Clam Chowder (From Scratch)

I have never made clam chowder before from scratch. It can be hard to find fresh enough seafood to make dishes like this, but I checked and my local Wegman’s had live clams! My son had a craving for clam chowder so I decided to go for it.

I used the recipe from serious eats, since they are often my go to for cooking things I haven’t made before. The recipes have a lot of notes and details and are usually really good.

I used littleneck clams for this. I did the extra steps of soaking the clams for 20 minutes in water and then scrubbing the shells to make sure we didn’t get any grit in our chowder. All but one clam opened so I was really happy with them.

The base of this chowder starts with bacon, aromatics and clam juice. The bacon gives a great salty, smoky flavor. I was surprised by how much flavor this dish had, considering how few ingredients it has. We really enjoyed this and I definitely won’t be intimidated to make more clam chowder in the future.

Clam Chowder (From Scratch)

Creamy clam chowder with fresh clams, bacon, and potatoes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Lunch, Main Course, Soup
Servings 5 servings


  • 1/2 lb bacon cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 celery stalks finely diced
  • 1 cup water or clam juice recommend clam juice
  • 2 1/2 lbs live littleneck clams
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • oyster crackers for serving


  • Soak the clams in fresh water for 20 minutes so they expel their grit. After 20 minutes, scrub the shells with a bristled brush and place them into a clean bowl of water until you need them.
  • Combine bacon and 1/4 cup water in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and pork has begun to brown and crisp in spots, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring often until the bacon is browned and crisp. Remove with a strainer spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate, keeping the bacon fat in the pan.
  • Add butter, onion, and celery. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes longer. Add clam juice or water and stir to combine.
  • Add clams and increase heat to high. Cover and cook, opening lid to stir occasionally, until clams begin to open, about 3 minutes. As clams open, remove them with tongs and transfer to a large bowl, keeping as many juices in the pot as possible and keeping the lid shut as much as possible. After 8 minutes, discard any clams that have not yet begun to open.
  • Add milk, potatoes, bay leaves, 1/2 the bacon and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and starting to break down, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, remove meat from inside the clams and roughly chop it. Discard empty shells. Transfer chopped clams and as much juice as possible to a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Let clams drain, then transfer chopped clams to a separate bowl. Set both bowls aside.
  • Once potatoes are tender, pour the entire mixture through the fine-mesh strainer into the bowl with the clam juice rapping the strainer with the back of a knife or a honing steel to get the liquids to pass through. Transfer strained solids to the bowl with the chopped clams. You should end up with a white, semi-broken broth in the bowl underneath, and the chopped clams, potatoes, salt pork, and aromatics in the separate bowl.
  • Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth and emulsified, about 2 minutes. If you use a regular blender be extremely careful and do not close it up fully because the steam will create pressure inside and splatter the liquid all over. Return liquid and solids back to Dutch oven. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Reheat until simmering. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with oyster crackers and the rest of the bacon.
Keyword Lunch, Main Dish, Seafood, Soup

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