Cullen Skink from Outlander

Cullen Skink

"Oh, Arthur knew," she said.  "He wouldna admit it, to be sure -- not even to himself.  But he knew.  We'd sit across the board from each other at supper, and I'd ask, "Will ye have a bit more o' the cullen skink, my dear?' of "A sup of ale, my own?' And him watching me, with those eyes like boiled eggs, and he'd say no, he didna feel himself with an appetite just then.  And he'd push his plate back, and later I'd hear him in the kitchen, secret-like, gobbling his food standing by the hutch, thinking himself safe, because he ate no food that came from my hand."

Outlander (Chapter 25 - Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live)

An unsavoury character, awash in squalor,  describing her dastardly deeds.  A worse segue to a recipe I've never seen.

Let's try that again with a different cullen skink excerpt, shall we?


"Well, it's to do wi' Duncan."  He looked at once amused and slightly worried.  "There's a wee difficulty, and he canna bring himself to speak to her about it."

"Don't tell me," I said.  "he was married before, and he thought his first wife was dead, but he's just seen her here, eating cullen skink."

"Well, no," he said, smiling.  "not so bad as that.  And perhaps it's nay so troublesome as Duncan fears.  But he's worrit in his mind about it, and yet he canna bring himself to speak to my aunt; he's a bit shy of her, aye?"

The Fiery Cross (Chapter 40 - Duncan's Secret)

Cullen Skink


If we could just do something about the name of this rich, smoky fish soup that had both me and My Englishman huddled over the pot on the stove, greedily slurping the last spoonfuls.

I have to say that cullen skink is selling itself short with its name.  Created in the fishing town of Cullen in north-eastern Scotland, it gets the other, more unfortunate, half of its name from the German schinke, meaning shin.  The textbook skink is a soup made from shin of beef.

The Scots are an adaptable sort though, especially the fisher folk, so I assume they used regional ingredients they had in plenty, such as smoked haddock and leeks.  Potatoes weren't under wide-cultivation in Scotland in the 18th C, so their addition must have come later, but they add essential body to this milk-based soup.

Delicious, it's more than a soup, but not as thick as a chowder.  Served with bread, it makes a filling lunch.  Add a salad and you've got dinner.

Authentic cullen skink requires Finnan haddie, a haddock caught off the Moray Firth and lightly cold-smoked using green wood and peat.  You can order it online here.  I was in a hurry, so I used the next best, most economical, choice around here, cod, and smoked it at home.

I realize that not everyone has a smoker, but ask around.  Maybe your local fish monger can help.  Or a friend?  Invite them over for a bowl of the finished product and introduce them to one of the world's finest, and least-known, fish soups.

Cullen Skink

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23 Jan 2013 - 6:00am


Once described, this sounds delicious. I swear the Brits (and Scots) deliberately choose the most unpalatable names for their food. It's their version of licking your portion of the food so no one else will take it.


That is the greatest description of English and Scottish cooking I have ever read.


Well that's a nice thing to say...thank you Tiffany!

Diane Jensen Donald

well that explains spotted dick...

Kate Smith

The name skink wouldn't do in Australia where I live (though I am Scottish) as it is a kind of lizard.

23 Jan 2013 - 3:42pm


Do you have any suggestions for a substitution for smoking your own cod? I'd love to try this but I'm not sure my schedule will allow 3-4 hours to smoke the fish.


I suggest starting at your local fish mongers, Elizabeth...they may have smoked white fish, or be able to suggest a substitution. I have seen smoked black cod (aka Sablefish) available, and although not a true cod, it would be a good sub. The price I'm not too sure on...good luck!

23 Jan 2013 - 4:52pm

Diane Jensen Donald

My grocery store carries smoked kippers (herring) in cans, this is what my Scottish husband says he prefers for cullen skink, but I wonder if the oiliness of the fish would work for soup. I haven't been brave enough to try making it yet.


Whoa. Herring soup would require courage, Diane. I'm not so sure about that...(but what do I know? LOL)

23 Jan 2013 - 4:56pm


Whenever I'm making Cullen Skink; I get the fish shipped to me; it's a little pricy but It's always been worth it!nn


That's a great resource! Thank you Heather...I should have thought of that. :)

23 Jan 2013 - 6:32pm


Ooh, this looks yummy. DH once tried to make a long, labour-intensive, fish soup, and I wasn't paying attention and thought I was helping clean up, and dumped out the entire pot of stock! Oops!!

23 Jan 2013 - 9:00pm

Christiane Kypraios

Hello Theresa ! Thanks for the Cullen Skink recipe, seems very tasty and easy to cook, I'll try the recipe for sure... (I remember reading about it in Karen Henry's blog last summer). In my country we find a smoked fish (the name here is "Haddock") which would be ok for that soup I think. Greetings from Paris, Christiane


smoked haddock is exactly what you want, Christiane! Let me know what you think!

Christiane Kypraios

I'll Theresa, of course ! Thanks.

02 Jul 2014 - 4:42pm

Kristine Phillips

Theresa, the link is not working for the recipe! I have my own Manitoba Tartan binder for my Outlander recipes! Oh and while I'm at it - Thank you for the gluten-free options, my 7year old was recently diagnosed with Celiacs and now I'm having to do lots of experimenting in my kitchen!!

07 Jul 2014 - 3:05pm

Patricia Fraser

Yay...grew up with Finnan Haddie in the Yukon many years ago. Loved it. Unable to find a suitable substitute once I was grown up, but will now try the cold-smoked cod. Last time I had Cullen Skink was in a rather nice restaurant in Edinburgh one drippy mo ing. When this Canuck and her Yank friend arrived and immediately ordered Cullen Skink with no question , the server did a double take. It was an absolutely perfect lunch! With hot biscuits. I'd like to say also that you have the most attractive (and manageable) website I've seen. Well done!

27 Aug 2014 - 8:35pm

Elizabeth Coleman

Whole Foods carries several varieties of smoked fish. I use Scottish findon haddock (aka finnan caddie) to make Cullen Skink and it's great. If you don't want the soup as sodium-rich as it usually is in Scotland, I suppose you could soak it in a bit of milk for a hour or two?

27 Aug 2014 - 8:36pm

Elizabeth Coleman

finnan *h*addie. Sheesh.

10 Sep 2014 - 8:51pm

Mhairi Reynolds

I was born and brought up in the wee fashing village o Buckie, jist ower fae Cullen, and this is how we were taught how tae mack it in school Fit ye really need tae dae is bile yer fash in the milk wi an ingin, then par bile yer tatties. strain aff the tatties, takk the fash oot of the milk and add the tatties tae the milk. Simmer it awa far aboot 10 minities or so til the tatties are deen, brakk the fish and add it back tae the milk and then add a sma tin o condensed milk wi water tae fit ivver amount ye think ye wid like, satt it and pepper it. cook for a wee filey langer then speen it tae some bools and hae wi some crackers. affy affy fine an a cauld winters night.

13 Sep 2014 - 9:52pm

Linda W

So happy to see this recipe! When in Scotland, in Cullen, a few years ago, thoroughly enjoyed Cullen Skink. Thank you for sharing - can't wait to make it!

06 Nov 2014 - 11:52am

Cullen Skink …

Retrouver la recette en VO avec les extraits des livres (2 mentions du Cullen Skink ) ici

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