A good super creamy clam chowder with tender clams and chunks of potatoes 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 just in time for soup season! This restaurant-worthy clam chowder will have you coming back for seconds and thirds!
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 easy clam chowder recipe 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. It is one of our favorite soups!
Cream or Tomato-based??
There are many different types of clam chowder recipes, 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 – the creamy New England Clam Chowder. So, we won’t get into Manhattan clam chowder, 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 recipe 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.
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
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!
Ingredients: 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.
- Yellow Onion
- Clam Juice
- Red Potatoes
- Heavy Cream
- Unsalted Butter
- All Purpose Flour
- Salt and Pepper
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 at your grocery store, this will work just fine, too. Frozen clams have a cleaner taste and overall better texture for tender clams than the canned version in our opinion, but try both versions and find out for yourself. No one likes a rubbery clam, so make sure you buy a brand you trust for canned products.
Canned clams are precooked and often contain salt, so if you use canned clams in this recipe, you will want to omit the salt and just add salt to taste at the end.
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 cooking liquid for the soup as well.
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 ½ inch cubes. The potatoes help to thicken the sauce, taste great 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.
Although we prefer to texture of the red potatoes, you can also substitute the red potatoes for russet potatoes Yukon gold potatoes instead.
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 soup has a rich flavor, 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.
We prefer a thicker chowder over a thinner chowder, and the roux helps to give this creamy soup the perfect texture.
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 tablespoon 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 Creamy Clam Chowder recipe is super easy to make! See the full recipe on the recipe card below.
Step 1: Sauté the Veggies
The first step is to gently cook and get some flavor in the veggies by sautéing them in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium-low heat. The goal here is to cook the vegetables a little but not brown them. Once done, you can remove to a medium bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Start the Soup
The next step is to add your clams, clam juice, and potatoes to a large pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, you will reduce the heat to low and allow this mixture to simmer. At this point you will add your sautéed veggies to the pot.
Step 3: Make the Roux
The roux will help to add body to the finished chowder. You will make this in the skillet that you used to sauté the vegetables by first melting the butter, then whisking in your flour over low heat. Once the flour is fully incorporated, you should have a thick paste like mixture.
At this point, you will whisk the cream into the roux until smooth.
Hint: Be careful here not to brown the roux. You want to heat this on low for a blonde roux so that the soup maintains it light color at the end.
Step 4: Finish your Chowder
Next you will add the cream and roux mixture to your large pot of soup with the salt and pepper and stir to combine thoroughly. Simmer on low for 15 minutes then taste for additional salt and pepper to taste! Serve with fresh parsley and crusty bread and enjoy!
This homemade clam chowder recipe makes a big ol' pot of clam chowder because we absolutely love having leftovers of this throughout the week! The leftovers are perfect for an easy lunch or dinner on busy nights.
How to store leftovers in the fridge:
Place leftover clam chowder uncovered in a container in the fridge to cool. Once cool, simply store leftover clam chowder in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How to reheat clam chowder:
To reheat clam chowder, remove from the fridge and reheat in a pot on low heat until heated through. This will give you the best flavor that won't have that awful reheated taste that you get from the microwave.
If the microwave is your only option, make sure you reheat at 50% power until heated through, stopping to stir every minute or so.
Clam Chowder Wine Pairings
Looking for a good wine to pair with this creamy clam chowder? We love pairing crisp and bright dry white wines with citrus notes with this clam chowder recipe. Citrusy wines are always great with seafood.
Our favorite white wines for this dish are Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, or Sancerre. But you can also go with a buttery oaked Chardonnay that complements the rich quality of the creamy clam broth, if you prefer!
What to serve with clam chowder?
We are big fans of eating this soup as dinner servings with some crusty bread, or even in a sourdough bread bowl. But if you prefer to enjoy this as a side soup or appetizer soup instead, here are a few great seafood and vegetable options to serve along with it.
- Sheet Pan Chickpea and Vegetable Medley Dinner - if you are looking for a lighter vegetable focused meal to serve with the rich clam chowder
Or check out these tasty seafood main dishes:
- Delicious Red Snapper Amandine
- Salt Baked Branzino
- Yellowtail with Lemon Caper Cream Sauce and Spinach Orzo
Yes, you definitely can used canned clams. We prefer frozen raw clams in the recipe for the taste and texture but canned clams are a good substitution if you can't find frozen raw clams and you don't want to use fresh clams. Canned clams are precooked, so you can simply add the canned clams and their juices straight into the cooking pot in place of the raw thawed clams.
It is not necessary to rinse canned clams before using them in clam chowder. One thing to note is that canned clams often are canned with salt in the juices, so if using canned clams, omit the salt in this recipe and simply add salt to taste as needed at the end.
We prefer to use a roux (equal parts butter and flour) to thicken this soup along with the heavy cream, as described in the instructions in this recipe. Other methods to thicken chowder include making a cornstarch slurry (a gluten free option) and adding that to the soup.
Here are a few other soups and stews that we know you will enjoy if you liked this recipe!
Check out some of these tasty cocktails to enjoy with this clam chowder:
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 this clam chowder becomes your new family favorite!
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!
Easy Homemade Clam Chowder
- 1 large soup pot
- 1 large skillet
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1.5 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium-large onion)
- ⅔ cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
- 2 garlic cloves - minced
- 32 oz chopped raw clams, thawed from frozen with juices
- 32 oz clam juice
- 4-6 large red potatoes - diced
- 22 oz heavy cream
- 10 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup all purpose flour
- 1.5 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1.5 tablespoon black pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley for garnish
- In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, sauté onions, celery and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent - do not brown the onions. Set aside.
START THE CHOWDER
- In a large dutch oven or soup pot, bring clams, clam juice and potatoes to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and add sautéed onion mixture to pot.
MAKE THE ROUX MIXTURE
- In the skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter stops bubbling, slowly add the flour while whisking. Turn heat to low and whisk/stir to fully incorporate without trying to brown the roux - about 30 seconds as this is a blonde roux. Turn the heat off and whisk in the cream until smooth and well incorporated.
FINISH THE CHOWDER
- Add all of the roux mixture to the soup pot and stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper (you can add more later if needed) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and re-season with additional salt and pepper, then serve in bowls with warm French, Italian or sourdough bread.
- Garnish with parsley, more pepper, homemade croutons, green onions, chives, hot sauce, or whatever else you desire.