This restaurant-worthy Easy Clam Chowder recipe is simple to prepare and full of flavor. It’s got a creamy New England style broth filled with tender potatoes, onions, bacon, and plenty of chopped clams.
While you are welcome to make this clam chowder recipe with fresh clams, I most often use canned clams out of convenience. To get the most flavor, be sure not to drain the can.
Easy Clam Chowder Recipe
Making your own Homemade Clam Chowder couldn’t be easier or more delicious. The creamy broth is made by thickening milk and adding fresh thyme, bay leaves, chicken broth, and a touch of hot sauce. The soup is packed full of clams, tender potatoes, bacon, celery, and caramelized onions.
I like to use canned clams because it’s a super convenient and inexpensive way to enjoy them. Of course you can substitute fresh clams if you are lucky enough to find some good ones.
Best Clam Chowder Recipe Ingredients
- Bacon - any kind of bacon will work great. You can cut the slices into ½” pieces before cooking into bacon bits. Be sure to reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan before discarding the rest.
- Butter - I prefer to use salted butter for this recipe.
- Onion - you can use either white or yellow onions for this recipe. They should be minced and you will need about 1 cup.
- Celery - cut about 2-3 ribs of celery into ½” dice.
- Garlic - fresh garlic tastes the best for this recipe. In a pinch, you can use jarred minced garlic.
- Potatoes - I like to use Yukon gold potatoes for chowder. They should be cut into relatively uniform ½” pieces. Other potatoes to use would be red potatoes, Russet potatoes, or fingerling potatoes.
- Hot Sauce - I like Frank’s Hot Sauce, but you can use your favorite brand.
- Chicken Broth - either chicken broth or chicken stock will work great.
- Salt and Pepper - sea salt and freshly ground black pepper taste great.
- Thyme - you can use fresh thyme or substitute about ½ teaspoon of dried thyme.
- Bay Leaves - fresh bay leaves have the strongest flavor. Otherwise you can use dried bay leaves.
- Milk - whole milk, half and half, or even evaporated milk will all work well in this recipe.
- Clams - for this recipe you will need three 6.5 ounce cans of chopped clams. For the most flavor, add them undrained.
- Clam Juice - this is optional but it will give the chowder more clam flavor. A good substitute for this would be an extra cup of chicken broth.
How to Make this New England Clam Chowder
- Cook the bacon bits. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, add the diced bacon. Cook bacon while stirring occasionally until the bacon is slightly crispy and golden brown. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan and discard the rest. Set bacon aside.
- Cook the onions and garlic. In the dutch oven with bacon grease, add the butter, onions, and celery. Cook over medium heat until the onions are golden brown. Use a spoon to scrape loose any bits of bacon on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and continue to cook until it is slightly golden.
- Simmer the soup. Add chicken broth, diced potato, thyme, bay leaves, and hot sauce. Bring the soup to a boil and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Once the potatoes are cooked, use a potato masher to roughly mash the potatoes in the pot.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and thicken. Next, stir in the clams, milk, salt, and pepper and return to a low simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water, then slowly add the slurry while stirring. Allow to boil for 2 minutes to allow the slurry a chance to thicken the soup.
- Serve. Remove from the heat and serve warm with oyster crackers, reserved bacon, and freshly minced chives. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
When most people think of clam chowder they think of the New England style like the one in this recipe. This clam chowder has a creamy broth made with milk and a thickener (usually cornstarch or roux). It also usually has potatoes, onions, clams, and bacon or another kind of salt pork.
The easiest way to thicken clam chowder is with a cornstarch slurry like we do in this recipe. It also happens to be gluten free! You could also make a roux by using equal parts of butter and flour. Melt the butter, then add the flour over low heat and stir constantly until it begins to brown and get a nutty flavor. This can be added to the soup as well.
New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder are actually incredibly different soups. The main similarity is that they both have clams. Otherwise, New England clam chowder (also known as Boston Clam Chowder) is white and creamy with a broth made from cream or milk like the one in this recipe. Manhattan clam chowder has a tomato-based broth and has far more vegetables included.
Yup! Just add the butter, potatoes, onion, celery, garlic, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper to a crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Make your cornstarch slurry, then whisk it into the slow cooker along with the milk and hot sauce. Add the clams and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the soup is thickened. You will need to cook the bacon bits separately and add them as a topping.
Storing and Reheating
- Refrigerator: store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: store completely cooled soup in freezer bags for up to 2 months. To thaw, transfer to the fridge overnight.
- To reheat: put soup into a dutch oven or sauce pot and warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Make sure it doesn’t boil! You may need to add a little extra cream or whole milk if the soup breaks.
The Best Clam Chowder Recipe
- 8 slices Bacon cut into ½" chunks
- 2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
- 1 medium Onion minced (white or yellow, bout 1 cup)
- 2-3 ribs Celery diced into ½" chunks
- 2 Tablespoons Garlic minced
- 3-4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes cut into ½" pieces
- 2 teaspoons Hot Sauce Franks Sauce or similar
- 4 cups Chicken Broth or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 large Bay Leaves
- 2 cups Milk
- 3 6.5-oz cans Chopped Clams undrained
- 8 ounce Clam Juice optional
- 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
- 3 Tablespoons Cold Water
Clam Chowder Toppings
- Prepared Bacon Bits
- 2 Tablespoons Chives sliced thin
- Oyster Crackers
- In a large dutch oven over medium heat, add the diced bacon. Cook while stirring occasionally until the bacon is slightly crispy and golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan and discard the rest. Set bacon aside.
- In the dutch oven with bacon grease, add the butter, onions, and celery. Cook over medium heat until the onions are golden brown. Use a spoon to scrape loose any bits of bacon on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and continue to cook until it is slightly golden.
- Add chicken broth, diced potato, thyme, bay leaves, and hot sauce. Bring the soup to a boil and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Once the potatoes are cooked, use a potato masher to roughly mash the potatoes in the pot.
- Next, stir in the clams, milk, salt, and pepper and return to a low simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water, then slowly add the slurry while stirring. Allow to boil for 2 minutes to allow the slurry a chance to thicken the soup.
- Remove from the heat and serve warm with minced chives, reserved bacon bits, and oyster crackers. Enjoy!
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This creamy Boston Clam Chowder recipe is so easy yet it tastes like it came from a restaurant. The broth is made with milk and chicken stock that has been thickened, and it's full of onions, bacon, potatoes, and plenty of clams.