Here is a recipe for Healthy New England Seafood Chowder you are going to want to save! It is thick and creamy but it has only 350 calories per 2 cup serving, and it is loaded with tender potatoes, vegetables, herbs, clams and fish. I have a gluten-free option too.
When I think of creamy New England Seafood Chowder, I always think of going out to eat with my Grandmother. Once a summer, my Grandmother would take my family to eat at Perry’s Fish House, a seafood restaurant here in Vermont. It wasn’t a particularly great restaurant, but we loved it.
I think Grandma liked to take us there because she wanted an excuse to order lobster, and she knew that if she had the whole family there as her witness, Grampa couldn’t really give her too hard of a time about ordering such an extravagance.
We’d lumber up Route 7 in my grandmother’s beast of a Lincoln. Jessie and I, even as tweens already overly-food-obsessed, would excitedly banter about ordering the bathtub of chowder as we sat in the back seat.
We called it a bathtub because the most notable part about the New England Seafood Chowder was that it was served in obscenely enormous oblong bowls. Our running joke was that they were not actually bowls, but in fact bathtubs. I think my mom tried to talk us out of ordering it, as that meant us missing out on other more exciting menu options. Plus in the middle of the summer it was always way too hot for Seafood Chowder.
Do you think we listened?
The heat lifting off the parking lot, we’d pause before entering the air-conditioned restaurant, to admire the kitschy seagull recording played along the rope-adorned “docks.” The entry walkway was decorated to look like a dock on a fishing pier.
Looking back, I don’t think I ever did order the lobster because I remember loving the bathtub of New England Seafood Chowder so much. Though the lure of having one of those plastic lobster bibs was a pretty enticing prize.
Try as we might, I don’t think we were ever able to finish a serving of the Seafood Chowder. It was exuberantly rich and far too large for any mere mortal. Eating anything else afterwards was certainly out of the question. No bib, and no lobster for us.
Now that I am older and have traveled around New England I have had far better chowder than that served at Perry’s Fish House, and even if I did want to try it for old times sake, the restaurant is no longer there. Now I know that good chowder is not related to the size of the bathtub, er bowl, but rather that it is thick and creamy, the potatoes still holding their perfect square shape but meltingly tender. It should taste from the sea and slightly sweet from the freshness of the seafood. It’s also best if there are more clams, fish, celery and potatoes than creamy broth. I like a little bit of herbs, a scattering of crackers. Sometimes a bit of bacon or corn can get added in. But nothing too jazzy.
How I Healthified this Home-Made New England Seafood Chowder
- This home made version of New England Seafood Chowder is much healthier and lighter than that served at Perry’s. It has onions, celery and garlic and a splash of white wine to start. I added in fennel seeds which pairs really well with seafood. I also flavored it with thyme and a pinch of nutmeg too.
- For the fish, I bought frozen Alaskan Cod, which is a sustainable choice according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You could also use Sablefish or another mild white fish on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Best Choice List. Download the app so you can check out the seafood counter or check here.
- For the clams I used shucked clams. I found both fresh and frozen hand-shucked sea clams that are from a Verified Sustainable Fishery. They came in a 1-pound container, and I used the juice they were in as part of the broth. Sometimes you can ask at the seafood counter, and they will have some in a larger bulk container and weigh out what you need for you. If you buy them frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight before using. Save the juice! It goes into the recipe.
- For the clam juice I used Bar Harbor brand clam juice which is much lower in sodium than other clam juice. If you can find it, it will make your chowder much less salty. If you can’t find Bar Harbor, skip the added salt, taste and adjust at the end.
- I think you’ll find that this creamy New England Seafood Chowder is not too heavy at all. Not only does this have a lot of fresh vegetables and lean seafood but I kept the fat in check as well. I used only 1 tablespoon of avocado oil to sauté the vegetables. And instead of a lot of heavy cream, I added just ½ cup of half and half to the chowder to finish it, which adds only 2 ½ grams of fat per serving.
Do you have memories of going out to eat with your grandparents?
Did you like seafood when you were a kid?
Have you made New England Seafood Chowder before?
This creamy New England Seafood Chowder is not too heavy, filled with fresh vegetables and lean seafood and is ready in 45 minutes. I added just ½ cup of half and half to finish it, which adds only 2 ½ grams of fat per serving making it a delicious and healthy lunch or dinner!
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or organic canola oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- ¾ teaspoon dry thyme or 1 ½ teaspoon chopped fresh
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon pepper, preferably white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- pinch nutmeg
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 8-ounce lower sodium bottles clam juice, such as Bar Harbor
- 2 ½ cups reduced sodium chicken broth, divided
- 4 medium red potatoes, peeled if desired, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 pound raw shucked clams * ingredient note
- 8 ounces Alaskan cod or Sablefish, cut into chunks
- ½ cup half-and-half
- chopped parsley or chives for garnish
- Heat oil in a large heavy-bottom Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, garlic, thyme, fennel, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cook, stirring often until the onion is translucent and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add wine, and increase heat to high. Cook, stirring often until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add clam juice, 2 cups chicken broth and potatoes, cover and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove lid. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Whisk the remaining ½ cup broth with flour (or cornstarch) until smooth. Stir into the simmering soup, and continue stirring until the soup is thickened. Stir in clams and any juice from their container and cod or halibut. Let the mixture slowly come to a simmer, gently stirring occasionally and let cook until the cod is opaque all the way through, 4 to 5 minutes total. Stir in half and half and remove from the heat. Serve garnished with parsley or chives.
Raw Shucked Clams, also sometimes called raw chopped sea clams or fresh minced clams are available frozen or fresh at the seafood counter at large supermarkets and fish markets. Look for natural hand-shucked clams, especially without preservatives or chemicals. I used Seawatch International.