Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan clam chowder is just right for lovers of tomatoes, potatoes, and bacon. Use canned and fresh clams in this classic Manhattan clam chowder recipe.

Two bowls of Manhattan Clam Chowder

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

According to food historian and blogger Janet Clarkson, the very first printed recipe for chowder appeared in the Boston Evening Post in 1751. Written as a poem, it described a stew with onions, pork, fish, herbs, and biscuits (hardtack, I think).

Manhattan Clam Chowder vs. New England Chowder

Over the years "chowdah" evolved into a dairy-based stew in New England, and during the late 1800s, the first tomato-based chowders showed up on the menu at Delmonico's in New York, perhaps influenced by Portuguese immigrants who often put clams together with pork and tomato sauce.

If you are used to thick (or thin) cream-based, cracker-riddled, white clam chowder, this Manhattan clam chowder is a completely different beast. Not even remotely like the New England favorite.

How to Customize This Clam Chowder Recipe

But, it's good in its own right, especially if you love tomatoes and clams. You can make it as brothy or thick as you like. In our case, we're taking a little shortcut with the recipe by using canned clams for much of the clam component of the soup.

Living here in California, we don't have as easy (or cheap) access to quahogs or chowder clams as they do on the eastern shore.

I originally had this soup in mind for Lent, and then remembered that it starts with bacon. It would still make an excellent soup for a Lenten fast, just skip the bacon and add more olive oil to start.

Clam Chowder Manhattan in a pot

Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Tips for Buying Clams

Fresh clams: Buy the freshest live clams you can find and make sure the shells are tightly closed. For this Manhattan chowder recipe, you'll need hard clams. Any of these varieties will do.

  • Quahogs (also known as Chowderhogs)
  • Cherrystone
  • Topneck
  • Littleneck
  • Countneck
  • Manila

Canned clams: Buy any brand of canned clams for this recipe, but make sure you don't accidentally grab smoked clams.

How to Clean and Prepare Fresh Clams

To clean clams of sand and dirt, soak them for 30 minutes in a bowl of cool, salted water. Cook them immediately or store them in a bowl covered with a wet towel, and keep them refrigerated for no longer than 24 hours.

When preparing clams, tap any opened clams on the counter. If they close up, they're safe to eat. If they don't, toss them. Toss any broken clams, also.

How to Make This With Only Canned Clams

If you don't have access to fresh clams, use all canned clams in this chowder. Don't increase the number of canned clams. Know the flavor may change a bit because the fresh clams in their shells impart additional flavor.

More Seafood Stew Recipes You’ll Love

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 60 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings

This recipe calls for both fresh and canned clams. If you have an ample supply of quahog chowder clams, feel free to use them in place of the canned clams called for in this recipe—in addition to the other fresh clams in the ingredients.

To replace canned clams with fresh quahogs, scrub and clean a dozen or more quahogs. Place the clams in a small pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring water to a boil. Cover the pot and steam the clams until they are completely open, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove the clams from the pot and set them aside. Strain the clam steaming liquid through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth to catch any grit, reserving the liquid. Remove the clams from the shells, chop. Use these chopped clams in place of the canned clams in the recipe. Use the steaming liquid in place of the clam broth.


  • 2 slices bacon (can sub with 2 more tablespoons extra virgin olive oil)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced

  • 2 ribs celery, chopped

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice, strained tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes

  • 1 (14-ounce) can clam broth or juice (see recipe note)

  • 2 (10-ounce) cans baby clams, juice reserved (see recipe note)

  • 1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

  • About 12 small live clams, such as littlenecks or Manila clams, cleaned

  • Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Cook the bacon:

    Slowly cook the bacon with the olive oil on medium heat until the bacon is crispy and its fat rendered. Remove, chop, and set aside.

    Rendering bacon in a pot for a Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  2. Saute the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic:

    Increase the heat to medium-high and saute the carrots, celery, and onion until soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Do not brown the vegetables. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Return chopped bacon to the pot.

    Cooking mirepoix in a pot to make the best Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Manhattan Clam Chowder in a pot but with no liquid added yet

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  3. Add the herbs and liquids and then add the potatoes:

    Add the thyme, celery seed, bay leaves, tomato juice, clam broth, and the juice from the canned clams and stir. Add the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer gently until the potatoes are done, about 30 to 40 minutes.

    Manhattan Clam Chowder beginning to simmer in a pot to make the best chowder recipe

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  4. Add the clams:

    When the potatoes are tender, add the canned clams and the live clams in their shells, cover the pot and simmer until the live clams open up, about 5 to 10 minutes.

    Add hot sauce, salt, and black pepper to taste.

    Remove the bay leaves and serve, placing a clam in shell or two in each bowl for serving.

    Manhattan Clam Chowder with fresh clams in the shell added to the pot

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Manhattan Clam Chowder in a pot with cooked clams steamed open and ready to dig into

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    A finished Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe, in a bowl and ready to serve

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
230 Calories
5g Fat
21g Carbs
25g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 230
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 60mg 20%
Sodium 1308mg 57%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 25g
Vitamin C 58mg 292%
Calcium 110mg 8%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 1065mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.