Southwestern Clam Chowder

The great debate of Manhattan Clam Chowder vs New England Clam Chowder dates back to the days of the Neanderthal (okay, maybe not…but it’s still been around for a while). Heck, the distinction was even made with a verbal password used in a popular 1990s movie about a pet detective, but I digress. Anyway, the two main types of clam chowder are differentiated primarily by their base…the Manhattan variety has a tomato base and is much more liquidy, while the New England variety is cream based and is much thicker.

While we have our preferences, we decided not to enter the fray…but instead to make something new! We realize that this will either alienate nobody…or everybody, but that’s a risk we’re willing to take. We also realize that clams are not a part of southwestern food, so we were a little nervous…but this actually turned out pretty well. The key alteration that separates this from the two classic versions is that we used a pureed roasted pepper base for the soup (Red Hatch Chiles we brought home from our NM trip). This gave our chowder a bit of a kick…but Roasted Poblano or Red Bell Peppers would also work if you prefer something milder and/or don’t have access to Hatch Chiles.

We served our soup with quesadillas (corn tortilla and cheddar), which served as a nice complement and an excellent mechanism for dipping (think like cheese infused nacho chips).

Time: 30 Minutes (Plus time if roasting your own chilies)


  • Clams. We used precooked frozen clams that were already shelled for ease. You want to defrost them before using.
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Pureed Roasted Peppers. We used some that we brought back frozen from New Mexico, but you can also Roast Your Own Peppers and puree them in a blender.
  • Potato
  • Veggie Stock
  • Milk


  • Dice your celery, carrot, and onion.
  • Heat some olive oil in a soup pot, and add your celery, carrot, and onion. Sauté until your veggies begin to soften.
  • As your veggies cook, pierce your potato, and microwave it until it softens. Then, dice it. When your veggies are ready, add the potatoes, and keep cooking.
  • Pour your pureed roasted peppers into the soup pot, and add a little veggie stock. Bring to a simmer.
  • When your liquid comes to a simmer, add and stir in your defrosted clams.
  • Pour and stir in some milk to add a little creaminess to your soup. Then, bring back to a low simmer. Once simmer is achieved, you’re good to go!
  • Plate, Devour, and Enjoy!


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