This classic New England Clam Chowder is loaded with chunks of clams, and potatoes simmered together in a perfectly creamy broth that’s flavored with bacon, onions, celery, and a touch of white wine. It’s simpler to make than you’d think, and always a hit!

New England clam chowder in white bowl topped with bacon.


As a Long Islander who has traveled up and down the coast of New England for decades, I’ve eaten my fair share of New England Clam Chowder and am happy to finally have perfected my own recipe!

Thanks to the chunks of clams and the clam juice, this hearty chowder tastes like the ocean in the best way possible!

In a perfect world, this white clam chowder would be eaten outside on a sunny day alongside a lobster roll, or shrimp scampi roll, a side of fried calamari, and an ice-cold beer, but it’s just as good on any given night of the week, no matter the season.

Don’t forget the oyster crackers!

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: garlic, bacon, flour, onion, potatoes, celery, parsley, cream, white wine, canned clams, whole clams, thyme, and bay leaf.
  • Clams. I’m using a combination of fresh littleneck clams, canned chopped clams, and clam juice for the ultimate briny flavor. If you can’t access fresh clams you can use all canned clams.
  • Potatoes. Russet potatoes are traditionally used for chowders but you can use Yukon golds as well. You can also use instant potato flakes at the very end to thicken the soup a bit more, but this is optional and isn’t traditional.
  • White wine. Use a dry white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc. If you cannot have alcohol, you can omit.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Begin by placing 16 well scrubbed and rinsed little neck clams in a large pot with 3 1/2 cups of water and cover. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook until the clams start to open, then remove them from the pot and place in a bowl tended with foil. (Photo #1)
  2. Strain the clam broth through a coffee filter or fine-mesh strainer and save for later. (Photo #2)
New England clam chowder recipe process shot collage group one showing steaming clams, straining clam broth, sauteing bacon, and sauteing celery and onion.
  1. Dice 1 large onion and 3 celery ribs. Mince 5 cloves of garlic and dice 6 ounces of bacon. Peel 1 1/2 pounds of Russet potatoes, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Mince 1/4 cup of flat-leaf parsley and set aside. In a large heavy pot over medium-low heat cook the bacon until the fat renders and the bacon is crisp, then remove the bacon and place on a plate while reserving the fat in the pot. (Photo #3)
  2. Add the onions and celery to the pot along with 2 tablespoons of butter and cook until they’re soft and translucent about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. (Photo #4)
  3. Add 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the pot and mix well, cooking for 2 minutes or until the white specks disappear. (Photo #5)
  4. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and cook for 1 minute while continuing to whisk. (Photo #6)
Recipe collage two showing mixing in flour, adding wine, simmering soup, and seasoning with salt and pepper.
  1. Add 3 cups of the freshly made clam broth (if you use whole clams and made the broth), or storebought clam juice, and continue to whisk to incorporate. Add the potatoes along with 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 large bay leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent sticking. (Photo #7)
  2. Add 3 6.5 ounce cans of chopped clams and their juice to the chowder along with 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and half the reserved bacon. Bring to a low simmer, then remove the pot from the heat. Add the parsley and taste test adjusting salt and pepper as needed. If the soup is too thin for your liking, start by adding 1-2 teaspoons of instant mashed potato flakes at a time and stir to thicken. Allow the soup to sit off the heat for at least 5 minutes, then add to bowls. If using the fresh clams, add a few to each bowl and finish with the remaining bacon. Serve with oyster crackers and enjoy! (Photo #8)

Top tips

  • Thickness. Traditional New England clam chowder isn’t very thick, but if you prefer it on the thicker side, add instant mashed potato flakes a little at a time until the desired thickness is achieved. This trick works like a charm!
  • Garnish. I love serving New England clam chowder with a few fresh little neck clams on top. It not only adds flavor and additional texture, but it looks beautiful! Don’t forget the oyster crackers!
  • Clams. Be sure to clean the clams ahead of time, especially if they are not farm raised clams and commercially purged. Ask your fishmonger to be sure though this isn’t the biggest deal because you will be straining the clam broth though coffee filters.

New England clam chowder in small bowl with oyster crackers in the background.

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New England Clam Chowder

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings: 6
This amazing New England Clam Chowder is chock full of clams and chunks of potatoes simmered in a creamy broth and finished with bacon, littleneck clams, and fresh parsley.

Ingredients 

For the fresh clams (optional)

  • 16 little neck clams purged and rinsed
  • 3 1/2 cups water

For the clam chowder

  • 6 ounces bacon diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 ribs celery diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 3 6.5-ounce cans chopped clams in juice
  • 3 cups clam juice omit if using fresh clams and broth from above
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley minced
  • oyster crackers for serving
  • instant mashed potato flakes for thickening, optional

Instructions 

For the littleneck clams

  • Place the clams and 3 cups of water into a large pot and cover. Turn the heat to medium-high. Once the clams open, remove them to a bowl and tent with foil. Strain the broth through a coffee filter or fine-mesh strainer and reserve for later.

For the clam chowder

  • Heat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven to medium-low and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until crisp (about 7-10 minutes) then remove the pieces to a plate while reserving the fat in the pot.
  • Add the onions and celery to the pot along with the butter and cook until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add the flour to the pot. Mix well and cook for about 2 minutes or until white spots disappear. Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute while whisking. Add with the freshly made clam broth (if using the whole clams) or the storebought clam juice and continue to whisk to incorporate.
  • Add the potatoes, thyme, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Make sure to stir frequently to avoid sticking.
  • Add the clams and their juices along with the cream. Add half of the reserved bacon to the pot as well. Bring to a low simmer then remove the pot from the heat.
  • Stir in the parsley and taste the soup. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thin, start with 1 tablespoon of instant mashed potato flakes and stir. The soup will thicken right up!
  • Let the soup sit off the heat for 5 minutes then add to bowls. If using the fresh clams, divide them into each bowl along with the remaining bacon. Serve with oyster crackers. Enjoy!

Notes

  • New England clam chowder is not a thick soup!  But, if you want to break tradition and make it thicker, simply add a few teaspoons of instant mashed potatoes at a time to thicken to your liking.
  • Fresh whole clams are nice to have, but not needed.  If omitting, make sure to use the extra 3 cups of storebought clam juice in place of the homemade clam broth.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge and can be reheated on the stovetop or microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 490kcal | Carbohydrates: 40.6g | Protein: 15.1g | Fat: 42.2g | Saturated Fat: 24.1g | Cholesterol: 118mg | Sodium: 494mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 1.4g | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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2 Comments

  1. Lori says:

    5 stars
    James,
    This was so delicious! Thank you for another great recipe.

  2. Theresa Gatlin says:

    5 stars
    Excellent Recipe, Yummy yum yum 😋