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Quick and easy New England Clam Chowder
Creamy New England Clam Chowder recipe
New England Clam Chowder doesn’t have to be difficult to make to be delicious. This recipe brings all the flavor and creaminess without the hassle of finding and cooking hard-shell clams.
We start with bottled clam juice and good quality canned clams easily found in a well stocked grocery store. The end result is a chowder that delivers on flavor and consistency.
This chowder’s not thin and watery nor is it overly thick and floury. It’s creamy, tastes amazing and super easy to make! Add clam chowder to your menu this week!
Overview of ingredients:
Thick cut bacon: we use thick sliced, uncured and unflavored bacon for this recipe. Traditional recipes often use salt pork but we find that bacon enriches the flavor with a simple, subtle flavor we love. The bacon dripping are used to sauté the vegetables and flavor the broth.
However, if preferred, skip the bacon and use 1/4 cup of butter instead.
- Celery stalks chopped
- Onion: we recommend using a large Spanish onion (or yellow onion) which is more pungent than some varieties.
- Potatoes: for this chowder we use any waxy boiling potato like Yukon gold or red as they won’t fall apart as easily as russet potatoes.
- Chicken broth: homemade or canned chicken broth or stock will work in this recipe. If using low-sodium broth check the seasoning as this chowder needs some salt.
- Bottled clam juice: Bar Harbour Clam Juice is the only brand I can ever find at the grocery store and it’s always worked well for me.
- Fresh ground black pepper: we also recommend using lots of fresh ground black pepper in this chowder. It adds a nice bite and contrast to the creaminess of the broth.
- Fresh thyme leaves or use dried thyme if you don’t have fresh on hand.
- Half-and-half: or you can substitute 1 cup heavy cream combined with 1 cup whole milk. All whole milk can also be used for a lighter chowder.
- Canned chopped clams: we use two (6.5-ounce) cans of Bar Harbour Chopped Clams for this recipe. Be sure to rinse and drain the clams before adding to the chowder at the end. For the best texture take care not to boil the chowder after the clams are added as they may become rubbery if overcooked.
- Fresh parsley leaves for garnish
- Oyster crackers or saltines for serving
How to make New England Clam Chowder
TIP: Start by prepping all the ingredients.
This recipe comes together quickly so have everything chopped, measured, rinsed and drained before starting.
- Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels, chop and set aside.
2. Next add onions and celery in the bacon drippings over medium-high heat until tender. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant.
3. Add the potatoes, chicken broth, clam juice, black pepper and half the chopped, cooked bacon. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Combine the cornstarch with one cup of half-and-half. Pour into the pot and cook until the chowder thickens.
5. Reduce the heat, stir in the rinsed and drained claims and all remaining half-and-half. Heat until steaming but not boiling. Check the seasoning and add salt if needed.
Finally, serve garnished with crumbled bacon, plenty of fresh ground black pepper, parsley and oyster crackers.
Can you freeze clam chowder?
You can freeze this chowder, however we don’t recommend it as the half-and-half, seafood and potatoes are all a little fragile.
However, if you plan to freeze leftovers be sure they are completely cooled, well sealed and frozen the same day it’s made. It will keep for up to 3 months if stored properly.
This chowder keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How to reheat:
To reheat place the desired amount in a microwave safe bowl and heat on 50% power until steaming. You can also reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
Be careful that you don’t allow the chowder to boil as the clams will become rubbery.
Serve chowder well garnished and seasoned
This chowder is best served with plenty of fresh ground black pepper, crumbled bacon and oyster crackers for an authentic touch.
It’s also great served with plain saltine crackers or a hunk of crusty Artisan bread for sopping up all the broth.
This recipe also needs some salt so check before serving to ensure it’s well seasoned.
Can you use fresh clams in this chowder?
Clams spawn during the spring and summer leaving them weak, and off-flavored. While they recover from their spawning phase quickly, they should be avoided from late spring through mid-summer.Cook’s Illustrated
If you have access to fresh, in-season clams you’ll need 7 pounds of medium-size hard-shells clams such as littleneck, top neck or small cherrystone clams.
Bring the washed and scrubbed claims to a boil in a large covered soup pot with 3 cups of water. Steam the clams just until open then transfer to a large bowl.
Cool slightly then remove the claims from their shells over a bowl to catch the juice. Discard the shells.
Mince the clams and set aside.
Pour the claim broth into a measuring cup leaving the last bit in the pot to avoid any grainy sediment. Use this broth and claims in place of the chicken broth, clam juice and canned claims in the recipe below.
Continue with the recipe by frying the bacon, adding the vegetables, etc.
New England Clam Chowder
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 3 stalks celery chopped
- 1 large Spanish onion chopped
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 4 medium waxy potatoes peeled and cubed
- 14.5 ounces chicken broth
- 8 ounces bottled clam juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups half-and-half divided
- 2 6 1/2 ounce cans chopped clams rinsed and drained
- fresh parsley leaves chopped
- Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven until crisp. Remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Chop the bacon and set half aside to garnish each serving and the other half to add back into the soup with the potatoes.
- Over medium-high heat sauté the celery and onion in the bacon drippings until tender; about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and thyme leaves and sauté for a minute or until fragrant.
- Add the potatoes, chicken broth, clam juice, pepper and half the chopped, cooked bacon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.
- In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch with 1 cup half-and-half until blended. Gradually stir the mixture into the pot. Bring the chowder to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the rinsed and drained claims and remaining 1 cup half-and-half. Heat until steaming but not boiling as the clams may become rubbery. Check the seasoning and add salt if needed.
- Top each serving with the reserved crumbled bacon, plenty of fresh ground black pepper, oyster crackers and parsley if using.
Easy to make New England Clam Chowder
This hearty recipe comes together in about an hour and serves 6 hungry folks. Made with convenience foods like bottled clam juice and canned clams, it couldn’t be easier to make.
Skip the dairy and make Manhattan Clam Chowder with tomatoes, potatoes with both fresh and canned clams.
For those that can’t eat seafood, we have a wonderful recipe for an ultra-creamy Cheesy Corn and Potato Chowder that everyone loves.
Originally published February 2012, updated February 2022