Rich and savory, there’s nothing like a bowl of clam chowder on a cold night. It’s one of the most iconic American foods, originating in New England and quickly spreading across the country. Whether you like yours in a bread boule or a more traditional ceramic bowl, clam chowder is a delicious, nutritious meal that needs to be in your pantry.
Of course, there are many, many different recipes and variations out there. How do you know which is the best canned clam chowder for you and your family? We’ve done the research for you and compiled the top eight options for your consideration.
Campbell’s Homestyle New England Clam Chowder is our best pick. It’s affordable, super chunky, and thick enough to satisfy just about anyone. Plus, it’s got that great homemade taste you crave.
Our budget pick is Bar Harbor Manhattan Style Clam Chowder. It’s made with some of the freshest seafood in Main and it is restaurant quality. Plus, it’s a red chowder, which is a great change of pace.
Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Canned Clam Chowders
|Campbell’s Homestyle New England Clam Chowder
|Bar Harbor Manhattan Style Clam Chowder
|Progresso Rich and Hearty New England Clam Chowder
|Campbell's Condensed Manhattan Clam Chowder
|Campbell's Chunky Healthy Request New England Clam Chowder
|Progresso Traditional Manhattan Clam Chowder
|Chincoteague Seafood New England Clam Chowder
|Tony’s Clam Chowder
Campbell’s is one of the most respected names in the canned soup industry, as witnessed by the number of entries the company has in our list of reviews here. The Homestyle New England Clam Chowder offers the familiar savory-yet-sweet taste you know and love in a large 18.8-ounce can (12-pack).
The recipe here includes large chunks of potato, celery, and other vegetables, just like you would find in a homemade soup. It’s also packed full of nutrients, with good amounts of iron, potassium, protein, and calcium. The easy-pull tab makes opening the can simple even if you don’t have a can opener. Simply pop the top, pour the soup into a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, heat, and eat.
Looking for a super-high-quality clam chowder recipe? This might be your go-to option. Bar Harbor Manhattan Style Clam Chowder is made in small batches with clams fresh from Maine’s coastal waters. Unlike some clam chowder brands, Bar Harbor’s recipe is easily understandable and contains no long chemical names. It’s all-natural and includes things like clams, clam juice, potatoes, tomato puree, carrots, celery, onion, and seasonings.
You’ll also find that this clam chowder is rich in nutrients. It offers a significant amount of your daily vitamin C intake, as well as iron, calcium, and protein.
3. Progresso Rich and Hearty New England Clam Chowder
Progresso is another well-known name, synonymous with flavor and quality. The company’s Rich and Hearty line is specially formulated to be thicker, more flavorful, and richer than their regular soups, which perfectly pairs with the nature of clam chowder.
This can offers 18.5 ounces of hearty goodness. You’ll find wholesome ingredients here, such as clams, potatoes, celery, and carrots. It’s also full of nutrients, with a good amount of calcium, iron, and protein in each serving. Each container holds two servings, and the pull tab on the top ensures you can open the can without a can opener. Just pour into a pot or bowl, heat, and serve.
4. Campbell's Condensed Manhattan Clam Chowder
The second recipe from Campbell’s to hit our list, this is their traditional condensed soup. You’ll find familiar ingredients, such as clams, potatoes, and carrots, but because it is condensed, it makes double the can’s volume of soup to ensure you have plenty for everyone in the family.
The can features a non-BPA liner and holds 10.75 ounces of soup. It is also recyclable, helping you do your part for the planet. Low in cholesterol and fat, this soup is also rich in nutrients. You will find that it offers a decent amount of protein and is a good source of vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
5. Campbell’s Chunky Healthy Request New England Clam Chowder
Campbell’s Healthy Request line of soups offers improved nutrition and is designed to help support heart health. Of course, it’s also delicious, and the Chunky Style soup features big chunks of potato, celery, carrot, and clams. Opening the can is simple, thanks to the pull tab. It’s also ready to eat right away, as it’s not a condensed soup. Just pour into a pot or microwave-safe bowl and heat it.
Each can contains two servings, and each serving offers good nutrition. You will find plenty of calcium, iron, potassium, and protein here.
6. Progresso Traditional Manhattan Clam Chowder
The second entry from Progresso to make our list, this traditional Manhattan clam chowder is a delicious alternative to the cream-based options on our list. You’ll find that rather than a thick, creamy sauce, this chowder uses a tomato-based sauce.
Perusing the ingredients list here, you’ll find wholesome additions like clams, carrots, potatoes, and celery. Each can also contains two servings, so feeding a crowd is easier. This is also a nutritious offering, with plenty of iron, lots of vitamin A, and even a decent serving of protein. No artificial colors or flavors are used, either.
7. Chincoteague Seafood New England Clam Chowder
One of the most flavorful options on our list, Chincoteague Seafood’s New England Clam Chowder is also healthy and affordable. Plus, this 12-pack makes it easy to keep plenty of soup on hand all year long. You’ll find that this recipe includes no MSG. It also contains no preservatives, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors. It’s a condensed soup, so it makes double the can volume when cooked.
In terms of nutrition, this soup offers a good amount of vitamins C and A, as well as protein, calcium, and iron.
8. Tony’s Clam Chowder
Looking for a great way to feed a hungry crowd? Want authentic clam chowder flavor and lots of actual clams? Tony’s Clam Chowder is a three-time world champion recipe and comes in a 51-ounce can of condensed soup, which means that it makes 102 ounces when prepared.
Tony’s is one of the most popular choices among restaurants in the US for both quality and volume. It’s also known for the amount of spice and flavor offered, so if you’ve tried other brands and found them a little dull, this could be a great choice for you.
In terms of nutrition, you will find that this clam chowder delivers plenty of iron, vitamin C, and calcium. It also offers a good amount of protein while being low in fat and cholesterol.
Key Considerations to Make When Shopping for the Best Canned Clam Chowder
As you can see from our list of products, there are plenty of options when it comes to canned clam chowder. There are big brands like Campbell’s and Progresso, as well as smaller companies that slowly craft their products to ensure consistent quality. You’ll also find bulk packages and individual cans, including large format options designed to help you feed crowds in a hurry.
However, you may still be wondering what sets one clam chowder apart from another. What should you base your decision on? Below, we’ll walk you through some of the most important considerations before buying any canned clam chowder.
Quantity and Volume
When buying canned clam chowder, two of your first considerations will be quantity and volume. You can figure that out by breaking down how many people you need to feed at a time and how many meals’ worth of chowder you want to keep on hand at any one time.
The more people you need to feed at a time, the more cans you will need. For example, a 12-pack of chowder would provide around 12 meals for just two people. However, for a family of four, it would make far fewer meals unless a couple of people wanted to eat less than one serving.
Package volume is also a consideration. For instance, Tony’s Clam Chowder is sold as a single can of condensed soup. However, that can contains 51 ounces, so when it’s prepared, you get 102 ounces of soup.
That allows you to feed a lot of people at once, but it’s probably not well suited to a single-family unless you like leftovers.
Purpose for Buying
Your purpose for buying clam chowder will also affect your ultimate decision. For instance, if you are buying to stock a storm pantry or emergency supply, then you’ll want to buy in bulk. However, if you’re buying just for a few meals throughout a month, then a smaller package would suffice.
If you are buying for a restaurant, soup kitchen, or other commercial needs, you might need multiple cans, or perhaps a single large can, such as the 51-ounce container from Tony’s.
You probably noted two types of preparation styles from our reviews. These include the following:
- Heat and Serve: Heat and serve is the simplest option out there. All you need to do is open the can, pour it into your preferred heating vessel (a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl), and then warm it and serve.
- Adding Water: Some of the clam chowder versions out there are not ready to serve. These are condensed soups and you must add water before you can heat and serve them. In most cases, you simply empty the can into a saucepan, fill the can with water and empty that into the saucepan, and then bring the soup to a simmer while whisking it to dissolve any remaining clumps of undiluted chowder. As such, this method takes longer and requires more effort, but it usually results in more soup than what you’ll get from a heat and serve can.
There are two styles of can in use today – the type that requires a can opener and the type that comes with a pull tab on top. Of the two, the pull tab is the simplest to use, since it doesn’t require any additional tools. It’s just like opening a can of soda.
Pop the top and then pull it back to remove the lid. You can then pour the soup into a pot or a bowl for warming. Of course, traditional cans are also simple as long as you have a can opener on hand.
Clam Chowder Styles
One thing that might come as a surprise when you start shopping for clam chowder is the number of different styles out there. Each is different, even if they seem very similar. We’ll explore some of your options below.
New England Clam Chowder – The most common type of clam chowder on the market originated in New England. It’s also sometimes called Boston clam chowder. This is the archetypical chowder that most of us think of when we imagine this dish.
It’s thick and rich, often based on cream, and contains things like bacon in addition to clams and veggies. In addition to cream, this chowder uses flour or crushed up oyster crackers to create a thicker body than would otherwise be possible.
Maine Clam Chowder – Thinner than its southern-born cousin, Maine clam chowder is also a little plainer. The base is created from milk or cream, but there is no flour. The goal here is to make the taste of fresh seafood stand out.
It is supported by the flavors of carrots, potatoes, and celery. Sometimes it can include salt pork, as well. Salt and pepper are added to taste.
Manhattan Clam Chowder – This style of clam chowder stands out starkly in comparison to others out there. Instead of the creamy white color you’re used to, it’s red. That’s thanks to the tomatoes (juice or puree) added to the cream base.
Manhattan-style clam chowder varies in a few other ways, as well, including larger chunks of potato, and the clams often being served still in their shells. The flavor is sharper, and there is usually a little less depth and richness than with other styles.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder – Even the tiny state of Rhode Island has its version of clam chowder. This one differs even more from what most people think of than the Manhattan version. It uses a base of clear broth and huge chunks of bacon and potatoes.
It also uses quahog clams, which are the largest variety in the US. There is a variation of this one called Rhode Island red chowder, which uses a tomato soup base instead of clear broth, and is usually served with fried clams, as well as the clams it contains.
Hatteras Clam Chowder – Perhaps the most unique of all the variations, Hatteras clam chowder originated in North Carolina and features a clear broth, cracked black pepper, and white bread, all topped with clams in their shells and huge chunks of potato.
Common Ingredients in Clam Chowder
From the discussion about clam chowder styles above, it’s clear that there is a lot of diversity out there. However, most of these variations do contain some of the same ingredients. These include the following:
- Clams – These range from tiny options to ground-up clams to the massive quahog clams Rhode Islanders love to eat. Clams are usually added to the soup on their own, but some variations include the shell.
- Potatoes – Potatoes are found in pretty much all variations of this chowder, although their size varies significantly. Some soups use them in tiny bits, while others feature them in huge wedges.
- Carrots – Carrots are not found in all variations of this chowder, but they are featured in most of them. Carrots add a nice meaty texture, as well as a touch of sweetness to balance the savory.
- Onion – Most versions of clam chowder use onion to at least some extent. White onions are most frequently used, but red and even Vidalia onions can sometimes be substituted.
- Celery – Celery is found in several of the various clam chowder recipes and adds a unique flavor, plus a lovely crunch when you bite into it.
- Cream – Many (but not all) versions of clam chowder use cream or milk as the base. This helps to create a thicker dish.
- Flour – New England clam chowder features flour and/or crushed oyster crackers to help thicken the milk or cream base.
- Meat – Several versions of this chowder use some type of meat. Bacon and salt pork are the two most common. However, ham can also be used in some.
Is Clam Chowder Healthy?
Clam chowder offers several nutrients, although the actual nutritional profile varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and across the various styles. Most versions are high in protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. They also contain many other trace elements and micronutrients.
In addition, most versions are low in fat and cholesterol. They can also be made more nutritious by adding greens, such as chopped chives or even spinach.
However, clam chowder may not be all that suitable for some people. For instance, many varieties are very high in sodium. If you are on a reduced-sodium diet, you’ll want to purchase a version that has less salt added, such as the Campbell’s Heart Healthy recipe we reviewed.
In addition to salt, any version based on cream or milk will contain dairy. If you are lactose intolerant or suffer from milk’s inflammatory effects, you’ll need to purchase a chowder that uses broth instead.
Clam Chowder FAQs
Below, we will address some of the more frequently asked questions about clam chowder.
What does “all-natural” mean?
Technically, it can mean anything the manufacturer wants. This wording is not governed by the FDA.
Does clam chowder contain whole clams?
Some versions do, but most manufacturers use cut clams. Some use ground clams instead.
Does clam chowder need to be refrigerated?
Canned clam chowder does not need to be refrigerated. However, once you heat it, refrigerate any leftovers and eat them within a day or two.
Is Manhattan clam chowder the same as New England clam chowder?
No, they are very different. Manhattan clam chowder includes tomatoes while New England clam chowder is cream-based. Both are delicious, though.
What can I garnish my clam chowder with?
You can use parsley or oyster crackers if you like. Some people like to use hot peppers, while others add chives or even cilantro. Get creative and try whatever tickles your fancy.
Clam chowder – it’s delicious, nutritious, and warms you up like nothing else on a cold night. However, you don’t have to wait for winter to whip up a bowl of this delicious chowder. With some of the best canned clam chowder options on the market, any day is a great day to dive in.