Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl

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Boston Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl is the perfect cozy soup for those cool weather months. This creamy classic is loaded with tender potatoes, fresh herbs, and juicy clams, then ladled into a bread bowl for a filling meal. Add a Steakhouse Salad and dinner is complete and on the table in about 45 minutes.

Serve Boston Clam Chowder in a bread bowl like they do at Disneyland, or in a small cup as a starter before a meal, or like my husband does, ladle into a big soup bowl and top with lots of fresh cracked black pepper and oyster crackers.

Bread bowl with clam chowder and a ladle.

Why We Love This Recipe

New England is known for a lot of things, but two of the most popular foods to come out of the area are lobster rolls, and clam chowder. This recipe for Boston Clam Chowder is a true New England classic. It starts the way all good things start – with bacon. Now if you’re not a fan of bacon, you can leave it out and use butter or vegetable oil instead. But in this recipe it really provides savory, salty base.

From Boston to San Francisco, you’ll find that New England Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl is:

  • A classic recipe – Clam Chowder can be found on the menus of restaurants from diners to steakhouses, and while the recipes vary from place to place the flavors are the same. Creamy, rich clam broth, pleasantly chewy chunks of clam meat and tender potatoes.
  • A serving vessel AND a side – The bread bowl makes the perfectly rustic vessel for serving your clam chowder. It’s soft on the inside with a crispy crust that’s perfect for tearing off and dunking in your soup.
  • Creamy and hearty – From the chewy clams to the tender veggies, this chowder will warm you up and fill your belly on a cold night.

Ingredients For Boston Clam Chowder

  • Bacon – Yes you can skip the bacon if you want and use butter or oil instead. But bacon is such an instrumental part of the flavor I highly encourage you to use it.
  • Vegetables – Onion, Celery, Carrots, Baby Red Potatoes.
  • Seasonings and Spices – Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Bay Leaves, Fresh Thyme.
  • Broth – Clam Juice, Seafood or Chicken Stock, Heavy Cream
  • Canned Chopped Clams
  • Butter + Flour – For making the roux to thicken the soup.

How To Make Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl

Get a detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.

  • Cook bacon in a large dutch oven.
  • Saute vegetables in bacon fat. Add garlic and cook just for a minute.
  • Whisk in flour to make a roux; this will act as the thickener for the chowder.
  • Whisk in clam juice, broth and herbs until smooth and bring to a boil.
  • Add potatoes and boil until tender.
  • Stir in heavy cream and chopped clams, simmer just long enough to warm through. Do not boil.
Collage of images showing the steps and process for making clam chowder.

Can I Use Fresh Clams Instead of Canned?

You absolutely can use fresh clams! It’s a little more labor intensive that opening a can, but the flavor is amazing. Note that you will need to purchase *live* clams.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Soak live clams in fresh, cold tap water for at least an hour, changing water 2 to 3 times. This process is called purging and will cause the clams to filter out the sand and grit that is trapped within their shells.
  • Vigorously scrub clams and remove the beard (or small hairy string that comes out of the corner of the clam), discarding any clams that remain open or do not close when handled or tapped.
  • In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, add in 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add in clams. Put the lid on tightly and let steam for 5-9 minutes or until the clams open.
  • Discard any clams that have not opened their shells. Strain the liquid in the pot and reserve to use as clam juice or seafood stock in the soup.
  • Remove the meat from the clams and chop to add to the soup.

Serving Suggestions

Clam Chowder is a delicious, hearty and filling soup. It can be served as a starter (soup course) or as a meal. Traditionally it’s served with oyster crackers, so make sure you have some on hand!

As a meal starter, serve in smaller cups or bowls. The chowder pairs well with other seafood dishes like Parmesan Baked Shrimp or Sheet Pan Shrimp and Asparagus or Grilled Steak.

As a meal, this works for lunch or dinner. I love serving clam chowder in a soft bread bowl! It’s my kids’ favorite way to eat soup, and it looks so rustic and pretty.

Crunchy bread bowl filled with clam chowder adn topped with bacon and parsley.

Variations

  • You can substitute the heavy cream for half n half, but it will make the soup even more vulnerable to separation and will give a thinner broth.
  • Bacon can be removed and substituted with an additional 2 tablespoons of butter or oil.
  • Fish or seafood stock can be found at many full service grocery stores and food markets. Veggie stock could also be used. Beef stock is not recommended.

Storage and Reheating

Storing: This soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Keep in mind that Clam chowder is best served same day, clams can become chewy when reheated.

Freezing: Clams will get tough when frozen, so I don’t recommend freezing the soup.

Reheating: Simmer gently on the stove top until warmed through. Do not boil.

Clam chowder in a bread bowl with clam chowder dripping over the sides of the bread, with a spoon.

Do not boil: Make sure not to boil the soup after the cream is added, as it can cause the cream to curdle and separate.

To thicken your soup: Ladle out some of the liquid into a small bowl and add 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Whisk together with a fork until the flour is completely dissolved, then stir it into the soup and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

For a thinner soup: Add a little more clam juice or chicken broth. Simmer long enough to make sure it’s warmed through.

Clam chowder bread bowls, oyster crackers.

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Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl

5 from 3 votes
New England Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl is a creamy classic loaded with tender potatoes, fresh herbs, and juicy clams that makes a filling meal.
Total Time 45 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 4 -6
Calories 809kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 6 strips bacon diced
  • 1 cups onion diced
  • 1 cups celery diced
  • ½ cup carrots sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • cup flour
  • 3 cups baby red potatoes diced
  • 16 ounces bottles of clam juice
  • 2 cups seafood or chicken stock
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 13 ounces cans of chopped clams

Instructions
 

  • In a large stock pot or dutch oven, cook bacon on medium low heat to slowly render out the fat, and make bacon crispy. Remove cooked bacon with a slotted spoon, saving back 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat in the pot.
  • Saute onion, celery and carrots in the fat until soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add in minced garlic and salt and cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Add flour to make a roux and cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  • Whisk in clam juice, broth, thyme and bay leaves until smooth and combined. Add in potatoes and bring to a boil, simmer until potatoes are tender 10-12 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot frequently with a wood spoon to prevent scorching.
  • Add in heavy cream and canned clams, bring to a low simmer to warm through, but do not bring to a full boil.
  • To serve in a bread bowl: cut the tops off of the bread bowl, about ¼ of the way down the bowl. Scoop out most of the inside of the bread, and ladle in soup, top with reserved bacon. Serve with the top and inside bread pieces for dipping.

Notes

Storing: This soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Keep in mind that Clam chowder is best served same day, clams can become chewy when reheated.
Freezing: Clams will get tough when frozen, so I don’t recommend freezing the soup.
Reheating: Simmer gently on the stove top until warmed throu

Nutrition

Calories: 809kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 16gFat: 64gSaturated Fat: 36gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 179mgSodium: 2092mgPotassium: 868mgFiber: 3gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 4986IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 139mgIron: 2mg

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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