Chef John's Manhattan Clam Chowder


Manhattan clam chowder is usually very watery, too tomato-y, and not nearly clammy enough so I reworked the recipe into something significantly more rich, satisfying, and delicious. My secrets? A ton of clams, not too much tomato, and a little bit of flour to thicken things up. Serve with oyster crackers and garnish with fresh chives, parsley, tarragon, or even dill, if desired.

Prep Time:
35 mins
Cook Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins
6 servings

Canned soup was one of my childhood staples. It was often served for lunch, dinner, and sometimes both. It was usually something brothy, like chicken noodle, chicken rice, or beef barley. Every once in a while, though, we'd get to enjoy a creamy bowl of New England clam chowder.

Not only was that a richer, more satisfying change of pace, but we also got to eat handfuls of oyster crackers alongside, which for some reason, still unknown to this day, we didn't get with those other soups. Anyway, the point is that clam chowder was always a treat, so you can imagine my confusion and disappointment when one day we were served "Manhattan-style" clam chowder. It wasn't thick, it wasn't creamy, it wasn't clammy, it was…weird. And no, the oyster crackers didn't help.

Not only was the soup almost clear (and quite watery), it was also chock-full of large, slimy chunks of virtually tasteless tomato. I mean, how were they even allowed to call this clam chowder? Well, all these years later, I'm now a Manhattan clam chowder lover! Just as long as it's not the canned variety, and instead the thicker, richer, meatier, more decadent version shown here. With or without oyster crackers, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

a bowl of tomato-based clam chowder garnished with oyster crackers
Chef John

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  • 2 (10 ounce) cans whole baby clams, undrained

  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans chopped clams, undrained

  • 4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 cup diced yellow onion

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • kosher salt to taste

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup bottled clam juice

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 2 ribs celery, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

  • ½ cup diced Italian tomatoes

  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 3 pinches cayenne pepper

  • 3 cups peeled, diced Yukon Gold potatoes

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley


  1. Drain baby and chopped clams. Reserve liquid in the refrigerator until needed and set clams aside.

  2. Place bacon in a soup pot over medium-high heat; cook and stir until well-browned and almost crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt; cook and stir until onions start to soften and turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

  3. Add tomato paste; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Don't worry if some of the tomato paste sticks to the bottom of the pot; we want that to happen. Sprinkle in flour; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Dump in reserved clam juice plus bottled clam juice and chicken broth. Stir with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze any caramelization.

  5. Add carrots, celery, clams, diced tomatoes, pepper, and cayenne; stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, skimming off some bacon fat if desired.

  6. Add diced potatoes and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt, if needed. Stir in fresh tarragon and parsley just before serving.

    close up view of Manhattan Clam Chowder with crackers in a white bowl
    Chef John

Chef's Notes:

The steps in my video for adding the clams and clam juice vary slightly from the written recipe. For best results, follow the written recipe.

To simplify things, you could just use six 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams.

Bacon is optional, but I consider it a key ingredient. If you skip it, toss in 3 to 4 tablespoons butter.

You can use fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes in place of canned, or russet potatoes in place of Yukon Golds.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

375 Calories
6g Fat
32g Carbs
46g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 375
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 114mg 38%
Sodium 902mg 39%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 46g
Vitamin C 43mg 217%
Calcium 185mg 14%
Iron 45mg 247%
Potassium 1327mg 28%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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