Get Swole on Bread Bowls with the 6 Best Clam Chowders

Clam chowder is the most famous chowder by a long shot. I guess second place would be corn chowder, but, let’s face it, corn chowder is like the less famous sibling who, while you may have heard of them, is nobody’s favorite. Like Jim Belushi or Luke Hemsworth. And while I sympathize with corn chowder (living in somebody’s shadow can’t be easy), I’m here to talk about clam chowder, baby! Because, let’s be real, it’s everyone’s favorite for a reason.

Clam chowder is best when it’s creamy, oceanic, aromatic, and dotted with potatoes for substance. It’s important that you can taste some semblance of clam juice in a chowder, because it’s too one note when all you taste is cream. With that in mind, we looked for a chowder that had some salty, briny, seafood flavor. Also, a note on potatoes: They shouldn’t be cut the size of rocks. In a chowder, potatoes shouldn’t take up space like a guy manspreading on a train. I know all too well from working in mediocre restaurants that cooks like to use potatoes in soup as filler, and that sucks. We here at Sporked are anti-filler. Give us the good stuff. In our chowder, we want a lot of clams and some potatoes. And, as always, the perfect blend of salt and pepper goes a long way in our rankings. A perfectly seasoned chowder is a thing of beauty, my friends. Check out the list.

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bar harbor clam chowder

Best of the Best

Bar Harbor New England Style Clam Chowder

The only way clam chowder could get better than this is if it’s made at home from scratch or in a restaurant. This is damn good stuff. It’s fresh tasting and has that oceanic salinity we’re looking for, which comes from clam juice. The potatoes are cut smaller, and it’s absolutely loaded with tender, meaty clams. Bar Harbor chowder is thick, with a pure clam and cream flavor. Smooth and downright tasty, Bar Harbor takes the number one spot.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

the black pearl clam chowder

Best Creamy

The Black Pearl Condensed Clam Chowder

The Black Pearl is a restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island, and this is the retail version of their clam chowder. Does it stack up to what they serve at the restaurant? I have no idea. What I can tell you is that this feels like restaurant-quality stuff. In the instructions, they tell you to add half-and-half, which I love. Milk is too thin, but half-and-half contributes some decadent creaminess. Black Pearl is meaty, creamy, salty, and packed with delicious clams. It’s got a great blend of salt and pepper, with a little garlic powder and celery extract for some vegetal taste. A really nice product.

Credit: Merc / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

campbell's homestyle clam chowder

Best Standard

Campbell’s Homestyle New England Clam Chowder

This is very cream-forward. It could be considered a little bland, but I actually don’t mind the one-note, creamy flavor that isn’t adulterated with too many other ingredients. This also contains MSG, which ups the savory factor. One of our tasters commented, “It feels like there’s bacon in here.” That’s the power of Monosodium Glutamate. Campbell’s doesn’t have a complex flavor, but it’s a sneaky-strong soup. There’s a good, subtle chemistry of flavors here.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

campbell's well yes clam chowder

Best Unique Flavor

Campbell’s Well Yes! New England Clam Chowder

This is a bit salty, and it’s got a real earthy, truffle-like taste. This has the most unique flavor of any chowder on this list, and the ingredients are kind of wild. It’s got cauliflower in it (odd choice, but it works!), and also…soy sauce? There’s also soy protein concentrate, so maybe that’s why it tastes so mouth-smackingly savory. There’s a great base flavor here, but it needs some salt and freshly cracked black pepper to really make it sing.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

snow's clam chowder

Best for a Bread Bowl

Snow’s Condensed Clam Chowder

I really think this one should be better, and it could be salvageable. For starters, they tell you to add a can of whole milk to this condensed chowder, but I would much prefer half-and-half or some heavy cream. The chowder has a nice, salty base, but that’s kind of it. Still, the clam flavor is really good, and since it’s condensed, that  means it’s packed with flavor. I would spruce this up with some cream, a lot of black pepper, maybe some rendered bacon, and then put it in a bread bowl to balance out some of the salt.

Credit: Merc / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

boudin clam chowder

Best with Sourdough

Boudin Sourdough San Francisco Wharf Clam Chowder

This was disappointing, but it was still better than products we tried that didn’t make the list. There’s a lot of great ingredients here, but the flavor is lacking. They advertise, “No MSG,” but guess what? It probably could have benefitted from some MSG. Also, it’s reduced fat, sodium, and carbohydrates Why? Are we not eating clam chowder here??

The potatoes are firmer than most, which is actually my favorite thing about this one. It provides some nice, delightful homestyle texture. Otherwise, this is too expensive and not worth the scratch. If you wanted, you could dress it up with some of your own ingredients, or try and save it with some sourdough bread. But, at that point, you’re just making your own clam chowder. If you’re up for it, you could certainly do worse than starting with a can of this.

Credit: Merc / Amazon

Rating:

6/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Great Value Clam Chowder, Campbell’s New England Clam Chowder, Progresso New England Clam Chowder, Progresso Manhattan Clam Chowder, Stonewall Kitchen New England Clam Chowder, Bar Harbor Manhattan Clam Chowder, Campbell’s Manhattan Clam Chowder.


About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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  • I might have to try the “Well Yes!”, the review calls to mind Quizno’s clam chowder, which was dynamite. I was disappointed in chowder in Boston because it was missing a certain something, it made me think of cooking sherry, but it did something wonderful.

    Reply
  • I don’t think I’ve ever had more than grocery store clam chowder. As result, I add some frozen shrimp and Old Bay to the pot.

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  • SmThe best clam chowder I’ve ever eaten at is Red Robin’s restaurant. Couldn’t identify the spice. Best flavor ever!

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  • Bay Harbor? Really? I just tried it recently b cause I saw an article saying it was the best canned clam chowder. Maybe I had a bad batch or something, but it was absolutely the most flavorless clam chowder I’ve ever had. I added a bunch of salt and pepper to give it anything closely resembling a clam chowder.

    If you aren’t making your own clam chowder or don’t live in NE to get the good stuff, these are good.

    1./2.: Boston Chowda and Legal seafoods clam Chowda. These are commonly found in grocery stores in a frozen container in the meat department, or 2 packs of legal seafood clam chowder at Costco.

    Restaurant clam chowder:
    Red Robin does a good job.
    Panera Bread is good but they rarely have it.

    If you’re in Boston, Boston Chowda Co. Is great.

    Reply
    • Meant Bar Harbor. Not Bay Harbor

      Reply