You’re going to love this easy New England clam chowder recipe. It’s a classic, creamy, and hearty soup full of comforting goodness.
Mmm. Clam chowder reminds me of crisp days in the northeast. While I am sure this delicious soup is available elsewhere, the most popular varieties share their names with the likes of New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island.
Each variety is different, and today we are making a traditional New England clam chowder that is full of tender potatoes, finely chopped onions and carrots, and of course, clams in a thick cream base.
I wasn’t always a big fan of chowder. Nope. When I first married my husband, I was horrified to learn this was his favorite soup. I didn’t care for steamed clams at the time (still don’t) so I automatically assumed I wouldn’t like clam chowder, either. He begged me to try it, and wow, was I missing out!
What is Chowder?
The word chowder comes from the French word for “cauldron”. It’s thought to have been brought to the New England region by French, British, and Nova Scotian settlers in the 1700s.
Chowder is a hearty and rich type of soup that usually has a pork base and various vegetables, such as onions and potatoes. It contains seafood or chicken and is usually creamy.
Soup vs. Chowder
Unlike most soups which are thin and light, chowder is characterized by being a thick and rich soup. This thick consistency is achieved through the use of cream, butter, or milk. It typically contains large chunks of meat or seafood as well as vegetables such as potatoes, much like a stew. Speaking of which, give this Sicilian Fish Stew a try, you won’t regret it!
Easy New England Clam Chowder
Add the saltiness from the bacon to the ever so slight bitterness of the clams, along with the tender potatoes, and you’ve got a party happening in every mouthful.
6 slices thick cut bacon
12 oz canned minced clams, undrained
3 medium white potatoes, peeled, cubed
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp flour
½ cup clam juice
2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp minced garlic
½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
You’re going to need a soup/stock pot for making this dish. I absolutely love my Cuisinart 12-quart pot for making chowder and soups, but any heavy pot or dutch oven will work.
How to Make Recipe
Many people believe it takes hours to craft a delicious clam chowder, and I’m here to prove that wrong. This incredible tasting chowder takes much less than an hour from start to finish.
Grab that soup pot and let’s get started. You’re going to start by cooking the bacon over medium heat, making sure to stir occasionally, until the bacon becomes crispy—about 4 to 5 minutes. Then remove the bacon and transfer it over to a plate lined with paper towels.
If you want to make this chowder on a Friday during Lent, you can certainly skip the bacon but be forewarned it will lose some flavor and saltiness.
Drain and discard all but 2 tablespoons of that bacon grease from your pot before adding the chopped onion, carrot, and garlic. Season the veggies with salt & pepper and sauté them until tender. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.
Pour in the clam juice, milk, and heavy cream, whisking until it is all well combined. Stir in the cubed potatoes. Add in Old Bay seasoning, fresh thyme, and 2/3 of the cooked bacon crumbles. Season with additional salt & pepper, if desired, and stir together.
Increase heat to medium-high. As soon as it starts to boil reduce the heat to a medium-low. Then, cover and simmer until the potatoes become fork-tender, approximately 15-20 minutes.
Once the potatoes are cooked, add in the minced clams, stirring to combine. Continue cooking for another few minutes, just until the clams are thoroughly heated.
Remove the pot from the heat. Ladle the chowder into your favorite soup bowls and serve immediately topped with the remaining bacon crumbles.
Store leftover clam chowder in your fridge for 3-4 days. Because of the dairy content, I don’t recommend freezing it. In my experience, it just isn’t the same after defrosting and reheating.
This robust New England clam chowder soup comes together quickly for a simple and satisfying meal any night of the week.
Did you give this classic clam chowder soup a try? Let me know in the comments below or snap a photo and tag @coolbeanliving on Instagram. I’d love to see it!
New England Clam Chowder
- 6 slices thick cut bacon
- 12 oz canned minced clams undrained
- 3 medium white potatoes peeled, cubed
- 2 large carrots finely chopped
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp flour
- ½ cup clam juice
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 tsp fresh thyme finely chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon becomes crispy (4-5 min). Remove bacon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.
- Drain and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from soup pot before adding onion, carrots, and garlic. Season with salt & pepper, to taste, and sauté until tender. Sprinkle with flour and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.
- Pour in clam juice, milk, and heavy cream, whisking until combined. Stir in potatoes. Add in Old Bay seasoning, fresh thyme, and 2/3 of the cooked bacon crumbles. Season with additional salt & pepper, if desired, and stir to combine.
- Increase heat to medium-high. As soon as it boils reduce heat to a medium-low. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, approximately 15 minutes.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, add minced clams, stirring to combine. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, or until the clams are thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and serve immediately topped with remaining bacon crumbles, if desired.