When the days are rainy and the evenings are glum, I always return to my favorite comfort food: bar harbor clam chowder. This creamy, savory soup has hints of the sea but isn’t so overbearing that land lovers will find it fishy.
The recipe is a beautiful marriage between clam, hearty root vegetables, and spices. It’s deliciously luxurious in texture, yet it’s still humble enough to be an everyman dish enjoyed by sailors and salary workers alike.
Here’s my classic bar harbor clam chowder recipe for an easy dish you can make in bulk.
What is Bar Harbor Clam Chowder?
Bar harbor clam chowder refers to a type of clam chowder prevalent in the Bar Harbor area of Maine. In reality, this is just a variation of New England clam chowder, which is a rich, white soup originating in Northeastern America during the 19th century.
Since then, clam chowder has spread across the states and become a staple in seafood soups. You can find the best clam chowder in harbor towns along the east coast, but there are also many canned varieties. For example, some people think the best canned clam chowder is the one from Belle Harbor Foods.
Of course, if you cannot sit by the bay while sipping some of this creamy bisque, the next best thing is to make it at home.
Bar Harbor Clam Chowder Recipe
- 3 bottles 8-ounce clam juice
- 1 pound Russet potatoes cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3 Bacon slices finely chopped
- 2 cups Diced onions
- 1¼ cups Chopped celery with leaves (about 2 large stalks)
- 2 Garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 Bay leaf
- ¼ cups All-purpose flour
- 6 6 ½-ounce cans of chopped clams, drained
- 1 1/4 cups half-and-half cream
- 1 teaspoon Hot pepper sauce
- Salt and pepper
- A pinch of paprika
- Bring the clam juice to a simmer on high heat in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan. Once the liquid simmers, turn to medium-low and add your cleaned potatoes.
- Cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, or for about 15 minutes.
- Get a large pot and turn on medium-high heat. Cook your bacon until it's crispy (about 8 minutes).
- Add your diced onions, minced garlic, bay leaf, and chopped celery to the same pot as the bacon. Before adding the celery, remove the leaves from the stalk (you'll use this as a garnish later).
- Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5-6 minutes.
- Stir in your flour and mix it in with the grease and veggies.
- You don't want to overcook it so that the flour turns dark brown, but you want to ensure you cook out that raw flour flavor. Roughly 3-4 minutes of constant stirring should suffice.
- Add the clam juices and potatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer.
- Then, mix in salt, pepper, smoked paprika, hot sauce, and clams.
- Cook for an additional 5 minutes so that everything is thoroughly heated and the flavors have been combined.
- Remove from heat and garnish with your celery leaves. Serve with oyster crackers.
Tips & Tricks for Bar Harbor Clam Chowder Recipe
Before you get cooking, keep these tips and tricks in mind:
You can certainly use freshly shucked clams, but I recommend the canned stuff. Not only are canned clams cheaper, but they’re way more accessible for those who don’t live near the ocean (and more convenient).
Additional Vegetables or Meat
As you can tell, it’s quite a hearty dish that incorporates multiple root vegetables. Some variations of this recipe include carrots and other veggies, but we’re leaving them out to stick true to the traditional bar harbor chowder (feel free to add them if you like!).
You can take it a step further and add more meat. Some of the best cuts you can add are white fish (cod, pollock, haddock, etc.), chicken, and even ham!
Half and Half
The clam bisque gets its smooth white color and creaminess from, well, cream—specifically half and half. You can use other types of cream, but half and half is the perfect balance of thickness and lightness.
Hot Pepper Sauce
Hot pepper sauce is the final ingredient required to cook up some authentic bar harbor clam chowder. You can use brand-name sauces like Tabasco or make your own chili pepper sauce. It adds a slight kick without actually making the dish spicy.
You can store clam chowder in air-tight containers in the fridge for 4-5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Make a Bread Bowl
Sure, you can serve your chowder in regular bowls or carve out the center of some sourdough bread and make a delectable bread bowl. Not only is chowder the perfect consistency for this dish, but it’s also 10x more delicious this way.
Nutrition of Bar Harbor Clam Chowder Recipe
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15.4g||20%|
|Saturated Fat 7.4g||37%|
|Total Carbohydrate 53.1g||19%|
|Dietary Fiber 5.4g||19%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Bar harbor clam chowder isn’t something you want to miss out on, even if you live in the middle of a continent. After all, there’s no reason you should with this fantastic, easy-to-follow recipe.
With just a few inexpensive ingredients and about 30 minutes of your time, you can have a hearty, well-balanced meal that feeds the whole family and leaves you satisfied.
Did you try this recipe? Leave a comment telling us down below!
I wasn’t terribly impressed with this recipe, especially for how highly it’s been reviewed.
Cooked this last night. Was impressed with how good this tasted given the ingredients, but it was delicious.
I really like this!