New England Clam Chowder with Old Bay Oyster Crackers

February  1, 2012
5 Ratings
Photo by TomHirschfeld/bonafidefarmfood.com
  • Makes 8 six ounce servings
Author Notes

An American classic really, I remember loving this chowder as a kid as long as it wasn't wallpaper paste. We used to collect up clams while on spring break in Florida and my mom would whip up a batch of something similar. I also have lots of sunburned memories of Cape Cod thrown into the mix here too. —thirschfeld

What You'll Need
  • For the crackers
  • 5 cups oyster crackers
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • a two finger pinch fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • For the soup
  • 2 eight oz. bottles Bar Harbor clam juice
  • 2 six oz. cans Bar Harbor clams, chop them if they are whole, juice drained and reserved
  • 4 ounces bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onion, peeled and small dice
  • 1 cup celery, washed, trimmed and small dice
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (optional, depends on if you want thick chowder or not)
  • 2 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled and 1/2 inch dice
  • 16 ounces 1/2 & 1/2
  • kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chives, minced
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
  1. For the crackers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the oil, seasoning and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the crackers and toss to coat them well with the seasoned oil. Spread then out on a baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes or until they start to take on a little golden color. Remove them from the oven and let cool.
  2. Place a 3 1/2 quart heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon. Let the bacon render its fat (you should have about two tablespoons of fat in the pan) and saute it until it becomes crispy, not crunchy, and starts to brown.
  3. Add the butter, onions and celery. Saute the vegetables until they are tender but do not brown them. Add the garlic, thyme and fennel. Saute until the spices become fragrant, not even a minute.
  4. If you aren't using the flour add the clam juice and move on to the next step. If you want thicker chowder add the flour and stir it around letting it absorb the fat. Once the flour starts to smell the slightest bit nutty add the clam juice and the reserved clam juice. It is important to cook the flour taste out of the flour so be patient and make sure you cook it long enough.
  5. Add the half and half. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the potatoes. Bring it back to a boil and then reduce the heat to the lowest simmer setting your stove has. Taste the soup to see how salty the clam juice is, adjust the seasoning by adding more salt if necessary. Add a few grinds of white pepper. Add the clams, stir then cover the pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
  6. Turn off the heat and let the chowder sit, covered, for one hour to let the flavors meld.
  7. Before serving add the parsley and chives. Adjust the seasoning and reheat the chowder till hot. Serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • BarnOwlBaker
  • Sidney Smith
    Sidney Smith
  • Caitlin McKenzie
    Caitlin McKenzie
  • ReeceAmy
  • amccl7

14 Reviews

klhestead February 13, 2021
I absolutely LOVED this recipe. It was so delicious. Add the bay leaves when you add the other liquid. I also deglazed the pan with some dry vermouth before adding the clam juice, and topped my showeder with extra bacon and a tiny drizzle of white sambuca. It was great.
BarnOwlBaker November 10, 2019
This was a delicious NE clam chowder! I was intrigued by the seasoned oyster crackers and although I had no Old Bay, I found a recipe to make my own (with about 20 spices), and baked up the seasoned crackers which make an excellent complement to the chowder. Thank you for your recipe!
Luis C. October 22, 2019
I forgot to add the bay leaves because they were not mentioned in the instructions. I'm such a dork! Maybe the instructions should be updated to avoid similarly attention-scarce people to make the same mistake. Thanks!
Btw, even though I forgot to add the bay leaves it still turned out delicious but I do miss the subtle hint of bay. I'll add it when reheating it. Thanks again
Sidney S. January 17, 2018
My husband made this recipe last week. It was "THE BEST" New England clam chowder we ever had. We are fortunate to be able purchase fresh raw milk from a nearby dairy farmer with the cream at the top of the milk bottle, which lends to the creaminess of the soup. It was so delicious that he's making again tonight!
Caitlin M. November 14, 2017
I make this several times a year! Perfect for a chilly night!
ReeceAmy March 6, 2016
This is amazing!!! A real crowd pleaser. I used fresh manila clams, about 5 ponds in the shell, in place of the canned ones. Steamed them and minced.
Annie F. January 16, 2016
I've made this recipe several times with great reviews! I add half a jalapeño if I want it a bit spicy
amccl7 October 28, 2015
How much half and half? Recipe list completely skips this info.
Lorrie H. October 12, 2015
I made this last night for dinner and it was fantastic! The only change I made was to use fresh thyme and salt pork instead of bacon as I didn't want a smoky flavor. I used a mix of half and half and milk and added the flour. It was even better today reheated. Definitely make the oyster crackers! I went to a restaurant supply store to buy the clams and clam broth. It is much more affordable and you can freeze the extra clams and broth for the next time you make this. I don't recommend making a double batch and freezing though as the potatoes will get mealy.
Carmen H. February 25, 2013
erinrae December 27, 2012
This is fantastic! I would recommend (and will do this next time I make it) cutting the dried thyme by 2/3 (so, 1/2 tsp)-- it was a little too present. Also, make sure you use market-style bacon rather than smoked; the smoked added a nice flavor for winter, but probably would be better without. And I would definitely recommend adding the flour unless you're allergic, it was just thick enough with 2 tbsp.

The oyster crackers are a must! Them make the whole thing super special and yummy.
erinrae January 14, 2013
Er, *they. They make...
The F. February 15, 2012
Made this clam chowder for Valentine's Day and it turned out fabulous. I added a little more flour than 2 TBSPs and a touch more of Half & Half. My only compliant was that I didn't have any leftovers so next time I make it, I'm doubling the recipe! BRAVO thirschfeld!
Third F. February 6, 2012
After making both chowders (which were both delicious), I liked this one better. I liked the subtle fennel and bay flavor, and the Old Bay crackers were a nice touch!