This Creamy New England Clam Chowder has the perfect texture, without being too rich! The bacon adds great, smoky flavor. Don’t miss this family favorite!
My hubby is from New England and swears this is the best clam chowder recipe. That’s just what I want to hear!
I’ve been making this for years, in a nice big pot, so my family can enjoy the leftovers for lunch. The flavor is even better the next day!
Think smoky bacon, savory onions, chunky potatoes and delicious clams in a creamy soup that’s not too heavy. Yum!
Let’s break this chowdah down.
Clams: I use canned clams for convenience, price and availability. I recommend buying whole, baby clams (affiliate link), since they’re the next best thing to fresh clams. You can substitute chopped clams, but the pieces will be smaller.
Draining and rinsing the canned clams gets rid of chemicals and excess sodium.
Bottled clam juice: This has no additives and less salt than the juice in cans of clams. Don’t worry, the chowder will be seasoned perfectly!
Potatoes: Feel free to use russet, Yukon gold or red potatoes. Some people claim russet is best for chowder, but I’ve had success with other varieties too.
Onions: Use yellow or red for a stronger flavor, or white for a more mild taste. Don’t use sweet onions, because they’ll make the soup too sweet.
Bacon: This brings a wonderful, smoky accent to the chowder, but you can skip it if needed.
Cream: We’re using just enough to provide a creamy texture, without going overboard.
Milk: I use 1% milk, which works really well with the cream. If you prefer a richer chowder, you can use 2% or whole milk.
We love our chowder this lightened up way, though, and don’t miss a thing.
Flour: I use all-purpose flour to thicken the chowder. You could use gluten-free flour, if needed.
How to make it
- Brown the bacon in a large pot. Remove the cooked bacon to drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Add chopped onions, cubed potatoes, clam juice, Worcestershire and seasonings. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.
- When the potatoes are tender, mash some of them to thicken the soup.
4. Add the flour, cream and milk to a blender.
5. Blend to combine.
6. Add the milk mixture to the pot and stir until the chowder is thickened and starting to boil. Add drained clams, bring to a boil again and cook another couple of minutes. Top each serving with bacon.
What to serve with it
This homemade clam chowder is hearty enough to be served as a main dish, with a nice salad on the side. If you prefer to have it as a starter, you could follow it with oven-fried cod, broiled scallops or even steak pinwheels.
Can you freeze it?
If the chowder didn’t have potatoes, it would be more suitable for freezing. Since this has potatoes, it’s best to just refrigerate the leftovers and use them within three days.
New England vs. Manhattan
New England clam chowder, sometimes called Boston chowder, is made with cream, as you see here. Manhattan clam chowder is made with tomatoes and no cream.
Other delicious soup recipes
(Recipe Source: Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1989. Originally published here on October 23, 2014 and updated now with new photos and text.)
Creamy New England Clam Chowder Recipe
- 5 cups peeled cubed potatoes (from about 10 medium red potatoes; also can use Russet or Yukon gold)
- 2 cups chopped onion (from about 1 1/2 large white, yellow or red onions)
- 6 slices lean center-cut bacon
- 3 10-ounce cans whole baby clams
- 2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (crushed)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups 1% milk (for a richer soup, you can use 2% or whole milk)
- 2 cups whipping cream (not heavy)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- red pepper flakes (to taste)
- Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel and chop the onion.
- Cut the bacon in half with scissors. Heat a tall soup pot on the stove on medium high and add the bacon, cooking it until it is crisp. (Wash your hands after touching any raw bacon.) Place the cooked bacon on a paper-towel lined plate.
- Keep two tablespoons of bacon grease in the pot and remove any extra with a spoon. (Discard extra grease in a container instead of pouring it down your sink.) Lower the heat and carefully add in the clam juice, so it doesn't splash. Stir in the potatoes, onions, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaf. Place the heat on high, cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil.
- Then, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. (While the potatoes are cooking, you can blot the bacon and cut it into smaller pieces. Also, drain and rinse the clams.)
- The potatoes are done when you can easily stick a fork in one. Using a potato masher, mash some of the cooked potatoes, leaving others in chunks.
- Add milk, cream and flour to a blender and mix just until smooth. Add the mixture to the soup pot and stir. Continue stirring, cooking the soup until it's thickened and starting to boil. Stir in the clams. When the pot returns to boiling, reduce the heat and let the chowder cook 2 more minutes. Season with red pepper flakes to taste.
- Serve clam chowder in bowls with bacon sprinkled on top and red pepper flakes at the table. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. It's best not to freeze this, because it includes chunks of potatoes, which will cause the soup to get dry.
More clam recipes
If you’re a clams lover, check out these recipes: