Rhode Island Clam Chowder

You’ve heard of New England & Manhattan, but have you ever tried Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It’s a lighter, brighter version of the classics!

You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!I don’t know about you, but until about a few months ago, I thought there were only two types of clam chowder.  Creamy New England Clam Chowder, and tomato based Manhattan Clam Chowder.  Blew my mind when I discovered this hidden gem of the clam chowder world, Rhode Island Clam Chowder (which really, c’mon, RI, don’t you know you’re already a part of New England?).  

This lesser known chowder is a lighter variety, sans cream, sans tomatoes, but super delicious. Although, it’s weird to call this a chowder, because to me (a former New Englander), chowda means thick and creamy. But hey, if those rebels in Rhode Island call it a chowder, I’ll go with it.You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!First part of any great clam chowder, fresh clams.  A total pain to clean to make sure all the sand and grit is out of them, but worth it for the freshness.  I soaked them in bowl of water for about an hour, and I read that ground pepper helps coax them to spit out the sand, too so I gave that a whirl and added some fresh ground pepper to the water. Whether that actually helped or not, I have no idea.  I figured it was at least worth a shot.You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!Meanwhile, I chopped up some onion, celery,IMG_9930and red potatoes.  Oh, and I crisped up a couple of slices of bacon.You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!After an hour of soaking, I removed the clams from the bowl (with a slotted spoon as to let the sand that had been cleaned out stay rested at the bottom of the bowl), and then gave them a final scrub to get anything else left on the shells off.  I minced a couple of cloves of garlic and tossed it into a heated pan with a touch of olive oil, added about a 1/3 cup of white wine and let it cook for a minute, then added the clams, covered the pan, and let them steam for about 10 minutes until they opened. Oh hey, lovelies.

Then I cleaned the clams out of their shells, discarding any little guys who didn’t open, and I gave them a quick chop.  This is also when my husband came home and I started to tell him a story about one of my crazy co-workers (she keeps telling people they’re violating Homeland Security protocols at our little not for profit senior healthcare organization…) which totally distracted me from taking photos.  So while I talked I finished making the soup- sautéing the celery and onions in a pot, then adding the clams and potatoes, 2 cups of water, thyme, salt, pepper, and the crumbled crispy bacon, brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes.You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!

After 30 minutes, I had this lovely “chowder”!   I will definitely will double the clams next time, but it was still a pretty darn good, soup  Rhode Island Clam Chowder.You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!Clams and bacon.  Yum!  You’re on to something, Rhode Island.  Although New England Clam Chowder will forever be my favorite of the clam chowders, I’ve gotta say this Rhode Island Clam Chowder is definitely a nice healthy alternative!

Rhode Island Clam Chowder
You've heard of New England & Manhattan, but have you ever tried Rhode Island Clam Chowder? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!
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Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 - 2 lbs of fresh clams, steamed and chopped (instructions to follow)
  2. 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  3. 1/3 cup white wine
  4. 1 tablespoon of olive oil, divided.  1/2 for steamed clams, 1/2 for celery and onion
  5. 2 red potatoes, chopped
  6. 2 slices of bacon, fried crispy and crumbled
  7. 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  8. 1/2 white onion, chopped
  9. 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  10. 2 teaspoons of salt
  11. pepper to taste
  12. 2 cups of water, or clam juice (less salt if using clam juice)
Instructions
  1. Clean clams by rinsing them well and placing them in a bowl filled with water and sprinkled with ground pepper.  Let sit for 1 hour.
  2. After the hour, scoop out clams with a slotted spoon (do not pour into a colander, sand will have rested to the bottom of the bowl), rinse again, and scrub the outside of the shells to remove any last bits.
  3. In a large saute pan on medium, heat 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil and saute garlic for 1 - 2 minutes.  Add white wine and cook for about 2 - 3 minutes.  Add clams and cover pan.  Let cook / steam for 8-10 minutes until clams are opened.
  4. Remove clams from pan and discard any clams that have not opened.  Clean clams out of shells, give a quick chop on a cutting board, and set aside.
  5. In a medium pot, heat remaining olive oil on medium and add onions and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally for about 6 minutes.  Add clams, crumbled bacon, potatoes, thyme, and then clam juice +/ water, enough to cover all ingredients.  Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt and fresh ground pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are soft, approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve and enjoy!
Served From Scratch http://www.servedfromscratch.com/
You've heard of New England and Manhattan, but have you ever tried this lesser known Rhode Island Clam Chowder?? It's a lighter, brighter version of the classics!

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  • I have never heard of Rhode Island clam chowder! I have to say that this looks so SO delicious. That photo of those clams sitting all opened up ready for the taking… it just makes me happy. 🙂 My husband will love this chowder… printing the recipe as I’m typing! <3

  • I found out about RICC last year when one of our best restauranteurs in LA opened a seafood joint and his chowders were reviewed. I have to say I actually prefer it to the tomato and cream based. It’s just cleaner and lighter and you can taste the clam juice better. I’m glad you gave the tip to double the clams. Your version looks absolutely delicious!

  • Great recipe and post Tracy!! As a Rhode Islander (albeit living in TX now), I am always surprised how few people have heard about RICC. And how I miss clams!! When I was up there last month my sister and I stopped at a fish shack on the water and I got a fried clam roll, which ended up being about 1 pound of fried clams dumped on a plate, completely burying the bun underneath them. SO delicious!! Thanks for posting this!

    • Thanks so much! Oooh how I miss the east coast and all of it’s amazing clams, lobsters, scallops, etc! I’m so surprised I hadn’t heard of it growing up in NH and having a good friend in Providence for a few years! Time to give the RICC the recognition it deserves!

  • I never knew this soup (excuse me!!!) – Chowder existed! And it didnt’ even occur to me that RI is totally in New England until you said it, HA! That’s funny! Well this looks amazzzzzzzzing and now you’ve got me cravin’ some!

  • Love your posts and the detailed recipes. Have always wondered how to get the grit out of clams. We have collected clams with great hopes of cooking with them only to be put off off by crunching into sand…will keep trying.
    Cheers from Australia.

  • Certain parts of Nova Scotia serve a broth-based clam chowder as well. My preference is NE style, so I agree with you that “chowder” is a bit of a misnomer. Ordering a chowder and receiving a soup is a bit disappointing. Then again, yours looks delicious and definitely worth a try (but on a day when I’m craving a hearty soup instead of rich, creamy goodness).

  • I’d never seen a brothy clam…. chowder… before, either. I do know another one, though – Maryland. It’s tomato based, like Manhattan, but spicier – and hard to find outside Maryland.

    I admit, my favorite is New England, but it’s nice to have an option, when you want something lighter (or just don’t have the cream or tomatoes on hand!)

    • Ooooh Maryland- another new one to me! I like the idea of it spicier! You just can’t beat the creaminess of New England Chowder, but it is nice to have a lighter option. I’m going to have to find myself a Maryland Clam Chowder recipe!! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • This is my favorite chowdah ever, I’ve made it many times. It simple to make and sooo yummy. I guarantee once you eat this you’ll never eat the others (oh are there others). My advice is made a big pot cause it’s gonna be gone!!!

  • “Manhatten Style” clam chowder originated on the Narragansett Bay of Rhode Island. Wealthy New Yorkers went there during the summer in the days before air conditioning, and “borrowed” the recipe. When New York resteraunts started using the recipe, they weren’t about to call it “Rhode Island clam chowder”. So they stuck the “Manhatten Style” name on it and claimed it as a New York recipe, which it was not. What you are calling ‘Rhode Island’ clam chowder is more correctly “Firehouse style clam chowder”, as it is often made this way in many New England volunteer fire stations. It cooks faster when the tomatoes are left out, and can be left with less chance of going bad where there’s an emergency call without the cream content of “New England” style chowder.