Classic New England Clam Chowder

New England clam chowder
Armstrong Studios/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
353 Calories
15g Fat
35g Carbs
20g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 353
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 9g 44%
Cholesterol 69mg 23%
Sodium 538mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 11mg 57%
Calcium 151mg 12%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 1133mg 24%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Often imitated but never duplicated, clam chowder is one of the world's best comfort foods - especially for anyone who grew up in New England. At the same time, subpar clam chowder runs rampant throughout home kitchens and restaurants: too thick, rubbery clams, overpowering bacon flavor, too thin, etc. This recipe will help to assuage any of those concerns and deliver one of the best bowls of clam chowder you're ever had.

Chowder has been enjoyed for a very, very, very long time. While clams weren't originally the starring ingredient, they certainly are now! The first published recipe for chowder comes from a 1751 printing of the Boston Evening Post. Of course, clam chowder is now hotly contested throughout many regions, and some even boast chowder competitions in which people cook with aplomb to ensure the first place prize. An ideal bowl is redolent of briny, fresh clams, a vegetal backdrop dotted with celery, onion, and garlic soup classics, porky-ness from bacon, and a rich, sumptuous broth that screams to be sipped directly form the bowl. Potatoes are a wonderful accompaniment that help to further thicken and flavor the soup, as well as provide some chew and texture. A bay leaf (or a few) is almost always required, too. Of course, you can use almost any type of fresh clam, but canned work out just as well. Don't forget the oyster crackers!

You can use almost any type of fresh clam, but canned work out just as well. Dairy is a relatively modern addition - while a creamy consistency is the trademark appearance of a classic clam chowder, it wasn't always like that. Still, many other chowders nowadays don't contain any dairy at all. Whether it's the addition of the clam or the fact that the dish originates in New England, the dairy component has now become non-negotiable. And we think that the dish is all the better for it!

As far as garnish, you can't go wrong with oyster crackers, but some freshly chopped herbs (like chives) would work beautifully, as well as perhaps some additional crispy bacon. Of course, the dish isn't inherently the healthiest because of the dairy and pork product, but it's by no means an egregiously unhealthy meal. Be careful with seasoning—the bacon and caned clams can both be salty, so you may not need to add as much when you're seasoning. Just be mindful!

If you're a vegetarian, feel free to leave out the bacon. You can also omit the clams, but we think that'd kind of defeat the purpose of clam chowder? Another great swap would be plant-based butter, cream, or milk to take the soup to an entirely vegan level. Store leftovers in an air-tight container and enjoy rich, comforting chowder all week long.


  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups water

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • Dash freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

  • 2 cups half-and-half

  • 2 cups canned, minced clams, drained, juice reserved

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In​ a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until almost crisp.

  3. Reduce heat to low, add 1 tablespoon butter, onions, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to brown onions. Add flour and cook for 2 more minutes.

  4. Whisk in water and reserved clam juice, and once combined, add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered until potatoes are tender.

  5. Reduce heat to very low, add half-and-half, rest of butter, and clams, and cook until heated through. Do not boil! Turn off heat, adjust seasoning, and serve hot.