This creamy, comforting clam chowder bread bowl adds hearty homemade New England-style clam chowder into the center of hollowed-out crusty bread. Whether you’re serving this seafood soup for lunch, or dinner, it’s a satisfying comfort food.
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These clam chowder bread bowls are made with fresh clams, tender potatoes, herbs, and savory bacon bits. This soup is known for its rich, creamy texture, chewy clams, and savory potato chunks.
The Boudin clam chowder bread bowl in San Fransisco at Fisherman’s Wharf was the first time I experienced this chowder paired with a carby mate. As a kid, I thought it was delicious, but after having it again as an adult, I knew it could be made better, my way. Nothing beats homemade!
If you love dipping bread in soup, then this all-in-one meal was made for you. Avoid the line at Panera Bread because this is definitely the best clam chowder bread bowl!
Why This Clam Chowder Bread Bowl Recipe Works
- Better Than the Canned Stuff – Skip the canned clams and make your own clam stock instead. It’s a few extra steps but you can taste the difference so it’s worth the time.
- Restaurant Quality – Made with quality ingredients and a beautiful presentation, you’ll feel like you’re dining at a steak house or a seafood market.
- Comfort Food – You can indulge year-round but there’s something so satisfying about slurping on warm, creamy soup on a cold day.
What is Clam Chowder?
Clam chowder is one of the most classic seafood dishes. This cream-based soup is made with clam meat, heavy cream, and potatoes. Although there are many kinds of chowder, clam chowder is the most popular.
Types of Clam Chowder
- New England Chowder: This version is what most people are referring to when they mention classic clam chowder.
- Rhode Island: Made with a clear broth, Rhode Island clam chowder does not contain dairy.
- San Francisco: This is made in the same style as New England clam chowder, except it’s served in a sourdough bread bowl. The first clam chowder bread bowl is believed to have been served at Boudin Bakery in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.
- Manhattan Clam Chowder: This variation of the soup is thick with a tomato-based broth.
Tools You’ll Need
Ingredients You Will Need for Clam Chowder Bread Bowls
There’s no need to buy clam juice when you can make your own clam stock. It’s fresh with way more flavor. This section details what you will need to make this recipe, the use of each ingredient, and substitution options. For the exact measurements, see the recipe card below.
For the Clam Stock
- Littleneck clams – These small, hard clams have a delightfully chewy texture and a distinct briny, sweet flavor.
- Water – For the stock.
- Thick-cut bacon – The fat from the fried bacon Cut them into ½ inch strips.
- Aromatics – I use finely chopped onions and celery and freshly minced garlic.
- Fresh thyme – Chopped.
- Unsalted butter – Use unsalted as enough salt is added between the clam stock, worcestershire sauce, and kosher salt.
- All-purpose flour – Not all clam chowder recipes require flour but I use it for thickness.
- Water – This is used to thin out the stick.
- Yukon potatoes – These potatoes have the best flavor and texture for this soup. Peel and cut them into ½ inch cubes. Use russet potatoes as an alternative.
- Bay leaf – Just one big leaf will add the perfect amount of herbaceous flavor to a rich soup like this.
- Worcestershire sauce – This adds an umami flavor and a little depth.
- Crystal hot sauce – This adds depth and rounds out the flavor.
- Heavy cream – For a silky, smooth broth, this ingredient is essential.
- Seasoning – Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.
- Bread bowls – I use boule (French bread).
- Chives – Add chopped for a pop of color and fresh flavor.
- Reserved bacon bits – This is a crispy garnish with a mouthwatering, savory taste.
- Freshly ground black pepper
How To Make Clam Chowder Bread Bowls
Start by steaming the clams then cook the bacon as the flavorful base for what will become your clam chowder.
- Rinse the clams a few times under cold running water. Transfer to a large pot and add water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cover. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the clams open. If you end up with any unopened clams, discard them.
- Transfer cooked clams to a bowl and cover with a towel so they don’t dry out.
- Place cheesecloth on top of mesh sieve, and on top of large measuring cup and carefully transfer 3 cups worth of clam stock. Set aside.
New England Clam Chowder
In a 5 quart dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined bowl, reserving the rendered fat. Set bacon aside.
Add butter to the rendered fat then add celery, onion, and garlic. Cook on medium heat, taking care to not brown the mixture and cook for 10 minutes, until soft. Add flour, stir for one minute.
Then add 1 cup reserved clam stock and stir until mixture is thick and smooth. Repeat with remaining stock then add water, bay leaf, and potatoes. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook until the potato is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
Meanwhile, remove clams from their shells and roughly chop. Set aside.
Lower heat to medium-low and stir in heavy cream, worcestershire sauce, and chopped clams. Cook until warmed through but do not allow the mixture to boil. Add a couple of dabs of hot sauce and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Cut the top of the bread bowl, reserving 1 inch border. Hollow out the inside, reserving ½ inch on the bottom. Ladle chowder into bowls and top with chives and reserved bacon bits.
Tips and Tricks
- Add the chopped clam meat towards the end of the cooking process. Otherwise, they will overcook and become too tough.
- You determine how thick or thin the chowder is. Use half and half for thinner clam chowder. Also keep in mind that the longer the chowder cooks, the denser it becomes.
- Do not overcook the potatoes. If they simmer for too long, they will break down so be mindful of cooking time.
- Canned Clams. If you’re pressed for time, use canned clams instead of fresh clams for a shortcut.
- Bacon. If you don’t eat pork or are pescatarian, replace the bacon grease with more butter.
- Add-Ins. For an even heartier soup, consider adding sweet corn.
- Seafood Chowder. Clam chowder is so good but you don’t have to stick to just clams. Try adding cod, lobster, shrimp, and scallops to the mix.
What to Serve with Clam Chowder Bread Bowl
- Oyster crackers – I love adding these salty, crunchy crackers to individual bowls.
- Simple salad – Soup and salad pair perfectly together. This is a great way to lighten up lunch.
- More Seafood – For a New England-style meal, you have to serve the soup alongside a buttery lobster roll. Crab cakes would be delicious too.
Although clam chowder bread bowls are best eaten immediately, you can store leftover clam chowder in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I don’t recommend freezing the soup because it contains dairy and potatoes, two ingredients that do not freeze well.
To reheat, warm up over medium heat, continuously stirring until it is warmed through. Do not bring it to a boil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you supposed to eat the bread bowl from clam chowder?
Absolutely! The bread bowl is a container but as you eat the soup, you can tear off sides dip and eat them.
What kind of bread goes with clam chowder?
Sourdough bread is a popular option but you can use any bread that you prefer. If you’re eating clam chowder from an actual bowl, I suggest serving it with these buttery Cheddar Bay Biscuits.
What is the chowder in clam chowder?
Chowder is a thick soup or stew made with either a milk or tomato base.
Looking for More Soup Recipes
- Crab Soup with Shiitake and Napa Cabbage
- Creamy Mushroom Soup
- Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
- Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- Creamy Spinach Tortellini Soup
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Clam Chowder Bread Bowl
- Large dutch oven
- Fine Mesh Sieve
- Cheese cloth
- 4-Cup Measuring Cup
For the Clam Stock
- 36 littleneck clams,
- 3½ cups water
- 7 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½ inch strips
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
- ¾ cup celery, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose-flour
- ¾ cup water
- 8 ounces yukon poato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 large bay leaf, or two small
- ½ – 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Crystal hot sauce, to taste
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 3 bread bowls
- Chives, chopped
- Reserved bacon bits
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Rinse the clams a few times under cold running water. Transfer to a large pot and add 3½ cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cover. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the clams open. If you end up with any unopened clams, discard them.
- Drain and transfer cooked clams to a bowl and cover with a towel so they don't dry out.
- Place cheesecloth over a mesh sieve and on top of large measuring cup. Carefully transfer 3 cups worth of clam stock. Set aside.
New England Clam Chowder
- In a 5 quart dutch oven, cook bacon until crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined bowl, reserving the rendered fat. Set bacon aside.
- Add butter to the rendered fat then add celery, onion, and garlic. Cook on medium heat, taking care to not brown the mixture and cook for 10 minutes, until soft. Add flour, stir for one minute. Add 1 cup reserved clam stock and stir until mixture is thick and smooth. Repeat with remaining stock then add water, bay leaf, and potatoes. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook until the potato is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove clams from their shells and roughly chop. Set aside.
- Lower heat to medium-low and stir in heavy cream, worcestershire sauce, and chopped clams. Cook until warmed through but do not allow the mixture to boil. Add a couple of dabs of hot sauce and season to taste with kosher salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper.
- Cut the top of the bread bowl, reserving a 1 inch border. Hollow out the inside, reserving ½ inch on the bottom so as not to poke a hole. Ladle chowder into bowls and top with chives and reserved bacon bits.