Manhattan Clam Chowder in a light and flavorful tomato-based broth filled with onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, and bacon.
Manhattan clam chowder is an incredible soup brimming with bacon, clams, and veggies in a flavorful tomato-based broth.
Considerably lighter and healthier than its cream-based cousin from New England, this delicious version is perfect for anyone who loves seafood and tomatoes.
Good for up to 4 days after cooking, you can enjoy leftovers reheated for lunch or dinner. Just be sure to serve this amazing soup with some crusty bread for dunking or a generous handful of oyster crackers.
How to Make Manhattan Clam Chowder
- Cook the clams in a large stockpot or Dutch oven filled with about 6-8 cups of water. Cook until the clams have opened, 15-20 minutes. Those clams that do not open should be discarded.
- Strain the clam broth through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Save the broth and remove the clams from their shells. Set aside.
- Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and it is starting to brown. Remove the bacon and set it aside, meanwhile reserve about 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.
- Cook the onions, carrots, and celery until softening in the reserved bacon grease over medium heat. Add the potatoes and garlic and continue to cook until the potatoes start to soften. Finally, add the bay leaf, tomatoes, reserved clam broth, and fresh thyme. Mix well.
- Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Add additional broth, if needed.
- Chop the bacon and clams into small pieces and add to the pot. Continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes or so.
- Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
Can I make this recipe without bacon?
To make this recipe bacon-free, simply replace the bacon grease with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of butter.
Can I make this recipe with canned clams?
Simply replace the fresh clams with 2 (10-ounce) cans of baby clams, reserving the juice and adding to the soup. You’ll also want to replace at least part of the homemade clam broth with store-bought clam juice/broth. I recommend adding at least 2-3 (14-ounce) bottles of clam juice or broth and replacing the rest with water.
- Instead of bacon, try adding salt pork, pancetta, or ham.
- Feel free to add other seafood including shrimp, mussels, or firm white fish (like cod).
- Try adding other vegetables like bell peppers or frozen corn.
How to thicken Manhattan clam chowder?
Remember, that Manhattan-style clam chowder is not intended to be thick and creamy, however, to make the broth less watery smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot to help release their starches, naturally “thickening” the soup. You may also add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.
What is the Difference Between Manhattan and New England Clam Chowder?
Both New England and Manhattan Clam Chowder share many of the same ingredients including,
- Clam juice
The primary difference between the two is that Manhattan clam chowder (aka red chowder) has a tomato-based broth and more veggies. New England clam chowder (aka white chowder) is cream-based, much heavier, thicker, and contains no tomatoes at all.
Check Out These Other Delicious Soup Recipes,
- Instant Pot Black Bean Soup Recipe
- Instant Pot Minestrone Soup Recipe
- Matzo Ball Soup
- Turkey Soup Recipe
- Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
- Creamy Potato Soup Recipe
- Cioppino Seafood Stew Recipe (+ Video)
Have you tried making this Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
- 5 pounds clams - Littleneck, Quahog, or Cherrystone clams (see notes)
- 6-8 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound bacon
- 3 tablespoon reserved bacon grease - see notes
- 2 small onions - diced
- 5 carrots - peeled and chopped
- 4 stalks celery - chopped
- 1 green bell pepper - seeds removed and diced
- 5 small Yukon gold potatoes (or other waxy potato) - cut into 2-inch chunks (peeling is optional)
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
- 6 cups reserved clam broth
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- salt + pepper - to taste
- Rinse the clams under cold running water and transfer them to a large stockpot or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Fill with approximately 6-8 cups of water, cover, and set over medium-high heat. Cook until the clams have opened, approximately 20 minutes or so. Discard any clams that fail to open within that time.
- Strain the clam broth through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Set the broth aside (we'll be using it later). Once the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the clams from their shells and set them aside (you may wish to keep a handful of clams inside their shells for a somewhat fancier presentation when serving).
- Rinse out the pot/ Dutch oven that was used to cook the clams and set it over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bacon. Cook the bacon until starting to brown and the fat has rendered, approximately 5 minutes or so. Remove bacon from the pot and set it aside on a clean plate lined with paper towels.
- Reserve about 3 tablespoons of bacon grease and discard the rest (or save for something else later).
- Still set over medium heat, add the onions, carrots, celery, and green bell pepper to the reserved bacon grease. Mix well to combine and cook until softened, but not browned, approximately 10-15 minutes (reduce heat to medium-low if needed).
- Mix in the diced potatoes and garlic. Continue to cook until the potatoes just start to soften, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, and reserved clam broth (start with 6 cups and add more as needed/desired). Mix well and add fresh thyme.
- Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil. Cover and immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer, gently, for at least 15 minutes or so. Add additional broth, if needed. You may also smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot using a wooden spoon to helps thicken the broth.
- As the soup simmers, chop the clams and the bacon into small pieces. Add to the pot and continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes
- Remove from heat and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley, if desired.
- Replace the 5 pounds of littleneck clams with 2 (10-ounce) cans of baby clams (reserving the juice). If you like your chowder extra meaty/clammy, add an extra can.
- Replace the homemade reserved clam broth with 2 (14-ounce) bottles or cans of store-bought clam juice/broth. This equals 3.75 cups. Add an additional 3-4 cups of water.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)