Another underrated Anthony Bourdain recipe you need to try, this Bacon Clam Chowder is way better than anything you can get out of a can.
Bacon Clam Chowder Recipe
Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites cookbook is one of my absolute favorites.
From the amazing photography, to the delicious (never fail) recipes and the wonderful introductions from the inimitable Bourdain, everything about it makes it equal parts cookbook and coffee table book. It’s an essential addition to any home chef’s collection.
At first, you may balk at the cost of the ingredients he calls for, or just the sheer length of some of the ingredients lists, but after trusting and trying a couple of them, you will never question a Bourdain recipe again. Even the ones that don’t end up in heavy rotation for us are still delicious, restaurant-quality meals and I never regret the time invested.
This New England-style clam chowder is one of the Appetites recipes that I have on rotation.
I used to purchase canned clam chowder for when I wanted a quick and easy comfort meal, but I can’t ever go back after tasting this recipe with its perfectly cooked clams, salty hits of bacon, creamy, luscious base, and tender bites of potato. Luckily for me, it’s one of the easiest recipes in the book and it’s ready in under half an hour.
One big different between my recipe and Bourdain’s is that I use frozen clams. It’s just easier for me to plan my week with frozen clams than try to purchase fresh and ensure that I use them in two days. That’s just not mom life. (You can also use canned clams as long as you ensure they are light on sodium and not smoked.)
If you want to use fresh clams, steam them before proceeding with the rest of the recipe, and use the cooking liquid from the clams to cook the potatoes.
This clam chowder is everything a delicious, homemade clam chowder should be: filling, luscious, and flavorful with smoky bacon notes and umami flavor from the clams. I like the simple, comforting flavors of this recipe as-is, but after you’ve enjoyed the “straight up” version, you can spice things up with paprika, homemade adobo seasoning, homemade Italian seasoning, red chile pepper flakes, sesame oil, etc. You can even add other vegetables like chopped celery, peppers, carrots, etc.
As with most soups, this recipe is even better the next day – so double the recipe or do whatever you need to to ensure leftovers.
Can I freeze clam chowder? While I try to avoid freezing cream-based soups, you can freeze if you need to. Freeze in airtight freezer bags or your favorite freezer containers for up to two months. (This set of freezer containers is a crazy bargain.) Let thaw completely before reheating, reheat on a low temperature and stir well while reheating to prevent the cream from separating.
Can I use mussels instead of clams? Yes, they will be meatier and result in a more salty flavor but since they are cheaper and more readily available, I wouldn’t hesitate to make that substitution if you need to for this recipe to be accessible to you.
Can I used canned clams in clam chowder? Absolutely! Ensure that your canned clams are low in sodium and not smoked, as that will change the flavor of your chowder. If your canned clams are packed in water, you may want to also purchase some bottled clam juice to add as needed to this recipe.
How to prevent clams from becoming rubbery: Clams will become rubbery if they are overcooked, so follow the directions below carefully. If steaming fresh clams, only cook until the clam shells open and then remove from the heat immediately.
What to Serve with Clam Chowder
- Oyster Crackers (essential)
- Italian Soup Buns
- Red Lobster Biscuits
- Brussel Sprout Salad
- Instant Pot Bread
- Instant Pot Corn on the Cob
- Lobster Roll Sliders
- Green-based salad
Bacon Clam Chowder Ingredients
- Frozen clams, thawed (approximately 8 dozen if using fresh)
- Bacon, diced <– for unbelievable flavor, use thick cut bacon
- White onions, peeled and diced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Potatoes, peeled and diced <– Yukon Gold are my preference for their firm texture that stands up to being boiled in the chowder, but you can use a fluffy potato like Russets if you prefer
- All-purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Heavy whipping cream (35%)
- Oyster crackers, optional for serving
- Parsley, optional for serving
Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.
Tip: you can add some heat to this clam chowder with red chile pepper flakes or hot sauce, if desired.
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- Stockpot or dutch oven <– dutch ovens are great for deep frying, making stock, homemade tomato sauce, etc. They keep a consistent temperature, don’t warp, and can seamlessly transition from stovetop to oven. I love the versatility of mine and it has lasted for over a decade and still going strong!
- Sharp kitchen knife
- Cutting Board
- Measuring cups and spoons
How to Make Clam Chowder
If using fresh clams, cook them in a stockpot over medium heat in 1/2 cup of water until each shell opens. Discard any clams that don’t open.
In a clean dutch oven over medium heat, cook your chopped bacon until slightly browned.
Add the diced onions and cook until translucent.
Add the diced potatos, salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover the potatoes and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of the milk to form a slurry. Stir into the bacon-potato mixture.
Add the clams (and any reserved cooking liquid if you cooked them fresh). Simmer for 5 minutes, until the clams are cooked through.
Add the remaining milk and heavy cream and continue cooking for 4 minutes.
Taste and adjust with additional salt and pepper.
Serve the soup with plenty of oyster crackers, and a sprinkling of chopped parsley, if desired.
Grab your free printable for Anthony Bourdain’s Clam Chowder recipe:
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases. Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 435Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 1366mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 31g
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.
I hope your family loves this restaurant-quality New England clam chowder recipe as much as mine does! It’s a cold weather classic and so much better than anything you can get in the store.