There's nothing quite as comforting as a steaming bowl of rich and creamy clam chowder on a chilly evening! When you are wondering what to serve with clam chowder, here's a list of 50 best side dishes you can make!
From hearty bread to refreshing salads and tantalizing seafood, here are some delicious choices to complement your hearty soup and turn a simple meal into a dining experience to remember.
On a cold, winter's night, there is nothing better than a big bowl of creamy clam chowder to warm you on the coldest of nights.
What To Serve With Clam Chowder
There are so many delicious recipes when thinking about what to serve with a bowl of clam chowder. Here are just a few ideas! There are lots of delicious recipes at the end of this post!
- Crusty Bread and Butter: A perfect accompaniment to soak up the rich flavors of the clam chowder. Serve clam chowder with some delicious garlic bread or buttery bread rolls. Crusty sourdough bread rolls are always a good idea!
- Side Salad with a Tangy Vinaigrette: A refreshing contrast to the creamy soup, balancing the meal with a burst of freshness. Whether a spinach salad, a colorful salad, or a classic Caesar salad, salads balance the creaminess of the thick soup.
- Garlic Parmesan Biscuits: A delectable treat to complement the comforting warmth of the clam chowder, adding a savory touch to the meal.
- Vegetables: Corn on the cob is classic with chowder, but broccoli, carrots, or roasted vegetable medley are all great options.
- Your favorite seafood dish. Whether it is bacon-wrapped scallops, shrimp skewers, shrimp cocktail with Instant Pot Shrimp, mussels mariniere, or fish tacos, seafood is a delightful addition to your dinner.
- Lobster Rolls. If you really want the New England experience, grab a lobster roll and serve it alongside a big bowl of clam chowder.
What is Clam Chowder
Clam chowder is a thick, creamy soup that originated in New England where clams are readily available. It consists of tender potatoes, juicy clams, and often bacon with bacon drippings. It is thickened with heavy cream and flour to give it that rich, creamy texture we come to expect from New England clam chowder. Because clam chowder is so thick and creamy, it can be used as a side dish or a main dish.
Everyone knows the creamy New England clam chowder, but there is also Manhattan clam chowder which is tomato based. The difference in the two chowders is that the key ingredient in New England clam chowder is the cream or dairy, but in Manhattan clam chowder it is thinner and has a tomato sauce base, not a creamy base.
Ingredients in Clam Chowder
You only need a few simple ingredients to make New England clam chowder that you can easily find in your local grocery store.
- 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. We will be using both the clams and the clam juice in this recipe.
- 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.
My Favorite Clam Chowder Recipe
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Instead of adding the flour to thicken the soup, add cornstarch to the soup and thicken.
Yes! To use fresh clams, fill a pot with one inch of water. Add the clams and boil them for 8-10 minutes or until the clams open. When they are open, remove them from the shells and add them to the chowder.
Yes! If you would like you can add leeks, chopped carrots, corn, or your families favorite veggies.
Clam Chowder Toppings
- Oyster crackers. The classic topping for a bowl of creamy chowder.
- Fresh herbs. Chopped fresh parsley or fresh chives.
- Bacon bits. Adding a little bacon to clam chowder will add a little more flavor and texture to this delicious soup.
- Crunchy Croutons or Garlic Crumbs: Sprinkle some seasoned croutons or crispy garlic crumbs on top of the chowder for some more texture.
- Hot sauce. If you are like me and you like your soups and chowders spicy, add some crushed hot pepper or your favorite hot sauce.
- Cheddar cheese. Grab some of your favorite shredded cheddar and add it on top of the soup.