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Clam Chowder

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 40 min
  • Calories: 804
a bowl of homemade clam chowder topped with fresh jalapeño with a spoon in it next to bowls of oyster crackers and chives

Briny, creamy, rich and satisfying, our clam chowder recipe really hits the spot. Just add bread bowls!

A Creamy, Quick, Easy Clam Chowder Recipe

Clam chowder is a real classic. You might have favorite places to order it—a small coastal restaurant that specializes in it, or maybe a local spot that features clam chowder every Friday night? We love to order clam chowder out—particularly at the beach—it’s also really satisfying to make at home. It’s comfort food for a lot of use and it’s surprisingly great dinner party food, too. It even tastes better after a day or two—the briny flavors develop and cohere in a really wonderful way—so surprise! Clam chowder is the make-ahead dinner party super star recipe you’ve never thought of before.

Diced potatoes, corn, jalapeño, cream, butter, bacon, scallions, clams, cornstarch, salt and pepper in bowls on the counter

What is Clam Chowder?

Trying to define exactly what “chowder” means can be a surprisingly hairy task. Manhattan clam chowder—brothy, light, tomato-based—is so different from New England clam chowder—creamy, hearty, stew-like—that they seem hardly related at all, save for the inclusion of clams. Today we’re focused purely on what most people probably think of as classic clam chowder, that is to say the New England variety, which is super rich and cream and filled with meaty, briny clams and potatoes. Who knew that something that can fairly be described as a chunky, cream-laden shellfish stew could taste as good as clam chowder objectively does?!

boiled clams that have opened up in a heavy bottomed stock pot
boiled clams in a fine mesh sieve next to a bowl of the reserved clam cooking water
chopped bacon being browned in butter in a heavy bottomed stock pot
jalapeños, garlic and scallions being cooked in bacon fat in a heavy bottomed stock pot

Classic, Simple Fresh Clam Chowder Ingredients

Our super easy clam chowder recipe just so happens to also 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. The clam chowder will be ever so slightly less delicious, but delicious nonetheless. 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)

clam cooking water, cooked bacon, potatoes, salt and pepper being stirred in with cooked scallions, garlic and jalapeños
clam cooking water, cooked bacon, potatoes, salt and pepper being stirred in with cooked scallions, garlic and jalapeños
all ingredients for homemade clam chowder in a stock pot including clams, bacon, corn, cream, potatoes, garlic and scallions
a pot of homemade clam chowder made with clams, bacon, corn, cream, potatoes, garlic, scallions, jalapeños, salt and pepper

How to Make Clam Chowder

So 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 how to make the absolute best clam chowder you’ve ever tasted:

  1. Cook the clams! Any clams that don’t open happily 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—don’t you love recipes that include that directive?—and then cook the aromatics in the butter-bacon fat mixture. Then in goes the clam cooking water, bacon and potatoes.

  4. Add a cornstarch + water slurry to thicken the chowder.

  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!

a bowl of homemade clam chowder topped with fresh jalapeño with a spoon in it next to bowls of oyster crackers and chives
a bowl of homemade clam chowder topped with fresh jalapeño with a spoon in it next to bowls of oyster crackers and chives

Tools You’ll Need

More Chowder Recipes to Try

a bowl of homemade clam chowder topped with fresh jalapeño with a spoon in it next to bowls of oyster crackers and chives

Try This Wicked Good Chowder Recipe, Ya Chowda Heads!

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 and clam chowder isn’t really hard to make. 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!

Clam Chowder

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

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs fresh small clams, such as Manila OR 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of clams (see note at the bottom of the cooking method)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 bunches scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into a one-inch dice
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • chives, for garnish
  • oyster crackers, optional

Method

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the clams and cover the pot. Turn the heat to medium and cook until clams have opened up, about 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open after 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the opened clams to a large bowl to cool, and leave the water you cooked them in in the pot. Then, pour the clam cooking water through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl and set it aside.

  2. Once the clams have cooled, use your fingers or a small fork to remove the meat from the shells and set it aside in a small bowl. Discard the clam shells.

  3. Wipe out the pot or Dutch oven and place it on the stove over medium heat. Add butter and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has started to brown, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving any rendered fat and butter in the pot.

  4. Add jalapeños (if using) scallions and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook, stirring often, until peppers, onions and garlic are softened, about 4 minutes.

  5. Add the reserved clam cooking water, potatoes, salt, pepper and cooked bacon. Turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and ¼ cup of water to form a slurry. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the pot. Turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil. Let the soup boil for about 2 minutes to thicken slightly.

  7. Roughly chop the clam meat.

  8. Turn the heat down to low. The chowder should be at a gentle simmer now. Stir in the corn, heavy cream and clam meat, and simmer for 3 more minutes to let the chowder come together. Remove from heat. Serve topped with fresh chives or extra scallions, and oyster crackers on the side.

Note: This recipe can easily be made with canned clams instead of fresh clams! Simply swap four cups of stock (fish, chicken or veggie) in for the clam cooking water and use two 6.5-ounce cans of clams, liquid reserved in place of the fresh clams. Add the reserved clam juice at the same time you would add the stock.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 804
  • Protein 70 g
  • Carbohydrates 40 g
  • Total Fat 42 g
  • Dietary Fiber 3 g
  • Cholesterol 227 mg
  • sodium 1082 mg
  • Total Sugars 5 g

Clam Chowder

Questions & Reviews

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  • 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!