Manhattan Clam Chowder is the one with the tomatoes! A savory, brothy, tomato-based clam soup is a healthy and satisfying meal or starter on a cold day.
I’m sharing one of my favorite seafood soups today – the often overlooked Manhattan Clam Chowder.
I say overlooked because New England Clam Chowder, with its creamy, salty base, generally takes all the credit when someone mentions chowder. You can find New England clam chowder on restaurant menus all over the US (particularly on Friday nights), but Manhattan-style clam chowder seems to be more rare.
Manhattan Clam Chowder is a tomato-based chunky soup flavored with salty clam juice, smoky bacon, and the perfect blend of herbs and spices. It includes many of the same ingredients as its New England counterpart, but uses tomatoes in place of the cream.
What’s the Difference Between New England and Manhattan Clam Chowder?
Clam chowder is a delicious soup made with clams, potatoes, and bacon. Although New England and Manhattan clam chowder both have a clean, briny, and slightly sweet flavor, they are totally different.
New England clam chowder is famous for its thick cream base that includes potatoes and onions sauteed in bacon fat. Manhattan clam chowder, on the other hand, has a brothier tomato base and no cream.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Big Flavors. Clam juice creates a savory, briny, delicious broth for this chowder that is insanely delicious. Garlic and herbs kick it up another notch to make this the best manhattan clam chowder recipe.
- Simple Steps. This soup is made on the stovetop and is easy to make following my step by step instructions. Even if you’ve never cooked seafood before, you can make this easy soup.
- Inexpensive Seafood Recipe. Seafood can be expensive! Using canned clams makes this a seafood soup that you can enjoy without breaking the bank.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Bacon: For tons of smoky, salty flavor, just add bacon. For quick cooking, dice the bacon before cooking it.
- Onion, Celery, Carrots, Garlic: The base of any great soup includes these vegetables. They add that specific “soup” flavor that makes this dish perfect.
- Tomatoes: For this tomato-based clam chowder we’ll add tomato paste and canned diced tomatoes.
- Clams and clam juice: The easiest way to make this red clam chowder is to use canned baby clams. Drain the clams and save the juice. You’ll also need additional clam juice to make the base of the chowder broth.
- Potatoes: The addition of potatoes turns soup into chowder! I like to use a waxy potato like Yukon gold so that they hold up and don’t turn mushy in the broth. Dice the potatoes so that they are about ½ inch in size or smaller.
- Seasonings: To get really great flavor, we’re adding dried herbs including oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and a bay leaf. Salt and pepper are the finishing touch.
How to Make Manhattan Clam Chowder
- Cook Bacon: In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally until crisp tender (not too crunchy). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Leave the bacon grease in the pan.
- Sauté Vegetables: To the remaining bacon fat, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook while stirring until tender but not browned. Add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, and then stir in the tomato paste.
- Create Broth: Stir in clam juice and potatoes, add a bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes if using. Stir everything to combine, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Finish and Adjust Seasonings: Stir in diced tomatoes, clams, reserved bacon, and season with salt and pepper. Taste before salting, as the bacon and clam juice can have varying levels of salt in them. Gently simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Serve: Discard the bay leaf and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with Oyster Crackers.
Tips and Tricks
This recipe is perfect just the way it is, but you can make adjustments if needed and it will still be amazing. Here are some tips for substituting ingredients.
- Substitute Bacon: If for whatever reason, you don’t want to use bacon in this recipe, swap it out for pancetta, salt pork, or even diced ham. If using a leaner pork product, add some olive oil to sauté the veggies in.
- Leave out the Clam Juice: Using chicken or vegetable stock in place of the clam juice will give manhattan clam chowder a milder, less seafood-y flavor.
- Add More Seafood: The addition of shrimp, crab meat, or fish will turn this clam chowder into a seafood chowder.
What to Serve with Manhattan Clam Chowder
With Bread or Crackers: I like to serve clam chowder with toasted bread, saltines, or oyster crackers. These Seasoned Oyster Crackers would be a bright addition to the soup too. Try making a batch of these copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls to enjoy with soup.
With a Salad: Soup and Salad, the perfect lunchtime combination is also great for dinner. Try manhattan clam chowder with a Caesar Salad, or go a bit healthier with a Kale Salad with lemon vinaigrette.
There are a couple of different schools of thought on this one. First, the general rule is that any type of soup that includes potatoes can be called chowder.
To take that a bit further, chowder can be any soup that is thick and chunky. Chowder is less chunky than stew, but has more ingredients in it than a typical soup.
Clam Chowders, Southwestern Corn Chowders, and other seafood chowders are the most typical types, but chowder can be made from any combination of vegetables and or/meat.
This recipe uses canned baby clams primarily because they are easy to find and inexpensive. If you have access to fresh clams, by all means, make chowder with them. Before adding the clams to the soup, steam or simmer them until they open. Remove from shells and dice if needed.
The addition of tomatoes in clam chowder started at some point in the mid-1800s with the large population of Italian immigrants in New York. There’s also some evidence that this tomato-based soup was made by Portuguese fishing communities in Rhode Island. History is not my forte, but by the 1930s, the name Manhattan Clam had stuck.
Clam chowder isn’t really a seasonal soup, but like most soups, it’s best eaten on a cold day. In many communities, it’s common to eat clam chowder on Fridays in observation of Lent.
Enjoy this red clam chowder any time the mood strikes – there are no rules here! Make sure to pin this recipe for later, or share with your friends and family so they know what you like.
- 4 ounces (115g) bacon diced
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 1 large carrot diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 6-ounce cans whole baby clams drained chopped and juice reserved (340g in total)
- 16-ounce can clam juice or 2 x 8oz cans – (450g in total)
- 1 pound russet or Yukon gold potatoes peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces (450g)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 28-ounc can diced tomatoes not drained, 450g in total
- salt and pepper
- In a large dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally until crisp tender (not too crunchy). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Leave the bacon grease in the pan.
- To the remaining bacon fat, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook while stirring until tender but not browned. Add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, and then stir in the tomato paste.
- Stir in clam juice (reserved juice, and the canned clam juice), potatoes, add a bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes if using. Stir everything to combine, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and fork tender.
- Stir in diced tomatoes, clams, reserved bacon, and season with salt and pepper (taste before adding salt as it depends on how salty the clam juice is). Gently simmer for 5 more minutes (if you boil the clams, they can become tough so you just want them to be warmed through).
- Discard the bay leaf and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley, serve with oyster crackers.
- If for whatever reason, you don’t want to use bacon in this recipe, swap it out for pancetta, salt pork, or even diced ham. If using a leaner pork product, add some olive oil to sauté the veggies in.
- Using chicken or vegetable stock in place of the clam juice will give manhattan clam chowder a milder, less seafood-y flavor.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
© Little Sunny Kitchen