A good clam chowder can really warm you up during the colder winter months, and our version is not only delicious, but super easy to throw together as well. Our Easy Homemade Creamy Clam Chowder will warm you up on a cold day and makes the perfect weeknight winter meal!
Clam chowder is one of the many dishes truly originating in America. Specifically, the Northeastern part of the United States – although there are specialties from North Carolina, Florida, California, and, knowing Mark’s people, probably Texas as well. Ha!
This particular version is near and dear to Angela’s heart because it was originally her Dad’s recipe that he made throughout her childhood! We hope you enjoy it!
Cream or Tomato-based??
There are many variations of clam chowder, but, like many dishes, none are “wrong or right.” They just are what they are. Our version of homemade clam chowder is most similar to what is considered the most popular style – New England Clam Chowder. So, we won’t get into Manhattan, Long Island, Rhode Island or Floridian styles here, we will stick to the cream-based chowder that is relatively prevalent across the United States these days.
What makes New England Clam Chowder special is the use of a cream-based broth. For this style, some folks will swear by using milk only, others cream only, and, you guessed it, a combination of the two. Some will say it isn’t real chowder without salt pork or bacon and others (the state of Maine applies here) completely omit the use of meat. And using oyster crackers or saltines as a garnish, side or even a soup-thickener can be debated until the cows come home. This sounds like a BBQ argument in the heart of Texas right? Well, what tastes good tastes damn good and this fits the bill!
Our Version of Homemade Clam Chowder
So…here’s our version of clam chowder and we really feel like we have taken the best parts of traditional New England and Maine clam chowders. That means a nice creamy broth that has that sweet and salty oceanic and clammy taste; no bacon or pork needed here, and you can taste and appreciate the potatoes used to thicken the broth.
There are no crackers necessary in our version. Since we love making and eating sourdough, we like to serve it in small sourdough bowls (a little shoutout to the San Francisco Style), but that is definitely NOT the main attraction. We love the bread bowl because it is awesome, and Angela is particularly fond of the chowder-holding sourdough containers since she grew up in California and frequently visited coastal towns like Pismo Beach. Side note… if you you know you know, but Splash Cafe has the best clam chowder on the Central Coast.
What makes our version of clam chowder so good are the ratios of the main ingredients. Clams, potatoes, clam juice and cream are the chief characters, with celery, onion and butter being supporting actors. Salt, pepper and garlic chime in and flour is used to thicken the soup. When it is all said and done, this is one glorious winter dish that will have you sitting comfortably on the couch wondering how long you have to wait until you can be hungry again to have more!
What is in this Homemade Clam Chowder?
As mentioned, making this clam chowder could not be easier. Just a few ingredients that you can find at most grocery stores and you are good to go! Let’s break down the primary characters in this chowder.
Clams: Fresh, Frozen or Canned?
The goal was to give you an easy recipe. So we prefer to use frozen clams (Whole Foods carries the ones we like). But if you are in a pinch and can only find the canned clams, this will work just fine, too. Frozen clams have a cleaner taste and overall better texture than the canned version in our opinion, but try both versions and find out for yourself.
You can of course use fresh clams, but again, we are giving you an easy homemade soup here. But feel free to take that route – this will require using some of the clam liquid for the soup.
Don’t forget the clam juice in this recipe! The clam juice brings in the delicious flavors of the ocean and differentiates this chowder from a potato soup. Clam juice isn’t fishy and will just add great flavor to the dish as a whole. It can be found in grocery stores where canned fish is sold – usually in an 8-oz jar.
For this clam chowder, we use large red potatoes, with the majority of the skin removed, and cut into small 1/2 inch cubes. The potatoes help to thicken the sauce, taste greeat and add a bit of texture to the overall dish. You can definitely add more potatoes to make this a chunkier soup if you like, but don’t go too crazy here. Remember, this is not meant to be a potato soup.
If you are thinking that you could sub out the heavy cream for a “healthier” version, stop right there.
You need the heavy cream in this recipe to get the right consistency and taste. This is a rich soup, as it is meant to be! So don’t try to mess with this.
If you are looking for a diet soup, you should google a different recipe. Period.
A roux is equal parts butter and flour and is used to thicken soups, stews, and other sauces. Here it is purely used as a thickener and a way to incorporate some buttery richness into the chowder.
You will make a blonde roux in this recipe, meaning that you will whisk the flour and butter in a pan until it just begins to get some golden color. You will then whisk the cream into the roux and add the mixture to the soup base. This is an important step to get that nice thick creamy texture.
Other Supporting Cast Members
Besides the ingredients above, you will use celery, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in this dish. We told you it was easy!
You will likely add more salt to the soup towards the end than we have listed here. We (purposefully) very lightly salted this version of clam chowder. It is really simple to add your favorite finishing salt to the soup at the table. Much better than having an overly salty dish that can really ruin your evening. So know that for some people this will seem under seasoned, but it shouldn’t be over seasoned to anyone.
Bonus: Homemade Garlic Butter Croutons
Since we often eat this in sourdough bread bowls, we love homemade croutons to add to our soup! When we hollow out the bread bowls, we use that bread for the croutons, but you can definitely just toast the bread and dip in the soup if you prefer.
To make the croutons…
- Cut bread into small cubes.
- Spread out on baking tray and bake at 200°F for 40 minutes. Remove from oven.
- In a skillet over high heat, melt 1-2 tbsp of butter. Add croutons to skillet and lightly toast each side. Once you are done browning the sides, remove from heat and sprinkle garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Toss a few times and remove to a paper towel lined place to cool.
This is a simple dish to make and a tremendous leftover lunch, dinner or even breakfast soup the next day (or two). We also don’t think anything more than salt and pepper and some chopped parsley are necessary at the table, but some may wish to add hot sauce, green onions or another seasoning. To us, it’s about the clams and the taste they impart on this creamy dish.
We hope you like this recipe for Easy Homemade Clam Chowder! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
Check out some of our other popular dishes below:
- Coq au Vin – Chicken in Red Wine
- Chili with Kidney Beans
- French Onion Soup
- Veal and Beef Shepherd’s Pie
- Pumpkin and Roasted Red Pepper Soup