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New England Clam Chowder

4.76 from 41 votes
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posted: 02/06/19

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This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

This New England Clam Chowder is the absolute best! This easy clam chowder recipe makes perfect comfort food for a cold night.

Made with bacon, plenty of potatoes, and with just the right amount of cream, you will be a chowder master with my instructions for how to make clam chowder.

small white soup bowl full of new england clam chowder recipe and garnished with parsley

THE BEST NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

This recipe has been a favorite in our house for ages! It is far and away Nathan’s favorite dinner recipe.

What makes this the best clam chowder recipe you ask? Simple. The roux starts out with bacon! A roux is the mixture of fat and flour to create a thickening agent.

That fat is often butter, like in my Chicken Noodle Casserole, but in this amazing clam chowder, it is bacon fat. The bacon fat works perfectly to make a nice creamy base for this soup while adding tons of flavor.

overhead view of pot of clam chowder recipe

HOW TO MAKE NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

It was actually my husband who first started making this soup. I had never been a big fan because the broth was so liquidy and thin. New England Clam Chowder should have a nice and thick creamy broth.

And then one day I watched Nathan make it. After combining the bacon fat and the flour, he just poured in the clam juice in one big fell swoop. (Cue the horror face emoji.)

The key to this recipe working well is to add the clam juice really slowly. I’m talking like two tablespoons at a time when you first start adding it. You want it to be a nice gummy mess with the little bit of clam juice being absorbed each time before you add in more.

Do you see how creamy it is in the photos? That’s what you are going for.

MAKING THE BEST NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

  1. Add the diced thick cut bacon to the preheated stock pot.
  2. Cook until crisp. Add in the onions and celery, cooking until they are tender. Add in the garlic, cooking for 30 seconds making sure not to burn it.
  3. Mix in the flour.
  4. Very slowly stir in the clam juice. Start with about two tablespoons at a time, whisking it in until the liquid is absorbed and then adding more. At the end you can add more at a time and more quickly.
  5. Add the thyme, potatoes, and two bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the clams and heavy cream and enjoy!

Once you have made it a few times, you’ll be able to make it in your sleep!

overhead view of clam chowder soup in a small soup bowl

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER SUBSTITUTIONS

  • My husband hates onions and isn’t a huge fan of celery or parsley, so when I’m making it for just him, I leave all of that out.
  • He loves potatoes, so I add a few more of those than this recipe calls for.
  • You can substitute chicken stock for the clam juice. It lessens the clam taste a little, but saves a bundle as clam juice can be expensive. On the other hand, I’ve had people tell me I’m a heathen for this. It’s your call.

DO I HAVE TO USE BACON?

I guess that you can do this without bacon. (But WHY?!?)

Start your recipe by melting 3 tablespoons of butter, and then start sautéing your vegetables. Carry on from there as normal. It is very likely that you will need to season your final soup with a bit of salt.

CAN I USE REGULAR MILK INSTEAD OF HEAVY CREAM?

Please don’t. Without heavy cream, you just aren’t going to get that final creamy soup that I know you want.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CLAM CHOWDER

This recipe is great with bread for dipping. These one hour dinner rolls or my homemade beer bread would both be perfect.

I also love having a salad with my soup. Either this spinach salad or my winter salad would be delicious on the side.

If you make this soup or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear from you!

two bowls of the best clam chowder recipe

small white soup bowl full of new england clam chowder recipe and garnished with parsley
4.76 from 41 votes

New England Clam Chowder

Serves: 6 bowls
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
This New England Clam Chowder is the absolute best!  This easy clam chowder recipe makes perfect comfort food for a cold night.  Made with bacon, plenty of potatoes, and with just the right amount of cream, you will be a chowder master with my instructions for how to make clam chowder.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon diced into small pieces
  • 3 cups clam juice or chicken stock see note
  • 4 6.5 oz cans of chopped clams, liquid reserved (see step 2)
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes about five medium diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 TBSPs well minced parsley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • In a large stew pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring often.
  • While the bacon is cooking, drain the clam juice from the canned clams into a measuring cup. You will need approximately 3 cups more of clam juice or chicken stock to get a total of 4 1/2 cups of liquid.
  • Add the diced celery and onions, cooking until they are translucent and very soft.
  • Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, being careful that the garlic doesn't burn.
  • Stir in the flour, coating all of the veggies and the bacon. Continue cooking about a minute until the flour begins to brown.
  • EXTREMELY gradually, pour in the clam juice (or clam juice/chicken stock mixture). Pour about two tablespoons at a time (no need to measure, this is just an estimate), whisking it into the flour veggie mixture. There should be no visible liquid between each pour. The veggies should look like a gummy mess. Continue this way until you use all the liquid, pouring more quickly at the end.
  • Add the potatoes, thyme, and bay leaves and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil (you are looking for big bubbles at the surface). Then reduce to a simmer (the lowest you can go heat wise and still see bubbles) and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  • Stir in the cream and chopped clams, and let heat through for a minute. Remove from the heat stir in the fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

As mentioned in the post, if you are looking for a budget friendly version of this recipe you can use the clam juice from the clams and get the rest of your liquid from chicken stock.
Calories: 359kcal (18%) Carbohydrates: 34.2g (11%) Protein: 13.2g (26%) Fat: 16.1g (25%) Saturated Fat: 8g (50%) Monounsaturated Fat: 4.7g Cholesterol: 50.8mg (17%) Sodium: 1207.4mg (52%) Potassium: 487mg (14%) Fiber: 2.8g (12%) Sugar: 2.1g (2%) Vitamin A: 113IU (2%) Vitamin C: 34mg (41%) Calcium: 31.6mg (3%) Iron: 2.8mg (16%)
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American

Video

small white soup bowl full of new england clam chowder recipe and garnished with parsley

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New England Clam Chowder

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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

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  1. Ron says

    5 stars
    I think it’s awesome, just because I made it! Everything I make is heavenly! Great recipe
    I added a shredded carrot for looks and taste! Mmmmmmm!

  2. Pat says

    5 stars
    This is my go to recipe for clam chowder. Who knew it would be my daughters favorite! Excellent!

    • Lisa Longley says

      So glad to hear that, Pat!

  3. Pat says

    Love the recipes steady and good

  4. Danielle says

    My husband and I are Clam Chowder snobs. I decided to attempt to make it for the first time ever. This recipe is devine! I followed it to a T. Thank you for sharing this recipe. My husband says this is are ipe you should want to hide and not share! Sooo good!!

    • Lisa Longley says

      I am so happy you enjoyed it!

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