Savory clams, hearty potatoes, and crunchy celery all mixed with chicken broth and half and half make for a satisfying lightened-up New England clam chowder.
This lightened up version of classic New England Clam Chowder is flavorful and rich and comes together easily as the instant pot allows for a quick and effortless preparation of this homemade chowder. Perfect to enjoy on a summer day!
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You don’t have to be from the east coast to love clam chowder. This thick and rich soup is eaten nationwide and enjoyed by many. However, variations of clam chowder exist across the different regions of the country; Manhattan Clam Chowder uses a tomato-based broth, Rhode Island chowder contains no dairy and Long Island chowder is a combination of Manhattan and New England.
Traditional New England clam chowder usually contains heavy cream making it a calorie-laden, high fat dish. This lightened-up version contains half and half which makes it a bit lower in fat and calories, without compromising on taste and texture.
Canned Vs Fresh Clams
Though it may seem like the easy way out, and fresh is usually always best, canned clams work well in this recipe. This canned clams brand is sustainable, wild, and tastes very fresh. Note, these canned clams are already salted and come in natural clam juice, which means there is no need to add any salt to the recipe. Put your skepticism and guilt aside and give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it will make your life.
Why You’ll Love This Light New England Clam Chowder
- Simple: Don’t let the number of steps discourage you. This recipe comes together quickly and easily.
- Hearty: Thick and rich, this healthy clam chowder can be a meal on its own, a side dish or an appetizer.
- Versatile: Change up the veggies and use leeks instead of an onion, throw in some diced zucchini or add some green peas. Though not traditional, they will add more fiber and flavor to the chowder.
- Flavorful: This chowder is loaded with flavor from the clams, vegetables, potatoes and broth.
- Chopped clams – Fresh or canned clams will both work. If you use canned keep the juice.
- Chicken broth – If you can’t find chicken you can also use vegetable broth.
- Avocado oil – Olive oil makes a good substitute.
- Onions – Chopped white onions work well but any kind are fine.
- Celery – Chopped celery adds taste and texture.
- Potatoes -Yukon gold have just the right amount of starch but other types of potatoes will work well. Just make sure to cube them.
- Half and half – Half and half adds richness to the chowder.
- Cornstarch – A touch of cornstarch helps thicken the chowder.
- Bay leaves – Bay leaves add another level or flavor to this soup.
- Thyme – Fresh or dried thyme will both enhance the taste of this chowder.
- Ground pepper – A touch of ground pepper intensifies the seasoning.
- Garlic – Freshly minced is best but jarred also works.
- Bacon – Freshly cooked bacon complements the flavors of the chowder well.
How To Make This Healthy New England Clam Chowder Recipe
- Step 1: With the instant pot on saute mode, add the oil and saute the onion and celery until they soften. It should take about 7-8 minutes.
- Step 2: While the veggies cook, strain the cans of clams to separate the juice. You should get around 2 cups of claim juice. (See note 1 below in the recipe card).
- Step 3: Once the vegetables have softened add clam juice, chicken broth, potatoes, bay leaves, garlic, pepper and thyme to the instant pot.
- Step 4: Seal the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, allow for 10 minutes of natural pressure and then quick release remaining pressure.
- Step 5: While the instant pot works its magic, cook the bacon in a frying pan on the stove.
- Step 6: Open the instant pot and turn on sauté mode. Take 2 tablespoons of the liquid and place it in a small cup and whisk with the cornstarch.
- Step 7: Remove an additional two cups of liquid and potatoes and blend in the blender until just combined. This will help thicken the sauce (See note 2 in the recipe card.)
- Step 8: Place the blended mixture and the cornstarch mixture back into the instant pot.
- Step 9: Remove the bay leaves and add in the bacon, clams and half and half. Mix well and let simmer.
- Step 10: Serve the chowder with oyster crackers. Top with a pinch of fresh ground pepper and parsley or more thyme.
Tips and Variations For Instant Pot Clam Chowder
- Use ready-made bacon and chop it into bite size pieces or use bacon bits for a no chop option.
- Use low sodium broth so you can control the amount of salt.
- If you don’t have avocado oil substitute with olive oil or butter.
- Peel the potatoes so you get a nice white colored low fat clam chowder.
- If you can’t find fresh or canned clams, use frozen clams and pick up some clam juice.
- Trim the fat from the bacon to reduce the total amount of fat even more in this instant pot New England clam chowder.
It seems authentic New England clam chowder is not supposed to be too thick. However, this is really a matter of preference as you should make the chowder how you like to eat it.
You can use cornstarch or puree a portion of the soup to thicken it up. This recipe uses cornstarch and a puree of the potatoes to thicken up the chowder.
This recipe tastes pretty good but adding some green onions or chives as garnish will enhance the flavor even more.
Instead of all heavy cream, you can use half heavy cream and half milk or you can use half and half to make low fat New England clam chowder.
Make Ahead and Storage
Clam chowder is easily made a few days ahead of time. The chowder may get a little thick as it sits so if you’d like to thin it out slightly you can add milk or broth. Store the chowder in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. You can also store the chowder in a mason jar.
Stash uneaten chowder in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat over the stove or in the microwave.
Looking for more recipe inspiration?
- Instant Pot Tomato Soup
- Instant Pot Moroccan Lentil Soup
- Instant Pot Calamari Soup
- Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
Instant Pot New England Clam Chowder
- 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 cornstarch
- 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 them 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 the stove top. Alternatively, you can use ready bacon, just be sure to chop it into bitesized pieces or you can also use bacon bits.
- 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 cornstarch 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.
- Discard 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.