Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Rhode Island Clam Chowder Recipe

As with fried chicken or barbecue in the South, the finer points of making clear-broth clam chowder inspire intense debate among Rhode Islanders. The question of whether it’s best to chop, mince, or grind the clams can prompt arguments so impassioned, a full-blown melée complete with quahogs pinging off foreheads isn’t out of the question. Purists insist salt pork is the only acceptable fat. Others thwart tradition and use vegetable oil, bacon, or butter. Varying opinions about the proper size of potato cubes abound. A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce is hailed by some, disdained by others. And in certain quarters, the mere mention of fresh herbs can trigger a level of scorn usually reserved for Yankees fans in this decidedly Red Sox-obsessed state. You decide.–Laurie Jones

Rhode Island Clam Chowder Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 35 M
  • 1 H, 25 M
  • Serves 6 to 8


  • 10 to 12 quahogs in the shell
  • 1/4 pound salt pork, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


  • 1. Scrub the quahogs and rinse clean under cold running water. Discard any that aren’t tightly closed. Put the quahogs in a stockpot and cover with 6 cups of cool water. Bring to a simmer over medium- to medium-high heat. Cover the pot and cook just until the quahogs open, about 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t overcook. Immediately remove the quahogs from the pot.
  • 2. When cool enough to touch, remove the cooked quahog meat from the shells and chop it into 1/8-inch dice. Set aside.
  • 3. Cover the stockpot and place over low heat to keep the broth-infused water warm while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  • 4. In a skillet, cook the salt pork over medium heat until the fat renders and the meat is browned and crisp. Remove and set aside. Add the onions to the skillet and saute until they’re translucent but not colored.
  • 5. When the onions are cooked, scrape them, along with any brown bits stuck to the skillet, into the clam broth. If necessary, deglaze the frying pan with a ladle of broth and then pour the liquid back into the stockpot.
  • 6. Bring the broth to a gentle boil over medium-high heat and add the potatoes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the salt pork. Season with the pepper and the Worcestershire sauce.
  • 7. Add the cooked quahogs and heat through for a minute. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve immediately. Or, if you prefer, let cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat the next day.
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  1. David Leite says:

    Wicked cool. Shopped using my iPhone as an ingredients list for the Rhode Island Clam Chowder. On my way home to cook. Gotta love technology.

    • Billy DiPanni says:

      I am not sure why they call this RI clam chowder; most of us here eat red chowder…not Manhattan but Rocky Point style.

      Rocky Point-Style Clam Chowder
      1/4 pound salt pork, minced fine
      3 medium onions
      1 garlic clove
      Old Bay Seasoning, (optional)
      1 quart quahog or clam juice
      Water about 1 cup or more–taste the broth first to see if it needs any at all.
      2 pints shucked quahogs cut up small or 1 pint clams and 1 pint quahogs
      About 5 medium potatoes cut into small cubes, old potatoes are best
      Pilot crackers or crushed up oyster crackers about 1/2- 3/4 cup or as needed to thicken
      1 can tomato soup or tomato sauce
      Black pepper

      1. In a medium pot, fry the salt pork till browned well.

      2. Throw in the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. You can, if you like, add a teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning.

      3. Add the clam juice and water. Bring to a simmer and add the quahogs or clams or or a mix of both, cook for 15 minutes.

      4. Add the potatoes, cracker crumbs, tomato soup and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes till done. Stir it so the crackers disintegrate and thicken the chowder. Also break up a few of the potatoes, as that also thickens it nicely. Add pepper to taste.

      5. Serve with clam cakes and more oyster crackers. I worked at the Rocky Point Chowder Hut in the 1980’s and this is same as theirs only they made it in 50-gallon batches.

      • David Leite says:

        Thanks, Billy. I grew up in Swansea, MA, and spent many a weekend in Rhode Island. Clear-broth clam chowder is what I had in many parts of the state. But…I have, indeed, had Rocky Point-stye chowder–which yours is an excellent example of–at Rocky Point. Thanks for adding the recipe to our chowder arsenal.

        • Billy DiPanni says:

          I still go Quahoging and Clamming mostly in Warwick. Many old timers still like the clear chowder best. The clear chowder was the most popular when I was a kid in the 40’s, but most places now sell the red or the white. I like them all, but the red is my favorite. Actually, it’s rather a pink red. I dislike the Manhattan, at least the ones I’ve had so far, as they remind me of vegetable soup. Speaking of Swansea, my favorite dish of all time is the 3-lb baked stuffed lobster at the Venus De Milo. It is absolutely the best I’ve ever had–and I’ve had many. They stuff the lobster with lobster not just cracker crumbs! Most places just give you a ton of cracker crumb, theirs has huge chunks of lobster inside the stuffing, it’s like getting two lobsters in one! What could be better?

          • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

            Billy, I honestly can’t think of anything that’d be better than lobster stuffed with lobster!

          • Billy DiPanni says:

            There is one place in Newport, RI called the Barking Crab that has a 10lb lobster served with 4 lbs of King Crab legs. I went there for my birthday and it was so good! Then there’s my other favorite of all time, Custy’s Seafood in Westerly, RI they have an all you can eat lobster buffet for 79.95, the 60 foot buffet table also has all the colossal tiger shrimp cocktail and juicy prime rib you can eat along with about 30 kinds of dessert! I am getting hungry just thinking about it. Stop in some day you won’t regret it.

            • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

              Billy, I was just yesterday flipping through Jane and Michael Stern’s most recent book in search of seafood joints along the East Coast for a road trip my husband and I want to take. I think we’ll be adding a couple stops in RI thanks to you…and I’m certain we won’t be the only ones who’ve read your comment and feel compelled to try it! I’ll report back with my awe and gratitude, and expect everyone else to as well, but in the meantime, thank you, Billy.

      • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

        I, too, know folks from RI who swoon to the clear chowder…and yet your version is making me wish I grew up near Rocky Point, Billy. Sounds really lovely…

  2. Sean says:

    I know no true Rhode Islander who eats red chowder. Not sure where you get “most of us” from. :)

  3. robert tavares says:

    That doesnt even resemble “clam chowdah”!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Actually, Robert, Rhode Island clam chowdah, or chowder, is traditionally unlike the classic New England clam chowder. Whereas the latter is the classic creamy chowder one tends to think of and to see on menus, the Rhode Island version is made with a clear broth—clam juice and water, naturally. It’s a little like New England clam chowder but without the cream or milk. Those who tend to favor this approach—including myself—feel the relatively wan broth doesn’t obstruct the briny flavors of the sea. So while not the chowdah that you think of, it is, indeed, still chowder, at least as far as Rhode Islanders are concerned.

      • Mary says:

        Grew up in Conn. with a sea loving father who was also a short order cook. This is the clam chowder he made (although no Worcestershire sauce) and it is still the BEST chowder ever. Served in a chowder mug, it IS the briny flavors of the sea! AHH!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Lovely memory, Mary. You paint a charming picture of your childhood, thanks for sharing….

  4. Lisa S says:

    I will never find quahog clams here in NY. If I use littlenecks, how many do you think I need? I am so making this. Love your blog…keep it up!

    • David Leite says:

      Hi, Lisa S. It all depends, of course, upon size. The smaller the littleneck, the more prized they are for eating raw. But you want some bivalve meatiness in this and should go for the larger ones. I’d say try between 25 to 35 littlenecks.

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