What is Manhattan Clam Chowder?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Manhattan clam chowder is a soup made with a clear broth, spices, vegetables, tomatoes, and clams. This distinctive soup is not at all like its creamier New England cousin, which can lead to confusion and disappointment on occasion. Manhattan clam chowder is often served in restaurants in New York, Rhode Island, and neighboring states, and it is also made at home in some regions.

The history of this dish is rather intriguing. It appears to be an adaptation of an Italian soup which was renamed a “chowder” to capitalize on the passion for creamy chowders which arose in the 18th century. New England style clam chowder, which includes clams, cream, and potatoes, was quite popular in the mid-1800s, when advertisements for “Coney Island chowder” or “red chowder” began cropping up; by the early 1900s, this interesting soup was renamed for the New York borough of Manhattan.

This tomato-based chowder tends to elicit extreme reactions from consumers. Some people loathe it; famous culinarian James Beard, for example, wrote quite scathingly about Manhattan clam chowder, while some residents of New York prefer this soup to the New England version. In any case, the trick with Manhattan clam chowder, just as with New England style, is to not overcook the clams; if the clams are left in too long, they turn rubbery and quite unpleasant.


Manhattan clam chowder is made in a clear broth. Cooks typically start by steaming clams and reserving some of the juices before cooking onion, bacon, and celery in a pan. The juices are used to deglaze the pan, and mixed vegetables including tomatoes are added in. Once the vegetables are fully cooked, the clams are added and the soup is cooked for a moment to bring the clams to temperature before being served. Classic spicing for Manhattan clam chowder includes thyme, oregano, and pepper, giving away its Italian origins.

One of this soup's more interesting claims to fame arose in 1939, when an Assemblyman in the state of Maine attempted to ban the introduction of tomatoes to chowders. Assemblyman Seeder was presumably thinking of Manhattan clam chowder when he attempted to enact this law, which failed to pass. Unfortunately, this charming tale is difficult to verify; it is possible that Seeder never existed, and if he did, he may not have concerned himself with chowder legislation, but the tale illustrates the debate which rages over Manhattan clam chowder.


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Post 4

My mother taught me how to make Manhattan clam chowder. She grew up on the east coast and she had lots of great seafood recipes. She would always complain about the seafood that we got in Nebraska.

Luckily you can make a really tasty clam chowder using easily available canned clams.

Post 3

I actually prefer Manhattan clam chowder to the more common creamy variety. I think in the cream version the flavor of the clams gets lost beneath the cream. But when the clams are paired with tomatoes they serve as nice contrasts and it makes for a more interesting bowl of soup.

I have a a really easy Manhattan clam chowder recipe that takes only about 30 minutes to make. I love to throw it together after work on cold rainy nights.

Post 2

I grew up on the East coast so I have eaten clam chowder as long as I can remember. I am not much of a cook so I like to order this at my favorite restaurant's when I have the chance.

There are many different ways of fixing clam chowder, and I definitely have my favorite spots.

When I am getting a craving for clam chowder, and want something quick, I have found that Progresso Manhattan clam chowder is pretty good.

I don't always like canned soups but this is better than most I have tried. It hits the spot and takes care of the craving on a a cool, damp day when nothing hits the spot quite like clam chowder.

Post 1

My husband loves any kind of clam chowder and he has a crockpot Manhattan clam chowder recipe that he likes to make when the weather is cool.

I really don't know the difference between any kind of clam chowder because I don't like the taste of clams. I also don't like tomatoes, so when you combine those two ingredients, I stay far away from it.

Whenever I see the crockpot on the counter with clam chowder in it, I know I will be fixing my own meal that night!

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