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April 11, 2023

Clam Chowder

Creamy, rich and satisfying, our clam chowder recipe really hits the spot. Just add bread bowls or oyster crackers and your day will be one hundred percent cozier!


A bowl of homemade clam chowder with a spoon topped with chives next to a plate of saltine crackers

A Creamy, Quick, Easy Clam Chowder Recipe

Classic clam chowder is a recipe that is dear to our hearts. For us, it’s a comfort food that holds very specific taste memories. You might have a favorite place to order it—a small coastal restaurant on trips to the beach, or maybe a local spot that makes a great bowl of chowdah. We love to order clam chowder out, but were delighted to discover that it’s really satisfying to make at home. It's surprisingly a great dinner party food, because it tastes even better after a day or two—the briny flavors develop in a really wonderful way. This homemade clam chowder recipe is the surprise make-ahead dinner party super star that you might not have considered making. Just make a great salad, like the Celery Pear and Hazelnut Salad or Easy Fennel Salad, and maybe an appetizer or two (think Bacon-Wrapped Scallops or Shrimp Louie) and your guests will be dazzled.

a bowl of homemade clam chowder with a spoon topped with sliced jalapeños and chives next to a plate of saltine crackers

What is Clam Chowder?

Trying to define exactly what “chowder” means can be a surprisingly challenging task. The clam chowder origin story is as murky as a bowl of creamy fish soup can be, but has been attributed to French settlers in the 17th century. Chowders vary from region to region, and fall anywhere on the spectrum from light and tomato-based like Manhattan clam chowder, to New England clam chowder which is more of a hearty stew. Today we’re focused on what most people probably think of as traditional clam chowder, the New England variety (some folks like to say that Boston clam chowder is the original clam chowder recipe and since we don’t want anyone to get wicked angry, that’s okay with us), which is cream enriched, and filled with hearty clams and potatoes.

clams, bacon, scallions, potatoes, corn, garlic, jalapeño, heavy cream, and spices in prep bowls for clam chowder

Classic, Simple Fresh Clam Chowder Ingredients

Our super easy clam chowder recipe also happens to be quite adaptable. You know we love a creamy soup with a kick (hellooooo Salmon Chowder!), but the jalapeños are very optional here. In the midst of all the butter, bacon fat, and cream, they don’t end up adding much heat. But if you prefer your chowder salty, smoky, briny and sans spice, just leave them out. If you don’t have easy access to good fresh clams (or want to save yourself a little work) just use canned clams in place of fresh. Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy clam chowder recipe:

  • Fresh or canned clams

  • Unsalted butter

  • Bacon

  • Scallions

  • Garlic

  • Yukon gold potatoes

  • Cornstarch

  • Frozen corn

  • Heavy cream

  • Stock (you’ll only need this if you decide to use canned clams instead of fresh)

clams that have been cooked in boiling water in a pot and being transferred to a bowl with a slotted spoon
bacon being cooked in melted butter in a pot
reserved clam cooking water being poured into a pot with cooked bacon, scallions, garlic, jalapeños, potatoes, salt & pepper
reserved clam water, cooked bacon, scallions, garlic, jalapeños, potatoes, salt and pepper being cooked in a large pot

How to Make Clam Chowder

The easiest clam chowder is one made with canned clams. Yes, we admit it! And yes, you can make this recipe with canned clams. However, if you’re willing to do just a little bit more work—and we do mean just a little—and use fresh clams, the chowder will be better. Why? Because you cook the clams in water and thus make a clam stock of sorts with which to flavor your clam chowder base! And boy oh boy, does it pay off! So let’s assume you’re going to use fresh clams. Here’s instructions for how to make the absolute best clam chowder you’ve ever tasted:

  1. Cook the clams! Any clams that don’t open on their own in the heat of the pot should be thrown out—they’re no good.

  2. Save the clam cooking water. Pop the clam meat out of the shells and throw out the shells, or clean them and let your kids play with them. Or line your garden with them! If you want to feed your soil with the shells, crush them up and add them to your flower beds—shells can be a good source of beneficial minerals for the garden.

  3. Make the chowder base! Fry the bacon in butter until crisp—don’t you love recipes that include that directive? Next, cook the aromatics in the butter-bacon fat drippings. Then in goes the clam cooking water, bacon and potatoes.

  4. Thicken. Add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch + water mixed together.

  5. At the last minute, you’ll add cream, corn and clams. Give the corn a minute to thaw, but don’t cook the chowder too long after adding the clams and cream—just a quick 3 minute simmer is all that’s needed.

  6. Serve!

reserved clam water, cooked bacon, scallions, garlic, jalapeños, potatoes, salt and pepper being cooked in a large pot
corn, heavy cream and clam meat being added to a large pot of clam chowder

Tools You’ll Need

We Have Soup On The Brain

Looking for more hearty soups filled with all of the good stuff? Here’s a few more great chowder recipes:

a pot of homemade clam chowder made with potatoes, scallions, bacon, jalapeños, corn, heavy cream and spices
a pot of homemade clam chowder made with potatoes, scallions, bacon, jalapeños, corn, heavy cream and spices

Happy As A Clam Chowder

You’re going to feel really proud of yourself when you make this clam chowder, we just know it. It can feel really exciting to replicate a favorite restaurant dish. If you make our New England clam chowder recipe, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Clam Chowder

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  40 min
  • Calories: 804


  • 2 pounds fresh small clams, such as Manila or 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of clams (see Note)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ pound bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 bunches scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1-inch pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Chives, for garnish
  • Oyster crackers, for serving (optional)


  1. In a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven, bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the clams and cover. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until clams have opened, about 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open after 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the opened clams to a large bowl to cool, reserving the water in the pot. Strain the water through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl and set aside.

  2. Once the clams have cooled, use your fingers or a small fork to remove the meat from the shells; roughly chop the meat. Discard the clam shells.

  3. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has started to brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease.

  4. Add the scallions, garlic, and jalapeños, if using, to the pot and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.

  5. Add the reserved clam cooking water, potatoes, salt, pepper and cooked bacon. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the soup, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the soup has thickened slightly.

  7. Reduce the heat down to low and stir in the corn, heavy cream, and clam meat. Simmer for another 3 minutes, or until creamy and the corn is tender.

  8. Divide between bowls and top with chives. Serve with oyster crackers on the side if using.

Note: This recipe can easily be made with canned clams as well, though we always prefer fresh! Strain the canned clams, reserving the liquid, then simply swap in 4 cups of stock (fish, chicken or veggie) and reserved clam liquid for the clam cooking water.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories804
  • Protein70 g
  • Carbohydrates40 g
  • Total Fat42 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol227 mg
  • sodium1082 mg
  • Total Sugars5 g

Clam Chowder

Questions & Reviews

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  • Brenda

    So good! We put the jalapeños on after so kids didn't get any. Everyone loved it.

    Thanks Brenda, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Mary

    I made this using canned clams and it was amazing! So delicious. It made the kitchen smell pretty great too.

    That's great, Mary! We are so glad that you loved it!

  • Jenn

    Love, love, love this recipe!

    Thanks Jenn, glad you love it!