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New England Clam Chowder Shopping Tips
Seafood shopping is quite easy in the general sense. Rule of thumb: if it smells fishy, don't buy. Fresh seafood should smell mild and more like the ocean and sea water rather than fish.
New England Clam Chowder Cooking Tips
Looking for a quick mid-week dinner? Seafood is a safe bet. It's quick to cook and simple recipes can get dinner on the table in 20 minutes.
BEST New England Clam Chowder
One of America’s most famous dishes, get ready to enjoy a bowl of pure comfort! This New England Clam Chowder recipe gets bumped up several flavor notches and will have you coming back for seconds!
The concept of chowder goes back several centuries. Chowders were introduced to the United States during its early years of settlement and the oldest published recipe we know about, for fish chowder, was printed in 1751. What we call New England Clam Chowder today was the earliest and most popular variety of clam chowder (known as Boston Clam Chowder in the Midwest) and it was a contribution of French and British settlers. By the 18th century it was a household staple and has remained one of New England’s most famous and beloved dishes.
Today, New England Clam Chowder is still served at Ye Olde Union Oyster House in Boston, the nation’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, where it has been on the menu since 1836.
Variations of New England clam chowder exist throughout the region and, depending on where you are, the consistency can be thin or thick. Additionally, although it is generally regarded a cardinal sin to add tomatoes, there are some who insist on adding just enough to turn the color a pretty pink. In 1939, the state legislature of Maine decided it had had enough of this sacrilege and tried passing a bill that would make the inclusion of tomatoes in clam chowder illegal. It didn’t pass.
Notwithstanding some debated variations, what distinguishes New England clam chowder is the absence of tomatoes and the inclusion of milk or cream, potatoes, onion and clams, and its common accompaniment of oyster crackers that are either crushed and added to the soup as a thickener or sprinkled on top.
In the words of American novelist Joseph C. Lincoln:
A New England clam chowder, made as it should be, is a dish to preach about, to chant praises and sing hymns and burn incense before. To fight for. The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought for–or on–clam chowder part of it at least, I am sure it was. It is as American as the Stars and Stripes, as patriotic as the national Anthem. It is ‘Yankee Doodle in a kettle.’
An excellent New England Clam Chowder uses few and simple ingredients but the quality of these ingredients is key. Use the freshest produce, the best cream. Salt pork was traditionally used but in more recent decades it has been replaced by bacon. The smokiness of bacon can tend to overpower the delicate flavors of the clam chowder and for that reason I recommend Italian pancetta. Unlike bacon pancetta it is dry-cured, not smoked, and contributes an incredible, complex flavor that is complementary instead of overpowering.
Using quality ingredients also means using the finest fish broth, something that was used in many of the earliest known clam chowder recipes. Set the clam juice aside and instead reach for fish broth which will give your chowder a much richer and satisfying flavor.
For the finest fish stock I’m using my favorite brand, Aneto. They not only make the world’s BEST paella cooking bases (check out their Valencian paella and seafood paella cooking bases), they also make the best broths in my opinion. Based in Barcelona, Spain, Aneto’s premium broths are made the same way you would make them in your own kitchen: The freshest seafood and vegetables are added to large pots and slow simmered for hours before the broth poured into cartons for selling. The ingredients include Monkfish, Cod, Tomato, Onion, Carrot, Fennel, Leek, Celery, Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic and Sea Salt. Nothing else. No concentrates, powders, artificial ingredients, GMO’s, fillers or flavor enhancers of any kind. Just pure, whole, real ingredients. We highly recommend it.
I also love to use Aneto’s fish broth in a variety of pho and Asian soups and also for making a quick and easy seafood bouillabaisse!
Aneto’s 100% Natural Premium Fish Broth can be purchased here on Amazon or in select stores across the nation. Note, the broths are significantly cheaper on Amazon if you buy them in bulk (6-pack). Individually they’re cheaper in stores (check the store locator for your nearest location).
We had the opportunity to tour their factory from top to bottom, watch the broth-making process from start to finish, and were absolutely blown away by the beauty and simplicity of how they create their broths. In the world of broth manufacturers, Aneto is truly unique and their broth-making process is one of the most encouraging and inspiring things I’ve witnessed. Come read about it and take our virtual tour of the world’s most remarkable broth manufacturer.
If you’re a fan of New England Clam Chowder then you know from experience that too often they’re either ultra thick and gloppy or the binding between the fat and carbs has broken and you end up with a watery soup with oil droplets all over in it.
Not so with this recipe. This New England Clam Chowder tackles those problems and the result is a perfectly silky-smooth and creamy texture with wonderfully balanced flavors that will make you sigh with comfort.
Slice the pancetta (or bacon if using) into thin strips. Fry in a medium stock pot until crispy then remove with a slotted spoon, leaving about a tablespoon of the grease in the pot.
Add the butter to the pot along with the onions, celery and garlic. Cook for 6-8 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the flour, stir to combine and cook for a minute.
Add the broth and white wine, stirring to prevent the flour from clumping, and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add the potatoes, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and half of the pancetta.
Simmer the chowder for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are extremely tender. Discard the bay leaves.
The consistency is right when the potatoes are so soft that some have begun to fall apart. If you prefer the chowder to be thicker or less chunky, use an immersion blender (or transfer 1 cup of the chowder to a blender) puree just a small portion of it.
Add the clams, cream and parsley and heat through for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
Serve sprinkled with the remaining pancetta, fresh parsley and oyster crackers.
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Ingredients for New England Clam Chowder
- Firstly, fry the bacon over medium heat in a saucepan, until it is crisp. Set it aside on paper towels.
- Sauté onion, garlic and celery ribs until they are soft and golden. To this, add water, potatoes, clam juice, thyme, pepper, chicken bouillon cubes and salt to taste.
- Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the ingredients are tender.
- Now, in a different bowl, prepare the white, creamy portion by mixing flour and 1 cup half-and-half. Add it to the above mixture and keep stirring.
- Let it cook on low flame until the mixture thickens (for 1-2 min).
- Now is the time to pour in the chopped clams and the remaining half-and-half to add more creaminess.
- Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it over each serving for that crunch.
- All set to serve.
This recipe certainly needs a fair amount of your time and attention, but I assure you, its worth it! So, friends, collect the ingredients today and try cooking this at home.
Nutritional Breakdown of Clam Chowder Soup
For the fitness freaks out there, down below is the detailed breakdown of the nutritional aspect of the dish.
Note: The given Nutrition breakdown is 1 big cup of serving.
How to Make New England Clam Chowder at Home | Video
I’ve added a recipe video below, so you can try this delicious dish at your home.
I hope the above recipe helps you in creating your own, homemade Clam Chowder. Do give it a try and share your experience with the whole process with us. We would also love to know if you added your twist to the dish. Until then, keep your taste buds happy.
- 1 pound thick-cut bacon strips, diced
- 2 pounds potatoes, diced
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound frozen razor clams, thawed with liquid reserved
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste
Cook and stir bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towel, reserving drippings in the pot.
Cook and stir potatoes, onion, and garlic in the hot bacon drippings until onions are translucent, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir flour into the potato mixture cook together for about 1 minute. Add evaporated milk, heavy cream, liquid from clams, and bay leaf to the potato mixture stir.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Add clams to the soup cook until the clams are hot, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle bacon atop the soup. Season with salt and pepper to serve.
What Are The Different Type Of Clam Chowder?
Clam chowder, like many iconic recipes have many subtle variations depending to the region however, there are 4 distinct type of clam chowder.
- New England Clam Chowder: Perhaps the most famous chowda is New England Clam Chowder also known as Boston Clam Chowder. This is a rich and thick white clam chowder made with potatoes, celery, bacon and cream or milk.
- Manhattan Clam Chowder: This brothy red clam chowder is made with tomatoes as its base. It’s much thinner than other chowders with bright, light flavors. This red chowder features clams, potatoes, carrots and celery.
- Rhode Island Clam Chowder: This chowder is made with a light and clear broth that allows the taste of the fresh clams shine through boldly!
- Long Island Clam Chowder: This is a perfect blend of both New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder. This chowder is pink because it’s made with tomatoes and cream.
Best Healthy: Bar Harbor Cherrystone Clam Chowder
Another option from Bar Harbor, this Cherrystone Clam Chowder is about as healthy (and as fresh) as canned clam chowder is going to get. As is, each serving contains only 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, and since it’s condensed, you can choose which type of milk (or cream) you add, helping you control the nutrition facts, too.
The ingredient list is also impressive, with only whole ingredients like water, potatoes, Maine clams, clam juice, butter, and spices, and it’s made with Cherrystone clams, which are slightly larger than the Little Neck clams used in other canned soups. That means you get hearty, filling pieces of clam in every bite, rather than spoonfuls of cream broth without much substance.
Best Ever New England Clam Chowder
I am going to proudly say that this is, by far, hands down, the best ever New England Clam Chowder. Ever.
I have been a lifelong New England clam chowder connoisseur. It is my jam. It is pure comfort in a bowl. Its the one thing I crave when its cold and dreary outside in the winter. Shoot, I crave it year round.
I asked a question on my Facebook page the other day of ” Clam Chowder: yes or no? And the red or the white?”. White AKA New England clam chowder won by a landslide. I got a few “ew, no, yuk, barf” and a few for the red (Manhattan) AND someone mentioned Rhode Island clam chowder . I had never heard of it before. So I googled. Its pretty much like the New England clam chowder but without the cream or milk, just a clear broth, mostly just the clam juice or a fish stock. Sounds good to me!
I think I have had Manhattan clam chowder once. I much prefer Cioppino for a “red” or tomato based broth seafood stew. My heart has always belonged to the white chowdah. I grew up in Southern California where there are a plethora of amazing seafood restaurants all along the entire coast. I have had my share of chowders from San Diego to San Francisco. My favorite, absolute favorite, resides at the best seafood restaurant ever: Brophy Bros. in Santa Barbara. My hometown.
Brophy’s is in the Santa Barbara harbor. Its been there forever. A pure local favorite. Its not a huge restaurant and often there is a wait for a seat on the narrow balcony, but the wait is worth it. You overlook the harbor, watch urchin boats unload their catch of the day on the dock, and smell the fresh sea air. The view is worth the wait. Their New England clam chowder there is worth the wait.
They serve the chowder with the best, sour, crusty bread ever. I could eat my bodyweight in bread and chowder at Brophy’s. I think I have before. Another awesome place for clam chowder is Jake’s in Portland , Or. We lived there for 6 years in the drearly, cold, yucky weather. An occasional trip to Jake’s made it a little more bearable. Jake’s chowder was a little thicker than Brophy’s. Both amazingly good, in their own way.
There was also a seafood restaurant I worked at in Santa Barbara that served up a mean chowder. I was a bartender, day bar manager, weekend manager and sometimes prep chef when the prep chef was out surfing and we couldn’t get a hold of him to come in to do his job. So often times I got to make the chowder early weekend mornings before we opened up. Sounds like I did a ton of stuff there, but it was a part time job during college. I had fun, the best part was learning how they made their chowder. Inspired by all those three chowders, I started working on my own chowder recipe.
I actually can’t tell you how many years I have been making my own clam chowder recipe. It was before we moved to Oregon, so Jake’s chowder came as a later on inspiration. I have made chowder from using a gazillion fresh clams to make my own clam stock to these GIANT 3lb 3 ounce cans of fresh sea clams from Costco . When I realized that the giant cans had almost enough clam juice that I didn’t have to make my own stock I have been using those ever since. Until one trip to the Oregon Coast that has forever changed my mind about the types of clams being used.
That meal is the only exception to this recipe I am posting today about being the best ever. That truly was the best ever. Why? Because my husband and some friends went out crabbing and clam digging and brought me back the hugest pile of cockles I had ever seen. Nothing beats freshly caught seafood. There was an old Alaskan homestead cookbook at our friend’s beach house that had a salmon chowder recipe in it that I based that chowder recipe that night off. The guys shucked and rinsed the cockles, I prepped the rest of the ingredients. I found the biggest stock pot I could and went to work. People helped themselves to seconds and thirds. Everyone said it was the best ever.
The reason I am sharing this recipe instead of the one I made that one day on the Oregon coast? Because not everyone has access to giant freshly caught cockles or sea clams. Aside from that, I also can’t remember 100% that exact recipe. I change it slightly every time. I have made it with bacon, I have made it without. With bacon is always better.
I have made it with flour as the thickening agent, I have also thickened it by pureeing some of the soup with the potatoes. Sometimes I add carrots. Its really a base great base recipe to add in what you want or what you have on hand. Classic clam chowder uses all heavy cream. I find that to be, well, heavy. I use low fat milk and half and half. Once in a while I use heavy cream. Depends on my mood. Always serve with good crusty bread to dip in the chowder and wash it down with a good glass of wine. I give you now, my BEST ever New England Clam Chowder recipe :
- Scrub clams under cold running water to remove grit and sand. Discard any that don’t close when tapped. Place clams in a large pot with 3 cups cold water. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and steam until shells open check frequently and remove clams with tongs as they open, allowing up to 5 minutes for littlenecks and about 1 minute for steamers. Discard any that don’t open. Pour cooking liquid through a fine sieve and set aside.
- Cook salt pork in a large pot over medium-low heat until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove meat, drain on paper towels, and set aside to use as garnish. Add onions to rendered fat and cook over low heat until translucent, about 20 minutes.
- Remove clams from shells. If using steamers, cut off and discard necks (the black part). Coarsely chop clams, cover, and set aside.
- Add flour to onions, stir for 1 minute, then add potatoes, reserved clam cooking liquid, and enough water to cover. Increase heat to medium, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add clams, milk, and cream to pot. Simmer (do not boil) until just heated through, about 5 minutes. (Clams will be rubbery if overcooked.) Stir in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with reserved salt pork.
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Reviews ( 9 )
Delicious. I like my chowder a little thicker, so I added another 1/4 cup of flour to the milk, and I also added 1-2 tsp. of salt. Perfect. Thanks!!
This was a great recipe. We had left over clam broth, which I froze and used for the clam juice. It was so good. 5 stars for sure.
This was a big hit at my house - even the ten year old had seconds. I subbed 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, about 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley. And based on other reviews, I used cornstarch instead of flour. I'll definitely make this again.
I made this for my husband last night and we were both impressed. I made a half batch but used the full amount of flour to make a thick soup. It was actually quite thick and it probably would have been just fine with the halved amount, but my husband likes really thick and hearty soups. I also realized at the last minute that I didn't have any thyme so I used some powdered basil along with more than a tsp. of salt. I will definitely make this soup again. Very quick and easy and tasty. Thanks CL!
I made this earlier today for lunch. 'Twas quite good. However, I did make some changes. I used a big pinch of dried thyme instead of fresh and left out the parsley stems. I was anticipating a thin broth, so for the half-batch I made, I used a quarter cup of flour instead of two tablespoons. It was still too thin for my tastes, so I made a slurry with the half and half and two tablespoons of cornstarch. I also used clam stock I happened to find at the grocery store instead of clam juice. Oh, and I used russet potatoes that I sauteed in the bacon drippings first so they would hold their shape in the soup. Next time, I'll use a bit less potato. It was really good, though. (Especially since I finally found a chowder thick enough for my liking.)
I have tried countless clam chowder recipes and this is the best by far. Very nice flavors. The thyme adds a lot.
I've made this recipe so many times I've lost count. I love it and everyone who tries it loves it. I made a few modifications. I added a cup of chopped carrots with the celery, onion, and garlic. I did this on accident- oops!- but discovered it actually tastes pretty good. If you add carrots be prepared for the chowder to be a funky color. I always omit the potatoes and parsley. I substitute corn starch for the flour. Makes it nice and creamy, which my partner and I prefer to the very runny version that occurs when the original recipe is followed precisely. Instead of garnishing individual servings with the bacon bits I just throw them back in the chowder when I stir in the clams. I add 2 extra cans of clams and usually 2 extra bottles of juice. This recipe is so wonderful because it can be adjusted in so many different ways and always keeps its integrity. One of my very favorite Cooking Light recipes.
- 1/2 pound salt pork or bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup water or clam juice
- 2 1/2 pounds live cherrystone or littleneck clams (see note)
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 1/2 pounds russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Oyster crackers, for serving
- 1 pint shucked clams or two 6-1/2-ounce cans minced clams
- 2 slices bacon, halved
- 2 ½ cups chopped, peeled potato (3 medium)
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
- 1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Chop fresh clams, if using, reserving juice set clams aside. Strain clam juice to remove bits of shell. (Or, drain canned clams, reserving juice.) If necessary, add enough water to reserved clam juice to equal 1 cup. Set juice aside.
In a large saucepan cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan. Drain bacon on paper towels crumble bacon and set aside.
Stir reserved 1 cup clam juice, potato, onion, bouillon granules, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and pepper into saucepan. Bring to boiling reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. With the back of a fork, mash potatoes slightly against the side of the pan.
Stir together milk, half-and-half, and flour add to potato mixture. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in clams. Return to boiling reduce heat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until heated through. Sprinkle each serving with crumbled bacon.