I love a bowl of New England Clam Chowder but a good one is hard to find. This is especially true when you’re not actually in New England. Most packaged New England Clam Chowders are typically flavorless, floury, and never have enough clam meat or vegetables. I got so frustrated trying brand after brand that I eventually just learned to make it in my own tiny kitchen.
This is not a traditional recipe.
Vowing to fix all of the store-bought issues, I cobbled together this recipe for New England Clam Chowder. It’s different in a few ways. First, it uses nearly twice the clam meat and vegetables as other recipes. I like that because the thickness of the chowder comes from the quantity of ingredients rather than the thickness of the creamy part of the soup. My clam chowder recipe results in a chunkier soup with a slightly thick cream base and a less floury flavor overall.
Many traditional award-winning clam chowders do not include celery or carrots. I use both. So that’s another difference. You can omit them if you want, but I think they add a nice flavor, more texture, and a splash of color. Finally, I add small amount of red pepper flake. Because my chowder is thinner than most, the red pepper flake brings back the warmth that you would otherwise get from a thicker base.
This New England Clam Chowder recipe is adaptable, so don’t be shy! If you want that super thick chowder, you can always boost the flour quantity (up to 1/2 cup) when you are in the process of making the roux.
Bouillon vs Broth
We use the Better Than Bouillon brand clam bouillon when we make our clam chowder. The reason why I prefer the bouillon is because I can control the amount of clam flavor. You can use clam juice or seafood broth instead. Just reduce the amount of water you use when you boil the vegetables. If you’re really in a pinch and don’t have bouillon or clam juice, you can always use vegetable broth as a substitute. However, I promise that it won’t be as tasty.
Heads up: clam bouillon is hard to find. I just order my clam bouillon from Amazon. It’s more expensive than the vegetable or beef varieties, but given the amount that gets used and it’s average shelf-life, it’s worth every penny.
Clams: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned
Obviously freshly shucked clams are the best to use. Fresh clams are generally more flavorful and will provide their own juices. It’s a lot of work to shuck as many clams you need for this meal though. In a tiny kitchen, it can actually be dangerous, so be careful.
Canned clams are the easiest to find in your local grocery store. If you use cans, I recommend using 4 to 6 6oz cans of chopped clams. The minced variety comes out too small for my taste. My personal preference is to use whole frozen clams. I thaw them in cold water while the soup is cooking and give them a loose chop before I drop them into the chowder.
- 3 cups clams chopped (or 4-6 cans chopped clams)
- 1 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 1 cup carrots chopped
- 2 cups potatoes diced
- ±3 cups water
- 1 tbsp clam bouillon (or juice)
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flake (optional)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup butter unsalted
- 1/3 cup flour (or up to 1/2 cup, if preferred)
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Prepare the onions, celery, potatoes, and carrots. Add to a large pot.
- If you are using clam bouillon, add enough bouillon to flavor a total of 3 cups of water. Stir into the vegetables. If you are using clam juice (either packaged separately or from the canned clams), add directly to the vegetables.
- Add just enough water to cover the vegetables. Spice with the thyme, red pepper flake (optional), salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).
- In a small pot, melt butter over medium heat.
- Remove from heat. Mix the flour into the butter until a smooth paste has been made. Slowly add the half and half by thoroughly mixing small splashes into the flour until the roux has thinned. Return to heat. Stir in the milk. Stir continuously until thick and smooth.
- Slowly stir the roux into the soup. Heat through, but do not boil.
- Add the clams about 3 minutes before serving. If they cook too much they get tough. When clams are heated through, stir in the red wine vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cooking New England Clam Chowder In A Tiny Kitchen
In a tiny kitchen, this meal is a little bit of a space hog on the stovetop. It’s easiest to use a large pot for the vegetables and a separate small pot to make the creamy roux. By using the smaller pot, you can better control the thickness as well as ensure there are no lumps created by the flour. Nobody likes to bite into a hunk of flour when they’re trying to enjoy their soup.
You’ll end up using a cutting board, knife, large pot, small pot, a few spoons, and a few bowls. The dishes are easy as long as you get to them quickly before the cream sticks and dries.
This New England Clam Chowder will keep well in the refrigerator for two days. It’s not worth the risk of keeping anything seafood related in your fridge much longer than that. I’ve never frozen it, but I don’t expect that it will be a problem. Many similar soups are frozen and sold in the grocery store.