Guess what's more delicious and comforting than a bowl of clam chowder? Creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl! Rich and delicious with lots of sweet tender clams and potatoes, it's a winter favorite. I love mine full of real ingredients and no fillers so this clam chowder is the real deal. With just 15 minutes of prep and 20 minutes of simmering, it's ready fast! (Gluten-free)
Why I Love This Recipe
This classic creamy New England-style clam chowder is super simple with the briny flavor of the clam meat along with a rich, creamy texture. A small bit of bacon and tender potatoes add just the right amount of extra flavor and textures making it just the right thickness to sit perfectly in a bread bowl.
The finished seafood soup gets ladled into a toasty, warm sourdough bread bowl that's been hollowed out to be the serving vessel. Delicious chowder soaks into the bread that is so satisfying to tear apart and eat as you enjoy the hearty clam chowder. I can practically hear the storm raging outside and the ocean waves crashing as I devour it!
Growing up, we often dug clams and soaked them to remove the grit, then made our chowder with fresh clams. Nowadays, I can buy fresh clam meat and good quality canned clams from the grocery store.
Canned clams are handy to keep on hand in the pantry. They're perfect for this clam chowder recipe as well as for seafood stew, clam fritters or clam strips. Canned clams can be tossed into hot pasta with a little butter, garlic, white wine, and parsley for a quick vongole. (See my version of clam vongole here.)
If you love all chowder, you should try this awesome corn chowder, too.
Boston vs New England vs Manhattan clam chowder
Boston clam chowder and New England clam chowder both refer to creamy clam chowder recipes while Manhattan clam chowder is a savory tomato-based soup.
- Canned Clams - This recipe calls for canned clams, as mentioned above, but you can just as easily use fresh clams instead. Either steam and shuck clams or use whole clams in their shell that have been well rinsed. If adding whole clams in their shells to the chowder, use 2 pounds and make this in a larger pot. It will look like a lot but the amount of clam meat will be similar. Freshly steamed clams with their shell makes a more dramatic and elegant presentation, just be sure to provide bowls for the empty shells, on the table.
- Bacon - I've used regular, smoked bacon for this but if you don't want the smoky flavor, use pancetta or crisped up salt pork instead.
- Potatoes - Russet potatoes are a classic for clam chowder. The soften nicely and add body to the soup. Cooked longer, they can thicken the soup as they cook down, cooked for less time, they will give a more firm bite. If you want your potatoes to stay firm, you can use a waxy potato instead.
- Broth - Both chicken broth and clam nectar (aka clam juice or clam broth) have been used in this recipe. I like the flavor balance using both chicken stock and clam broth brings, but if you have your own seafood stock, it works wonderfully in this soup. Ironically, lobster stock makes a great base for clam chowder as I found out from one of my favorite restaurants. Be sure to use all the clam nectar from the canned clams as well as the 8 oz of jarred clam juice.
- Bread Bowl - I buy individual-sized sourdough bread bowls but you can make your own homemade bread bowl if you like. You can make them with my no knead bread recipe (divide the dough into 4) or try this bread bowl recipe. Once the sourdough boules are hollowed out, they are ready. You can toast them lightly in an oven for 10 minutes set to 350'F if you like.
Variations + Substitutions
- Seafood - This chowder can easily be made with other types of seafood. Try cod, halibut, salmon, mussels, prawns, lobster or even oysters! Use approximately ¾ to 1 pound of seafood or even more if you like.
- Fresh Herbs - Along with thyme, fresh chopped parsley and dill are my favorites for this soup. Chives, chervil and savory are other good choices. Avoid stronger flavored herbs like rosemary, sage, cilantro or basil as these can be overwhelming and distracting. Add ½ of the fresh herbs in along with the potatoes and then stir the rest in just before serving for the freshest and most flavor.
- Broth - Short on one type of broth? Use either chicken broth, clam juice, seafood stock, lobster stock, or vegetable broth or any combination of these as needed. (Beef or mushroom broth are NOT good substitutes.)
- Butter - Olive oil, vegetable oil, or the pork fat from cooking the bacon can be used instead if preferred.
- Cream - I urge you to use the cream for this recipe. It really adds the classic flavor and texture. I've used half and half cream but you can also use heavy cream for a slightly thicker texture and even richer flavor. In a pinch, whole milk will do.
What to serve with clam chowder
Since we've already got the bread covered with the bread bowl, you don't really need to add anything but here are some ideas if you want to round out the meal a bit more.
Add some crunch with saltines or oyster crackers, sliced raw veggies and dip, or a simple crisp garden salad or this apple kale slaw. For dessert, I prefer a light, fruit-based dessert after a rich meal. Try this easy plum flan or classic apple oatmeal cake for a sweet treat at the end.
Step By Step Instructions
1. Place bacon in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
2. Fry until it gets golden brown and crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel and drain most of the grease, but leave the bits of bacon from the bottom - they help flavor the chowder. Once the bacon is cool, chop it into bacon bits.
3. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat, and add celery, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp. They will look slightly translucent.
4. Stir in garlic, and saute another 30-60 seconds.
5. Add potatoes, clam juice, chicken broth, clams, pepper, onion powder, thyme and dill. Cover and bring to a simmer until potatoes are cooked through.
6. Measure cream and add the cornstarch to it.
7. Whisk or stir cornstarch with the cream until the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour it into the chowder and stir it through well. Add the crumbled bacon back in, reserving a bit for garnish at the end.
Bring the clam chowder back to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. (About 5 minutes.)
8. Meanwhile, prepare your bread bowl. Start by cutting the top ¼ off to make it flat on top. Then use a serrated paring knife or medium sized knife to cut a deep circle and pull the center bread out with your hands. (Use bread chunks for dipping or make croutons or bread crumbs for another recipe.) Be sure to leave about 1 inch of bread on all sides and bottom so the soup doesn't leak out.
9. Once the chowder is thickened, add in any optional fresh herbs.
10. Ladle it into the bread bowls, garnish with extra bacon bits and chopped parsley. Serve while hot.
Clam chowder is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Look how creamy and delicious it is!
To season this soup like a pro, use fresh herbs instead of dried, (½ teaspoon of fresh chopped thyme and 1 teaspoons of fresh chopped dill) and swap the black pepper for white pepper. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper at the end as well.
Clam chowder will keep well, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to 4 days. Be sure to cool it and refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking for food safety. To reheat chowder, warm it up gently in a pot on low to prevent it from boiling.
Pin This Clam Chowder Recipe
Whether you're from the West Coast, the East Coast or somewhere in between, I think we can all agree that a fresh bowl of hot chowder is a favorite meal on a cold day. Got another favorite cold weather soup? Let me know in the comments below!
More Soup Recipes
Cheers and happy cooking, Friends! Sabrina
Creamy Clam Chowder In A Bread Bowl - Easy Recipe
- 4 strips of bacon
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 c celery, diced (about 2 stalks)
- ½ c bell pepper, diced ½ a sweet red or green bell pepper depending on your preference
- 1 c onion, diced (1 medium onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 c russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 medium potatos)
- 8 oz. clam juice
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 13 oz. cans of clams with their juice (2 cans)
- ½ teaspoon pepper ground black or white pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- 1 ½ cups light cream or half and half 10% M.F. cream
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 individual sourdough bread bowls
- parsley and bacon bits for garnish
- Fry bacon in a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot until golden brown and crispy. Remove cooked bacon to paper towel and pour the bacon fat out, leaving any remaining bacon bits in the pot. Once cool, crumble it or chop it into bits.
- Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Add celery, onion, and bell pepper, sautéing until translucent. Stir in garlic, and saute another 30-60 seconds.
- Add potatoes, clam juice, chicken broth, clams, pepper, onion powder, and thyme. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat, cooking until potatoes are tender.
- Combine cornstarch with cream or half and half in a measuring cup and whisk until cornstarch is fully dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir it into the chowder. Add in the crumbled bacon (reserve a few bacon bits for garnish at the end) and continue to cook until it returns to a simmer and thickens.
- Meanwhile, while the chowder is cooking, hollow out the bread bowls. Cut the tops off about ¼ of the way from the top, then cut the centers out, leaving a 1 inch rim and bottom of bread.
- Once the soup is thickened, ladle it into the bread bowls and top with extra bacon bits, dill, or parsley to garnish.