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)
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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