Best Ever Clam Chowder Recipe {With Fresh Clams}

4.96 from 21 votes

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This truly is The Best Clam Chowder Recipe ever. The secret is steaming fresh clams yourself. It’s easier than you think and totally worth the extra effort!

A bowl of the best clam chowder topped with oyster crackers and bacon

The Best Clam Chowder Recipe

Our Dad is a clam chowder fanatic. He orders clam chowder everywhere he goes – from coast to coast from Maine to Massachusetts to Alaska to Washington and everywhere in between. Out of all the clam chowders he has had, this is his absolute favorite. It is rich and creamy and made with fresh clams. We like to serve this chowder in a bread bowl or with a loaf of sourdough bread. It is also delicious topped with oyster crackers, bacon, and fresh thyme.

A ladle scooping up clam chowder from a blue pot

Where to Purchase Fresh Clams

The secret to this delicious clam chowder recipe is the fresh clams. If you leave near the coast, you’ve probably seen them in your grocery stores at the meat and seafood counter. If you live more inland, they might be harder to find. I live in Arizona so I knew I’d have to do some research. I called the meat and seafood counter at our Kroger store and they didn’t have them, but they said I could call a few days ahead and they could put in a special order for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a couple of days so I kept looking. I called a few more grocery stores with no luck. Then, I went to our local Asian market and found fresh clams there! It took a little extra time to track them down, but it was totally worth it!

How to Clean Fresh Clams

For best results, you want to use the clams the same day you purchase them. Clams should not smell fishy, they should smell briny like the ocean. Clean your clams thoroughly before use. Follow these simple steps to make sure you have squeaky clean clams:

  • Inspect each shell for cracks or chips. Discard any cracked or chipped clams. Openings in the shell can let in bacteria.
  • If any shells are open, tap the outside lightly with a spoon. The clam should close tightly when tapped. Discard any clams that do not close when tapped.
  • In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of water with ⅓ cup of salt. Place all clams that passed your inspection into the bowl. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Transfer clams into a new clean bowl with a new salt and water mixture. Refrigerate for another 20 minutes. This process draws the dirt out of the clams. If any clams float to the top during this process instead of settling at the bottom, discard them.
  • Remove clams from the water, but do not pour into a strainer. Pouring everything into a strainer can put dirt back into the clams. Use your hands or a slotted spoon.
  • Finally, brush the outsides of the shell with a vegetable brush to remove any remaining dirt from the outside of the shell.

Can I use Canned Clams in this Clam Chowder Recipe?

If the fresh clams route is sounding a bit overwhelming, rest assured you can use canned clams. I think that fresh clams taste better and have a better texture, but canned clams will absolutely work. Use ¾ cup of canned clams, chopped. You can save the juice from the cans to use in the recipe as well.

How to Steam Fresh Clams

  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 pounds fresh clams, cleaned (see above for cleaning instructions)

Using a large skillet with a lid, bring the water, chicken broth, and garlic to a boil. Add the clams into the skillet and place the lid on top. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Watch closely. Once all the clams have opened, remove from heat immediately. Do not overcook – your clams will be rubbery. Reserve some of the liquid for use in the chowder, and scoop the meat out of the shells.

Clam chowder in a bowl topped with bacon, oyster crackers, and fresh thyme

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Clam chowder in a blue pot

The Best Clam Chowder

4.96 from 21 votes
This truly is The Best Clam Chowder Recipe ever. The secret is steaming fresh clams yourself. It's easier than you think and totally worth the extra effort!
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine Seafood
Servings 10




  • Preheat the oven to 325. In a glass baking dish, whisk together flour and melted butter until combined. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crumbly. Set aside.
    Butter and flour cooked together into a glass baking dish
  • In a large pot, melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter and add celery, onion, and leeks. Cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes or until soft and slightly transparent.
    Celery, leeks, and onions cooked in a large pot
  • Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the butter/flour mixture, half & half, and clams. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and fork tender.
    Potatoes, vegetables, and broth in a large stock pot
  • Add the butter/flour mixture into chowder and stir until thick. The mixture will be extremely thick.
    Thick clam chowder roux in a large stock pot
  • Remove chowder from heat and stir in half & half until blended and smooth. Heat to serving temperature (do not bring to a boil), stirring occasionally. Once the chowder has thickened slightly, stir in the clams. Serve immediately.
    Clam chowder in a pot topped with oyster crackers and bacon

Nutrition Information

Calories: 521kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 10gFat: 37gSaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 1443mgPotassium: 611mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1707IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 253mgIron: 3mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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  1. 4 stars
    I followed the recipe except for two things. One, I like a little bacon in my chowder, so I fried 3oz of bacon and used the drippings to cook the onions, leeks, and celery. The butter/flour combo baked in the oven was a first for me and it seemed to work just fine. The end result was a little thick, but that was easy to solve by adding some milk. The second change is why I am taking the time to write a comment.

    The recipe calls for 2-3 lbs of live clams. The live clams here (Houston) are littlenecks. Having used them in the recent past, I knew that 2-3 lbs would not be enough for the volume of chowder in the recipe, so I splurged and got 5lbs at $8/lb. That 5lbs resulted in 5oz of clam meat. In other words, 1lb of live littleneck clams, results in 1oz of clam meat. When eating the chowder, I asked myself “where are the clams?”. So, when using littleneck clams, I personally would want at least 10oz of clam meat for this recipe, which would require a whopping 10lbs of live littleneck clams at $8/lb!

    Just FYI, I had the chowder again the next day, but I added the meat from two cans of Snow’s chopped clams in clam juice. These cans state a net weight of 6.5oz, but in fact, each contained 2.2oz of clam meat.

  2. So confusing. Steps 3 said put in half & half. Then steps 5 said put in half & half. What does that mean? I already used my half & half in steps 3, and where do I still have half & half??


    1. In step three it says “Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the butter/flour mixture, half & half, and clams.” So, the half and half does not get used until step 5.

  3. 5 stars
    This was a great recipe, I did make a couple changes such as using cream instead of half and half and added bacon. Delicious.

  4. 5 stars
    This came out amazingly! My SO who is a great chef himself is always a little timid when I cook, but he told me to add this one to the keeper list! I did read a comment that it came out too salty, that wasn’t the case for me, but I did wait to add salt till the end just in case! We also ended up using only 1qt of half and half 🙂

  5. This is more of a question than a comment…why wouldnt you use all clam juice instead of chicken stock also wondering why your baking flour and butter instead of a roux

    1. The clam juice comes in a bottle from the grocery store, you can typically find it in the canned meats section (by the tuna and canned clams) and it is more expensive than chicken broth. Usually the bottle it comes in has about 3/4 cup to 1 cup clam juice in it. We like to use what’s in the bottle and then use broth for the rest. Also, using 100% clam juice might make it taste a little TOO clammy. If you prefer using all clam juice, you absolutely can. As for the butter and flour, baking it pretty much does the same thing as making a roux. This is just the method a chef taught us and it works great with this recipe!

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