Creamy Clam Chowder Recipe – New England Style in LBI

A bowl of clam chowder is a bowlful of fond memories.

Growing up in north Jersey, going down the shore was a day trip we took almost every weekend. Depending on traffic, it’s a 90 minute drive to get to that ocean breeze. The moment you pull off the Parkway into any of the many shore towns along the coast, the smell of the salty ocean air fills the car. You roll down the windows all the way to fill your lungs with the essence of summer and that distinctive briny ocean air.

creamy clam chowder in a bowl with a dutch oven and a ladle

Warm summer nights turn crisp in September

Chowder takes me on a journey back to the beach, reminding me of the turn of the season down the shore. In the fall, when the humid days of August subside to the warm breeze of September afternoons, and the nights turn crisp and cool, a bowl of creamy clam chowder is exactly what I crave.

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It’s so cozy and nostalgic. It reminds me of the long days you spend warming on the beach and floating in the salty waves. If you’re lucky enough to have a house, you can go back to shower and bundle up in sweaters and blankets to chat away the night on the porch, enjoying the crisp air. Pair that with a steaming bowl of chowder and you’ve got it made!

Creamy clam chowder with potatoes, leeks, celery and scallions.

Long Beach Island

Ever since I met my husband, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the fun and the beauty of Long Beach Island. His family has a house that was bought back in the 70’s by his grandparents. Because of them, it has been in the family ever since, making it a tradition to go down at any chance we get.

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In October of every year, the island hosts a competition for all the restaurants to make the best chowder on LBI. Throngs of beachgoers file into Chowderfest, filling their bellies with tiny cups of chowder. You taste dozens of chowders and then vote for your favorite, a white and a red. Although Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in the plans this year, we thought we would make our own Chowderfest. We’ll gather all the chowders across the island and vote ourselves, throwing my own recipe in the mix as well. Voting happens tomorrow and we’ll see who takes the prize;)

Creamy clam chowder in an orange dutch oven.

Clam Chowder for everyone

I personally love New England style, with a thick creamy base, loaded with vegetables, chopped clams and a bit of bacon for smokiness. Not to say there’s anything wrong with the Manhattan style…it’s delicious in it’s own way. More of a brothy, tomatoey (sometimes spicy) take on the chowder. It’s still loaded up with root vegetables and clams but a bit lighter in texture and in flavor. As a personal preference, in the heat of the summer I steer closer to Manhattan and in the winter, New England.

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Creamy clam chowder in a dutch oven with a bowl and a wooden ladle.

In this recipe, I’ve boiled fresh clams in water to make the broth. I only do this when I have access to fresh shellfish, otherwise canned chopped clams will do just the trick. If you have fresh corn at this time of the year, (which you should because it’s in season and delicious!) throw some on the grill for a nice char and shave it off the cob for added veggies.

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Hot Clam Chowder for Dinner

Serve the clam chowder in a bread bowl, topped with oyster crackers or with some nice soft rolls. Find my recipe here for soft rolls to slather with butter and dip in the creamy broth. Throw some of our favorite hot sauce on the side to kick up the heat. Our go-to down the shore is Hank’s Sauce which is made in Isle City, NJ and sold all along the coast.

Thirsty? Pair your clam chowder with an ice cold beer from Ship Bottom Brewery. This is one of our favorite spots for hanging out, playing games and drinking local beer.


Creamy new england style clam chowder with potatoes scallions, leeks and celery in a cream broth.
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creamy clam chowder in a pot and a soup crock

New England Style Clam Chowder

  • Author: Melissa-Smith
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 46 1x


Creamy, loaded with veggies and fresh clams, this New England style chowder will take you back to your last beach day.


  • 36 cherrystone littleneck clams
  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, cleaned
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery with leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 slices thick bacon, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)


  1. Bring the clams and 6 cups of water to a boil in a covered pot, and simmer until the clams open, about 7 minutes. Separate the clams from the broth and cool. Chop the clams and set aside. Strain the broth over a fine mesh strainer and set back over high heat.
  2. Add the potatoes, thyme, and one bay leaf and cook until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat.
  3. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter to melt. Add the bacon and cook until just starting to brown. Add the leeks, garlic and chopped celery leaves and cook until sweated down but crisp. Do not overcook. Using a slotted spoon, remove the veggies from the pot and leave the fat. 
  4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to melt. Over medium low heat, add the flour and whisk to make a roux. Slowly pour in the half and half, whisking to combine and thicken. Cook over medium heat to thicken and add in the potato broth mixture, veggies, remaining bay leaf and the hot sauce. Simmer 5 minutes to thicken over medium heat. Do not boil! 
  5. Add in the chopped clams and serve.


If you don’t have access to local clams, use canned chopped clams with clam juice. 

  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: lunch, dinner, soup, chowder, clam chowder, shellfish

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  1. This is now my go to chowder recipe! Absolutely delicious with a ton a flavor!

    1. Thanks! I had a very capable chef handle the recipe testing! wink*

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