Indulge in a comforting bowl of our New England Clam Chowder – a creamy, hearty masterpiece that captures the essence of coastal New England living!
With a rich, velvety base, tender clams, and a medley of potatoes, it's a warm hug for your taste buds on a chilly day. When soup season comes around, dive into a bowl of pure New England deliciousness!
Living in New England now, there is no other type of clam chowder than creamy New England clam chowder with big chunks of tender potatoes and clams.
I grew up in the tri-state area and always heard there's something called Manhattan clam chowder, but in my opinion, it's not nearly as good as the New England version. Sorry my fellow tri-staters!
I often make this chowder on Christmas Eve as part of our "Feast of the Seven Fishes", an old Italian tradition to not have meat on Christmas Eve. Granted this has bacon it, but you get my point! When you are making clam chowder, be sure to check out this list of what to serve with clam chowder!
Ingredients in New England Clam Chowder
You only need a few simple ingredients that you can easily find in your local grocery store to make this easy New England clam chowder recipe.
- Bacon. Smoky bacon adds salt, flavor, and texture to this chowder. The onions and celery will be cooked in the bacon fat and the cooked bacon will be used as a garnish on the chowder right before serving.
- Chopped Clams. Canned clams are the unsung heroes of this dish. The cans are full of tender clams that you don't have to worry about washing and cooking. You can use fresh clams if you want, I'll explain how to cook those up a little later.
- Celery and Onion. This is classic in most chowder recipes. Celery and onion add flavor and texture to this Boston clam chowder.
- All Purpose Flour. The flour thickens to the soup to make it a chowder. Without the flour, this will be a very thin, seafood soup instead of a thick, creamy soup.
- Chicken Broth. Low sodium chicken broth is best so you do not oversalt the soup. If you have homemade chicken broth that is best, but store bought is great too.
- Idaho Potatoes. Russet potatoes, Yukon golds, or red potatoes can be used instead of Idaho potatoes.
- Heavy Cream. We want that luxurious, silky texture in this easy clam chowder recipe. Half and half or whole milk can be used, but you want to stay away from skim milk or low fat milk. We are indulging in this soup after all!
- Bay leaf. You aren't going to be eating the bay leaves, but they add a nice flavor to the creamy broth. Once the soup is cooked, we will remove the bay leaves before serving the soup.
See printable recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Step By Step Instructions
Add the bacon to a Dutch oven. Cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes. Take the bacon out of the pot with a slotted spoon and put it on a plate lined with paper towels.
Lower the heat in the pot to low heat and add the butter to the Dutch oven. Do not remove the bacon drippings. That's all flavor!
Let the butter melt and add the chopped celery and chopped onion. Cook until the onions are translucent, about another 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper or white pepper. Be sure to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
Meanwhile, drain the canned clams, reserving the clam juice in a separate bowl. Once the celery and onions have cooked for a bit, add the flour and stir. Let that cook for 2 minutes.
Add the broth, clam juice, potatoes, heavy cream, and bay leaves. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the soup has thickened and the potatoes are cooked. Add the drained clams to the soup and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Crumble the cooked bacon on top and serve immediately.
Tips For Making New England Clam Chowder
Don't let the chowder boil! Once the cream has been added to the pot, it's important to not let the chowder boil. If it boils, the cream will curdle and cause the chowder to be chunky.
If you want a thicker soup, add more flour to the pot. A thinner soup can be accomplished by adding less flour to the soup.
- Make it gluten free. If you are gluten free, use a cornstarch slurry of ¼ cup of cornstarch with ¼ cup of water instead of the flour. Add the cornstarch slurry at the end of the cooking process and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
- Change the bacon. Salt pork, pancetta, or you favorite bacon can all be used in this. You can even use smoked ham if you have that on hand.
- Use fresh clams. Wash the clams and add 2 inches of water to a large pot over medium heat. When the water boils, add the clams and cook for 8-10 minutes or until all the clams open. When they open, remove them from the pot and take the meat out of the shells. Chop them into small pieces and set them aside.
- Change the broth. You can use vegetable broth, vegetable stock, chicken broth, chicken stock, or even clam stock and seafood stock if you have some.
- Add more veggies! Leeks can be added to this and you can even add corn for a chowder that would resemble a cross between a clam chowder and a corn chowder. Sounds great to me!
Once the chowder is cooked, store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The next day, reheat the chowder on the stove until it is heated through.
I would not recommend freezing this soup. The dairy in the soup and the potatoes do not hold up well to freezing. This chowder is best made and enjoyed the same day.
What To Serve With New England Clam Chowder
- Top this chowder with fresh parsley, oyster crackers, and the crispy bacon.
- Serve the chowder in a sourdough bread bowl or a regular bread bowl.
- Bake up some sourdough dinner rolls, Instant Pot dinner rolls, whole wheat dinner rolls, 3 ingredient dinner rolls, or brioche dinner rolls to dip in the best clam chowder recipe!
- Stir in your favorite hot sauce for a spicy kick to this clam chowder.
- Make a loaf of crusty bread like sourdough bread, sourdough discard bread, Instant Pot bread, or kefir bread for your family to share.
Rubbery clams happen when the clams are overcooked. Add the clams to the soup at the end of the cooking process so they are not overcooked and therefore rubbery.
Don't be scared of adding salt. If you are using a low sodium chicken broth, you'll need to add more salt as the chowder cooks.
More Soup Recipes
Thick and Creamy New England Clam Chowder
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 4 Slices Bacon Thick Sliced
- 4 Celery Stalks Chopped
- 1 large Onion Chopped
- ⅓ cup Flour
- 2 Medium Idaho Potatoes Diced
- 2 cans Chopped Clams Drained, but liquid reserved
- 1 cup Heavy Cream or half and half
- 2 cups Chicken Broth Low Sodium
- Add the bacon to a Dutch oven. Cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes. Take the bacon out of the pot and put it on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Lower the heat in the pot to medium low and add the butter. Let the butter melt and add the chopped celery and chopped onion. Cook until the onions are translucent, about another 10 minutes. Be sure to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Meanwhile, drain the canned clams, reserving the clam juice in a separate bowl. Once the celery and onions have cooked for a bit, add the flour and stir. Let that cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the broth, clam juice, potatoes, heavy cream, and bay leaves.
- Cook for about 20 minutes or until the soup has thickened and the potatoes are cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the drained clams to the chowder and stir. Do not let the soup boil. Crumble the cooked bacon on top and serve immediately.