Clam Chowder Types: Manhattan vs. New England

The two most popular types of clam chowder—Manhattan and New England—have a historic feud. Here’s how to tell the difference.

2 cups of New England clam chowder on a wooden board with a metal spoon, and clams and bread in the background
Photo: bonchan/Getty Images

There are two main types of clam chowder: New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder—and each seafood chowder recipe couldn't be more different. Clam chowder is a classic bowl of comfort food that harbors many opinions about which is best, and historically, the two types have caused controversy.

New England Clam Chowder

New England clam chowder (also known as Boston clam chowder) is creamy thanks to milk or heavy cream, which gives it that recognizable white color. It's thick and made with clams, potatoes, and onions; sometimes, it includes salt pork. This soup is very popular in the Northeast and is often served or thickened with oyster crackers.

Try It: Cod and Clam Chowder With Smoky Oyster Crackers

Manhattan Clam Chowder

On the other hand, the Manhattan clam chowder is strikingly different due to its red color. The broth is thinner and tomato-based (instead of cream or milk) and has an array of vegetables such as carrots, onion, celery, and potatoes. Some people add garlic for a boost of flavor, too. Interestingly, Manhattan clam chowder has nothing to do with New York City.

Clam Chowder Controversy

Whether you prefer one clam chowder or the other (or enjoy both), the honor of best clam chowder is a real dispute and started long ago. During the late 1930s, a representative in Maine tried to introduce a bill to not only make clam chowder containing tomatoes illegal but also a culinary offense.

Tips for Cooking Clam Chowder

Now that you know the difference between these clam chowder flavors, celebrate with a bowl of your favorite. Follow these tips for making the best clam chowder:

Use Fresh Clams

If possible, fresh clams are best and will give your clam chowder a distinct flavor. Canned or frozen clams will also work, but since they're often pre-cooked, you may need to add them to the chowder before serving.

Pick a Good Potato

We suggest using Russet potatoes for clam chowder since they will help to thicken the broth.

Try a Blender

For New England clam chowder, use a handheld immersion blender for added creaminess. (You could also strain the liquid after cooking, use a traditional blender, then add everything back to the pot.)

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