but we love the product), or by buying something from our Grantourismo store such as gifts for food lovers designed with Terence’s images.

Another option is to use links on our site to buy travel insurancerent a car or campervan or motorhome, book accommodation, book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide, or buy something on Amazon, such as these cookbooks for culinary travellersclassic cookbooks for serious cooks or gifts for Asian food lovers and picnic lovers. We may earn a small commission but you won’t pay any extra.

Now let me tell you all about our cullen skink soup recipe.

Cullen Skink Soup Recipe for a Traditional Scottish Soup of Smoked Haddock, Potatoes, Onions

Our cullen skink soup recipe will make you a rich and creamy albeit fairly straightforward version of the famous Scottish fish soup. Made with smoked haddock, potatoes, onions, and leeks, it’s as traditional as a cullen skink gets, despite being served in small glasses.

For us, it was close to the end of a year of cooking and eating our way around the world, and the cullen skink was created to kick off a three course meal that Terence cooked to celebrate the beautiful Scottish produce we’d bought from traditional purveyors in our neighbourhood of Stockbridge.

Cullen skink soup recipe, for a Traditional Scottish Smoked Fish Soup. Copyright © 2023 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

The wee dinner party that Terence had planned was going to end with Scottish cheeses and the main course was venison and haggis, so a simple version of cullen skink and small portions of what is a rich soup were plenty.

But by all means make big bowls of the stuff, which is what I plan to do for a Burns Dinner I’m hoping to have here at home if I can get hold of smoked haddock. Cullen skink really is a very satisfying soup, especially on a cold winter’s night.

Tips to Making this Cullen Skink Soup Recipe

Just a few tips to making this cullen skink recipe. Do buy your smoked haddock from a proper fishmonger or reputable supplier as many commercial brands of smoked haddock in supermarkets have been dyed with food colouring.

A natural smoked haddock is an off-white or cream colour. Avoid the bright yellow haddock – unless you know for certain that it’s been coloured by natural spices, such as turmeric, and not artificial colouring.

We sourced our smoked haddock from a local supplier George Armstrong Fishmonger in Stockbridge and it was deliciously smoky – house-cured and not dyed.

While researching this recipe, we slurped cullen skink at almost every Edinburgh restaurant we dined at. While traditionally made with smoked haddock, stock, potatoes, onions, and milk, some chefs added leeks, which we loved.

Some chefs also add cream, however, we felt that whole milk and butter made a soup that was rich enough as it is and the ‘creaminess’ came from the texture. Terence also felt that cream might mute the smoky flavour of the fish.

Traditional cullen skink recipes call for mashing the potatoes to thicken the soup, however, Terence blends the whole lot – the soup that’s made from the stock, onion, leeks and potatoes, and the smoked haddock, poached in milk.

Cullen skink is often garnished with parsley, but Terence used garlic chives, which better matched the flavour profile. While he topped the glasses of soup with a couple of dainty sprigs of chives, if I was serving big bowls of the soup, I’d sprinkle finely chopped chives on top.

Cullen Skink Soup Recipe

Scottish Produce Dinner Party. Edinburgh, Scotland. Including Cullen Skink, Venison loin recipes. Copyright © 2023 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Cullen Skink Soup Recipe

AuthorTerence Carter
This cullen skink soup recipe makes my take on a traditional Scottish dish. Cullen skink is a soup made with smoked haddock, and it makes a great dinner party starter. We first made it in Scotland for a wee Scottish dinner party in our home away from home in Edinburgh.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Appetiser
Cuisine Scottish
Servings made with recipe4 servings
Calories 300 kcal


  • 300 g smoked haddock
  • 50 g butter
  • 2 leeks - carefully cleaned and sliced
  • 1 white onion - diced
  • 1 medium-sized potato - peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock
  • 300 ml whole milk
  • Chives for serving


  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and slowly sweat down the leeks and the onion without browning them.
  • Heat the stock and add to the leeks and onions, along with the potato. Cook for ten minutes over medium-high heat. Add water if necessary.
  • Add milk to a saucepan over medium heat and slide in the haddock. Poach for five minutes.
  • Remove the haddock from the milk and reserve the milk. Break up the haddock into bite-sized chunks with a fork.
  • Put the soup and the milk in a blender and blend for a couple of minutes. We’re not after a perfectly smooth finish to the soup, as we’re adding the fish pieces to the soup anyway.
  • Reheat the soup in a saucepan and while it's reheating place a good couple of tablespoons of the haddock in the bottom of a glass or cup.
  • Pour the soup over the fish tableside for a little old-school dining room drama!


Serving: 1gCalories: 300kcalCarbohydrates: 22.2gProtein: 22.7gFat: 13.6gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5.6gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 89mgSodium: 687mgFiber: 2.9gSugar: 7.8g


Lara Dunston Patreon

Find Your Scotland Accommodation


Photo of author
A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

Leave a comment

Recipe Rating