New England Clam Chowder

This isn’t just any chowder; it’s the iconic New England clam chowder, a timeless classic that conjures up memories of family gatherings, bustling seafood shacks, and the symphony of clinking bowls and spoons. Creamy, sumptuous, and bursting with the flavors of clams, potatoes, and a hint of crispy bacon, this chowder is a love letter to the Northeastern coastline and the rich culinary traditions that define it. Dive in and let each spoonful transport you to the cobbled streets of historic Boston. And remember, in these parts, it’s not just ‘chowder’, it’s ‘chowdah’!

Clam chowder is plated in a white bowl with a spoon and is topped with crispy bacon bits.

The best New England clam chowder

If you love piping hot, hearty bowls of soup, check out my creamy sausage and tortellini tomato soup, vegetarian minestrone soup, or my all time favorite- Mexican chicken lime soup.

Ok, so here’s the deal. If you want to make this dinner, you have to do it in the most Bostonian way. You have to hollar out of your kitchen “dinna’s ready!” to your kids, then you have to fit the word “chowdah” into every sentence. It’s the rule.

On a serious note, this is hands down one of my favorite classic New England meals. Clam chowder has a rich and cream soup base which is built up from the flavors of salt pork, clam juice, butter, and half and half.

Clam chowder is packed with all the good stuff! Red potatoes, crunchy celery, clams, and freshly cracked pepper bring this chowder to life! It’s the perfect winter meal because it’s warming, rich, and chunky. MMM, so delish!

Clam chowder ingredients are displayed individually on a flat surface.

Ingredients

  • Salt pork– Most well stocked grocery stores carry salt pork and it’s usually kept near the cured meats like sausage, bacon, etc. If you cannot find salt pork, thick cut bacon will work perfectly.
  • Butter– Salted butter is melted and used to sautè the vegetables in.
  • Garlic– Chopped garlic is sautèd with the vegetables for extra flava’!
  • Celery– Celery brings a delicious, fresh crunch to the chowder.
  • Potatoes– Red potatoes are a delicious addition to this chowder and really makes it super hearty.
  • Flour– All purpose flour is used to coat the vegetables before the liquids are added to make sure the chowder is thickened just right!
  • Clam juice– Bottled clam juice can be found in most well stocked grocery stores. You can usually find it in the same aisle as the canned clams and tuna fish.
  • Fish stock– Adding fish stock to the chowder does not make it too fishy. It adds just the right amount of flavor!
  • Half and half– You can use half and half or any kind of milk ( whole milk, heavy cream, almond milk) for the base of this chowder.
  • Clams– Canned clams are used because they are easy to find, affordable, and make this recipe even easier! If you’d prefer to use fresh clams, I’ll walk you through that step, too!
Clam chowder is cooked in a cast iron dutch oven and stirred with a wooden spoon.

Chef’s tips

Make it dairy free

You can easily make a few substitutes to make this clam chowder dairy free! You can use extra virgin olive oil, ghee (clarified butter that does not contain lactose), or vegan butter.

For the soup base, you can substitute the half and half with almond milk, almond milk half and half, or vegan heavy cream.

Don’t forget the oyster crackers!

In any traditional Boston clam chowder, we add salted oyster crackers! You can toss them into your soup, or dunk them one at a time, the choice is yours! They taste a lot like saltines, so if you can’t find oyster crackers, these would be a good substitute.

Use fresh clams

If you want to use fresh clams instead of canned clams, there are a few extra steps you need to take before you get cooking. Look for Little Neck clams in your local grocery store.

To prepare littleneck clams, check each one to make sure their shell is intact. Check to make sure they are alive, their shells should be shut. If their shells are open, gently tap them to see if they shut. If they remain open, discard the clam. Discard any clam that has broken or chipped shells or remains open after being gently tapped. You want to use only healthy and alive clams.

Place the clams in a bowl with cold water. Allow them to soak in the water for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. The clams will expel any sand or grit while they are in the water, so be sure to discard the water when they are done.

When the clams are done soaking, rise each individual clam off in cold running water. Use a brush or sponge to wipe away any grit.

To cook the clams, place the clams and 1 cup of water in a pot over high heat. Cover the pot and cook for 6-7 minutes. Remove the lid and take the clams out of the pot. Pull the clams out of their shells using a fork. Now you are ready to get cookin’!

Clam chowder is plated in a white bowl and topped with cracked pepper and fresh parsley.

How to make creamy New England clam chowder?

  1. Cook the salt pork. Place a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium heat on the stovetop. Place the salt pork in the bottom of the pan and cook it for about 10 minutes, until it’s nice and crispy. Remove the salt pork from the pot and place it on a paper towel lined plate. Leave the grease in the pot.
  2. Sautè the vegetables. Melt the butter to the pot, then add the chopped garlic, celery, and potatoes. Sautè the vegetable mixture for 10 minutes.
  3. Built the chowder base. Sprinkle the all purpose flour over the sautèd vegetables and stir to coat them evenly. Pour the clam juice, fish stock, and half and half into the pot, then stir well to combine. Add the drained chopped clams. Add salt to taste, then continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Serve. Serve this delicious clam chowder with oyster crackers or saltine crackers, freshly cracked black pepper, and fresh parsley. Mangia!
A spoon is lifting a big, hearty biteful of celery, bacon, clams, and the soup base.

How to store and reheat

To freeze

You can easily freeze clam chowder so you can have a serving whenever you cant! Simple allow the clam chowder to cool in the fridge first. Once it is cool, add it to individual, air tight, freezer safe containers.

Clam chowder can last in the freezer for about 4-6 months.

To refrigerate

Place the clam chowder in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. Clam chowder can last in the fridge for 2-3 days.

To reheat

You can reaheat frozen clam chowder by first dethawing it. Place the clam chowder container under warm water for about 10 minutes, until it can be broken into chunks. Then, pour the clam chowder into a bowl and microwave it for 3-5 minutes. You can also heat it over medium heat in a pot for 10 minutes.

To reheat refrigerated clam chowder, place it in the microwave for 2-5 minutes, or over medium heat on the stovetop for 5-10 minutes.

Clam chowder is plated in a white bowl and sprinkled with black pepper and chopped parsley.

More Seafood & Pairings

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Clam chowder is plated in a white bowl with a spoon and is topped with crispy bacon bits.

New England Clam Chowder

Sea Salt Savorings
New England clam chowder is creamy, rich, and chockfull of clams and crispy bacon!  It's the perfect winter meal!
5 from 66 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American, Boston
Servings 6
Calories 391 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 6 oz salt pork
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 yellow onion finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery (including leaves) chopped
  • 2 1/2 cup red potatoes cut into 1 inch bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 8 oz clam juice
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • 1 cups half and half
  • 10 oz can of whole baby clams drained
  • 2 6.5 oz can of minced clams drained

Optional

  • oyster crackers
  • cracked black pepper
  • fresh parsley chopped

Instructions
 

  • Cook the salt pork. Lay the salt pork in the bottom of a heavy bottom pot or a dutch oven. Place the pot over medium heat and cook until the salt pork is crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the salt pork from the pot and lay it on a paper towel lined plate. Keep the grease in the pot.
  • Sautè the vegetables. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the onion, garlic, celery, and red potatoes. Sautè the vegetables for ten minutes.
  • Build the chowder base. Sprinkle the flour over the sautèd vegetables, then stir to coat them evenly. Add the clam juice, fish stalk, and half and half. Add the drained can of clams and stir until everything is well combined.
  • Simmer the clam chowder. Once the clam chowder starts to lightly boil, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  
  • Serve. Ladle the clam chowder into individual bowls, then top with cracked pepper, fresh parsley, and oyster crackers. Mangia!

Notes

To use fresh clams:
To prepare littleneck clams, check each one to make sure their shell is intact. Check to make sure they are alive, their shells should be shut. If their shells are open, gently tap them to see if they shut. If they remain open, discard the clam. Discard any clam that has broken or chipped shells or remains open after being gently tapped. You want to use only healthy and alive clams.
Place the clams in a bowl with cold water. Allow them to soak in the water for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. The clams will expel any sand or grit while they are in the water, so be sure to discard the water when they are done.
When the clams are done soaking, rise each individual clam off in cold running water. Use a brush or sponge to wipe away any grit.
To cook the clams, place the clams and 1 cup of water in a pot over high heat. Cover the pot and cook for 6-7 minutes. Remove the lid and take the clams out of the pot. Pull the clams out of their shells using a fork. Now you are ready to get cookin’!

Nutrition

Calories: 391kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 7gFat: 32gSaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 1272mgPotassium: 399mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 414IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 94mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition values are estimates, for exact values consult a nutritionist.

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Looks like it’s heavenly! I’ve never made chowder but have made lobster bisque with a friend.