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Easy New England Clam Chowder

This Easy New England Clam Chowder is filled with tender clams, potatoes, celery, and onions in a rich, creamy, flavorful broth. Top it off with bacon, oyster crackers, and chives for a perfect finish!

If you like creamy white clam chowder but often reach for a can, you’ve got to give this homemade clam chowder a try. It’s simple to make, ready in less than an hour, and tastes so much better!

After a wonderful Thanksgiving (I hope yours was too!) and a short but much-needed break, I’m right back into all the cooking. And for the past several days, thanks to Jack Frost nipping at my nose, it’s been all about the soup!

As promised when I shared my Easy Manhattan Clam Chowder a few weeks ago, today I’ve got my recipe for homemade New England clam chowder, which is completely different but just as yummy as it’s red, tomatoey cousin.

I love them both, but when I’m in the mood for some cozy comfort food, this is the one I want!

Besides being delicious, this clam chowder is simple to make thanks to canned clams, which are a lot less work and often much less expensive than fresh clams (and, to me, there isn’t much of a difference in this particular dish).

So, although this may not be a 100% authentic, fresh-from-the-sea, just-like-you’d-get-in-New-England clam chowder recipe, I do think it’s every bit as good. It’s my version made exactly the way I like it: loaded with clams and potatoes, creamy but not overly thick, and full of flavor!

a pot of easy New England clam chowder with a ladle full of soup being lifted out

Ingredients you need:

  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • All-purpose flour
  • Water
  • Roasted chicken base (such as Better Than Bouillon)
  • Milk (I use whole milk)
  • Bottled clam juice
  • Potatoes (I use russets)
  • Thyme leaves (dried)
  • Parsley flakes (dried)
  • Bay leaf (dried)
  • Canned chopped clams
  • Heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oyster crackers (for topping, optional)
  • Fresh chives (for topping, optional)

Here’s a look at how to make Easy New England Clam Chowder:

Note: This is just a quick overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe with detailed instructions.

2 images; one of bacon cooking in a pot with a wooden spoon in the pot with text that says cook bacon until crisp; the other of cooked bacon on a plate lined with paper towels with a slotted spoon on the side with text that says remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels
2 images; one of a spoonful of bacon grease being removed from the pot with text that says remove all but 2 tablespoons bacon grease from the pot; the other of butter melting in the pot with text that says add butter to the pot and melt
2 images; one of onions and celery cooking in a pot with a wooden spoon in the pot with text that says add the onions and celery, sauté until tender; the other of a spoonful of garlic being added to the pot with text that says add the garlic, sauté for another minute
2 images; one of flour added to the pot of celery and onions with text that says add the flour; the other of the flour being stirred into the celery and onions with a wooden spoon with text that says cook and stir for another minute
2 images; one of the liquids added to the pot with a wooden spoon in the pot with text that says add water, chicken base, milk, and clam juice, stir to combine; the other of potatoes and herbs added to the pot with a wooden spoon in the pot with text that says add potatoes, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf, stir to combine
2 images; one of the soup simmering on the stove with text that says bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer til potatoes are tender; the other of the clams and heavy cream being added to the soup with text that says add clams and heavy cream, stir and gently heat through
2 images; one of the bay leaf being removed from the pot with text that says remove bay leaf, season with salt and pepper; the other of a finished bowl of soup with toppings and a spoon on the side with text that says top with bacon, oyster crackers, and chives, enjoy

Tips & Tidbits:

  • In my opinion, the bacon is a must. But if you’d rather make your chowder without it, increase the butter to 4 tablespoons, and start the recipe by melting all of the butter in the pot and adding the onions and celery. Then proceed with the rest of the steps.
  • It might seem odd to use chicken base in clam chowder, but it adds a lot of flavor. You can substitute vegetable base if you prefer (I’ve also seen a clam base but haven’t tried it).
  • I prefer bottled clam juice, but you can use 1 cup of the liquid from the canned clams instead. If you’d like to use the rest of the juice from the cans, which would be about another cup, use it to replace one cup of the water.
  • Although you usually shouldn’t boil milk because it can separate and curdle, the flour in this recipe acts as a stabilizer for the relatively small amount of milk in the broth, and I’ve never had an issue with it separating.
  • Since the chicken base, clam juice and clams all have salt in them, wait until the end before adding any salt.
  • You can use fresh clams if you’d rather. You will just need to clean, cook, and chop them first (you need about 2⅔ cups of chopped clams).
  • After you add the clams and heavy cream, keep the heat very low (any boiling at this point can make the clams tough and chewy).
  • If you want more vegetables, dice up a carrot or two and add it with the celery and onions.
  • Like things spicy? Add some red pepper flakes or cayenne right to the chowder or serve with hot sauce.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Gently reheat over low heat just until heated through (don’t boil).
  • I don’t recommend freezing this chowder, as soups with milk and cream in them will often separate and take on an unpleasant grainy texture after being frozen, and the potatoes can become mushy.
close-up of a spoonful of easy New England clam chowder being lifter out of the bowl

This chowder is perfect on its own for dinner or lunch (I always bake up a batch of my Easy Cheesy Garlic Biscuits to go with it). It also makes a great starter for any meal, especially one with seafood or fish (like lots of Christmas Eve dinners).

And I say don’t skip the toppings! That crisp bacon, some crunchy oyster crackers, and a sprinkle of oniony chopped fresh chives really take this chowder to the next level!

I hope you try this recipe for Easy New England Clam Chowder and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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bowl of easy New England clam chowder topped with bacon, oyster crackers and chives with a spoon on the side

Easy New England Clam Chowder

This Easy New England Clam Chowder is filled with tender clams, potatoes, celery, and onions in a rich, creamy, flavorful broth. Top it off with bacon, oyster crackers, and chives for a perfect finish!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 large bowls (or 6 smaller bowls)
Estimated Calories: 631

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cup diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons roasted chicken base, such as Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
  • 4 cups peeled and cubed russet potatoes, about ½-inch cubes
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 4 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams, drained
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • oyster crackers, for topping (optional)
  • chopped fresh chives, for topping (optional)

Instructions

  • In a large pot (I use a 4-quart pot or larger), cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pot to a plate lined with paper towels; set aside and reserve for topping the chowder.
  • Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pot.
  • Add the butter to the pot and allow it to melt.
  • Add the onions and celery; sauté, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic; sauté, stirring constantly, for one minute.
  • Add the flour; cook, stirring frequently, for one minute (this will cook out the raw flour taste).
  • Slowly add the water, roasted chicken base, milk, and clam juice while stirring; continue to stir until the flour is well-combined and the mixture is smooth (a whisk works well for this step).
  • Add the potatoes, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the clams and heavy cream. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, just until the clams are heated through.
    Note: Make sure the soup doesn't boil at this point, as it can make the clams tough and chewy.
  • Remove the bay leaf. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Serve topped with the cooked bacon, oyster crackers, and chopped fresh chives (if desired).

Notes

  • You can substitute vegetable base for the roasted chicken base if you prefer (I’ve also seen a clam base but haven’t tried it yet).
  • I prefer bottled clam juice, but you can use 1 cup of the liquid from the canned clams instead. If you’d like to use the rest of the juice from the cans, which would be about another cup, use it to replace one cup of the water.
  • If you’d rather make your chowder without bacon, increase the butter to 4 tablespoons, and start the recipe by melting all of the butter in the pot and adding the onions and celery. Then proceed with the rest of the steps.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Gently reheat over low heat just until heated through.
  • I don’t recommend freezing this chowder, as soups with milk and cream in them will often separate and take on an unpleasant grainy texture after being frozen, and the potatoes can become mushy.
  • Estimated calories shown is based on 4 servings. 
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