New England Clam Chowder

When I was a kid my taste in soup was sort of an aberration compared to my other culinary preferences. I had a pretty typical kid palate when it came to most things; I lived on peanut butter and jelly (I seemingly haven’t evolved much in that area), loved grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and all of the stereotypical things that most kids don’t venture far from. Now soup was a different story. Sure, I would happily eat a bowl of chicken noodle or tomato soup, but my true love was New England clam chowder. What?! How?! I still don’t understand it to this day, other than maybe reasoning that it was the abundance of potatoes and the creamy texture that I adored, but this soup love certainly didn’t jive with my unwillingness to try most other things. I can remember my mom and grandma both keeping their pantries stocked with cans of this and (gasp!) if either of them dare try to throw in a Manhattan clam chowder in the event that they ran out of New England, take cover. That was completely unacceptable to me and I would not eat it. My young little foodie heart belonged to New England clam chowder. And it has only taken me 25+ years to make a homemade version, ha!

The key to my finding a good homemade recipe was that it could not require the use of fresh clams. Living in Pittsburgh, the ability to easily buy fresh clams and not spend an arm and a leg for a pot of soup really just isn’t there. So I was thrilled when I found a work-around with the canned, minced clams and bottled clam juice. I was amazed at how fantastic this tasted, how close to my early memories of clam chowder it came, and of course (though not surprisingly) how superior it is to what comes out of a can.

I’m enjoying keeping up with the soup portion of my 2012 resolutions, having made a fresh batch last week (Chicken Noodle) and this week. The best part? Both of them are incredibly warm and hearty soups, and can be made in less than an hour.

What was your favorite soup when you were a kid?

One year ago: Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Two years ago: Maple-Oatmeal Scones
Four years ago: Classic White Bread

New England Clam Chowder

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


4 slices center-cut, thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cans (6½ ounces each) minced clams, drained and juice reserved
2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice
1 cup water
1½ pounds red potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


1. Fry the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the flour and stir until lightly colored, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the reserved clam juice (from the cans), the bottled clam juice and the water.

4. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Add the clams, cream, parsley, salt and pepper to taste; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and serve immediately.

(Recipe adapted from The Best Soups and Stews)



43 Responses to “New England Clam Chowder”

  1. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga on January 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Fave soup as a kid was my grandma’s chicken noodle or dare I say, Campbell’s chicken noodle.

    Your soup makes me wanna break out the oyster crackers and start cooking.


  2. Shannon on January 12, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Living in Maine, I’ve had some amazing chowders… and yours looks fantastic! There’s a local group blogging project in March and, if I may, I’d love to make your recipe.


  3. Kiri W. on January 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Looks wonderful! I was introduced to chowders by my New England mother-in-law, but I’ve never dares make them myself. I love clam chowder, so your list goes on my to-make pile!


  4. Lori on January 12, 2012 at 7:10 am

    I love New england clam chowder. I will make this for my family real soon.


  5. angela on January 12, 2012 at 7:22 am

    You’ve reminded me how much I like clams. I have never made a chowder, and as soon as we get some snow, I aim to use your recipe. (hopefully, we will; in Nashville, the snow could forget us).


  6. Michelle W on January 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for making a chowder that doesn’t look like wallpaper paste. I’m a Pittsburgher also and this will definitely hit the spot this coming weekend. As to using canned clams – I do too and haven’t used fresh clams since I lived in Rhode Island. When I’m really lazy, I even use canned potatoes (I love those little diced ones!!). Off to Giant Eagle for some crusty bread.


  7. Tabitha (From Single to Married) on January 12, 2012 at 8:01 am

    my husband would love if I would fix this for him – it’s perfect for these cold, winter months!


  8. Leah {Sweet and Sour Showers} on January 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I totally agree with you on this! I’m a cream-based soup lover, as bad as it is, and Manhattan does not come close to New England! Can’t wait to try this.


  9. The Doll Baker on January 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

    My hubby loves NE Clam Chowder. I use Alton Brown’s recipe but I find it to be too starchy. Your recipe sounds really good and your picture looks even better. Can’t wait to try it. ♥


  10. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on January 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

    This looks wonderful! Do you have the recipe for I think it’s Manhatten Clam Chowder? It’s the red one. For some reason when we go to the boardwalk, people walk around with clam chowder, my husband and daughter searchout for the red one. I’m going to try your recipe and see if I can change there mind! This looks absolutly wonderful!


    • Michelle on January 12th, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Jennifer, I don’t have a recipe for Manhattan clam chowder unfortunately. I never quite liked that version!


  11. on January 12, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Growing up in Boston, I took clam chowder for granted. Now living in Chicago, I, too, have trouble finding anything fresh relating to fish. Your recipe looks like a great alternative so that I can get a taste of home. Believe it or not, when I was a kid, a favorite soup was my mom’s lentil soup which I now make routinely all year long. Right now, during the cold weather, it’s especially good.


  12. Heidi @ Food Doodles on January 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Oooh, perfect timing! I was just thinking about how I haven’t had clam chowder in soooo long and that I should make it for myself, because living where I do there’s about zero chance of getting some that isn’t from a can. This looks delicious – can’t wait to try it 😀


  13. CouponClippingCook on January 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Looks delicious. Love the texture of your recipe. It’s not too thick. The thyme and bacon must smell so good when this is cooking.


  14. domesticallyinept on January 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you for posting this! I can totally sympathize with you about finding fresh seafood! I live in Ohio so I pretty much IGNORE all seafood recipes….which is a shame. I will definitely have to give this one a try…


  15. Jessica @ Portuguese Girl Cooks on January 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    This looks fantastic! Can’t wait to give this a try.


  16. Ryan on January 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    I love New England clam chowder but I’ve never made it… I may have to try it!


  17. Tammy on January 13, 2012 at 12:14 am

    My grandmother was from Massachusettes and she made the best New England clam chowder. It’s my all-time favorite. Your version is very similar to the clam chowder I make. Hmmm…I may have to put it on tomorrow’s menu.


  18. Amy @ Gastronome Tart on January 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Yum! I’m always looking for new clam chowder recipes as it is my husband’s favorite. I will have to try this sometime and soon!


  19. Cathi on January 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Love this! Will make it tonight


  20. Cathy @ Savory Notes on January 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I was the same way as a kid! Clam chowder was one of my fav soups, and I was the only kid I knew who liked it. Since moving to CA, I haven’t had a decent bowl of the stuff. Looks like I’ll just have to make it myself 🙂


  21. Kristy on January 13, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Made this last night – we all loved it! Thanks for sharing!


  22. Dee on January 14, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I am a native Pittsburgher transferred to New England 19 years ago. New England Clam Chowder was the first thing I learned to make when I landed here. I am lucky to be able to get Quahogs at the grocery store. I do have to order them, but it is no big deal.

    I’ve learned to love a lower calorie version… Rhode Island Clam Chowder. Just don’t add the cream.


  23. Rebeca on January 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm


    My manfriend LOVES clam chowder, I’ll have to pull this out as a surprise!


  24. Wendy B on January 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you SO much for this recipe!!! I made it for dinner tonight, and we licked our bowls clean!!! So delicious and easy to make! THANK YOU!!!


  25. Diana @ a girl, a dog & an oven on January 15, 2012 at 10:04 am

    In my previous life as a seller of temporary staffing services, I had the chance to meet with the controller of a local clam canning company (who knew NJ had such things?). He explained to me the difference between shuckers (who remove the clams from their shells, obviously) and squeezers (who remove the juice from the clams). Apparently the squeezers are the low men on the totem pole, and the promotion to shucker is a big deal. Anyway, I can’t see canned clams or clam juice without thinking about this little man with the big glasses who took his clams so seriously.

    Anyway, that was my contribution to the conversation, haha. Your soup looks lovely!!


  26. The Doll Baker on January 15, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I had to comment again to tell you that I made this chowder this weekend. It is delicious and will be replacing my original clam chowder recipe! Thanks! ♥


  27. RoseM on January 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Just wanted to say, this is my first time writing you, but I have been loving your site for about a year. I made this Clam Chowder recipe the other day and it was wonderful. Thanks for the site and all the recipes. I also made the Granola cookies and the Beef and Cheddar dog treats you made for Einsteins birthday. My Standard Poodle puppy Lottie is just 12 weeks but she loved chewing on these cookies. Thanks Again.


  28. Maeghan on January 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I use this recipe all of the time and love it. I found it from an old Boston Globe a long time ago.


  29. Ellie Webb on January 23, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for posting this recipe – it is fabulous!


  30. Haley on January 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    This looks fantastic! I LOVE this, but my husband will not eat anything that has to do with clams, mussels, oysters, etc. It’s disappointing because those are some of my favorite things, but I’m curious if I could half the recipe and it still be the same? I cook on a regular basis, but I’m new to the soup game! I can’t wait to try it!


    • Michelle on January 25th, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Hi Haley, You could definitely cut this recipe in half with no problems. Enjoy the soup!


  31. Christine on January 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I’ll start off by stating that I was born in Rhode Island, smack in the middle of chowder country (and where “Manhattan” chowder comes from) and my grandmother makes all three types of chowder; white, clear and red. We always just classified them by color.. And I must say, I certainly could not choose a favorite. They all seem to have their own place and time when that particular recipe is just better. During the summer, red and clear are perfect when that creamy richness of white is just a little too much during the heat. She goes back and forth with fresh/canned clams. (between you and me, she prefers the canned just because they are definitely easier) And oh, my, word. Since moving to North Carolina, I have never missed having a steaming hot clamcake as much as I do now. Dunk it in a bit of red chowder if you must, but I would kill for a whole bowl of clamcakes right now. They are FAR superior to hush puppies!
    But enough of my homesickness- I have always wanted to make clam chowder and I’m super excited to try your recipe! (Grandma won’t give me hers!)


  32. Tina B on January 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    OMG!!! Made this over the weekend and it was delicious (and easy). Thanks for sharing.


  33. Melissa on February 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    When I was little I LOVED clam chowder, canned and grandma’s homemade, when I came home from school for lunch my grandma would make us a nice hot bowl of clam chowder, unfortunately the older I got, fish started to creep me out so I stopped eating it. Just recently I ordered a bowl at a restaurant to try it out and realized, I still loved it! Will definitely be making this soon!


  34. RisaG on February 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I’ve never seen a recipe that didn’t use fresh clams either. I can get them, pretty cheaply, but I have bad luck with them. Either too many die before I cook them, or too many are dead in the final cooking and I have to pick them out. I have better luck cooking things with canned clams. I can get whole clams in their broth at the supermarket.

    Also a huge fan of New England style even though I am a NY-er born & bred. I have never like Manhattan style at all. My sister went to college up in Cambridge, MA when I was 13 and we visited with her a few times a year. We would go to the original Legal Seafoods or to Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston and have the New England Clam Chowder. It was the best. Now you can find the Legal Seafoods brand at Costco so I can have their clam chowder any time I want. It is so thick and delicious. Thanks for this great recipe. I can’t wait to try it.


  35. Lily on March 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Is it unusual for children to like new england clam chowder? I loved it as a kid. As far as I knew, my friends loved it too. I had no idea that this was unusual.


  36. Brian on January 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Tried this tonight. Turned out great. Remember to leave the potatoes in long enough to become tender.


  37. Linda pike on September 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Looks so yummy!!!!! Making tonight for dinner!!! Thank- you for recipe…..


  38. Anna on March 21, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I am not a native New Englander, but my husband is. Whenever I’ve made clam chowder it was always Snows, because that was supposed to be the best canned. I didn’t know better because I grew up in Pennsylvannia and my mother never made it. So hubby made a challenge to me to make it home-made. Yours was the recipe I picked and he is so happy. He said it was the best clam chowder he ever had and that I can’t make any other recipe!
    Thanks for your recipe!


  39. Tim on December 13, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    This is really good, made it tonight but I was out of thyme. Just used a little extra parsley and I added celery to it as well. I will make this again and again. Thanks for sharing the recipe.


  40. Liz on January 12, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Looks great! I’m always looking for new and wonderful NE Clam Chowder recipes. It’s always been my favorite too! Do you think it would work with freshly steamed clams instead of minced ones from a can? I can’t find canned clams, but I can find loads of fresh ones!


    • Michelle on January 18th, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      Hi Liz, I haven’t tried it with fresh clams but I don’t see why it wouldn’t! Enjoy!


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