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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!
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.
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.
More Tasty Soup Recipes:
If you love our Best Clam Chowder recipe, try some of our other favorite soups!
The Best Clam Chowder
- 3/4 cup butter melted
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup celery finely diced
- 1 cup onions finely diced
- 1 cup leeks finely diced
- 3 cups red potatoes diced (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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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Glad I found this on google .
Our friend Mariano from Madrid Spain made his way through our beautiful country on his Harley starting from Seattle, coming east (Home for the Holidays with family) then continued from Miami and making his way the southern route and back to Seattle. Mariano said his most favorite American meal is Clam Chowder! “Mine too!”
Many friends have family recipes but couldn’t come over, so, Favorite Family Recipes was the first to pop up with “Made with fresh clams.”
It was a great adventure, the cleaning fresh clams instructions were great. We just added ice to the water as there was no room in the refrigerator. It worked perfectly! With three of us doing the prep, I read their portion of the recipe out loud and it came together beautifully! (Thankful that we questioned out loud, “why is there so much half and half?” 4 quarts makes a gallon, we only needed 2! Whew!
The Tabasco was a surprising kick, (the first pour should’ve been enough!) so, half of us were ok with it, but will not add it again, Sister in Law from Thailand, and friend from Mexico LOVED it! Could’ve had more! Mariano being from Spain said, “Perhaps we should add a little white wine because I think it looks a little too thick!” YES! And hobby chef brother Jay agreed that I should add a small ladle of his poached fish juice to everyone’s take home!
Great recipe, easy to follow instructions and great for a first time adventure into one of our new Favorite Family Recipes. From Madrid to San Diego sharing at its best. Thank you! Buen provecho!
Hi Grace (and Mariano) & Family – I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your comment! Thank you so much! I am so glad that you enjoyed this clam chowder recipe. It is definitely a labor of love when making it but so worth it in the end! I am thrilled that you found us and hope you keep coming back for more! -Erica
Absolutely delicious! I have made different versions of clam chowder over the years and this is our family’s favorite. The thermomix version couldn’t even compete. I only added 1 quart of half and half and it’s already pretty thin. I purchased 36 NE Florida local farm clams and ended up with 1 cup of clam meat. It did take me a whole a lot time to clean the clams and shell the clams but like the author said “it’s totally worth the effort”. The entire recipe took me 2 hours and we licked the bowl clean.
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.
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??
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.
This was a great recipe, I did make a couple changes such as using cream instead of half and half and added bacon. Delicious.
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 🙂
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
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!
So creamy and flavorful! This chowder was a hit with the family!
This made such a rich and creamy soup! This recipe is a keeper, for sure!