This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy.
This truly is the Best Clam Chowder Recipe ever. The secret is steaming fresh clams yourself. It’s easier than you think, and the incredible flavor is totally worth the extra effort!
Featured with this 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.
Like him, we love the creaminess of New England Clam Chowder, also known as Boston Clam Chowder. It is a rich, creamy clam chowder recipe made with fresh, tender 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.
Ingredients in Clam Chowder
- Butter – melted
- Celery – finely diced
- Onions – finely diced
- Leeks – finely diced
- Red potatoes or Yukon golds – diced (if you like a thinner clam chowder, use less than called for)
- Ground black pepper
- Whole thyme
- Bay leaves
- Tabasco sauce
- Chicken broth
- Clam juice
- Half and half (or part milk, part heavy cream)
- Chopped clams, see post above for fresh clam instructions, you can also use canned clams
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.
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. Scoop the meat out of the shells.
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.
More Frequently Asked Questions
Overcooking clams will make them rubbery. Keep a very close eye on your cooking clams– once they have all opened, take them off the heat immediately.
Make a salt/water mixture and soak the clams for 20 minutes, after this, replace the water with more of the clean, salt/water mixture and soak another 20 minutes.
Bread is delicious with clam chowder– a fresh baguette torn and dipped into the thick soup is incredible! A simple salad works too, something basic like a Caesar or oil and vinegar. Roasted veggies pair well also; things like carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms caramelize well and taste wonderful. French fries are a personal favorite! Simple and salted, they really enhance the dish. Corn on the cob is unexpected but great too– buttered and salted to perfection, it’s a great addition to the meal.
In an airtight container in the fridge, clam chowder usually lasts 3-4 days. If you’ve had clam chowder before, you know it doesn’t smell or taste ‘fishy’. If you are getting a strange aroma from it, on or before the 4th day, you’ll know it’s time to discard!
We recommend reheating clam chowder in a saucepan on the stove over medium-heat, stirring frequently until heated through. You can reheat in the microwave, but this tends to make the clams more rubbery.
More Tasty Soup Recipes:
If you love our Best Clam Chowder recipe, try some of our other favorite soups!
How to Make Clam Chowder
The Best Clam Chowder Recipe
- 3/4 cup butter melted
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup celery finely diced
- 1 cup onions finely diced
- 1 cup leeks finely diced
- 3 cups red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes (if you like a thinner clam chowder use less)
- 3/4 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 3/4 tablespoon whole thyme
- 6 bay leaves
- 4 shakes Tabasco sauce
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup clam juice
- 2 quarts half & half
- 3/4 cup clams chopped, see post above for fresh clam instructions, you can also use canned clams
- 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. Dice potatoes into bite size cubes.
- In a large pot on the stove, 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.
- Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the butter/flour mixture, half and half, and clams. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and fork tender.
- Add the butter/flour mixture into chowder and stir until thick. The mixture will be extremely thick.
- 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.
- Crumbled bacon
- Oyster crackers
- Fresh parsley
- Homemade croutons
- Old bay seasoning
Love this recipe?
We want to hear from you! Please leave a review.