Wonderfully creamy New England Clam Chowder is way easier than you think to make at home and about to become a new family favorite! If you’re not sure you loooooove Clam Chowder – this recipe will convert you!
New England Clam Chowder is hearty, creamy and loaded with tender clams, creamy potatoes and salty, smoky bacon in a rich flavor bursting broth! Homemade Clam Chowder might seem intimidating but you will be AMAZED at just how quick and easy it is to make at home in just one pot! I’ve detailed how to use fresh clams or canned clams to make a New England Clam Chowder to rival your favorite restaurant!
I lived in Solana Beach for 5 years (by the Del Mar racetrack in San Diego) in my late teens/early twenties and down the street was the iconic Fish Market with the besssssst New England Clam Chowder. My friends and I would buy a quart for $8 which came with oyster crackers and a huge slab of bread. We would drive a few blocks west to the ocean and sit on the bluffs as we devoured our rich and satisfying chowder. It was then that I fell in love with New England Clam Chowder. And I fell hard.
I would craaaaave the white creamy chowder bursting with delectable clams, tender potatoes, and salty bacon. Little did I know just how easy it is to make restaurant quality New England Clam Chowder at home or I would have been making it weekly! So now that I know how easy it is, I want YOU to know how easy it is! You will never go back to any canned/carton variety again because this Clam Chowder is perfection.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLAM CHOWDER?
If you aren’t familiar with New England Clam Chowder, then you might wonder what the difference is between New England Clam Chowder and the other varieties.
New England Clam Chowder or “Boston Clam Chowder” is by far the most common and most popular type of chowder. It boasts a rich creamy base and is commonly made with potatoes, onion, and clams; adding tomatoes to THIS chowder is frowned upon. In fact, in 1939, a bill was introduced in the Main legislature to make adding tomatoes to clam chowder illegal! It didn’t pass.
Manhattan Clam Chowder, on the other hand, is where the tomatoes are at. It features a clear tomato broth and is essentially a vegetables soup with clams.
Of both varieties, I can’t pull my spoon away from lusciously creamy New England Clam Chowder and I think you’ll agree!
How to Make New England Clam Chowder with Canned Clams
Seeing as San Diego is on the opposite side of the Unites States from New England, fresh clams can be hard to come by or very expensive, so I’ve made this clam chowder with minced canned clams and I couldn’t taste a difference! In fact, many reputable restaurants use canned clams with the addition of clam juice. You will be shocked how restaurant-quality delicious this version tastes and canned clams make it that much easier!
We use 3 (6.5 oz) cans chopped/minced clams in clam juice. These clams are located near the canned tuna fish in your grocery story. We drain the clams and reserve the clam juice and add bottled clam juice to equal 2 ½ cups total clam juice. The bottled clam juice can also be found near the clams in your grocery store.
After we’ve simmered our soup and our potatoes are fork tender, we add our clams to the soup. You do not want to cook your clams or they will be rubbery you just want to HEAT them so add them at the very end of cooking.
How to Make New England Clam Chowder with Fresh Clams
If you are going the fresh clam route then I recommend using fresh cherrystone clams. Cherrystone clams are more tender than quahogs (which is always a good thing). That being said, quahogs are commonly used because they are less expensive and will still work.
Steaming fresh clams is actually quite simple and creates its own clam juice so you will use this clam stock instead of the bottled clam juice listed in the ingredients. Let’s get to it!
- SCRUB your shells very well.
- Add 3 cups water to a Dutch oven and bring to a boil.
- Add clams, cover, and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Stir clams, cover and cook an additional 2 minutes. Uncover and remove any open clams. Continue to simmer and remove clams as they open up. Discard any unopened clams.
- Drain the clams and reserve stock, scoop out the meat, and coarsely chop.
- Set the clams aside to add to the chowder at the very end of cooking. Like the canned clams, we are just HEATING the clams and not cooking the clams. If you add them any sooner to the chowder then they will become rubbery.
- Strain the stock from the pot through a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and add to a measuring cup to equal 2 1/2 cups. Add additional water to equal 2 1/2 cups if needed.
Tips and Tricks to Make this New England Clam Chowder
A few notes about this recipe to make it the best ever clam chowder.
- First, use thick, center cut bacon opposed to traditional sliced bacon. Sliced bacon wilts as its simmered whereas thick bacon holds up to the heat so you are left with a wonderful meaty texture that compliments the clams.
- The key to cooking thick bacon is low and slow so that the fat renders out completely without letting the bacon burn. This gives you a great base to sweat your vegetables.
- Next, be sure to use russet potatoes. Their soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture is ideal for chowders. They taste the most “potato-y” as opposed to waxy as you want them practically falling apart in your mouth.
- As previously mentioned, don’t add your clams (fresh or canned) until soup is cooked. Add your clams OFF HEAT and the warm soup will gently warm them without overcooking them and making them rubbery.
- Everyone has their own opinion as to how thick a chowder should be. For this New England Clam Chowder, we use a roux to thicken the chowder then stir in 1 cup heavy cream at the end of cooking. If you would like a thicker chowder, simmer the soup longer, for a thinner chowder, stir in additional chicken broth.
- Serve with oyster crackers! I love the salty crunch these add to the soup to elevate it to next level delicious. If you can’t find oyster crackers than saltine crackers are also delicious.
- To finish the New England Clam Chowder, pile it with some of the reserved crispy bacon and fresh parsley for an added explosion of YUM!
- The flavors of this New England Clam Chowder only gets better the next day so this chowder makes fantastic leftovers. It will thicken as it stands overnight in the refrigerator so just whisk in a little milk before reheating. That being said, I do NOT recommend freezing it.
Now dig into your better-than-any-restaurant New England Clam Chowder that’s wonderfully creamy, hearty, satisfying and seasoned to perfection and be prepared to blown away!
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