Vegan Scottish Cullen skink soup is packed with deliciously creamy, savoury and smoky flavours yet is a really easy traditional soup to prepare. The main ingredients are no-fuss and easy to source: mashed potatoes, onions, plant milk and smoked tofu.
A bowl of Cullen skink is a perfect starter for Scottish themed meals especially for Robert Burn's Night dinner (January 25th), St Andrew's Day (30th November), Hogmanay (Scottish New Years Eve 31st December), New Year's Day meal (1st January) or anytime you feel like a delicious taste of Scotland!
You may not have heard of traditional Cullen Skink soup before, even if you live in Scotland, but do give it a try! It is simply a creamy potato soup with amazing smoky flavours and white peppery hints. And fresh herby tones. Yum!
Quick Origins Of Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink
The word skink comes from the Scots Gaelic and translates to mean essence.
Cullen skink is a traditional Scottish smoked haddock fish soup that is like a creamy fish chowder but is simpler to prepare and has less ingredients! Cullen skink is generally served as a meal starter.
The main ingredients of Scottish Cullen skink is smoked haddock, mashed potatoes, onions, milk, and fish stock. Cold smoked haddock is also known as Finnan Haddie in Scotland.
Many restaurants, eating establishment, cookery book authors and ordinary citizens within Scotland offer their own version and adaptation of Cullen skink, but it is claimed Cullen skink originated in Cullen which is a wee coastal village in the Scottish district of Moray.
Historically, Cullen fishermen and likely fishermen from the adjacent towns of Aberdeenshire and the Highlands, smoked the Haddock they caught as a way to preserve the fish. As potatoes were a common ingredient the combination of smoked haddock and potatoes into an economical soup that filled hungry bellies would have been a natural decision.
Traditionally before the 1890s beef was the choice ingredient for Cullen skink but when beef became too expensive haddock was the replacement.
Vegan Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink
Even though Cullen skink is a Scottish fish soup the whole flavour profile lends itself beautifully to vegan and plant-based recipes and cooking. I love that the soup is so simple with just a few ingredients.
To prepare this easy vegan Cullen skink recipe the first thing to do is prepare the mashed potatoes. To save time leftover mashed potatoes is perfect. Once the mashed potatoes are ready chopped onion, garlic powder, sliced smoked tofu, white pepper and salt to taste, are added to a pan along with the veggie stock. If you have a bay leaf available stick one in for extra flavour.
The tofu mix is simmered for 15 minutes before the pan is removed from the heat. Next in is the plant milk and mashed potatoes. I prefer to add the potatoes in with 2-3 stages and whisk each time to make sure the potatoes incorporate with the liquid.
To finish the Cullen skink is seasoned with extra white pepper and salt to taste, before bringing the soup to a boil. Once at a boil the soup is ready to serve. I like the hot peppery bite that white pepper gives to the Cullen skink but of course if preferred black pepper can be added instead.
Serve Cullen skink with some crusty bread and garnished with fresh parsley. I like to add a sprinkling of 'fish' seasoning herb blend which is just a mix of different dried herbs.
If you prepare this recipe for vegan Cullen skink do pop back and let us know how you get on.
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Oh and if you would like a vegan Chowder recipe check out our family recipe for Potato, Leek and Corn Chowder.
How To Prepare Vegan Traditional Cullen Skink Soup
Recipe Notes And FAQS
Store leftover Cullen skink within a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Leftovers can be reheated by adding to a non-stick pan and bringing to the boil.
Lower the heat and gently simmer for just 1 minute until piping hot. Be careful not to fast boil or simmer for more than a few minutes as the plant milk may split.
Cullen skink is easy to prepare as gluten-free. Simply use a gluten-free vegetable stock and check that your smoked tofu and any seasoning blends are free from gluten ingredients.
In the UK, the Tofoo.co brand produces a delicious smoked tofu which I have sourced in the Co-op supermarket but I am sure other supermarkets stock it.
I have also sourced smoked tofu from Lidl. For this recipe I use a packet of the Lidl smoked tofu which is inexpensive at just 99p a packet! Tofu freezes well so if you can find it on offer its worth stocking up and freezing.
If you can't source smoked tofu then you could try marinating your own tofu to give it a smoky flavour.
Slice up a block of firm tofu and add a few tablespoons of soya sauce and 1-1 ½ teaspoons of liquid smoke. A nice addition is a ripped up nori seaweed sheet or use pieces of your choice of dried seaweed. Mix everything well and leave to marinade for a few hours.
Use the smoky marinated tofu in the Cullen skink recipe and scrape all the flavours of the marinade into the soup as well.
The smoked tofu is a large part of the tasty flavour profile and textures of this soup but a few replacements are possible. A few ideas:
* sliced cooked vegan bacon
* sliced vegan hotdogs
* chopped mushrooms marinated with the homemade smoked tofu idea that is outlined in the question above
* your choice of white bean such as butterbeans, haricot beans, cannellini beans, white kidney beans marinated within the homemade smoked tofu suggestion above
* canned jackfruit or banana blossom pieces marinated within the homemade smoked tofu idea
A few ideas:
* your favourite crusty bread or baguette
* traditional Scottish oatcakes
* traditional no-oil Scottish oatcakes
* no-oil, vegan cheezie Scottish oatcakes
* Irish soda bread (100% wholemeal, no-fat added recipe and best of all no-yeast and no-kneading required!)
* quick 3-ingredient vegan dinner rolls
More Vegan Traditional Scottish Soup Recipes To Discover...
- Vegan Cock-a-Leekie Soup (Scotland's National Soup!)
- Scottish Potato And Leek Soup (with toasted oats)
Vegan Traditional Scottish Cullen Skink (Soup)
- large non-stick pan for cooking the soup, can use the same pan as for the mashed potatoes
- Large Saucepan for preparing mashed potatoes
- Fork/potato masher
- 550 grams potatoes uncooked and sliced into small chunks, weight is for peeled potatoes (or use about 560grams of cooked mashed potatoes)
- 1 tablespoon vegan margarine can replace with 1-2 teaspoon of white miso paste or a tablespoon of veggie stock or potato liquid
- 2 tablespoons potato cooking liquid or veggie stock
- 1 teaspoon 'fish' herb seasoning mix or your chosen seasoning such as Mrs Dash, etc
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
To serve: Scottish oatcakes, crackers, breadsticks, crusty bread, are all tasty accompaniments
Prepare the mashed potatoes: (or if using leftover mashed potatoes omit this step)
- Peel and cube the white potatoes. Add to a pot with salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer until fork tender.Drain but reserve the liquid as it can be used to prepare the veggie stock if using stock cubes/stock powder/bouillon paste/etc. Also 2 tablespoons can be used for the potato mash.
- Add 1 tablespoon of vegan butter or margarine to the potatoes along with 2 tablespoons of potato water or veggie stock. Mash until smooth-ish, a few small lumps are fine!If preferred the margarine can be omitted and replaced with a teaspoon of white miso paste or an extra tablespoon of stock or potato water.
- Set aside until required.
Prepare the Cullen skink soup:
- Chop the tofu into small pieces and chop the onion.
- Pour the veggie stock into a large saucepan or similar and add the tofu and onion. Season with salt, white or black pepper and garlic powder.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour in the plant milk.
- Plonk in the mashed potatoes and whisk or stir until the potatoes are smoothly mixed in. (Add the potatoes in 2-3 stages as this is easier to mix them in.)
- Bring back to the boil, check the seasoning and serve sprinkled with the 'fish' herb seasoning blend or similar herb mix. The Mrs Dash range is tasty. Chopped fresh parsley or dill is also a particularly nice addition.
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Store leftover Cullen skink within a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Leftovers can be reheated by adding to a non-stick pan and bringing to the boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer for 1-2 minutes until piping hot. Be careful not to fast boil or simmer for more than a few minutes as the plant milk may split.
- Cullen skink is easy to prepare as gluten-free. Simply use a gluten-free vegetable stock and check that your smoked tofu and any seasoning blends are free from gluten ingredients.
- If your in the UK smoked tofu can be found at Co-Op supermarkets and in Lidl at least during Veganuary 2022. Check other local supermarkets, wholefood stores, and health shops for availability.
- For a home-made quick smoked tofu try: Slice up a block of firm tofu and add a few tablespoons of soya sauce and about 1-1 ½ teaspoons of liquid smoke. A nice addition is a ripped up nori seaweed sheet or use pieces of your choice of dried seaweed. Mix everything well and leave to marinade for a few hours. A little smoked paprika could be used if liquid smoke is hard to source. I purchase liquid smoke from Amazon, UK. Play around with the flavours until they are what you like.