This New England Clam Chowder is the absolute best! This easy chowder recipe is 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.
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.
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
- Add the diced thick cut bacon to the preheated stock pot.
- 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.
- Mix in the flour.
- 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.
- Add the thyme, potatoes, and two bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- 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!
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
If you make this soup or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear from you!
New England Clam Chowder
- 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
- 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.