New England Clam Chowder

New England clam chowder is a classic creamy soup made with clams, bacon, potatoes, leeks, shallot, white wine, and cream base that’s luxuriously creamy. This recipe adds poblano peppers for a little kick. Cold weather comfort food at its finest.

A bowl of creamy New England clam chowder with clams, potatoes, leeks, shallots, cream, and chives

This New England clam chowder recipe, put simply, is a classic. No other way to say it, no other way to make it. Rich, luxuriously creamy, and exactly the right proportion of clams to everything else. We know several folks who are calling it quits in their search for the best clam chowder recipe after trying this one. Originally published September 29, 2014.Renee Schettler Rossi

*How To Buy Clams For Making New England Clam Chowder

Typically, quahog clams or cherrystone clams are the best for clam chowder since they’re larger and yield more meat for the buck. If you buy the clams whole from the seafood counter, chop the meat roughly before using. Buying freshly chopped clams can save you some time and energy. Though fresh clams are usually pretty easy to find at most fishmongers, canned clams are a decent substitute and will save some money.

New England Clam Chowder

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 10 to 12
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Ingredients

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  • 6 ounces bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 oz)
  • 4 shallots, diced fairly finely (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup; optional)
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned well and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 quart (4 cups) clam juice
  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk, preferably whole
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 dashes store-bought or homemade hot sauce, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 to 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 2 pounds fresh quahog or cherrystone clams*, chopped, or eight 6 1/2-ounce cans clams with liquid reserved, chopped (if using canned, drain the juice from the clams and reserve it for use in place of some of the clam juice called for above)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • Saltine or oyster crackers, for serving

Directions

  • 1. Heat the bacon in a large pot over medium heat until it renders its fat and browns a little. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pot just before it gets crisp.
  • 2. To the same pot, still over medium heat, add the butter, shallots, poblano pepper if using, leeks, and garlic until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
  • 3. Sprinkle the flour over the ingredients in the pot and quickly stir to incorporate the flour into the butter. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, without letting the flour brown.
  • 4. Add the white wine to the pot, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze it, and cook until the wine reduces slightly. Add the clam juice (if using canned clams, use the liquid as part of the total amount of clam juice), cream, milk, and potatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Season with a few heavy shakes hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, if using, and gently simmer—do not let it boil!—until the potatoes are tender, roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Add the bacon and the clams to the pot and simmer an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Add salt to taste and serve with more hot sauce and the crackers, if desired.

Recipe Testers Reviews

Wow. This New England clam chowder recipe was amazing! Filling and warming and making me yearn for a blanket and fire!

My Grammy always used to make us clam chowder whenever we'd visit, so this recipe caught my eye. It's much better than her version—I used fresh clams, which I think makes a huge difference, though I'd never share that fact with her! My grocery store didn't have any quahog or cherrystone clams, so I made do with littlenecks. It was a huge time saver to have them removed from their shells and chopped.

I didn't use poblano as I wanted my 2-year-old to try this. We didn't miss it at all because we could add our own heat by way of hot sauce to each of our individual bowls. For the wine, I used a New Zealand sauvignon blanc that we already had open. I chopped my potatoes pretty small (1/4 to 1/2 inch dice) so they were perfectly cooked by 12 minutes. I then added the bacon and clams and the entire thing was done in another 5 minutes.

Rather than using crackers, we served the clam chowder with a fresh baguette and butter as well as an arugula salad. I will be printing this recipe for the family binder as it's one that I'll turn to over and over again. I love when a recipe is this much of a winner.

There should be a special category for recipes like this called “Absolutely Amazing!” I've been trying to find a New England clam chowder recipe that approaches the clam chowder we had years ago along the northern coast of California. I've tried making different recipes. We've tried ordering it in restaurants in the Bay Area as well as up and down the coast, including places that are known for their clam chowder. We've never found anything that comes close. Until this recipe came along.

Not wanting to make enough clam chowder for 10 to 12 people, I cut the recipe in half. Perhaps I should have made the recipe as written, because the 2 of us finished the chowder the day after I made it—and we didn’t really have enough that second day. I used Sauvignon blanc for white wine. I had a huge can of what was called “restaurant-style chopped clams.” I sure wish that I could find them again—I have been looking—because they were large, plump, and so very tender. Draining the clam broth from the can gave me all of the juice I needed for the recipe.

The finished product was “Absolutely Amazing!” All of the ingredients worked together beautifully. They just worked. We served this with a lovely Viognier made by someone who knows how to deal with that grape. (Many winemakers seem to want to make Viognier taste like Chardonnay.) That particular wine with that chowder was a match made in heaven.

I can't vouch for the authenticity of this New England clam chowder recipe, but I will vouch for the taste.

The poblanos were definitely an unexpected element but they worked. I diced them quite finely. In the future, I might bother to char the skins and slip them off. The rest of the ingredients are more standard. I used canned chopped clams and the reserved juice from the canned clams came to the exact amount needed in the recipe—how convenient! The recipe came together quite easily and was delicious. Because I needed to make it gluten-free, I used sweet rice flour in place of all purpose flour. I think the soup would also be just fine if one omitted the flour altogether. The wine I used was a very dry Riesling.

Wow! What a great chowder recipe! And it's fairly simple to prepare! My family loved this chowder and actually agreed that it's just as good (if not better) than what we've been served at some of our favorite chowder restaurants in New England.

This was my first attempt at making a chowdah. I used canned clams with no preservatives and I appreciated that I did not have to purchase extra broth. We do not have chopped clams available on the West Coast but I did find a vendor who carries frozen clams and I may try that next time. I only used 1 cup heavy cream and substituted the other cup of cream for half-and-half (premixed half cream and half milk) to cut out some of the fat calories. The chowder was still plenty thick and rich so I will use 2 cups half-and-half and 1 cup milk when making it again. I used a couple extra tablespoons butter and I'm glad I chose not to use the bacon grease as I got a clean flavor. I can't wait to make this again!

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Comments

  1. While I have made several New England clam chowder recipes, this one turned out to be my favorite. I ended up using a little more than a half lb of bacon (poured out some of the extra fat), and used half « heavy cream/half and half » for a « lighter » broth. Served with a huge salad of mixed greens. This was amazing, and I will certainly be making it again.

    A bowl of creamy New England clam chowder with a side salad

  2. We made this last night for dinner (well, half a batch because there are only two of us) and it’s a real winner. I confess to using canned clams because I had them but even with canned it was very good. I subbed in some roasted and chopped Hatch chile for the fresh poblano because, again, what I had on hand. The spiciness was just perfect for us and a nice twist to the usual chowder. Perfect richness and consistency. Definitely will make this again.

    1. Marcella, I’m delighted you like the soup. Of course, I’m biased, being a born and bred New Englander. Even with canned clams, you can’t go wrong with clam chowder.

  3. OK, so I have wanted to enjoy a nice creamy clammy chowder for decades, but, being markedly lactose intolerant I have avoided it. Well, that changed with the availability of lactose free Half & Half and lactose free milk. I took this recipe and went with it 100%. I ended up with the most delicious, wonderful creamy chowder EVER. I used 2 1/2 cups of Half & Half and 1/2 cup of 2% milk. The rest of the recipe I followed exactly. No peppers or hot sauce due to family members who react to hot peppers.

    Thanks for the recipe. I drove cartons of it to all three of my children (in their 40’s) and all called and told me to save the recipe and make it with some regularity and please deliver it again.

  4. Hi, I have been wanting to cook and taste this dish for such a long time and it looks like I found the perfect recipe! Just a couple of questions: here in Italy we can only buy clams in the shell and the most common ones are the Verace type, which are quite small (yes they are also come de-shelled and frozen, but they taste a bit like cardboard to me). How many should I buy? I assume I’ll have to make them open the usual way (in a hot pan with a slick of white wine and a bit of garlic) then save the liquid to add when clam juice is called for? And what if it is not enough? Can I substitute a little fish stock? This chowder is so different from the fish stews/soups we have here, I can’t wait to taste it :P

    1. Marcella, if you are using clams with the shell on, the amount of clam meat you get will be somewhere around 20-25% of the weight of the clams in the shell. So to get 2 lbs of meat, you would need to buy 8-10 lbs of clams. Using the very small clams is fine, just a bit more work for you!

      You can open the clams as you suggest, but recipe assumes you are not using wine or garlic, so I would reduce the amount of wine and shallots used. Alternatively, you could just use some water in the pot, just enough to create enough steam for the clams. Either way, strain all liquid and use it for the clam juice in the recipe. If it is not enough, you can certainly substitute fish stock. If your fish stock is unsalted, you may need quite a bit more salt in the recipe, so just season with salt to taste.

  5. This looks wonderful and as a former New Englander I yearn for quahogs here in Florida. But I’ve never known anyone in New England to use poblano peppers in it. Not to say that doesn’t sound good, just not “authentic.”

      1. I will definitely try it WITH the poblano! Provided I can find clams here in shrimp and grouper country. ;-)

        1. Jean, Cedar Key on the Northern gulf coast of Florida is a clam farming area. Even here in SC I can get Cedar Key clams, so you should have no problem finding the in Florida.

  6. I’ve been making “New England” clam chowder for years. This is almost the way I make mine, except I do not use a hot sauce. As Jackie G. said, we have many great clam chowders up & down the Northern California coast & S.F. Bay area. My late husband’s quest was to find the “perfect” clam chowder. We found a place in Bodega Bay that we both loved. Small, right across from the docks, outdoor picnic table seating only. Food is so good no one cares!

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