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 a handful of varieties when it comes to clam chowder. It is a classic bowl of comfort food that harbors many opinions about which is best. The two front-runners are the New England clam chowder and the Manhattan clam chowder, and each seafood chowder recipe couldn't be more different. Historically, the two types have caused controversy.

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

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. There might be garlic added for a boost of flavor as well. Interestingly, Manhattan clam chowder has nothing to do with New York City.

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.

Now that you know the difference between these clam chowder flavors, celebrate with a bowl of your favorite each year on February 25 for National Clam Chowder Day.

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