Clam Chowder with Corn

This recipe uses fresh clams. If you don't have access to fresh clams, you can use clam juice and canned chopped clams. In that case, skip steps 1 and 2 and use 16 oz of clam juice, and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of chopped clams, saving the liquid from the cans to add to the clam juice.

Salt pork is traditional, it's like slab bacon that hasn't been smoked. You can easily substitute with bacon, or pancetta. If you don't use salt pork, you may need to add more salt to the soup.

The flour is a thickener. If you are cooking gluten-free or want a thinner consistency to your soup, leave it out. If you want a thicker soup, add more flour.

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8


  • About 4 lbs of littleneck or cherrystone clams (about 3 dozen clams or so, depending on the size)
  • 1 Tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces salt pork, cubed (or chopped bacon or pancetta, cubed)
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp flour (or more, depending on how thick you want the soup)
  • 1 cup dry white wine, like a Sauvignon blanc (or you can use 2 Tbsp of white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice)
  • 2 pounds potatoes (russets or Yukon gold), peeled and diced
  • 1 to 2 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (or paprika with a dash of cayenne)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn (frozen is fine) optional
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley


1 Clean and prep clams: Rinse and scrub the clams to remove of any dirt. Place clams in a bowl, cover with cold, salted water and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. This will allow the clams to expel some of their grit into the water. Discard any broken clams or clams that are open and do not close when you touch them.

2 Steam the clams: Place the clams in a large pot and add about a half inch of water to the pot. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Let the clams steam until they all open up, 5 to 10 minutes. The steaming water may foam up a bit, so watch so it doesn't overflow the pot.

steamed clams for clam chowder clam shells and clams

Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams from the pot to a bowl. Strain the remaining clam steaming liquid through a fine mesh sieve to catch any grit, and reserve. You should have 2 to 3 cups of clam liquid. Separate the clams from the clam shells. Discard the shells. Roughly chop the cooked clams.

3 Brown the salt pork: Place the salt pork and butter or oil in the bottom of a large, thick-bottomed pot. Heat on medium and brown the salt pork. (Note that if you are using salt pork that is mostly fat, you won't need any additional fat from butter or oil, but you might want to put a little water in the pan to help render the fat from the salt pork.)

browning the salt pork salted pork for clam chowder

4 Add onion: Add the chopped onion to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

ingredients for clam chowder

5 Add flour, let cook, then add wine: Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir until everything is coated with the flour. Let the flour cook for a minute or two. Slowly add the white wine to the pot, stirring after each addition.

how to make clam chowder with fresh ingredients best clam chowder cooking

6 Add potatoes, clam steaming liquid, spices: Add potatoes to the pot. Add 2 to 3 cups of the strained clam steaming liquid and a cup of water. The liquid should cover the potatoes. If not, add a little more, either water or clam cooking liquid.

adding potatoes to clam chowder

Add the bay leaf, thyme, black pepper, and Old Bay. Heat to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then add the corn (if using) and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked through.

boiling potatoes in clam chowder

7 Heat cream: While the potatoes are cooking, heat a cup of cream in a small saucepan until steamy.

8 Add clams, stir in cream: When the potatoes are tender, add the chopped clams and turn off the heat of the soup. Slowly stir in the heated cream. Adjust seasonings. Stir in the fresh parsley.

adding clams and stirring cream

Serve with oyster crackers or rustic bread.

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  • Tiffany

    Good! I really tried to stick with the recipe, had to use ham instead of bacon (sigh) but it was really good! i’m going to make it again. Thank you! :D


  • Sarah

    Love clam chowder and I always add creamed corn.

  • Steph Kindel

    Just made this with freshly dug quahogs. Used bacon and no corn (what we had in the house), but thanks for providing a good base with which to start.


  • Alexander

    I’m from Maine. Let the ole lady try this recipe spite by ole’ fashion ways and it tasted like charcole. Either she cooked it too long or she did something ele wrong, but It was the worst ever. Simple rule from Maine. Don’t add anyhting but maybe potatoes. God I want clam chowder… Not salt pork chowder. Just never add anything but sea food too a chowder. My boss is a 40 year+ Chef and He would throw it away. The one time I regret not paying attention. Salt pork no! Milk fine. Do over do it. Half the time thats the problem. Add way too much and loose the truditional Maine flavor. I couldn’t even take 2 bites before that salty overcooked pork taste showed up. Its called clam chowder not pork chowder.

  • Mary M

    I’ve eaten clam chowder everywhere from Canada to Texas and have loved almost every bowl. There was one in San Diego…well, never mind. One of the very few that were terrible. I grew up on Campbell’s, still love it, too. BUT – here in Dallas there is a restaurant called Yard House that makes the most delicious clam chowder I have ever encountered. Turns out their chef is from Maine! About your recipe: I’m sure it’s great, as are all your recipes, but I have to admit my stomach tightened up a bit as soon as you mentioned corn. I love good corn, but there are certain places it shouldn’t go, and this is definitely one of them! If I make this, I will not be adding corn. Everyone to his own taste!

  • Don Fitch

    I like to thicken it with a light white sauce — for my usual-size batch, two tablespoonsful of butter or other oils, heated long enough to evaporate any water, then an equal amount of flour stirred in and cooked until it barely begins to brown, then milk/cream plus other (clam-juice) liquids added, and cooked for a few minutes to overcome any raw-flour taste. (Actually, I’m too much of a Depression Era child to buy cream for any cooking, but I find that whole-milk works quite well, and my cardiologist doesn’t object if I don’t do it too often.)

    And yes, if it comes out a bit thin for my taste, instant mashed potato flakes work fine. (Note that, even though I’ve spent most of my life on the West Coast, I don’t think clam chowder should b thick enough to eat with a fork.)

  • I_Fortuna

    Great recipe. Usually when I cook up a creamy soup or stew, I add cream after I have served up the soup in a bowl. Even though, cream, not milk. does well even if the soup or chowder boils, I found adding cream to the bowl makes it even better. And, if someone does not like the cream, they can leave it out or add a few spoonfuls of stewed tomatoes, Rotel, or chopped tomatoes in juice or V8. Everyone’s taste is different, so offering options is important to me.
    I like making a roux and let mine cook 3 minutes to rid the raw flour taste.
    Thanks for the recipe. : )

  • Susanne

    I’m long overdue in giving you a compliment. When I want to make something, I look at other recipe sites, but then I come back to yours and always end up making your version. Always the best. Many thanks for this great chowder recipe which will be our Christmas Eve dinner!


    • Elise Bauer

      Thank you Susanne, Merry Christmas!

    • KWW

      I agree! I always come back to Simply Recipes! We are the same age but I think you are my grandmother when it comes to recipes.

      Meanwhile, I totally botched this recipe with substitutions. Used flash frozen clams (seemed fancier than canned but way easier than steamed fresh). The broth was perfect beforehand but the frozen clams released tons of flavor. And liquid. Took an extra cup of cream and cornstarch slurry and extra lemon, but every one loved the final product!!

      N.B. Just follow the recipe!!

  • alecia

    Made this tonight… OMG, it is super good. Yes, I improvised a bit, but the base of this chowder recipe is extremely good and you can easily incorporate your own techniques and flavors into this recipe and make it your own. I did!


  • Desiree

    Just made this and it taste great… Will have for my lunch tomorrow. Sadly, I forgot the oyster crackers, I’ ll have to make do with the saltines!!! YUMMY!!!


  • Keri

    I would like to make this but don’t understand how adding a half inch of water during steaming allows you to end up with 1 to 2 cups of clam liquid….

    • Elise Bauer

      The clams have liquid inside of them which they release when they open up while they cook.

  • Lotte

    Two years ago I had clam chowder tasted in a restaurant while I am on vacation in Wyoming. Since then I loved it and I was searching for recipes. So I found your recipe.
    I have made this recipe for the 4th time today. It’s absolutely great! Thank you for that.


  • Jen

    I have tried (and loved) many of the recipes on this web-site, but this is my first time commenting. I have to tell you that I LOVED this. So comforting- I ate 2 bowls! I did the version using potato flakes instead of flour and used low sodium chicken stock instead of water. Oh- and 2 bay leaves instead of 1. Served with crackers (for my husband) and sweet potato rolls for my daughter and I. yummmmm


  • Marc Osten

    This is a great recipe…just the right thickness for me personally. Let me go out on a limb and share that I’ve made clam chow-dah and used whole clams from a can before and it was still great. Just sayin! Most of you/us do not have access to fresh clams so it is a substitute worth trying if necessary. One of the best chowders I ever tasted was on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.

  • Julie

    I give this one 5 stars! Not too thick, not too thin, and just enough cream to make it luscious without being too heavy, it was delicious! Didn’t have any white wine and it was Sunday so I added the 2T of cider vinegar even though I was nervous about it tasting off but it rounded out the flavors nicely. The corn was a nice addition too! The only thing I added was a little hot sauce at the end for a subtle kick.


  • elston

    I was trying to replay to the first post looking for a non-dairy chowdah……but I had trouble posting my comment. I see that you took care of it with a reference to RI chowder. I love the New England Chowdah…..but also 2 versions of RI chowder. One is made with clam broth, salt pork onion and potato and chopped clams (I use canned)….and seasoned with garden herbs such as thyme, tarragon etc. It is delicious.

    The second starts the same but I smoosh up a can of whole tomatoes with my fingers and add the tomato and the juice(not puree) to the broth and add chopped up portuguese chorico (the hard sausage…not the soft mexican chorico) with the clams….to the chowder. Both have lots of black pepper also. In RI they are often served with RI version of clam cakes which are really a clam fritter, not a pan fried clam cake. They are so popular that for awhile even McDonald’s added clam cakes to some of their RI menu.

  • Melanie

    Very glad to see you are using the broth from steaming to add clam flavor. My family has always done the same thing. If I have more broth than I need I will often even simmer it to reduce and concentrate the flavors but allows the consistency to remain where I want it to be.
    My family always makes quahog chowder, so instead of the smaller clams you use a few large quahogs and chop them up. Lots of flavor and less shucking!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Melanie, question for you with the quahog chowder. Do you steam the quahogs first? and then chop? Or do you shuck the quahogs raw, and grind or chop? I’ve been told both ways.

  • Pat

    I have made chowders, oyster stew, bisques, and other dairy-based soups very successfully with soymilk. Use the regular kind, not Lite or flavored versions. I also find that the dairy case soymilks have a more delicate flavor than the ones in aseptic packs on the shelves. Be very careful to gently heat the soymilk and not boil it, since boiling can lead to separation and a pronounced bean-y flavor.

  • Lorna J

    I love this recipe! I too grew up in Massachusetts. My dad, the son of Portuguese immigrants, insisted on tomato based chow-dah. I remember my delight at a Yankee friend’s house to encounter cream based ambrosia. This one is even more flavorful, and not pasty like we find here out west. Thanks for my new favorite chowder.


  • Gary Z

    Tsk tsk tsk. This is a very busy recipe and not at all real clam chowder! I am from Massachusetts and grew up on Cape Cod and New England clam chowder. Authentic clam chowder is all about the thin broth and the clams! New Englanders are looking for just three things-clams, thin broth with a little creaminess, and some diced potato heartiness.
    For the past 25+ years out here in CA I’ve seen 99% clam STEW, as this recipe is, too. All of these ingredients produces glop that completely masks and overpowers the clam and fish flavor. Real clam chowder is not about standing your spoon up in it with 25 ingredients in it, as I have mostly encountered out here. There is no flour in authentic clam chowder, no corn (that’s for Crab Chowders), no bay leaf, no wine, no butter in the prep, no Old Bay Seasoning. If you want to know what real clam chowder is sautee up some salt pork or bacon, dice a few potatoes and some onions up and when the pork is rendered, add them to that. After a few minutes, add 3 or 4 cups of fish or clam broth. When the potatoes are softened add the clams and some, SOME, milk or cream, just to give a little creaminess. Fresh clams in the shell are not traditional. Use any chopped and cooked clam meat. Do not boil. Season with some salt and pepper, and serve with a little pat of butter on top and of course, oyster crackers–And NO BREAD BOWLS. If you like this recipe and thickness, then call it stew, and I am happy for you…..But real Clam Chowder is thin and simple!

    • Elise Bauer

      For the record Gary, this recipe is not a glop. There’s just a little flour for a little thickening. I too do not like the clam chowders that are so thick you can stand a spoon in it. Those recipes usually take a half a cup of flour, not a tablespoon. If you are really interested in “authentic” New England clam chowder, I urge you to look at the recipes from the 1700s and 1800s that are linked to from the Chowder Compendium I mention in the headnotes and in the links beneath the recipe. You’ll see much more variety than you would expect.

    • Protocol

      Gary, dude, mellow out. We’re just sharing here. If you have a different way of doing things, we’re happy to hear about it, but don’t shout down other people. Elise has a pretty solid track record with her site and I place a great deal of trust in what she recommends.

      Have a nice day.

    • Marie

      I realize this post is old. But –

      If you look through the Chowder Compendium, with the link Elise provided at the top of the article, you can see that the Chowder recipes dating back as far as the 1700s and 1800s actually do include flour and even wine in numerous recipe iterations.

      As she stated earlier, there is no one right and perfect way to make it. Your personal way is the right way for you, personally. As a Mainer, I know how opinionated folks are about their New England Clam Chowder. Just make it the way you want it and accept that other folks will do the same. No one is out to cook any gloppy wallpaper paste of a chowder here.

      Thank you Elise for providing the link to the Chowder Compendium link – so awesome! I had no idea it even existed.

      Marie the Mainer

    • Jerry J

      As a native New Englander and Cape Cod resident I would like to say that I agree with Gary Z’s recipe. Clam Chowder should be simple and the flavor of the clams should be foremost. I can’t imagine going to all that work to shell clams unless you dug them yourself. Any good seafood market should offer chopped clams for chowder. While there is no law that says you can’t add corn to clam chowder, it certainly isn’t traditional. Corn chowder is often served here as an alternative to clam chowder. Lunch counters (remember them) used to offer corn chowder on Wednesdays and clam chowder on Fridays. My pet peeve; calling chowder “chowda” or lobster “lobsta” is really just mimicking our accents. People with Boston accents tend to drop the ending r off many words. I just came across this post looking for a clam chowder recipe. I might try it both ways, but definitely without the corn. Thank you.

  • Claire D

    Am starting to explore gluten-free recipes and was sad on how limited food selections there are. Then I saw your recipe and thought I will trade “thinness of soup” for great flavor any day. And I like your addition of corn too. Saw you speak at BlogHer in Seattle this past June – just love your site Elise!

    • Elise Bauer

      Thanks Claire! By the way, other suggestions for gluten-free approaches include arrow root or potato starch for thickening.

  • mary

    My mother always threw in a tablespoon of cornmeal when the clams were soaking. Sort of like their last meal. I think it probably forced them to expel some of the unmentionables in their gut before they were eaten. I love your recipes, and your cheerful attitude toward food and everything.

  • Claire

    This sounds so good. And I’ve got everything but the clams in the house! However, I’m living abroad now, and clams are a little hard to find. Do you think I could substitute some fish?

  • mark

    In my years of perfecting clam chowder I have found the only way to get the tang of clam juice is to at least steam some live clams and use that juice to ad to the chowdar.
    bottled juice or canned clams dont get that taste.
    1/2 dozen clams steamed water will provide the fresh taste and then add canned clams.
    Just a cheapo tip.
    love ya Elise.

  • Anat

    This looks fabulous! As a lactose intolerant, I was wondering if it’s possible to substitute the cream with something else?
    Thank you!

  • Juliana Inman (@mizblueprint)

    Thank you so much for the link to the New England Chowder Compendium. This is a real treasure! There are many historical recipes and modern interpretations of chowder. It even has a link to the chowder chapter in Moby Dick.

  • Marion Olson

    Here in Maine so far this Fall, we’ve had a hint of that hurricane and a bit of a Nor’easter, so it’s really chowder season.

    I like my chowder milky, so I don’t use flour but basically it’s much the same. Corn season is over, so I didn’t put that in, but I added a piece of haddock and a good handful of bay scallops along with the clams and salt pork. I also always use “canned” [evaporated 2%] milk, just because that’s the way my grandmother always did it, and because it makes it creamy without cream. But I really do like the idea of adding mashed potato flakes to thicken it – flour just doesn’t work for me!

  • Leon Festinger

    Arrowroot flour, potato starch, or even instant mashed potato flakes (gasp!) are fine gluten-free ways to thicken this delicious soup.

  • Beth Stone

    Have you tried Rhode Island Clear Broth Chowder? There is also a Rocky Point Clam Chowder that is red, but not like Manhattan. Being from RI myself, I grew up on these, not so much the creamy one.

  • Michele

    On the Outer Banks of NC they make it almost without milk or cream – don’t know what goes in it but the broth is almost clear and very light, not thick with flour either. That is the way I like Clam Chowder. The closest I have seen outside NC is the “light” version at Legal Seafood. Living in California is like living in Clam Chowder Purgatory. Almost every place serves wallpaper paste.

    • Richard Warren

      Sounds similar to style of Crisfield, MD: Shuck 18 chowder size clams, reserving liquid. Strain liquid thru cheesecloth. If needed, add water to make 1.5 cups liquid. Chop clams. Fry 3 strips bacon til crisp. Drain fat & crumble bacon. To lg sauce pan add bacon bits, 1 qt. water, 2 cups diced potatoes, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp Old Bay, 1/2 tsp chopped parsley. Bring to boil & cook til potatoes are done (20 min). Add clams & clam liquid. Salt & pepper to taste. Simmer 10 min. Serve. Makes @ 8 cups.


    Very similar to how I do it. I don’t add pork so I add smoked sea salt and extra old bay. I cook my clams in a mix of white wine and water. It adds a nice layer of flavor. If I need more liquid later in the recipe I’ll use fish stock instead of adding more water.

  • Raven

    Anyone who would even consider putting corn into their recipe is automatically stripped of their right to say “chow-DAH!”

  • Skatie

    Oh, and commenting on Anat’s question about alternatives to dairy, I’ve made fish chowder with coconut milk. It definitely changes the flavor, but with a nice, sweet-fleshed fish, it’s not at all a bad change. I’m not sure if Old Bay would work in that instance (I stick with crushed red pepper for heat if I’m using coconut milk), but it’s worth experimenting.

  • Skatie

    I make clam chowder with corn all the time, though not due to tradition, much more because we like the flavor. I make both clam and clam/fish chowder, using whatever firm, white(ish) fish is on sale at the time, so we’ve had it with catfish, scrod, tilapia, monkfish, and cod (probably others as well, I can’t remember now). I’ve never used salt pork, but occasionally I’ll throw in bacon. To thicken the soup, instead of using flour, I’ll chop some of the potato very small, and cook it longer, so the potato breaks down. If you don’t have cream on hand, 1/2 & 1/2, or even whole milk in a pinch (I’m usually in a pinch), work too.

  • Amanda

    I live in Seattle, where the local fish and chips chain Ivars makes great clam chowder. They also do a nice Pacific Northwest chowder, that has less cream and includes chunks of salmon. It is deeelicious! I always take visitors to the Ivars on the Seattle waterfront, where you can eat outside and then toss your leftover French fries to the seagulls.

  • Toni

    I have had some clam chowder that was just too floury. I started using a little instant mashed potato flakes to thicken it. Much better taste.

  • Paul

    You’re so right that “pretty much everyone thinks their way is best.” I grew up in New England and after moving away, discovered that the density of clam chowder varies directly with the distance from New England. In places far removed, it’s almost a pudding; you can stick a spoon in it and it’ll stay vertical indefinitely. You can turn the bowl upside down and it will stay in the bowl. This recipe strikes a nice balance; the richness of cream but not wallpaper paste.