Whip up a comfortingly creamy pot of homemade clam chowder loaded with tender potatoes, smoky bacon, and plenty of briny clams!
Clam chowder is probably my all-time favorite soup, and publishing my homemade version has been on my to-do list for the past couple of years, but I just never got around to refining the recipe. Well, like any household project your husband tackles – if he says it will get done, it will get done. You don’t need to keep reminding him every six months. Ok, I stole that quip from a facebook meme. Creativity is the art of hiding your sources, after all. Ok, I stole that line too…
What is a Chowder
A traditional chowder is a thick soup that features seafood such as fish, shellfish, or clams, and also contains onions and potatoes. Contrarily, corn chowder is an exception to the classic chowder. Clam chowder, in particular, is popularily found in New England.
Clam Chowder Ingredients
In my humble opinion, the best clam chowders feature a few key ingredients: A pronounced briny flavor from clams, of course, herbal notes from fresh thyme with a splash of lemon juice to brighten it up, and smoky bacon to balance out of the flavor. I also like plenty of tender russet potatoes chopped into 1/2″ cubes swimming in the broth.
I fortify the flavor of the clams by adding additional clam juice. If some of your guests don’t enjoy the flavor of clams as much, this can be omitted, or cut back. However, I think the flavor is too mild without it. The rest of the broth is built with half-and-half and chicken stock. You can use any store-bought chicken or vegetable stock, however, it is always best to have some homemade stock on hand if possible.
How to Thicken Clam Chowder
The ideal thickness of clam chowder varies from person to person. My homemade clam chowder recipe is deliciously creamy, without giving you the sensation that you are eating gravy. If you like thicker clam chowder this can be achieved by adding more flour or simply mashing some of the potatoes at the end of cooking. The mashed potatoes will incorporate into the broth, naturally thickening it.
Homemade Clam Chowder
I make my homemade clam chowder in a Dutch Oven. The wide base makes it easier for sauteing, as your bacon and vegetables have more room to spread out. Additionally, the wider opening on a Dutch Oven allows moisture to evaporate from the chowder more quickly, thickening your homemade clam chowder more. If you don’t own a Dutch Oven, you can certainly still use a traditional soup pot.
I also like using ground white pepper in my clam chowder because it hides better. However, the taste is the same as traditional black pepper, so you are certainly welcome to use the black pepper you have on hand if you don’t mind the black specs in the chowder.
Homemade Clam Chowder
- 3 slices Thick Cut Bacon (chopped)
- 1 medium Onion (chopped)
- 2 stalks Celery (diced)
- 1 clove Garlic (minced)
- 4 tablespoons Flour
- 2 cups Half-and-Half
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 20 ounces canned Baby Clams (do not drain)
- 8 ounces Clam Juice
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 1 pound Russet Potatoes (peeled and chopped into 1/2" cubes)
- 4 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon ground White Pepper (can substitute black pepper if desired)
- salt to taste
- Cook bacon in large pot, or Dutch Oven on the stovetop, until crispy. Remove bacon, leaving bacon grease in the pot.
- Add chopped onions and celery to the bacon grease and saute on medium heat until tender and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to low and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk continually to prevent flour from burning while cooking for 2 minutes, then slowly add in half-and-half, allowing it to incorporate with the flour before adding more.
- Add remaining ingredients to the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the chowder is thickened to your liking.
- Taste for salt, adjusting as needed. Crumble bacon and add it back into the chowder and ladle into bowls for serving.
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