Clam chowder is a signature New England dish, one with so many subtle potential variations. It seems like every New England chef strives to make this rich soup anew, and many enter chowder competitions like the annual Great Chowder Cook-off in Newport for the chance to earn bragging rights.
Here are some wonderful New England clam chowder recipes for you to consider if you're ambitious enough to cook up your own batch!
New Englanders eat clam chowder year-round, but this thick, hearty, satisfying soup is especially perfect as temperatures cool. It can even be a meal in a bowl.
Keep in mind that clam chowder freezes well, so you can use one of these authentic recipes to make a big pot and enjoy a taste of New England whenever the craving for chowder strikes.
Cliff House Clam Chowder Recipe: A Taste of History
This recipe first appeared on the menu at the Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine, in 1872. It is reprinted with permission. Serves 6.
1 slice hickory-smoked bacon, minced
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 cup onion, minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon The Cliff House Spice Blend (see below)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 can clams (6-1/2 ounces)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1-1/2 cups Half and Half
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
1. To Create The Cliff House Spice Blend, blend 4 tsps oregano, 4 tsps dried parsley, 2 tsps marjoram, 2 tsps dill, 4 tsps thyme, 4 tsps basil, 1 tsp sage, 4 tsps rosemary, 2 tsps tarragon, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, crushing in a mortar if possible. Store in a resealable plastic bag to refrigerate.
2. In a heavy-bottomed, 4-pint soup kettle, sauté bacon, butter, onion, garlic and The Cliff House Spice Blend over low heat. Do not allow to brown.
3. Drain clams and set aside, reserving the juice.
4. Slowly stir the flour and clam juices in the sauté mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Add Half and Half and simmer 20 minutes. Add white pepper, potatoes and clams. Heat to serving temperature. Do not allow to boil, as this toughens the clams.
5. Serve at once with crackers and warm cornbread.
Kim's Country Clam Chowder Recipe
From my own New England kitchen, here's a recipe for thick, hearty New England clam chowder with an Italian twist! Even traditional clam chowder is better with garlic and a splash of wine.
5 lbs. (approximately 18) large Cherrystone clams, steamed and chopped
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 medium baking potatoes, chopped in 1/2" cubes
1 large onion, minced
1-1/2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 cup water retained from steaming clams
1 cup clam juice
1/2 cup dry white cooking wine
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1. Place clams in just enough water to cover, and steam until they open, approximately 15 minutes.
2. Save 1/2 cup of the water in which clams were steamed. Allow clams to cool, remove from shells and chop.
3. In a large frying pan, cook bacon until crisp.
4. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel. Crumble when cool.
5. Reserve bacon grease in frying pan. Add potatoes to pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
6. Transfer contents of frying pan to a large soup pot. Add chopped clams, clam water, clam juice and white wine and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, approximately 15 minutes.
7. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper.
8. Reduce heat to low and gradually add milk, then heavy cream, stirring frequently until chowder begins to thicken slightly.
9. Just before serving, stir in crumbled bacon and parsley.
10. Ladle into bowls, top with oyster crackers and serve piping hot.
Maine Clam Chowder Recipe
Mainer Debby Fowles' traditional, creamy clam chowder recipe is yummy with oyster crackers.
5 cups bottled clam juice
1 cup of flour
1 cup onion, finely diced
10 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
2 Tablespoons margarine
8 oz. of cooked clams, chopped
4 medium potatoes, cooked and cut in bite sized chunks
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the clam juice in a large saucepan on medium heat.
2. In a separate pan, melt margarine and saute the diced onions until they appear translucent. Add bacon and flour to the melted margarine and stir continuously for 5 minutes.
3. Increase heat on clam juice to medium-high, and, with a wire whisk, add flour, margarine and onion mixture to the liquid. Stir constantly, breaking up any lumps that form.
4. Add clams and stir. If fresh clams are not available, substitute six ounces of canned clams, including the juice. Add potato chunks, milk, cream and salt, and continue stirring.
5. Decrease heat to medium-low, and allow chowder to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or sticking.
6. Serve clam chowder hot with oyster crackers, adding freshly ground black pepper to taste.
More Authentic New England Clam Chowder Recipes
- Fall River Clam Chowder, from celebrity chef and New England native Emeril Lagasse.
- Crock Pot Clam Chowder from The Spruce's Diana Rattray (who happens to live in Maine!). It's easy to make rich, tasty New England clam chowder in a crock pot.
- Clam 'n' Corn Chowdah Recipe, from the Aysgarth Station Bed and Breakfast in Bar Harbor, Maine.
- New England Clam Chowder, from Dockside Guest Quarters in York, Maine.
- Rhode Island Clam Chowder, from Rhode Island's former governor, Lincoln Almond.
- Great Grampa Scott's Clam Chowder, from SeacoastNH.com, writer J. Dennis Robinson shares the story behind and the recipe for his great grandfather's clam chowder.
- Rhode Island Clam Chowder Recipe, from Yankee Magazine's New England Today comes this recipe for chowder made with Rhode Island quahogs. Did you know you can easily become licensed to dig your own quahog clams in Rhode Island?
- Two Recipes for New England Clam Chowder, from the Hartford Courant, here are dueling recipes for chowder: a gourmet version shared by Chef Christopher Prosperi and a hearty, old-fashioned New England clam chowder recipe featuring salt pork that's been handed down through writer Bill Daley's family.
- Venus de Milo New England Clam Chowder, from Venus de Milo Restaurant in Swansea, Massachusetts, comes this gourmet chowder recipe that took first place three times at the Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, Rhode Island, and top honors at the Greater Boston Harbor Fest Chowder Cook-off.