Manhattan vs New England clam chowder: how are they different?

Bowl of Manhattan clam chowder


What’s the difference between Manhattan vs New England clam chowder?


There’s so many different kinds of clam chowder out there and at my favorite chowder eatery, The Chowder Bucket! But something people always want to know is the differences between Manhattan vs New England clam chowder. Well, also the differences between New England vs Boston clam chowder (they’re pretty much the same thing.)


New England clam chowder, if you read up on its origins, has cream or milk in it which it gives it that silky white texture and color. It gets that hue even if it’s got a broth base although a cream base is common for very rich New England or Boston clam chowder. It has clams of course alongside potatoes and onions which staunch traditionalists sautée in pork fat if there’s no bacon in there.


Manhattan clam chowder on the other hand is good if you’re lactose-intolerant because the base is tomatoes. But New Englanders who take clam chowder very seriously are affronted at this idea to the point that a lawmaker in Maine actually wanted to outlaw the use of tomatoes in clam chowder in 1939!

Traditional New England clam chowder certainly traveled south to New York. Then with the influx of Italian immigrants in Manhattan in the mid-late 19th century, they made their own chowders and started using tomatoes to thin it out which led to a culinary trend that stuck.


Potatoes and carrots are a staple in Manhattan clam chowder but other vegetables like zucchini, string beans, and onions sautéed in olive oil can be found in there as well. It’s more like a tomato-based vegetable soup with clams for additional flavor and protein while New England clam chowder is richer, heartier, and more filling to the point it could be a meal by itself. (Especially if you have a nice bread bowl to absorb all that extra liquid, it makes it less likely spill and dribble all over my neckbeard on the bus.)


I like a cup of Manhattan clam chowder once in a while, gotta get those daily veggies in. But New England clam chowder is where it’s at in my opinion! Let’s share a bowl at The Chowder Bucket downtown sometime!