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The Best Creamy Clam Chowder

The Best Creamy Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder Soup Recipe

Learn how to make this delicious recipe for clam chowder. Forget about spending hours in the kitchen to create a creamy clam chowder recipe. This New England Clam Chowder is ready in just an hour. Clam Chowder with fresh clams (or canned clams) is the best way to warm up during soup season (while our steamer clams make the best warmer weather clam recipe).

This easy clam chowder gives this popular Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup a run for its money! A few more soup recipes readers love: Caldo de Queso, Jambalaya Soup, Sancocho Dominicano, Instant Pot Potato Soup, Egg Drop Soup and all 4 Olive Garden Soup Recipes.

Individual ingredients to make chowder in clear bowls.

How To Make The Best Clam Chowder Recipe

Making clam chowder is very straightforward, however the prepping of the clams differs depending on whether you’re using frozen clams, fresh clams or canned clams. 

Once the clams are ready to go, all you do is cook the bacon and veggies, make the roux with flour and chicken broth, add the potatoes and clams, and top it off with cream.

Cream dutch oven with flour, celery and onions mixed in.

Clam Chowder Using Canned Clams

This is the easiest version to make. All you do is strain out the clams from the can and reserve the liquid. When the recipe below calls for adding the clams, you add the clams. When the recipe calls for adding the claim juice, you add the reserved liquid. No other edits are necessary.

Clam Chowder Using Frozen Clams

We usually make this seafood chowder recipe with frozen clams. We love the quality of Wild Fork Foods so usually have a box of their frozen clams on hand when the urge strikes. Note – we are not affiliates or sponsored by Wild Fork Foods, we just love the quality.

The recipe requires chopped clams, so chop them up if they’re not already. Set aside. When the recipe below calls for adding the clams, you add the chopped clams. When the recipe calls for adding the claim juice, pop open the bottle of clam juice. No other edits are necessary.

Chopped clams, tiny potatoes, bay leaves and cream mixed in a cream dutch oven. A black whisk is set inside the dutch oven.

Clam Chowder Using Fresh Clams

This is the most involved version as you need to extract the clam meat from the shells. To do this, add 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth and the clams to a large pot. Cover and turn to high heat for 6-7 minutes. Uncover and remove the open clams. Cover and continue cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard any un-opened clams. Let the clams cool before removing the meat for the soup.

Fresh steamer clams in a plastic container labeled "manilla clams".

Clam Juice

Canned Clams – If you’re using canned clams, you do not have to purchase a bottle of clam juice as there is already enough clam juice in the can.

Frozen Clam Meat – If you’re using frozen clam meat, you will need to purchase a bottle of high quality clam juice.

Fresh Clams – If you’re using fresh clams, you can use the water the clams were cooked in. Don’t dump out that liquid gold when removing the clams from the pot after cooking.

Different Types of Chowder

There are 3 different types of clam chowder recipes. The basic ingredients are similar, however each has a “twist” ingredient to set it apart from the others.

Boston Clam Chowder

Boston clam chowder is a creamy chowder recipe made up of easy ingredients – and bacon! Making a clam chowder recipe with bacon also has the added flavor of bacon grease. It’s similar to how we make our Instant Pot Potato Soup, without the chopped clams.

You’ll find that Boston chowder is creamy and white in color, making it the most popular and recognizable.

Pinterest pin showing a white bowl loaded with chowder. A small white bowl of oyster crackers is next to it.

New England Clam Chowder 

Is there a difference between a thick New England Clam Chowder recipe and Boston Clam Chowder? Nope. When you hear people talk about Boston Clam Chowder, they’re referring to New England Clam Chowder as well. They’re one and the same.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan clam chowder is a different animal as it’s a tomato-based soup vs dairy-based soup. When making the cream and milk are replaced with tomatoes and tomato paste.  This red chowder looks totally different from the creamy white chowder and obviously tastes quite different also.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

The least common of the chowders, Rhode Island Clam Chowder is all about the seafood-forward flavors. You won’t find any dairy or tomatoes in this version as to let the taste of the sea shine through. It’s a more “watered down” thinner version of New England Clam Chowder.

Dutch oven with tiny potatoes, bay leaves and cream. A black whisk is set inside the dutch oven.

Recipe Tips

  • Make sure you don’t overcook the clams for this delicious soup. If you do overcook them, they’re still usable, but they are going to be chewy. 
  • If you’re a fan of adding soup toppings, crushed crackers or oyster crackers are always a hit. You can also top with shredded cheese or even fresh cilantro or jalapeños (even pickled peppers or pickled banana peppers). Those aren’t traditional, but we load them on everything.
  • Broth – Don’t cut corners. Make sure to use high quality chicken broth, such as our Instant Pot Bone broth, or the end result will suffer. Same goes for bottled clam juice.
  • Who doesn’t love a little extra spice? If you’re into it, shake a bit of Tabasco sauce or old bay seasoning in to amp up the flavor.
  • If purchasing canned clams, save yourself some time by buying chopped clams vs whole clams.

How To Store Leftovers

Once the chowder has cooled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The chowder should remain delicious to enjoy for 3-4 days.

Two white bowls of clam chowder topped with oyster crackers. A small bowl of bacon and oyster crackers are next to it. How To Reheat Seafood Chowder

Low and slow is best. Put the cold chowder into a large pot on the stove and reheat over medium until it’s nice and hot. You can also use the microwave if you’re running low on time. 

Side Dish Ideas

The only thing we eat with clam chowder is oyster crackers or bread. Think one hour dinner rolls, slices of French bread or even muffaletta bread if we have some on hand. If you’re a fan of soup and salad throw together a wedge salad to serve on the side.

What Wine Goes With Clam Chowder

Pinot Blanc, Oregon Pinot Noir, Unoaked Chardonnay

 

I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a recipe rating, snap a pic and use the hashtag #foodieandwine, after you’ve made the recipe, and post to social media! 

Two white bowls of clam chowder topped with oyster crackers. A small bowl of bacon and oyster crackers are next to it.
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

The Best Creamy Clam Chowder

Authentic New England Clam Chowder Recipe - This thick and creamy New England Clam Chowder is full of flavor and loaded with juicy clams, tender potatoes and crispy bacon. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bacon, Clam, Soup Recipe
Servings: 4 Bowls
Calories: 572kcal
Author: Darcey Olson
Cost: $17

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock, Divided (*Note 1)
  • 24 Fresh Quahog Clams, 2 (6.5 oz) cans of chopped canned clams or .5 lb frozen clams (*Note 2)
  • 2 tbsp Butter (*Note 3)
  • 4 Slices Bacon
  • 1 Stalk Celery, Sliced into 1/4" Slices
  • 1 Yellow or White Onion, Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme (*Note 4)
  • 3 tbsp All-purpose Flour
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Cup Clam Juice (*Note 5)
  • 2 Dried Bay Leaves
  • 3-4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Salt and Black Ground Pepper, To Taste
  • Optional: Parsley, Oyster Crackers

Instructions

Prepare Fresh Clams (Skip If Using Canned or Frozen):

  • Add 1 cup of broth and the fresh clams to a large pot. Cover and turn to high heat for 6-7 minutes. Uncover and remove the open clams. Cover and continue cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard any un-opened clams.
  • Strain the remaining liquid from the pot through a cheese cloth (or coffee filter) and set aside. Coarsely chop the clams and set aside.

Prepare The Chowder:

  • Add the butter to a large pot and turn the heat to medium. Add the bacon and cook until brown and crispy, approx. 6-8 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Keep 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pot (remove the rest) and add the celery and onions until they're soft and translucent, approx. 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant, approx. 1 minute.
  • Whisk in the flour until lightly browned, approx. 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, 1 cup of stock and 1/4 cup of clam juice (*Note 5). Add the bay leaves, and cook approx. 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened.
  • Add the potatoes and bring the chowder to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes. (*Note 6)
  • Stir in the heavy cream and chopped clams until heated through, approx. 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • If the soup is too thick, add more heavy cream or broth, as needed, until desired consistency is reached. (*Note 7)
  • Garnish with the bacon (and parsley) and enjoy immediately.

EQUIPMENT

Notes

Note 1 - Don’t cut corners. Make sure to use high quality chicken broth, such as our Instant Pot Bone broth, or the end result will suffer. Same goes for bottled clam juice.
Note 2 -  You can use fresh, canned or frozen clams. Read the post for the full information on each type. You can use 24 Fresh Quahog Clams or 2 (6.5 oz) cans of chopped canned clams or .5 lb frozen clams.
Note 3 - You can use salted or unsalted butter. We always use unsalted as to control the final sodium level. Use what you have on-hand.
Note 4 - You can use 1 tsp fresh thyme in place of dried thyme.
Note 5 - Start with 1/4 cup of clam juice if you're not sure how much seafood flavor you like. Add an extra 1/4 cup at the end if you prefer more "seafood forward" flavor.
Note 6 - Cooking time may need to be increased depending on the thickness of the diced potatoes.
Note 7 - The soup will thicken more as it cools. If needed, you can thin it out by adding more milk or chicken broth and bringing it to a boil once more.
Note 8 - Nutritional information is calculated using 24 fresh clams and zero toppings or salt/pepper.

Nutrition

Calories: 572kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 123mg | Sodium: 584mg | Potassium: 895mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1318IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 153mg | Iron: 2mg

 

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