New England Clam Chowder – Fall Feast 1st Course

New England Clam Chowder

Simmer up a pot of New England Clam Chowder to ward off the Fall chill! SHARE the Chowdah!

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder was the 1st course for our recent New England Fall Feast. How could I not select clam chowder for this course? “New England” is already part of the name! 

You can’t really write a post on clam chowder without mentioning that east-coasters take their variations of clam chowder fairly serious. We’re talking the creamy New England version, v.s. the tomato-based Manhattan version.  In fact, this little factoid drives home the point.  In 1939, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature to make it illegal to add tomatoes to chowder. That seems a bit extreme to me, but apparently those Mainers had strong opinions.

While New England clam chowder has been around since at least 1830, a large Italian population in New York (around the same time) started using tomatoes in their chowder.  This gave birth to the Manhattan-style chowder. Just to be clear, you won’t need any tomatoes for this New England clam chowder. Hopefully that keeps us from breaking any soup-making laws that might still be on the books!

Sourcing the Clams

I purchased frozen chopped claims at Lunds & Byerlys. Initially I was a little nervous when I arrived at the seafood counter and only spotted clams in the shell. Shelling clams was not part of my plan. My source recipe recommended steering clear of canned clams and using either fresh or frozen. Eventually I did find the right person who verified they had frozen clams and knew where they were stashed. Yeah! We did hit a few bites that were a little sandy, but Brian reassured me that this meant it was authentic clam chowder!

New England Clam Chowder

Serving Size: 6-8

New England Clam Chowder


  • 3 strips thick-cut bacon (I used Neuske's, which I think is worth the extra cost)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 medium-size white potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups bottled clam juice, divided
  • 1 pound chopped fresh clam meat, with juices (see Note)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper


  • Set a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pot, and crumble into small pieces; set aside.
  • Add the butter, onion, celery, thyme, and bay leaves to the pot. Cook covered, stirring often, until onions and celery are tender, 6 to 10 minutes.
  • Return the bacon to the pot and stir. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the potatoes.
  • In a 2- to 3-quart pot on high heat, boil the diced potatoes in salted water until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Turning back to the onion/bacon mixture, increase the heat to medium-low.
  • Add the flour gradually, stirring continuously, until a thick paste forms. Stir and cook 5 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium and slowly add the bottled clam juice, 1 cup at a time, incorporating it into the mixture before adding more.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and add the potatoes and clam meat with its juices. Keep stirring 5 minutes, until the clams are tender.
  • Add the cream slowly; then stir in the white pepper.
  • Discard the bay leaves before serving. Serve hot.
    Additional Notes:
  • Many supermarkets carry frozen, chopped clam meat in 1-pound containers, which is fresher than canned and just as convenient. Simply defrost before using.
  • If you make this soup in advance, or have leftovers, it does thicken up a little bit after it's refrigerated.


Adapted from Yankee Magazine recipe featured in New England Today - New England Clam Chowder

One thought on “New England Clam Chowder – Fall Feast 1st Course

  1. Very interesting history about clam chowder! Brad loves clam chowder, however I do not. You will have to make it for him some time😉

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