New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

The Union Oyster House in Boston, Massachusetts is purportedly America’s oldest restaurant.  Whether truth or an exaggeration (hey, you can’t believe everything you read on a paper napkin), it is certainly a famous Boston landmark.

Oyster House Napkin

To this day you can still sit at the horseshoe shaped bar – where it is rumored that Daniel Webster ate and drank more than his fair share of oysters and bourbon – and dine on some of the best oysters and clam chowder around.  Of course, bourbon is still available too!

Horseshoe Shaped Bar

No, that’s not the actual bar.  It’s just a little display they have by the hostess stand.  By the way, I apologize that this photo and the last are less than stellar.  I took them with my cell phone.  I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t need my Nikon in the restaurant!

So, where was I?  Oh, yes…amazing chowder!  Luckily there’s a Union Oyster House cookbook available in the gift shop.  I decided to pick it up to see if the chowder recipe really did justice to the thick, creamy version served in the restaurant.  The verdict?  It’s not quite the same, unsurprisingly, but it’s still pretty darn good!  It’s actually one of the easier chowder recipes I’ve tried, though, which is a big plus.  I’ll definitely be making this one again!

New England Clam Chowder

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts, about 6 1-cup servings

New England Clam Chowder


  • 1/4 cup salt pork, diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups canned clam juice
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen clams, chopped
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Salt, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, to taste


  1. In a large pot over medium-low heat, render the salt pork until it is crispy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, and melt. Add onion and celery, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to form a paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the thyme, potatoes, and clam juice, and bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  4. Add the clams and bring quickly to a boil, stirring almost constantly.
  5. Add the half and half and bring quickly to a boil. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Serve immediately.


New England Clam Chowder — 12 Comments

  1. I love how you added the salt pork to this chowder! A lot of recipes call for bacon, which I’m not a huge fan of. As soon as the weather gets colder again I’ll definitely be making this chowder!

  2. Hi Dawn!

    I’m the author of the Union Oyster House cookbook. Thanks for the kind words!It was great fun to write (and test!). The trickiest part was downsizing the recipes from gallons of things like the chowder to suit home cooks. If you’d like copies of my other two books, Mystic Seafood and Windjammer Cooking, I’ll be happy to send them along. Also, I’m the editor of Taste of the Seacoast magazine. (www.tasteofthe All fun!
    Jean Kerr

    • Hi Jean,

      Yes, I imagine it would be a challenge trying to rewrite recipes for the home kitchen, but I’m so glad you were up for the challenge! I’ve tried a few different clam chowder recipes before this one, and not one of them was worth making a second time.

      I’d love the opportunity to check out your other cookbooks! I’ll send you an email privately with my information.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  3. Salt pork is the true New England way. I think you have the recipe right, but looking at the attached picture – is that corn in the spoon?

    • Haha! You know, now that you point it out that does look like corn in the spoon. It’s actually the potatoes I used. They were Yukon gold potatoes, and their flesh is rather yellow.

  4. Hi Dawn,

    As a long time resident of Boston prior to moving to NYC and a frequent UOH diner, the napkin is true. While not always the Union Oyster House, a restaurant has operated continuously at that location since 1826, making it the oldest restaurant in the US. Their chowder is indeed good.

    I love that mini scene at the wait station and it makes me a bit homesick for some oysters on the half shell.

  5. I’ve only ever tried the clam chowder in the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station and loved it. I’d really like to have a go at making it myself but don’t have a clue what half and half is. Also being Welsh, we don’t use cups in measuring so what kind of measures would I be looking at using?

    • Half-and-half is similar to single cream. The fat content is slightly different, but either will work. You could even use milk, but it won’t be nearly as thick.

      Regarding measurements, I recommend using a unit converter to find the equivalent in whatever units you’re comfortable using. Here’s one I found using Google:

  6. I love the Union Oyster House. We went at an odd time, and the oyster shuckers took the time to explain which ones were the best and why they threw away ones that most restaurants would keep.

    Thanks for the recipe. I’ll definitely try it as it gets colder.

  7. As for the corn …. if you are looking for a twist, add some corn and throw in some fresh shucked oysters and juice.

    I was cleaning out the fridge/freezer to leave from our coastal vacation home and threw the oysters and frozen corn kernels into my homemade clam chowder, and to my surprise it sweetened the already good chowder.

    Not traditional, but cetainly a good twist.