New England Clam Chowder {Slow Cooker Style}

by lydia on January 29, 2014

Either you love New England Clam Chowder or you don’t, there simply is no in between. I never loved New England Clam Chowder so much, as I did after the first time I made it myself with fresh clams (but more on that story later). It is a challenge finding a good New England Clam Chowder at any restaurant if you need it to be gluten free, and if you are trying to avoid lousy dairy like I am. Most restaurants make the thickened version of the chowder that uses flour and likely ultra-pasteurized heavy cream. I have yet to find anywhere that serves it for those of us who need to avoid gluten, and definitely no where that makes it with grass fed cream. A misfortune for sure!

Never fear, and don’t lose heart -I’ve got your back! Need your chowder to be gluten-free and made with high quality dairy? This recipe is just for you. Before we get to the actual recipe, let me give you a little history about my own personal love affair with New England Clam Chowder.

The Story Of This Recipe

Many many years ago (long before the days of Food Network competition shows galore), I found myself watching an Alton Brown show with his guest that day, Jasper White. Jasper is the author of a book titled; ‘50 Chowders‘. He was sharing a couple recipes for chowders on this particular episode and one of them was for New England Clam Chowder. At that time, I had never made clam chowder on my own, I had only enjoyed it in restaurants. Somehow, watching him make it and hearing him talk about the ‘proper’ way to make a good chowder got tucked back in my brain and stuck with me.

12 years later, I found myself on vacation on a small island off of Nantucket called Tuckernuck. I was pregnant with my second son and we were vacationing with friends. One evening, two of the guys came in with a bunch of fresh dug clams that they literally just happened to discover by digging in the sand. Instantly, I knew I had to make clam chowder. I set to work and an hour or two later we were feasting on the most amazing Clam Chowder ever. Everyone raved about how good it was. I literally did not even have a recipe to work with, I just made it from the memory in my head based on that one show on the Food Network I had watched so long ago. I’m sure the fresh dug clams had something to do with it’s success as well!

Fast forward to a couple years ago, 2011 or 2012, when I found myself in Philadelphia at lunch time in an Oyster House. I was so elated to be able to order fresh oysters on the half shell and, you guessed it, a bowl of New England Clam Chowder. The only problem is I forgot to ask if it was gluten-free. Sadly, it’s hard to find clam chowder that is gluten-free anywhere, not to mention made with less than ideal cream. I don’t remember if that bowl of chowder caused any reaction or not, but what I do know is it’s nigh impossible to get it gluten-free anywhere. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to convert if you don’t mind enjoying it from home instead of out at a lovely Oyster House.

Clams: A Powerhouse of Nutrition

Clams are literally jam packed with some serious nutrition. An excellent source of protein, clams also house quite a punch when it comes to certain vitamins and minerals. Let’s start with B12, just a 3 ounce serving of cooked clams contains 1401% of the RDA. This is amazing, especially because many of us are likely deficient in B12 to some degree. The next most impressive nutrient these little bivalves house would be iron (iron and B12 often work hand in hand in anemia). 3 ounces of clams contain about 24 mg of iron which exceeds the RDA for iron. Additionally, they contain a good amount of potassium, manganese, selenium and other trace minerals and vitamins. Along with being rich in omega 3’s these babies are a good source of protein and just all around house some awesome nutrition.



New England Clam Chowder {Slow Cooker Style}
Cuisine: Soup
Serves: 8-10
  • 8 ounces thick cut bacon, or slab bacon cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (about 2 tsp.)
  • 5 medium red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 4- 6.5 ounce cans of whole clams or chopped clams (I used Trader Joe's Maine Whole Cherrystone)
  • 2 cups clam juice, drained and reserved from canned clams
  • 3 cups chicken broth, or fish stock or fish stock if you have it
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream, preferably from grass-fed cows
  • 5 Tbsp. arrowroot
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • ¼ cup chives
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels on a plate to drain. Leave ¼ cup of the bacon fat in the skillet -reserve the rest for other uses later.
  2. Add the onion, celery and thyme and saute until the onion is translucent. About 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the arrowroot and cook for 3 minutes, whisking the roux constantly -use a flat whisk or wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the broth and clam juice and bring to a boil.
  4. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a 5-to-7 quart slow cooker. Add the potatoes and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Stir in the bacon, clams and cream. Cover and cook another 30 minutes or so, to heat up the cream.
  6. Remove the bay leaf and serve the chowder garnished with the parsley and chives.
  7. Serves 8-10
  8. *Note: This recipe could also be done in a soup pot on the stove instead of in the slow cooker if desired.



Want more FREE gluten free slow cooker recipes? Click on the images below….

Looking for more tasty, hearty easy meals you can whip up for your growing family? Mama and Baby Love has some awesome eBooks that are gluten free and geared for the slow cooker. Check out From Your Freezer To Your Family; Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes . I picked up a copy and found it to be a great resource. It is 95% grain free and gluten free, and anytime a grain was involved (outside the extra recipe of Stephanie’s father-in-laws empanadas) was as a side to add later after the main meal was cooked. Her second mini-ecookbook is 100% grain free. This book has a lot of great ideas, plus a plan to get meals prepped and put up in the freezer for easy meals later on. I think it’s an interesting concept, one I hope to implement in my life a bit more in the near future. Check out her latest new and improved Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes eBook; ‘From Your Freezer To Your Family‘. Pick up all 3 eCookbooks for $25!





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Ashley January 29, 2014 at 9:11 pm

This looks so good! I really want to try it, but don’t have arrowroot. Is there anything I could substitute?

lydia January 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm


You can use tapioca flour instead if you have that. If not, try another gluten free flour -like buckwheat or just leave it out. I’ve had this chowder without the thickening agent and enjoyed it just as much. Hope that helps!

Jackie Patti January 31, 2014 at 10:29 am

I decided to come back and actually share my recipe, which is not online, so figured I’d just stick in a comment here. First thing I notice is I’m WRONG, it does have chicken broth! But it still comes out thick without any thickener added. It is REALLY good, one of the yummiest things I make (though I bet it’d be even better with fresh clams).

Fry 1 small onion (chopped) and 6 oz bacon (diced) in soup pot. Add 2 cups chicken broth, 8 oz bottle of clam juice and the liquid from 2 10-ounce cans of clams (reserving clams). Add 6 cloves garlic (pressed), 2 stalks celery (minced), 1 medium carrot (shredded), 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp basil and 1/2 tsp paprika. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about a half hour. Meanwhile, nuke a 16 oz package of frozen cauliflower until very soft; drain and mash cauliflower and add cauliflower to soup pot. Stir in 1 stick butter, 2 1/2 cups heavy cream and 2 TB parsley; continue cooking until butter melts; add the reserved clams and cook until just heated through.

lydia January 31, 2014 at 11:37 am


I’ve made my chowder without thickener many times and I much prefer it that way, I’ve also added a ton more cream to it too. I am sure it would be good with cauliflower or other veggies with less starch too! I went with a traditional recipe to share though on this one! Not everyone has to avoid potatoes…..but it’s good to know for those who do or need lower starch content it can still be quite yummy!

Jackie Patti January 31, 2014 at 10:30 am

I don’t use any thickener, just skip the chicken broth. I use some clam juice, lotsa heavy cream and butter, so it winds up nicely thick anyways.

My recipe also uses cauliflower instead of potatoes – so it’s low-carb too. With all the cream and butter in it, it is luscious as heck without the potatoes.

lydia April 25, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Sounds good!

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