This New England clam chowder recipe will take you on a cold winter's day to straight to heaven! Loaded with clams and potatoes, this thick creamy soup is perfect for any occasion! Serve it up alongside some fresh bread so that your guests can dip their pieces into the delicious goodness too!
As an east coast Canadian, I'm EXTREMELY fond of anything and everything related to seafood. I have a lot of favorite foods and dishes (obviously! haha) but as a Maritimer now living in the big city of Toronto sometimes I get homesick for some good ol' fashioned east coast comfort food.
One of my favorite comfort foods has got to be a rich and delicious creamy homemade clam chowder. It's just the perfect thing to warm you up during the cold January weather. 🙂
I like my clam chowder thick and hearty with lots of chunks of potatoes. A little bit of bacon sprinkled on top is pretty good too! 🙂
This recipe makes for a very flavorful clam chowder that I'm certain will make any seafood lover dance a little jig. 😉
The fresh thyme, bay leaves, garlic, onions and celery really do a fantastic job of making this taste something spectacular! I know you'll love this recipe!
If you've never made clam chowder yourself before, it's a lot easier than you'd think. Also it really doesn't take that long to cook when compared to other homemade soup and stew recipes.
One thing to remember when preparing seafood is that it takes much less time to cook than beef, chicken or other meats. The clams are added to the soup almost at the end of cooking so they don't become overdone.
If you're feeling adventurous you might even want to try adding some other kinds of seafood to the recipe to make it even more amazing! This would taste great with little bits of lobster or crab as well.
Next time you're feeling cold and need the warmth of a little east coast cooking, try this recipe!
I hope you enjoy this recipe! ❤️ If you give it a try, please let me know how it turned out for you in the comments section at the bottom of the page or share a pic of your om noms on Instagram and tag @dishesanddustbunnies! ❤️
What makes a chowder a chowder?
Chowder is a soup that's made with cream, and it usually has potatoes and vegetables in it. There are many different chowders, but they all have a few key ingredients in common, like broth, potatoes, and cream.
What are the two styles of clam chowder?
New England clam chowder is a creamy soup made with potatoes, cream and/or milk, onions, bacon, and clam broth and seasonings such as salt, pepper and thyme. It's usually thickened with flour.
Manhattan clam chowder is a red soup made with tomatoes, onions, celery, clam broth, and red pepper flakes. It's usually thickened with tomato paste.
What is clam chowder made of?
This clam New England style clam chowder is made from a combination of bacon, butter, onions, celery, garlic, all purpose flour, fresh thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, water, white potatoes, heavy cream, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and canned whole baby clams.
Does clam chowder have to have bacon?
You don't have to add the bacon if you'd prefer to skip it in this recipe! I do very much enjoy the cooked bacon in this recipe, but it's still very very scrumptious without it!
Can I use milk instead of cream in chowder?
Yes, you can use milk instead of cream in clam chowder. However, the soup will not be as rich and creamy. If you do use milk, make sure to use whole milk for best results. Skim milk will make the soup watery and will not provide the same level of creaminess. Half-and-half is also an option, but will make the soup slightly sweeter. For a truly rich and creamy clam chowder, use heavy cream.
Be sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredients & instructions!
How to make Clam Chowder – Overview
How to make the best clam chowder recipe from scratch?
You can find the full recipe details, including ingredient amounts and the full instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but first, here's a quick overview of how to make this absolutely delicious and easy clam chowder recipe!
Making clam chowder at home from scratch is a lot simpler than you would think!
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon strips, drain and set aside. In the same pot/Dutch oven, sautée some onions, chopped celery and garlic in butter until softened. Add thyme, bay leaves, cayenne and all purpose flour. Using a whisk, combine the flour so there are no lumps.
Next, add some diced potatoes and clam juice, water, and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the cream and combine.
Next, remove a bit of the soup and blend until smooth using a blender, then add it back to the soup. You can also do this by sticking a hand blender into the chowder and pulsing a couple times or you can even mash some of the potatoes with a fork in the pot. This is an important step in creating the deliciously creamy texture of the chowder.
Next, add some whole baby clams (fresh or canned), some Worchestershire sauce and season to taste with salt, and freshly ground black pepper. That's it! Serve hot with some crusty bread for dipping.
Clam chowder is one of those comforting, hearty soups that are perfect for a winter meal. And while it might seem like a lot of work to make clam chowder from scratch, it's actually quite easy! This homemade clam chowder recipe is made with canned clams, but you can also use fresh clams if you prefer. Either way, this clam chowder is sure to hit the spot on a cold winter day.
Seasonings: For this recipe I used thyme as an aromatic seasoning, but you can also add a bay leaf to the pot and it'll give your chowder and extra dimension of flavor. You could also use some old bay seasoning. Chopped fresh parsley is also a nice addition sprinkled on top just before serving!
Instead of bacon: You could also use some salt pork!
Other Veggies: This recipe also tastes wonderful with frozen corn nibblets and even finely diced bell peppers!
Make it a seafood/fish chowder: In addition to the clams you add to the chowder, you can also add crab meat, lobster and other types of fish – I recommend white types of fish, such as haddock. When adding chunks of fish, add it at the end of cooking as to avoid overcooking!
What to serve with New England Clam Chowder
When it comes to clam chowder, there are a few schools of thought on what sides to serve. Some people like to keep it simple and just have a nice piece of crusty bread with their soup. Others like to go all out and serve a full meal with clam chowder as the main course. And still others like to mix and match, depending on their mood or what they have on hand.
No matter what you choose to serve with your clam chowder, one thing is for sure: it's going to be delicious! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Bread: As we mentioned, bread is a classic choice to serve with clam chowder. If you're feeling extra fancy, you could even make some homemade garlic bread to go alongside your soup. Fresh french bread is wonderful with clam chowder!
Crackers: Crackers are another great option for dipping into clam chowder. We like saltines or oyster crackers, but any type of cracker will do.
Side salad: A light side salad is the perfect way to round out a bowl of clam chowder. We like to keep things simple with just some greens and a vinaigrette, but you can add whatever toppings you like.
Roasted vegetables: Roasted vegetables are a delicious and easy way to add some extra nutrients to your meal. Try roasting a mix of vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, and potatoes. Then, just add them to your clam chowder when you're ready to eat.
Fruit: Believe it or not, fruit can be a great addition to clam chowder. We recommend adding a few slices of apple or pear for a touch of sweetness on the side!
No matter what you serve with your clam chowder, we know it's going to be delicious! So enjoy and happy eating!
What to add to clam chowder to make it better?
You can make your clam chowder taste better by adding some more bottled clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce like Tabasco sauce. You can also add some cream to make it richer. If you want a thinner soup, add some milk. You could also add chicken broth for more rich flavor. Finally, if you want a spicier soup, add more cayenne pepper.
Leftovers – How to Store and Reheat
Clam chowder can be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hours in an air tight container. To reheat, put clam chowder into a pot on medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through. You can add a little milk if the soup becomes too thick.
Clam chowder is one of those dishes that's even better as leftovers. The flavors have time to meld and develop, making for an even richer and more delicious soup.
Can I freeze clam chowder?
Yes, clam chowder freezes well for 2-3 months. Make sure to use a freezer safe container and leave some headspace (about 1 inch) at the top of the container to allow for expansion during freezing.
To reheat frozen clam chowder, thaw in the fridge overnight then follow the same reheating instructions above. You may need to add a little extra milk or broth to thin it out slightly as soups can become thicker when frozen and then thawed.
Homemade New England Clam Chowder
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6 – 8 servings 1x
- 3 strips of bacon
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 ⅔ cups onions, chopped finely
- 1 cup celery, chopped (this is about 3 ribs)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsps all purpose flour
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Pinch of cayenne
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups water
- 3 lbs white potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 10 oz. canned whole baby clams, drain and reserve the liquid from the can/s
- Optional: chopped green onions, for garnish
- In a large Dutch oven cook the strips of bacon until crisp. Remove from the pot and place on a paper towel to drain and set aside.
- Drain all but 1 tbsp of bacon fat from the pot.
- Add butter to the pot and cook onions, garlic and celery on medium heat until softened. About 10 minutes.
- Add thyme, bay leaves, cayenne and all purpose flour. Using a whisk, combine so there are no lumps.
- Add the water and the reserved liquid from the clams. Combine and bring to a boil.
- Add cubed potatoes. Reduce heat to medium and cook until softened. You can check the doneness of the potatoes by jabbing them with a fork.
- Add the cream and combine.
- Remove 1 ½ cups of the soup, placing it into a blender. Blend until smooth and add it back to the soup. NOTE: You can also do this by sticking a hand blender into the chowder and pulsing a couple times or you can even mash some of the potatoes with a fork in the pot. This is an important step in creating the creamy texture of the chowder.
- Next, add the baby clams to the chowder. Cook on low for about 10 minutes.
- Add Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine and let cook for a couple more minutes.
- Crumble the reserved bacon over the top of each serving. Serve hot and enjoy! 🙂
- Garnish with chopped green onions if you like!
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Category: Soups and Stews
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: American