Light and Creamy New England Clam Chowder Recipe

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bowl of light clam chowder with oyster crackers bacon chives parsley in a purple bowl

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This light and creamy homemade New England Clam Chowder recipe is a delicious comfort food that’s perfect for a warm, cozy evening meal. It’s an easy, lightened-up version of an American classic using cream cheese instead of heavy cream and more broth and vegetables than the traditional full-fat, calorie-laden dish.

This recipe hits all the clam chowder flavor cravings without all the fat, calories, and guilt.  This is one of those new recipes you’ll look forward to making when soup season arrives.

light new england clam chowder with oyster crackers, bacon, chives and parsley in a purple bowl

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS LIGHT AND CREAMY CLAM CHOWDER RECIPE

It’s a one-pot meal! Every step from frying the bacon to ladling a creamy bowl full of this ultimate comfort food is done in one Dutch oven or large soup pot.

✨This soup recipe uses less flour than most traditional New England Clam Chowder Recipes so you don’t end up with clam chowder gravy instead of a creamy, yummy soup.

✨Lots of tender potatoes, onions, celery, and cabbage are “hidden” in the creamy, savory broth so even your pickiest eaters won’t complain.

✨This recipe comes together in less than an hour so it’s an easy weeknight meal.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THIS LIGHTER NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

Fresh Ingredients

  • Clams – easy, canned whole baby clams work great in this recipe. Although I’m sure fresh clams would be souper delicious in this recipe, I personally have never cooked with them. I live in the almost exact middle of the U.S. so fresh clams are just not common in our grocery stores.
  • Potatoes – Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes. I’m not a fan of diced russet potatoes in creamy soups but if you already have them then use them.
  • Vegetables – garlic…like 5 cloves… onion, celery, and cabbage, yep!
  • Broth – reserved clam juice from the canned clams and chicken broth.
  • Cream Cheese – I use Garlic and Chive Whipped Cream Cheese in this, but regular block or whipped jalapeno cream cheese is also good.
  • Flour – in most of my soups and chowder I really try and limit the flour amount. I use gluten-free flour when it’s in the pantry. Cornstarch also works well. 
  • Bacon – 6 slices but you could use more.
  • Butter – salted or unsalted.
  • Seasonings and Fresh Herbs – Old Bay Seasoning, Garlic Boullion, bay leaves, fresh thyme (or ground), salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, paprika
  • Toppings – fresh chives and parsley, oyster crackers, bacon bits
creamy and light new england clam chowder ingredients with labels


HOW TO MAKE THIS HEALTHY CLAM CHOWDER RECIPE

Easy Instructions

  • STEP 1: Chop onion, garlic, celery, and potatoes into desired-size pieces. Cut cabbage into thin slices then chop in half.
  • STEP 2: Open 2 10 oz cans of whole baby clams and pour them into a mesh strainer with a large measuring cup or bowl underneath to catch the clam juice.
  • STEP 3: In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it becomes crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
  • STEP 4: Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Leave the bacon grease drippings in the pot.
fryed bacon in 1st picture, bacon drippings in 2nd pic
  • STEP 5: In the same pot with the bacon drippings, add the chopped onion, garlic, celery, and cabbage. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables become tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  • STEP 6: Add butter to the sauteed vegetables. Mix until the butter disappears into the veggies.
chopped onions, celery, garlic sauteed in bacon grease in dutch oven in 1st picture. chopped onions, celery, garlic sauteed in bacon grease in dutch oven with butter and cabbage in 2nd picture
  • STEP 7: Sprinkle 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tsp. of Old Bay seasoning, and 2 tsp. of Better than Boullion Garlic paste on the sauteed vegetables. Stir to coat the veggies.
  • STEP 8: Add the reserved clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaf, fresh or dried thyme, Bring the mixture to a light boil. Stir in diced potatoes.
1st picture: sauteed vegetables with flour, old bay seasoning and garlic boullion in dutch oven 2nd picture: broth, clam juice, bay leaves and fresh thyme
  • STEP 9: Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  • STEP 10: Once the potatoes are tender, stir in the cream cheese and gently stir until cream cheese is incorporated into the soup base.
vegetables and broth with potatoes added in 1st picture. 2nd picture has cream cheese added
  • STEP 11: Sprinkle paprika over the soup and stir. 
  • STEP 12: Add the whole baby clams to the soup and stir. Cover and let the chowder simmer for about 10 minutes or until desired warmth. Taste the chowder and adjust the salt and black pepper, if needed.
cooked chowder with whole baby clams add in 1st picture. cooked chowder with whole baby clams with paprika spinkled on cooked soup

HOW TO SERVE CREAMY AND LIGHT NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER

  • Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with chopped fresh parsley, chopped fresh chives, the cooked bacon cut into small pieces, a little shredded parmesan cheese, and plain or seasoned oyster crackers.
  • If you’re looking to make this healthier soup more “fancy” to guests, then serve it in individual warm sourdough bread bowls. 
1st picture: finished new england clam chowder in a white dutch oven. 2nd picture: a ladle full of clam chowder with oyster crackers, bacon, chives and thyme on top

RECIPE TIPS

If you want to skip using bacon grease then substitute the grease with 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil. 

To make it gluten free, use gluten free flour or corn starch. Use the same amount of gluten free flour and half the amount of cornstarch. The soup will still have a creamy texture but without the gluten guilt.

Omit the cabbage if your people don’t care for it. My family isn’t a big cabbage fan, but it’s never stopped them from going back for seconds.

HOW TO STORE 

full purple bowl of creamy and light clam chowder with seasoned oyster crackers, bacon, parsley, chives on top

ITEMS YOU’LL NEED FOR THIS RECIPE 🍲

Store this creamy soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If it’s too thick then add extra chicken broth, milk, or water to thin it out.

​This soup will freeze pretty well but the potatoes might be a little mushy. 

TOPPING IDEAS 💡

Simple Italian Dill Snacks – seasoned oyster crackers

Goldfish Crackers, Saltine Crackers

Easy Spicy Everything Mini Saltine Snack Crackers

Fresh chives, parsley, green onions.

French Fried Onions in a can.

Parmesan Cheese

How to Make Easy Homemade Croutons

creamy and light new england clam chowder in a purple bowl in a brown board with toppings on a green and white striped tea towel

​MORE SOUP RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE 💙

Easy Ground Turkey Green Chili Soup

Sweet and Savory Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage

Best Chicken Tortilla Soup

Easy Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings

Easy 30 Minute Wonton Soup

bowl of light clam chowder with oyster crackers bacon chives parsley in a purple bowl

Creamy and Light New England Clam Chowder Recipe

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 275 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 10 oz cans clams canned whole baby clams drained and juice reserved
  • 4 medium potatoes Yukon Gold or Red Potatoes, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium-large onion chopped
  • 4 stalks celery chopped
  • 1/2 sm. head cabbage slivered and them cut in half
  • 1 32 oz chicken broth carton or 4-8 oz cans
  • 2 cups clam juice – reserved if there is not 2 cups of clam juice then add a little more chicken broth to make up the difference
  • 6 oz cream cheese Garlic and Chive Whipped, Cream Cheese regular block, or whipped jalapeno cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup flour – unbleached white gluten free or cornstarch can be substituted.
  • 6 slices  bacon 6 slices but you could use more.
  • 3 tbsp butter – salted or unsalted.
  • 3 whole bay leaves
  • 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 tsp Garlic Boullion Better than Boullion Roasted Garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 large fresh thyme sprigs if using ground thyme, use 2 tsp
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Toppings – fresh chives and parsley, oyster crackers, bacon bits

Instructions
 

  • STEP 1: Chop onion, garlic, celery, and potatoes into desired-size pieces. Cut cabbage into thin slices then chop in half..
    5 cloves garlic, 4 medium potatoes
  • STEP 2: Open 2 10 oz cans of whole baby clams and pour them into a mesh strainer with a large measuring cup or bowl underneath to catch the clam juice.
    2 10 oz cans clams – canned whole baby clams
  • STEP 3: In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it becomes crispy, about 5-7 minutes
    6 slices  bacon
  • STEP 4: Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Leave the bacon grease drippings in the pot.
  • STEP 5: In the same pot with the bacon drippings, add the chopped onion, garlic, celery, and cabbage. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables become tender, about 5-7 minutes.
    1 medium-large onion, 4 stalks celery, 1/2 sm. head cabbage
  • STEP 6: Add butter to the sauteed vegetables. Mix until the butter disappears into the veggies.
    3 tbsp butter – salted or unsalted.
  • STEP 7: Sprinkle 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tsp. of Old Bay seasoning, and 2 tsp. of Better than Boullion Garlic paste on the sauteed vegetables. Stir to coat the veggies.
    1/3 cup flour – unbleached white, 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning, 2 tsp Garlic Boullion
  • STEP 8: Add the reserved clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaf, fresh or dried thyme, Bring the mixture to a light boil. Stir in diced potatoes.
    4 medium potatoes, 1 32 oz chicken broth, 2 cups clam juice – reserved, 3 whole bay leaves, 3 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • STEP 9: Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  • STEP 10: Once the potatoes are tender, stir in the cream cheese and gently stir until cream cheese is incorporated into the soup base.
    6 oz cream cheese
  • STEP 11: Sprinkle paprika over the soup and stir. 
    1 tsp paprika
  • STEP 12: Add the whole baby clams to the soup and stir. Cover and let the chowder simmer for about 10 minutes or until desired warmth. Taste the chowder and adjust the salt and black pepper, if needed.
    2 10 oz cans clams – canned whole baby clams, salt and fresh ground black pepper, Toppings – fresh chives and parsley, oyster crackers, bacon bits

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 275kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 3gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 72mgPotassium: 438mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 430IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 1mg
Keyword clam chowder, comfort food, light
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Light and Creamy New England Clam Chowder Recipe