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July 25, 2011

Rhode Island clear chowder recipe


Here in New England, we stand by our clam chowder, but we don't all stand by the same chowder. Rhode Island boasts its very own, chock full of clams and potatoes but utterly devoid of cream, or tomatoes, or anything but clam broth. It's a soup for clam lovers, and for people who can't have dairy, and for people who grew up having a bowl of chowdah with stuffies and a cabinet to wash it down. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're not from here, so perhaps you've never tasted our clear chowder. I hope you like it.

Rhode Island clear chowder

Serves 6.


2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large Idaho potato, peeled and diced
1 quart clam broth
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 lb minced clams
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper


In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, melt the butter in the oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir in the diced potato, then pour in the clam broth and thyme leaves.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potato is soft when pierced with a knife. Using a wooden spoon, smash some of the potato against the side of the pot, and stir into the broth to thicken it slightly. Add the clams with any juice, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot.

Print recipe only.


Posted by: Pauline | July 25, 2011 at 08:54 AM

Absolutely the best!!! I don't make any other kind. It can even be made in one serving size if you use canned clams and broth.

Posted by: Kitten with a Whisk | July 25, 2011 at 10:09 AM

I grew up in CT and RICC is my favorite kind of clam chowder. Anytime I'm home I have to have it, fried whole belly clams, and a hot lobster roll.

Posted by: Heidi | July 25, 2011 at 02:59 PM

When my grandfather made clam chowder, he'd put the big pot of hot chowder out on the back porch and say, "No good until tomorrow." He'd bring it back to a boil the second day and, except for the inevitable sand in the bottom of the pot, it was wonderful! His was Manhattan style (tomato based). I had to go to college before I had the thick white stuff. Of the three, RI style is probably the purest form of the beast! Yum!

Posted by: CJ McD | July 25, 2011 at 06:22 PM

Mmmm! That looks heavenly. I love clams.

Posted by: Lydia | July 25, 2011 at 09:46 PM

Pauline: I'd never had clear chowder until I moved to Rhode Island. Though I'm partial to white chowder, I do like the clear, too.

Kitten, I love all of those dishes. And together? Oh, yes please.

Heidi, never discount the wisdom of grandfathers! Clearly he "bloomed" the flavor overnight. I'm going to try it.

CJ, this is a clam-lover's soup, absolutely.

Posted by: Kalyn | July 26, 2011 at 07:39 PM

I had Rhode Island Chowder years ago when I visited my friend Tia and quite enjoyed it!

Posted by: Lydia | July 27, 2011 at 08:34 AM

Kalyn, some of my friends here won't touch anything except clear chowder. People are incredibly loyal to it.

Posted by: Jeanette | July 27, 2011 at 09:20 PM

I remember the first time I ordered Rhode Island Chowder and was shocked that it was a clear broth - it was so flavorful though and so much healthier than the creamy New England Clam Chowder.

Posted by: Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) | July 27, 2011 at 11:56 PM

Jeanette, the clear chowder is definitely healthier, yet I'm still partial to white chowder. It's nice to live in a place where there's a choice.

Posted by: Susan | August 8, 2011 at 10:42 AM

I have loved clam chowder since I was a child (the Stone Age). It started with Snow's and then graduated to the real thing - Dad enlisting the help of my brother and myself to go clamming. Don't go envisioning sandy beaches and barefoot kids with pails because the only thing correct about that picture is kids with buckets. The majority of beach in Edmonds, WA is rocks and broken shells so clamming was mostly Keds and bloody fingers but we got cherrystones for steaming and chowder clams (quahogs) for chowder - New England style. I lean toward the New England style because I grew up with it but I've had a few Manhattan styles that were memorable.

I had heard Rhode Island Chowder mentioned several times on television but could not wrap my mind around the concept of no cream or tomatoes until this recipe was posted. I tried it and I was immensely impressed with the simplicity of the recipe and the huge flavor while still being waistline friendly.

I consider this a 5 Star recipe. Major kudos!

Posted by: Jeffrey Jones | September 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM

Thanks for the simple recipe. My wife and I lived in Rhode Island in 1990s and always enjoyed going to George's in Galilee for Chowder and Clam Cakes, sitting on the
rocks and looking over the water to Jerusalem, RI just yards away. My family just visited in August and we tried several different places and versions. I am still partial to George's. I can't wait to make your recipe. Thanks

Posted by: Jeffrey Jones | September 17, 2012 at 01:15 AM

Ah, wondering about the 1 quart of clam broth. Is clam juice ok or is it a special broth like chicken stock? I bought some Bar Habor clam juice in the store while visiting RI but no clam broth.

Posted by: Lydia | September 17, 2012 at 06:53 AM

Jeffrey, clam juice will be fine. It might be saltier than the broth you'd buy at the fish market, but it's probably what most of the clam shacks around here actually use!

Posted by: Jay West | November 6, 2012 at 01:32 PM

I have found Sea Watch Clam broth at Ocean State Job Lot in CT. it comes in a quart size can and works out well. I can freez leftover for another time.

Posted by: Carol | December 19, 2013 at 05:33 PM

I made this today and was very pleased with the result! I bought my ingredients at a supermarket - bar harbor clam broth and bumble bee minced clams. This is an easy recipe and flavorful. I'm sure it would be even better with fresh ingredients from a fish market. Thank you for posting this. The CT girl in me is happy. :)

Posted by: Linda Krumrey | June 5, 2017 at 09:03 AM

Would it be awful to use chicken broth as a substitute for clam broth?

Posted by: Lydia (Soup Chick) | June 21, 2017 at 04:12 AM

Linda, I wouldn't. It's a fish soup, after all!

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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