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 the 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 clam digging or shucking required with this recipe, because canned clams work beautifully. Keep some in the pantry when you get the urge.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. New England Clam Chowder Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled New England clam chowder ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes

  • Potatoes: Waxy potatoes like baby red potatoes, or semi-waxy like Yukon Golds, hold their shape in this soup.
  • Clam juice: 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. Cook the bacon until crisp. Once cooked, remove it from the pot and place it on some paper towels to soak up the extra grease.
    Bacon cooking in a silver pot.
  2. To the bacon drippings in the pot, add the onion and celery and cook over medium heat until softened. Then add the thyme and garlic. Give it a quick stir.
    Chopped vegetables cooked in a silver pot.
  3. Add the potatoes, water, clam juice, and chicken base. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender. This could take 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour with half the amount of cream until smooth. Stir this mixture into the soup and let the pot return to a simmer. Cook the soup until thickened, another 1 to 2 minutes.
    Cream being poured into a silver pot with New England clam chowder ingredients.
  4. At this point, you can season to taste with salt and pepper. Then add the chopped clams and their juice, along with the remaining half-and-half and stir, cooking until completely heated through. Garnish with crumbled crispy bacon and oyster crackers, if you got ‘em!
    New England clam chowder cooking in a silver pot.

Recipe tips and variations

  • 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.
  • Too hot: Like all creamy soups and stews, if cooked at too high a temperature, the soup could scorch.
  • Slow cooker: In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and refrigerate for later. 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).
  • Storage: Leftover clam chowder will keep 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.
New England clam chowder in white bowls on a wooden cutting board.

More delicious seafood recipes

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.
5 from 20 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Calories 354

Ingredients 

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 celery ribs chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh
  • 3 small potatoes peeled and cubed (see note 1)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice (see note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base (see note 3)
  • 2 cups half-and-half divided
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 (6 ½ ounce) cans chopped clams undrained (see note 4)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Oyster crackers for serving

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. 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.
  6. Too hot: Like all creamy soups and stews, if cooked at too high a temperature, the soup could scorch.
  7. Slow cooker: In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and refrigerate for later. 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).
  8. Storage: Leftover clam chowder will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  9. 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 354kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 11gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 515mgPotassium: 860mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 527IUVitamin C: 30mgCalcium: 168mgIron: 2mg
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Comments

  1. 10 STARS! Our favorite clam chowder was out of stock for weeks so I decided to find a recipe to make our own. This is without doubt the BEST we’ve ever had! Thank you! We will always make our own.