New England Clam Chowder

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You don’t have to live on a coast to have best New England Clam Chowder in the world. This authentic, stick-to-your-ribs recipe has all the right stuff: bacon, potatoes, cream, and (of course) lots of chopped clams.

New England clam chowder in a white bowl.


 

There’s nothing fancy about this creamy New England Clam Chowder recipe, because chowder is basically a simple food made at home by hungry people everywhere. New Englanders love making this seafood stew at home, often using razor clams, littlenecks, or the catch of the day.

But delicious homemade clam chowder from scratch doesn’t have to use fresh clams or any hard-to-find ingredients! No ocean-side living, clam digging, or shucking required with this recipe, because canned clams work beautifully. Keep some tender clams in the pantry when you get the urge.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled New England clam chowder ingredients in various bowls.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Potatoes: Waxy potatoes like baby red potatoes, or semi-waxy like Yukon Gold potatoes, hold their shape in this soup. You can substitute Russet potatoes, but russets break down more easily for a thicker texture (which isn’t always a bad thing).
  • Clam juice: This is the juice that comes from your canned clams. It adds more clam flavor and keeps the chowder from being bland.
  • Chicken base: Similar to bullion cubes, chicken base is highly concentrated chicken stock. You can find it in powder or paste forms. I love “Better than Bouillon” brand, a paste which is widely available and tastes delicious. Or, omit the water and chicken base and substitute 1 cup chicken broth.
  • Canned chopped clams: If you like it extra clammy, double up on the clams.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot on the stovetop over medium heat, add bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Set aside.
Bacon cooking in a silver pot.
  1. To the bacon fat, add onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Chopped vegetables cooked in a silver pot.
  1. Stir in potatoes, water, clam juice, and chicken base. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream and flour until smooth.
Cream being poured into a silver pot with New England clam chowder ingredients.
  1. Gradually stir into soup, return to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper). Add clams and their juice and remaining 1 cup half-and-half and stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Garnish each serving with bacon and oyster crackers.
New England clam chowder in white bowls on a wooden cutting board.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes about 8 cups Clam Chowder, enough for 4 hearty servings of 2 cups each.
  • Storage: Store leftover clam chowder in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Cool the chowder in the refrigerator, then pour into freezer containers or heavy-duty freezer bags and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
  • Make it your own: Add diced carrots with the potatoes. Or, stir in a bay leaf or some fresh herbs like parsley. A drizzle of sherry on top, before eating, is traditional for seafood soups and chowders.
  • Meaty: Substitute salt pork or pancetta for the bacon. If you prefer to leave the bacon out entirely, substitute an equal amount of butter.
  • Garnishes: I like to garnish this soup with cooked bacon and oyster crackers, but it looks pretty with something green on top like fresh parsley or fresh chives.
  • Rhode Island Clam Chowder: Unlike New England-style clam chowder which contains cream, and Manhattan-style clam chowder which contains tomatoes, Rhode Island Clam Chowder doesn’t have either and uses a clear broth instead.
  • Too hot: Like all creamy soups and stews, if cooked at too high a temperature, the soup could scorch.
  • Slow Cooker New England Clam Chowder:
    • In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels, chop into small pieces, and refrigerate until serving time.
    • To your slow cooker, add the rendered bacon fat, onion, potatoes, celery, garlic, water, chicken base, and clam juice. Cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours or HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
    • Whisk together the flour with 1 cup half and half. Stir in to the slow cooker with the clams and their juice and cook on HIGH 30 minutes longer.
    • Add the remaining 1 cup half and half, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until heated through. Stir in the cooked bacon (or reheat and use as a garnish).
A bowl of Manhattan clam chowder soup with oyster crackers garnishing it.
This easy Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe is delicious proof that not all chowders are creamy. A light tomato base allows the clam flavor to shine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes New England Clam Chowder different?

Unlike other chowders which may have a clear broth or tomato-based broth, New England Clam Chowder has a creamy base made with either heavy cream or half and half.

What is Boston clam chowder?

Boston Clam Chowder is another name for New England Clam Chowder and is thick with a creamy base.

More hearty soup recipes

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New England clam chowder in a white bowl.

New England Clam Chowder

You don’t have to live on a coast to have best New England Clam Chowder in the world. This authentic, stick-to-your-ribs recipe has all the right stuff: bacon, potatoes, cream, and (of course) lots of chopped clams.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings (2 cups each)
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Calories 354
4.99 from 119 votes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, add bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon from pot, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Set aside.
  • To the bacon fat, add onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in potatoes, water, clam juice, and chicken base. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup half-and-half and flour until smooth. Gradually stir into soup, return to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper).
  • Add clams and their juice and remaining 1 cup half-and-half and stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Garnish each serving with bacon and oyster crackers.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Potatoes: Waxy potatoes like baby red potatoes, or semi-waxy like Yukon Golds, hold their shape in this soup.
  2. Clam juice: Adds more clam flavor and keeps the chowder from being bland.
  3. Chicken base: Similar to bullion cubes, chicken base is highly concentrated chicken stock. You can find it in powder or paste forms. I love “Better than Bouillon” brand, a paste which is widely available and tastes delicious. Or, omit the water and chicken base and substitute 1 cup chicken broth.
  4. Canned chopped clams: If you like it extra clammy, double up on the clams.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes about 8 cups Clam Chowder, enough for 4 hearty servings of 2 cups each.
  6. Storage: Leftover clam chowder will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 2 cupsCalories: 354kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 11gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 515mgPotassium: 860mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 527IUVitamin C: 30mgCalcium: 168mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. The flavor is really good. Could use a step-by-step of exactly how much of each ingredient though. Kind of had the eyeball it and taste test it myself and Doctor it up towards the end.4 stars

  2. Hi Meggan

    I need to make this gluten free. Since you mix the flour with the half and half, to make a slurry, could I use cornstarch instead? Would you do a one to one substitution or use less cornstarch?

    1. Hi Jennie, thanks for your question! I haven’t done that substitution in this recipe, but I’ve done it for other recipes, so I don’t see why not. I would start with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 of the tablespoons of the half and half, add it to the pot and bring to a simmer for a couple minutes. If it needs additional thickening, add another slurry of 1 tablespoon half and half with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. You could also add the heavy cream to the pot, bring to a simmer, and then remove 2 tablespoons of the warm liquid to make the slurry, and return it to the pot. I hope you love it! Please write back with anymore questions! – Meggan

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