Lohikeitto, a Finnish salmon soup, is certainly not one of the more widely known seafood soup recipes. But it has many similarities to the more popular fish chowder. It’s creamy, it’s really simple to make, and many of the ingredients are the same. I’ve been wanting to make it for many years but hesitated because I thought it might be too similar to other fish chowder recipes, especially, of course, salmon chowder.
But I recently made Fiskesuppe, a Norwegian fish soup, which also has similarities to chowder, but enough subtle differences to make it truly unique. It’s in those subtleties that we often find the true character of recipes, what defines them, and what makes them distinct from similar regional recipes. And that finally inspired me to make Lohikeitto.
In the Finnish language, Lohi means salmon and Keitto means soup. So Lohikeitto is a Finnish salmon soup that is also made with leeks, potatoes, carrots, cream, and dill. It’s a close cousin to salmon chowder, and a sibling to other Nordic salmon soups including both Fiskesuppe and Laxsoppa, a Swedish salmon soup.
For starters, Lohikeitto is not made with a thickener like a roux and therefore has a slightly thinner consistency. Another big difference is that it doesn’t have the meaty, smokey flavor of chowder as it does not include any bacon (or salt pork), a defining feature of most chowder recipes. For this reason, I find Lohikeitto to have a purer, more straightforward salmon flavor. So if you really love salmon, this is one of the best salmon soup recipes to make!
Another difference is that Lohikeitto typically includes leeks instead of onions (though it’s fine to substitute onions). It also almost always includes carrots, which are not as ubiquitous in chowder recipes. And you’ll often find allspice, a wonderfully warming, grounding, and earthy spice.
Finally, Lohikeitto is actually easier to make than salmon chowder, and that’s saying a lot because almost any fish chowder recipe is pretty simple.
Though I could be wrong about this, Lohikeitto seems to be more consistently simple. Fiskesuppe can be simple too but there are many elaborate versions that rival things like Bouillabaisse. I have not come across any such versions of Lohikeitto. If you’re aware of more intricate approaches, feel free to share in the comments!
Fiskesuppe is also a little more liberal with its choice of fish (such as cod and monkfish), often includes shrimp and other shellfish, as well as seasonings like vinegar and sugar.
Always choose wild salmon, which only comes from the Pacific, when possible. There is no such thing as wild Atlantic salmon (at least here in the United States). The few remaining wild Atlantic salmon are endangered species and all recreational and commercial fishing is strictly prohibited. Sadly, we have destroyed the native wild Atlantic salmon populations on the East Coast due to pollution, overdevelopment, and damming of the rivers.
And so now we have farmed Atlantic salmon instead, most of which is imported from places like Canada, Scotland, Norway, and Chile. Yes, Chile, which means Atlantic salmon is now being raised in the Pacific.
This is a very controversial topic. Many believe fish farms are necessary to feed the world.
I do not. This phrase, “feed the world” always comes from those who stand to benefit, namely the salmon farms which have in the past 30 years become big business. Please understand that most, if not all farmed salmon is shipped to wealthy nations, and places like cruise ships, resorts, and high-end tourist destinations.
In my opinion, fish farming is fish factory farming. It creates very similar problems to land-based factory farming such as the widespread use of antibiotics and the concentration of waste. Issues unique to salmon farming include sea lice, processed feed, and escaped farmed species that both compete and breed with native wild salmon populations.
These issues are a bit outside the scope of this post, but I always think it’s important to know where our food comes from and encourage my readers to support the most sustainable choices. And to educate yourself! If you’d like to read further about this subject, I highly recommend this article from the BBC about the problems with farmed Scottish salmon and this more general article from Time magazine.
Any Lohikeito recipe, or for that matter, any fish soup recipe will be greatly enhanced by the addition of homemade fish stock (also called fish broth). Contrary to popular belief, fish stock is incredibly easy to make! It’s also a lot less time-consuming than things like chicken and beef stock, pork stock, or any stock using land-based animals. My in-depth post about fish broth includes a video of how to make it.
If you can access fish frames (which include all the parts except the fillets), especially salmon frames, and make your own stock, it will make this Finnish salmon soup recipe that much better.
If you can’t and/or just don’t want to spend the extra time, unfortunately, I can only recommend one store-bought seafood broth product, Aneto Fish Broth. It’s a high-quality broth that’s a little pricier than other brands but it’s well worth it. If you can’t find it in a store near you, you can easily order it online.
Please avoid fish stock cubes or other store-bought seafood broths and stocks. I’ve tried them all and can say with confidence, that none of them are very good, with the exception of Aneto.
OK, let’s finally move on to making the recipe (kudos if you actually read all the way here without hitting the “jump to recipe” button).
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for about 5 minutes until they’re softened and fragrant.
Continue to saute for a few more minutes.
Add your fish stock and raise the heat to high. Bring it to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and continue to simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and cooked through.
Add the salmon first, and simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through. Be careful not to boil the soup too aggressively as this will overcook the salmon.
Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Stir it in and taste. Does it taste rich and full-flavored? It should! If not, add up to another cup of heavy cream.
Turn off the heat and stir the dill into the soup. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. That’s it! Ladle the soup into individual bowls and season, to taste, with additional fresh dill, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Everybody and their mother says to remove the skin. I don’t understand this recommendation. There are good healthy fats in salmon skin! The skin also helps to keep the salmon a little more tender. You’ll notice these pieces will be juicier and more full-flavored. Make sure you have a good sharp knife to cut through the skin when dicing the salmon into cubes and chunks.
Today’s supermarket milks are too overly processed and don’t contain enough fat to flavor the soup. Half and half is closer to the taste and texture of real, old-fashioned milk. That said, I’d still recommend heavy cream as the best choice for overall flavor.
Most soups intensify in flavor over time. This is known as curing or aging. It’s not that Lohikeitto will taste lousy immediately off the stovetop. It will definitely be delicious! But you’ll definitely notice a more rounded, fuller flavor on succeeding days.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.