The classic New England Clam Chowder in a lighter form, less creamy but just as flavorful and rich! This instant pot recipe allows for a quick and effortless homemade clam chowder perfect to enjoy on a summer day!
The summer days are here and to kick-start the season (instant pot style), I am cooking the classic New England Clam Chowder. You don’t have to be in NE to fall in love with clam chowder but if you happen to be, you almost have no choice 🙂
When I first arrived fresh off the
boat plane, I couldn’t tolerate the smell of clam chowder because it is quite distinct and strong. But like I said, when you live in New England you must join the chowder slurping clam or else… well, I didn’t want to find out.
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While a summer spent feasting on clam chowder would put me in my glory, it would also rack up the scale to new levels of high. But luckily there is a happy compromise called the light clam chowder. Have you tried?
To be fair, I did not invent the light clam chowder, but I am a sucker for healthier alternatives in order to still eat the foods I love. One of my favorite restaurants in the Boston/ East Cost area is Legal Seafood and they offer this lighter option which is just as flavorful and rich but less creamy and starchy. My visits to Legal Seafood usually include a thorough study of the subject under impolite close proximity including sound check, all in an attempt recreate their amazing light clam chowder. So rude!
Lucky for me they still let me in 🙂
Creamy v. Light Which to Choose
The answer is simple. BOTH!
You must try the original clam chowder with all it’s creaminess and comforting glory, then you stick to the light version that is just as flavorful and rich but much less heavy.
To make this light clam chowder I blended 2 cups of potatoes and broth to help thicken the sauce and 1/2 cup of half and half to add some creaminess to it without overwhelming the chowder. The original recipe calls for one and one half to two cups of heavy cream, so this is definitely quite lighter but I promise the flavor is all there.
Fresh Clams or Canned Clams
This is another decision you will have to consider when making homemade clam chowder. While 99% of the time I go for the fresh(er) option, well for 75c each clam there seemed to be no other option at the time. However, if you come across a good sale on clams or are lucky enough to pick your own, go for it!
I did some research and found this canned clams brand that is sustainable, wild and taste very fresh. Note, this canned clams is already salted and come in natural clam juice, which means you do not need to add any salt to the recipe and the four cans needed for this recipe will yield 2 full cups of natural clam juice, and that’s excellent!
In all honesty I was a bit skeptical and slightly guilty for using canned clams but I couldn’t be happier with the results. The clams and natural juices are extremely high quality and made the recipe easier overall, since I didn’t have to clean and cook the clams myself.
As a proud New Englander I’ve spent years enjoying restaurant clam chowder (and I probably still will) but it’s quite awesome to be making my own now. I can simply whip up a batch of chowder when I feel like having some, or when I have guests. And as always, you can control the quality of the ingredients and it’s freshness by making homemade.
Something I wouldn’t compromise (and you shouldn’t either!); BACON and oyster crackers! Top your delicious clam chowder with bacon bites, big and small, a large handful of oyster crackers and fresh ground pepper!
The classic New England Clam Chowder in a lighter form, less creamy but just as flavorful and rich!
- 4 cans 6.5oz each chopped clams, juice reserved
- 2 cups chicken broth (can be substituted for vegetable broth)
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 2 large (about 4 cups) yukon potatoes, cubed
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, (dried works also)
- 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 slices bacon
Turn instant pot on sauté mode. When hot add the oil, onion and celery and sauté for 7-8 minutes stirring often.
Meanwhile open the cans of clams and pass it through a sifter to separate from the juice. The four cans should yield about 2 cups of clam juice (see note 1)
Add clam juice, chicken broth, potatoes, bay leaves, garlic, pepper and thyme.
Close the instant pot and switch knob to sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. When done, allow for 10 minutes of natural pressure and then quick release remaining pressure.
While the pot is on cook the bacon on stove top. Alternatively you can use ready bacon or bacon bits, just be sure to chop it up into bite size pieces.
Open the instant pot. Turn on sauté mode once again. Take about 2 tbsp of the liquid into a small cup/ glass. Add in the corn starch and whisk to dissolve.
Also remove about two cups of liquid and potatoes, add it to a blender cup and pulse for a few seconds. This will help thicken the sauce (see note 2)
Pour the blended potatoes back into the instant pot as well as the corn starch mix.
Discart bay leaves. Add in bacon, clams and half and half. Stir to combine and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Serve with oyster crackers. You may also want to add a pinch of fresh ground pepper and parsley.
- If the canned clams you use don’t yield 2 cups of clam juice, adjust remaining amount with chicken broth. You should have a total of 4 cups of liquid
- You don’t need to liquify mixture completely, just e few pulses as you still want to see chunks of potatoes left.