Mackinaw whitefish bisque

Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis): the unsung hero of the Great Lakes. This cool-water fish has quietly sustained people in the Great Lakes region for thousands of years, from early Native Americans to European explorers to today’s commercial fishers in the United States and Canada.

At Michigan Sea Grant, we love whitefish so much that we wrote a whole cookbook in its honor! This recipe comes from that cookbook and has been field-tested and tweaked by Todd Marsee, our senior graphic designer.

From Todd:

“Having worked on the layout of the Whitefish Cookbook, I was very excited to try as many recipes as possible. My family and I have gone through eight of them so far. One of our favorites is the Mackinac whitefish bisque. The recipe calls for a variety of ingredients, which add to the prep time, but it’s well worth it (especially if you double the recipe, as we do).

This recipe is flexible, so you can adjust it for whatever you have on hand–for example, using red wine instead of cooking wine. Our family loves lemongrass and garlic, so we throw in an extra pinch of those. We also usually swap the whitefish fillet for smoked whitefish for an extra layer of flavor.

You can choose to puree the bisque or leave it chunky, depending on the kind of texture you like best.



Mackinac whitefish bisque

Chef Hans Burtscher

Makes: 8 servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

1 tablespoon butter
½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced celery root
½ cup diced carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1½ pounds Great Lakes whitefish, cubed
6 cups fish stock or vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons finely diced lemongrass
1 Idaho potato, peeled and diced
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup crème fraiche (optional)
Salt and white pepper as needed


  1. Melt butter in saucepan on low heat.
  2. Add onions, celery root, carrots, and garlic and sauté for approximately 4–5 minutes.
  3. Add whitefish and sauté for additional 3 minutes.
  4. Add white wine, fish stock, coconut milk, lemon-grass, thyme, ginger, potatoes, salt and pepper.
  5. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until reduced by half.
  6. Remove saucepan from heat and cool slightly.
  7. Transfer ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.
  8. Transfer ingredients back into the saucepan and return to a simmer.
  9. Stir in cream and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  10. Add crème fraiche just before serving.

2 thoughts on “Mackinaw whitefish bisque

  1. Paula: Dr. Dan O’Keefe, our resident fisheries guru, says: “De-boned pike fillets would be a fine substitute for fresh whitefish. Both have moderately firm, white meat, but whitefish does have a higher fat content. Most people don’t use pike for smoking, probably because of the lower fat content. Smoked salmon or lake trout would probably be good substitutes for smoked whitefish, and smoked carp or sucker (from a relatively un-polluted body of water) can also be very good.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s