Authentic New England Clam Chowder

A bowl of clam chowder with bacon.

If you’ve been a follower of Garlic & Zest the last few years, you know my loathe of football and that the Super Bowl is pretty much the only day that this sport gets any love from me.  My reasons are two-fold: 1.  These two teams have clawed, fought and overcome deflation to get to this day and they should be recognized for their efforts.  2. It’s the last game of the season — football widow no more — Yay!!!

And since I don’t really care about the game itself and food is my motivating factor in pretty much EVERYTHING I do, the only way I can make this an interesting day is to focus on the food… and not your standard game-day-fare.  No.  We make dishes that are indigenous to the areas in the country where the teams are from.

As the playoffs ensue, my husband, Scott, keeps me up to speed on which cities (um, teams) are in contention for the title — and we start making our short-list of foods that match up to those cities.  Wisconsin — I was gonna make my own brats… Pittsburgh — it was gonna be pirogies (I was saying silent prayers not to be Pittsburgh)  Houston was going to involve some kind of barbecue… and Seattle – I was going to come up with something new, because I’d already made those salmon sliders.  

simmering the potatoes in the clam stock until tender.

Instead we ended up with New England and Atlanta — two very delicious food cities, IMO.  Today, I’m focused on the Patriots – and an Authentic New England Clam Chowder.  This doesn’t involve clams from a can, although you’re welcome to go that route if you find yourself in a pinch on game day.

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There are no surprises in this chowder, just a luxuriously, buttery, creamy — dare I say, bacon-y broth that’s loaded with fresh chopped clams and tender potatoes.  I bought my clams at our local fish market and I may have bought one of their stellar smoked fish dips as well…  I came home and cooked and photographed and sampled, swooned and photographed some more… Then I invited taste tester and friend, Nola, over to join Scott and me for dinner — where we went through two bottles of wine and about half of this pot of soup.  Goody, more for later…

Stay tuned…next up is the menu plan for the Atlanta Falcons…

Three bowls of New England Clam Chowder.

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a bowl of clam chowder.
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4.50 from 10 votes

Authentic New England Clam Chowder

A luscious creamy, briny broth loaded with fresh clams, tender potatoes and smoky bacon. The ultimate comfort food – easy to make too!
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chowder, soup
Dietary Restrictions Egg Free
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8


  • 7-8 pounds clams Cherrystone, about 1 1/2-2 dozen large clams, scrubbed of grit
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ pound bacon thick cut, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • pounds yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into half inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon thyme fresh or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water cold
  • 1 cup heavy cream

For garnish

  • ¼ cup celery tops (the leaves) chopped
  • 4 strips bacon crisped
  • 1 cup oyster crackers


  • Place the scrubbed clams in a heavy stock pot and add 4 cups cool water. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and bring the water to a boil. When water begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes, until clams open. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the clams to a baking sheet to cool.
  • Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the clam juice through the sieve to remove any grit. Reserve the juice.
  • Clean and dry the pot and place it back on the stove over medium high heat. Add the butter and swirl it in the pan until it melts. Add the chopped bacon and cook 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the bacon to a dish lined with paper towels. Add the chopped onion and celery to the hot grease and cook until tender and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in 6 cups of reserved clam juice, potatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  • In a small dish combine the cornstarch and water and stir into a slurry. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the soup and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook for one minute until broth thickens slightly. Stir in the clams, three quarters of the bacon and the cream.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped celery leaves, remaining bacon and oyster crackers.


Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 


Calories: 448kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 88mg | Sodium: 722mg | Potassium: 773mg | Fiber: 4g | Vitamin A: 755IU | Vitamin C: 19.1mg | Calcium: 97mg | Iron: 6.2mg
This authentic New England Clam Chowder recipe makes a whole pot of creamy soup, loaded with fresh clams, potatoes, bacon and a savory broth. #clamchowder #chowder #clams #newenglandclamchowder #clamchowderrecipe #freshclams #middleneckclams #bacon #potatoes #newenglandpatriotsfood #superbowlfood #superbowl #soups #stews #chowders #seafood #shellfish #shellfishrecipe

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  1. 4 stars
    Saw this recipe. I am from New England grew up on docks clamming. This a a great recipe but by no means the traditional chowder. Trust me, I am not a hater. Just not traditional. I will put bacon on side in case people want it but can’t taste clams if I do

  2. I know many people eschew bacon in their chowder, but I’m not one of them. It tastes good and that’s what counts. That said, I’m not the food police and you can certainly skip it.

  3. 5 stars
    Not sure why some of the others are saying it’s not authentic. I live in New England and have al my life (50+ years). I lived in Massachusetts, Maine and now NH. And although most home cooks do not use thickeners or bacon a lot of New England restaurants do. And yes we do use celery, not sure why that one person said we don’t. We also use little neck clams, steamer clams and quahogs.

  4. You may be a great cook…..but putting BACON? in clam chowdah, then calling the recipe “authentic”, is borderline blasphemy!!! NO new englander will ever put Bacon in their chowdah!

  5. You are a GREAT cook! Your recipes are inspiring, fresh and healthy! Wow! Thank you for sharing your love, light & fabulous culinary talents.

    I was looking for a good lobster bisque recipe, which led me to your website. I’m having so much fun browsing your recipes. Great website, definitely one to bookmark!

    1. Thank you so much, Ellie! I appreciate your very kind words. Let me know if there’s something in particular you’re looking for — there’s a lot more cooking to do!

  6. Having grown up in Newport, RI, I think I’m qualified to correct you as far as the words“authentic New England “when it comes to clam chowder. First, we don’t use celery and we use quohaugs otherwise known as
    “Chowder clams”. We don’t even use thickeners
    as most non New Englanders do. You can call it NE clam chowder. just don’t call it “ “Authentic”.

    1. That’s what you get when a non New Englander makes it… in any case, it IS delicious!

  7. How can you stir in 6 cups of reserved clam juice if you only reserved four cups of it LOL

    1. To clarify – did you only keep four cups of juice, or are you supposing that with only 4 cups of water, you won’t get 6 cups of clam juice? When I first made this soup, I actually purchased extra clam juice — just in case I needed it. I didn’t. The clams give up a ton of briny liquid.

  8. 5 stars
    This clam chowder with fresh clams is seriously calling my name! It looks absolutely luscious, and that glorious thick cut bacon: be still my heart! I’ve tried to jump on the wagon and learn about football, but I too, usually end up only watching the big game (and even then, I’m usually there for the food, haha.) A bottomless bowl of this in front of me, I’d be very happy to watch alllll the football! 🙂

    1. The only thing I like about football is the food and an excuse to eat!

  9. First of all, I love your little tradition here. I’m pretty ambivalent to football in general, but I’ll tune into the Super Bowl some times… ESPECIALLY if there’s a party with food involved. I love a good clam chowder, and I’d eagerly tuck into a bowl of that spectacular soup (can you call it a soup? Is that sacrilege?) with gusto. Here’s hoping that next year’s two combatants continue to provide you with such incredible inspiration.

  10. Truly looks delicious. You created layers of flavor beginning with your saute. I really like how chunky you cut the other ingredients. This clam chowder is a stick to your ribs meal. YUM!

  11. 5 stars
    I love this idea! I totally ignore football all year too, and then use the Super Bowl as an excuse to eat. But your strategy is a little more clever- I love that city idea!
    And clam chowder is pretty much the best thing eva’!