New England Clam Chowder is an American specialty, believed to be introduced to the upper northeast by French immigrants in the 1700s. It increased in popularity as a hearty, homemade dish until it gained notoriety by being served at the Ye Olde Union Oyster House in Boston in 1836 – which is today the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the United States.

Today, New England Clam Chowder is an American tradition, and something that is still best had in the northeastern United States overlooking a harbor. There’s just something about this dish that’s warm, comforting, and makes you want more!

New England Clam Chowder

Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people


  • 2 lbs littleneck clams about 20
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 strips bacon about 2 oz, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-sized onion finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks and leaves finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes peeled and finely diced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Ask your fishmonger if the clams have been soaked to remove sand; if not, or if in doubt, then scrub the clams well and cover with cold water for 1-2 hours, changing the water once.
  • Drain the clams. Place in a pot with the 3 cups water and heat over a high flame, covered. A couple minutes after the clams have begun boiling, remove lid to check if they’ve all opened. If not, cover and check in another minute (cooking time depends on the size of the clams).
  • Once all the clams have opened, remove from heat and transfer the clams with tongs to another bowl to cool, making sure to reserve all the cooking liquid in the pot.
  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until almost cooked, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and celery, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and softened, about 6 minutes.
  • Stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour and continue cooking, stirring, for another 1-2 minutes. Add the reserved cooking liquid from the clams and stir well.
  • Increase heat to high to bring just to a boil. Add the potatoes, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. Let the soup cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have softened, about 20 minutes (if chopped to a fine dice).
  • Meanwhile, remove the clam meat from the shells with tongs and set aside.
  • Discard the shells, but be sure to save any tasty liquid and add it to the soup. If desired, or if clams are especially large, you can chop the meat.
  • Once the potatoes are fully cooked, add the milk and cream to the soup, and warm thoroughly under low heat. Do not thoroughly boil the soup once the milk and cream have been added (though a little bubbling is fine).
  • Stir in the clams, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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