Manhattan Clam Chowder

by Ann Marie Michaels on April 19, 2011

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Manhattan Clam Chowder

I love clam chowder. Not everyone can digest dairy, and New England Clam Chowder is made with cream and milk. Here is a great recipe for Manhattan-style Clam Chowder.

The Origin of Manhattan Clam Chowder

The word “chowder” hails from Newfoundland. Breton fishermen would throw portions of the day’s catch and other available foods into a large pot (similar to the French bouillabaisse).

According to Wikipedia:

In the 1890s, this chowder was called “New York clam chowder” and “Fulton Fish Market clam chowder.” The addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version “Manhattan-style” clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker is an insult.

Why Eat Chowder?

Clams are super nutritious. They are very high in vitamin B12 and zinc, two nutrients that many of us are low in.

Clams are also the world’s richest source of iron, containing 9 times more iron than beef.

Recipe Notes:

If you don’t have access to fresh clams, you can use fresh oysters instead, or use canned clams. Any stock will due (i.e. chicken, beef, fish, or lobster). When I make Clam Chowder I often use lobster stock because I made some and froze it.

If you would like the soup to be a little thicker, simply mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pan and stir to blend.

If you are on the GAPS or SCD diet, or eating low-carb (or 4 Hour Body), you substitute cauliflower for the potatoes.

A salad would be a good starter (for the enzymes). If you like beer or wine with your meal, a good pairing for this is a light lager or ale, or a white wine. Another option is to serve the chowder alongside clam cakes.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

(serves 4)


Bacon, nitrate-free (3 slices) — where to buy bacon
Onion, white or yellow, medium (1)
Celery (2 ribs)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste — where to buy sea salt
Bay leaf (1) where to buy bay leaf
Oregano and or parsley, fresh/chopped or dried (1 teaspoon)
White wine (1/2 cup)
Fish stock or lobster stock (3 cups), or 2 cups chicken stock + 1 cup clam juice
Tomatoes, diced (1 16 oz can)
Potatoes, russet (1 1/2-2 pounds)
Clams, fresh, in shell (3 pounds) or chopped, fresh or frozen (1 pound) — you can also use canned clams, although I have not tried it
Optional: Parsley, fresh (1 bunch)


Dutch oven or stock pot
Tongs or slotted spoon


1. If using frozen clams, defrost in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours. If using fresh clams, rinse well, drain, and store in fridge until ready to use.
2. Chop the bacon up into small pieces. Fry over medium heat until crisp. Set aside.
3. Chop the onion and celery. Sauté in the bacon drippings with sea salt and black pepper, bay leaf and oregano and/or parsley. Cook until the vegetables are soft.
4. Return the bacon to the pan and add the wine. Simmer until all the wine has absorbed.
5. Add the fish stock and/or chicken stock and clam juice.
6. Add the can of tomatoes (do not drain). Simmer for 20 minutes.
7. Peel and dice the potatoes. Add the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 more minutes.
8. Taste and correct the seasonings.
9. If using fresh clams, stir in clams and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until clams open wide, 8 to 10 minutes. (Discard any clams that after 10 minutes have not opened.)
10. If using frozen clams, add them to the pot and cook for a few minutes, until they are cooked through. Don’t overcook or they will be rubbery.
11. Remove pan from heat. Ladle the soup into bowls, making sure there are clams in each bowl. Top each bowl with the optional freshly minced parsley.

Photo credit: Manhattan Clam Chowder by Mr. T in DC, on Flickr
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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tasha @ Voracious April 19, 2011 at 3:32 AM

I don’t think we can get fresh clams here, but I’ll keep my eyes open. I was JUST thinking about clam chowder last night, and realizing it has been years and years since I last ate any. I really want to make some, it is so incredibly delicious. Thanks for the recipe!


mishka April 19, 2011 at 4:09 AM

My husband can’t have dairy either. We make a great clam chowder using a cream of potato and leek base, kielbasa and fresh clams. Yum.


Shannon April 19, 2011 at 10:24 AM

I am going to make this tonight! Your recipes have never done me wrong (I still remember the fabulous smell of the beef stew!).

One question — when do you add the clams? I have read the recipe three times, but don’t see that (I’m probably missing it!). I’m assuming you add them at the end if you’re using canned clams?


Terrell April 19, 2011 at 10:45 AM

I had the same question about the clams. Do you steam them first and then shuck, chop and add to soup?

The recipe sounds delicious!


cheeseslave April 19, 2011 at 10:59 AM

I am sorry guys — I will fix the recipe.
I am getting my hair cut right now but as soon as she’s done I will fix it!


Veronica April 19, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Thanks so much for the recipes. I have been working like a bear to eat/cook more nutritionally (after reading Real Food by Nina Planck.) I really LOVE knowing that your recipes use real foods.


cheeseslave April 19, 2011 at 12:08 PM

OK I fixed it! I am so sorry about that. How could I miss such an important part of the recipe?! Yikes!

This is what happens when I rush to get a blog post up when I’m so busy (as I have been lately).

Thanks for pointing it out!


Shannon April 19, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Thanks, AM! :)


WholesomeGal April 19, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Good recipe:) As the winter months end, I like to “lighten up” my meals a bit and eat dishes like this for dinner.


Shannon April 19, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Okay, this is almost done. My house smells amazing. The broth is incredible. I thought I would miss the cream — heavens, no! This is awesome!

I am using Trader Joe’s canned Maine whole cherrystone clams (chopped up). They have a terrific flavor and there’s no funky additives. I’m sure fresh would be better, but this is what I had on hand, so it’s what I used.


cheeseslave April 20, 2011 at 10:47 AM

Shannon, Thanks for reporting back! I’m glad to hear the canned clams work well. I had not tried them.

I’m going to have to make this recipe again soon — I love it!


Shannon April 20, 2011 at 10:54 AM

OK, this was really a fabulous recipe. I had to add extra stock…I might have put too many potatoes. My husband, who is allergic to dairy and really misses New England clam chowder ate almost the entire pot. He had 4 bowls. My daughter, who has a cold wanted just the broth and asked for it for lunch today. Thanks again for this recipe!


cheeseslave April 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Four bowls! Awww, that is wonderful! Thank you so much for letting me know. :-)


Armando@CreditDonkey April 23, 2011 at 6:33 AM

I also love Clam Chowder it has been a long time too since I last had one, this makes me crave for one. I’ll try your recipe out if my kids would love it. I’ll let you know.


JOanneRamey April 28, 2011 at 9:30 PM

Thanks for the receipe My mom used to make it when I was alittle girl & I love it. Can’t wait to try it
Thanks again


Bethany July 12, 2011 at 4:35 AM

This looks delicious….. I have never had real clam chowder, just stuff that came from a can when I was younger…. I would love to try this though !


Karen A. July 16, 2011 at 5:12 PM

I much prefer this to New England style. It is so good when homemade!


Shannon September 26, 2011 at 8:16 AM

Making this again. Nothing like this on a cold, rainy day. I can always count on you for great soup/stew recipes. And this is especially a great recipe that I don’t have to adjust for my gluten-free, dairy-free husband. Thanks again. :)


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