Creamy New England Clam Chowder Recipe

Clam chowder is a classic American soup that dates back to colonial times. It comes in many different varieties, with perhaps the best-known ones being the tomato-based Manhattan kind and of course the creamy New England style, with the latter being the one recipe developer Jennine Rye is making here. "This clam chowder recipe is really creamy and flavorful," Rye describes. "It's a great, hearty dish and it's perfect for fall and winter." She also notes that it's quite easy to make, too.

One ingredient Rye uses that you might not find in too many other New England clam chowders is sherry, but she feels that "it adds a beautiful depth of flavor," and "a kick of nutty sweetness that pairs really well with the creamy sauce and the clams." She does say, though, that "If [you] prefer not to cook with alcohol, the recipe would work just as well without it."

Rye uses frozen clams to make her chowder as these are cheaper and more readily available where she lives, but she says that you can also use fresh or canned clams if either of those is more convenient. As she tells us, "This recipe is really adaptable ... so it works in whichever form you can find clams."

Assemble the ingredients for this New England clam chowder

While this soup is not difficult to cook, it still requires a fairly lengthy list of ingredients. You'll need clams, of course, plus some bacon sliced into lardons (which is a fancy word for matchsticks). You're going to be using butter for cooking, plus potatoes, an onion, celery, garlic, a bay leaf, and fresh thyme (Rye says it's okay to substitute dry if need be).

You'll also need half-and-half to give the soup its creamy texture, plus a little flour to thicken it, as well as chicken stock to supplement the clam juice that is used to make the broth. Sherry is needed to flavor the soup, plus salt and pepper to season it, and parsley makes for a green garnish. Once you've gathered all 16 ingredients, you can start cooking.

Cook the bacon and vegetables

First things first, you'll want to thaw the clams. To do so, simply place them into a colander, then place that colander over a bowl, which will catch all of the excess juice as it drains from the clams — be sure to hold onto this juice.

Now, melt the butter, then use it to cook the bacon, While bacon is more than capable of making its own fat as it cooks, Rye says this additional step will "infuse the bacon flavor into the butter." Fry the bacon, then take it out of the pan and fry the onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme in the remaining bacon-flavored butter until the celery is soft, something that should take about 10 minutes. Stir the flour into the pan and cook it for a minute.

Simmer the soup

Measure all of the clam juice you have, then add just enough chicken broth to make 2 ½ cups — the amount listed for the broth in the recipe is only if you have no clam juice at all. Add the broth to the vegetables along with the sherry, then stir in the half and half. Once the soup is simmering, add the potatoes, then season everything with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook the soup for 20 minutes.

Make the final additions to the chowder

Check the potatoes to see if they are soft by poking them with a knife or fork. Once they are done, stir half of the bacon into the soup along with the clams. Rye also likes to garnish the soup at this stage with a few of the shells from the clams, but this is an optional step as the shells are, of course, inedible. Cook the soup for 4 minutes to heat up the clams, then finish it off with the rest of the bacon and a garnish of parsley.

If you're not going to be eating all of the clam chowder within a day or so, Rye says that you can always freeze it. Since frozen cream tends to separate, though, she notes that the thawed soup "might not look so good and the texture will be a little grainy," although she does say " It will still taste nice."

Creamy New England Clam Chowder Recipe
5 from 40 ratings
This creamy, rich clam chowder will give you a classic taste of New England in your own home.
Prep Time
Cook Time
bowl and spoon with chowder
Total time: 55 minutes
  • 2 pounds frozen cooked clams in shells, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 ounces bacon (about 7 strips), chopped into lardons (matchsticks)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 stalks fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock (may not need the full amount)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  1. Place the defrosted clams into a colander over a bowl to strain and collect any clam juices. Set the liquid aside to use later. Remove the clams from their shells and set aside a few shells if wanted for decoration, discard the rest.
  2. In a large pan, melt the butter and add the bacon lardons to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes until the bacon is golden, then remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set to one side.
  3. Add the diced onion, celery, and garlic to the pan, along with the bay leaf and the stalks of thyme. Cook for 10 minutes until the onion and celery is translucent and soft.
  4. Add the plain flour to the pan and mix it in to the onions and the celery. Allow this to cook for a minute. Combine any collected clam juice with the chicken stock to make up 2 ½ cups stock. Discard any remaining chicken stock, and then add the stock/clam juice mixture into the pan, along with the sherry. Stir everything and allow it to heat through. Then, stir in the half and half.
  5. Once the liquid is simmering, add the cubed potatoes to the pan and then add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Using a sharp knife, check the potatoes to see that they are cooked through. If the knife easily sinks in to the potatoes, they are ready. Add the clams to the pan along with half of the cooked bacon pieces, and allow them to heat through for 4 minutes, then add any shells if you wish.
  7. Serve the clam chowder hot, with the remaining bacon strips and the chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
Calories per Serving 712
Total Fat 37.1 g
Saturated Fat 15.7 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 143.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 42.8 g
Dietary Fiber 4.0 g
Total Sugars 7.7 g
Sodium 1,956.6 mg
Protein 48.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe