Creamy, hearty, and WAY better than canned, this New England style clam chowder is soon to be your family’s new favorite soup recipe!
New England clam chowder is an ionic and hearty soup that can be a little intimidating to make at home. No more! Even using fresh clams, this soup is a fun way to enjoy a favorite homemade soup that’s creamy, satisfying, and full of amazing flavors!! Don’t want to use fresh clams? No worries, I’ve detailed how you can make this with canned clams as well.
It’s officially cold fall weather here… perfect soup weather. Clam chowder is an all-time favorite of mine… so creamy, flavorful, yet it still tastes fresh. I got a little adventurous on this one (well, for me anyway), as I’ve never made clam chowder at home before, and have never steamed my own fresh clams… like ever. I’m not a huge seafood person (I’m more of a chicken and beef gal), but I have a soft spot for clams… specifically, clam chowder and fried clam strips.
Our local grocery store didn’t have fresh clams, but luckily my husband works over near a crazy, awesome, grocery store called Jungle Jims. LOVE that store. He got us about 2 lbs. of fresh “live” clams, packed in some ice, and they hung out in my fridge for a few hours before steaming them.
BUT ISN’T STEAMING FRESH CLAMS HARD?
It’s actually super easy! Granted, it’s an extra step and pan, but in my opinion, it’s worth it for the great flavor. Just bring your clam ingredients to a boil, add your clams, cover them, and steam until they open up (took me about 6-7 minutes). If one or two doesn’t open up, just toss those, they’re not good. Drain your clams, scoop out the meat, and chop. You can also steam and chop your clams ahead of time. Just toss them in a little bit of olive oil and refrigerate… but I wouldn’t do that for too long, like a day maybe?
WOULDN’T CANNED CLAMS BE EASIER?
For sure! Plus, they’re more readily available and more economical. Down in the recipe notes section I’ve detailed how you can adapt this recipe to be made with canned clams, because, hey… we’re all busy, and sometimes, we really need a shortcut 🙂
To me, no soup is complete without some great toppings and dippers. So below are my favorite ways to top the chowder, as well as what to serve alongside.
- Top with oyster crackers – traditional, but it’s a classic topping for a reason… it’s tasty!
- Top with croutons – this may sound weird, but try it… it’s like a SUPER flavorful oyster cracker!
- Top with more bacon – because more bacon is always a good thing.
- Top with fresh parsley – I like to top rich dishes with a pop of something fresh like parsley.
- Serve with a big piece of crusty bread – perfect for dunking!
- Serve clam chowder IN a bread bowl – doesn’t get much better than that!
When you’re in the mood for something hearty and perfect for those chilly nights, give this homemade New England clam chowder recipe a try. Once you try homemade, you’ll never want the canned version again!!
OTHER COMFORTING SOUPS:
- Slow Cooker Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Slow Cooker Cheesy Ham Chowder
- Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana
- 30 Minute Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Soup
- Copycat Loaded Baked Potato Soup
- Le Creuset Dutch Oven – if your budget is open, I HIGHLY recommend this one… I own several pieces of Le Creuset and they’re all fantastic!
- Lodge Dutch Oven – a much more budget-friendly option, which is still a very quality pot!
Recipe originally published in 2014 and has been updated with new photos added as well.
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STEAMING THE CLAMS:
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 6 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 lbs. fresh, live clams (scrubbed clean)
- 6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 cup onions, finely diced
- 1 cup celery, finely diced
- 1 cup leeks, finely sliced
- 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups red potatoes, diced
- 3 cups chicken broth or stock
- 3/4 cup clam juice (bottled is fine)
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 Tbsp dried thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 3/4 cup steamed clams, chopped
- 1 quart half and half (4 cups)
STEAM THE CLAMS:
- Scrub your clams to get rid of any grit, set aside.
- Bring your water, chicken broth and garlic to a boil. Add your clams, cover, and steam until they open up (around 6-7 minutes).
- If one or two clams don't open up, toss those, they're not good. Drain your clams, scoop out the meat and chop.
- Over MED-LOW heat, add a small drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of a large dutch oven. Add bacon pieces and cook until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon (or tongs) to a paper towel lined plate, reserving drippings in pot.
- Increase heat to MED and add onion, celery and leeks and sauté about 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add flour and stir to coat vegetables. Cook 1 minute.
- Add potatoes, chicken broth, clam juice, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and tabasco sauce. Stir well, then bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover, simmering about 15 minutes or so, until potatoes are fork tender.
- Add half and half to chowder, along with the chopped clams, and stir well to combine.
- Increase heat to MED and cook, stirring often, about 3-5 minutes, or until heated through and thickened to desired consistency.
- Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with cooked bacon and enjoy!
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The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.