You and I are friends, right? Then hopefully you won’t judge The Restaurant Guy when he tells you that he has been looking for a good New England-style clam chowder that can be purchased at a market and enjoyed at home.

Nothing compares to the quality you get from a fresh bowl of New England clam chowder served at a local eatery. But I am such a big chowder fan that I think it would be nice to not have to always leave my cozy cottage and trudge through this harsh, arctic, 70-degree Santa Barbara winter weather we are all suffering through, just to get some.

Every canned New England clam chowder I have tried has been awful. I tried Snows. Verdict: terrible. I tried Campbell’s. If anyone can get canned soup to taste good it would be Campbell’s, right? Verdict: terrible. I then tried the ready-to-eat version of Campbell’s New England clam chowder where you don’t need to add milk or water. Verdict: terrible. Last night I tried Progresso Rich & Hearty and it tasted like a bowl of Half & Half with a few potatoes mixed in. Verdict: Pass me a bag, quickly.

What is your favorite brand of from-the-store New England clam chowder?

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  1. David says:

    Best “not-fresh” clam chowder can be found at Vons. Actually I like all their soups, not just the clam chowder. I think their soups (either the daily specials which are hot) or the refrigerated ones can buy are bounds above much of the soup I get in local restaurants. Come to think of it, I’ve never had a good soup, ever, from Natural Cafe. Fresco soup is pretty mediocre. I vote Vons/Safeway deli soup every time.

  2. SL says:

    Guess What? The vast majority of clam chowder served in restaurants comes from a can. The “famous” Brophy’s clam chowder, yep it’s a canned variety that they doctor up with some additions. I can’t name one place in town that makes their clam chowder completely from scratch. Not all that shocking as making it from scratch on a large scale can be a PITA and of course the always important bottom line can make it not worthwhile. Probably more frightening though is the fish used for fish & chips at places like Brophy’s.

    • Huyen Nguyen says:

      I think Boathouse/Shellfish makes their clam chowder from stratch. The Whiskey Crab Chowder is to die for!!

    • Scott says:

      I was going to post the exact same thing. It’s nearly impossible to make a chowder base from scratch that doesn’t separate. Unless they’re making it cup by cup and serving it immediately, chances are they’re using Campbell’s.

    • Mac says:

      Unaccustomed as I am to shameless self promotion…here at Mac’s Fish & Chip Shop we make our own New England Clam Chowder from scratch, much like the majority of our menu. No cans of condensed soup, no packets of mix. It always amazes me that restaurants don’t make it from scratch because a) it tastes better and b) it’s actually cheaper to make from raw ingredients and c) quality control is easier to manage. Maybe that’s why we sell it at just $3 for a cup and $5 for a bowl. I have to end this rant now as this self-promotion has left me feeling a bit ashamed and dirty.


      • SL says:

        Are you guys using freshly shucked clams for the chowder? Keep up the good work, you’re shop has been a welcomed addition to the downtown dining scene!

        • Mac says:

          If we were using freshly shucked clams then I would either have no thumbs left by now or I would need to employ an army of shuckers to keep up with demand! Instead, we use canned ocean clams (the tender beauties) which are, like all our seafood products, approved by the Sustainable Seafood guys at Ty Warner Sea Center (we’re very proud members). And thanks for the nice comment – we look forward to serving you again soon.

          • Steve says:

            Did not know you served Clam Chowder as its not on your men? So we tried it Sunday and I have to say it is the best clam chowder I have tasted in a long long time. Thank you for mentioning it. Your pies are pretty darn good to!

  3. Christine says:

    Go to in Pismo Beach and order their clam chowder on-line. Costco once had it frozen and it is to die for.

  4. Richard says:

    I order Bar Harbor clam chowder from Amazon. It’s the best
    canned chowder I’ve found. six (15 oz) cans are about $18…
    if you have Prime, shipping is free.

    • Christine says:

      I’m so glad you mentioned Bar Harbor, I looked them up and they look pretty darn good. Came in first in a blind tasting. Supposedly, available at Gelson’s and Whole Foods. I’m on the hunt.

    • SL says:

      I have to agree. If you have to go canned Bar Harbor is the way to go. You can also use it as a base and doctor it up iwth whatever additions you like. Christine you are correct, it is available at Gelson’s.

  5. Gracie says:

    Wolfgang Puck canned chowder is pretty good. Restaurant chowder that I really like a lot is Eladio’s-clammy, creamy, potatoes, bacon, pretty yummy.

  6. Niki says:

    Costco’s clam chowder is pretty decent! not a can, but a container. The night of the chowder fest, I was so busy working that I didnt actually fill up on the 26 versions of chowder – so i had to go home and eat dinner – and it turned out that costco clam chowder was on the menu at home!

  7. I agree with you whole heartedly. I have never found a canned clam chowder I like, Progresso is the worst I’ve tried.

  8. tama says:

    tried the trader joe’s canned version tonight. yep, it too was foul.

  9. Glenn says:

    Just picked up some “Steamers of Pismo” Clam Chowder, associated with McClintocks they have a restaurant in Pismo of the same name. Albertsons up here as just started carrying “local” stuff and had this new this week. I’ll let you know.

  10. michael guthrie says:

    Mo’s clam chowder base can be ordered online. I have had this chowder for 38 years, never had a bad bowl. It sure beats BB’s or IFH…….

  11. Steve says:

    Having eaten all that sodium, you should have your blood pressure checked.

  12. Lisa Greenbaum says:

    JD, you want a recipe? that’s how it’s done!

  13. Chaz says:

    Well, I guess I’m in the minority, but I sure wish I could find a “from scratch” Manhattan-style Clam Chowder. I love both but since everyone here seems to serve “New England,” I’m “clamoring” (pun intended) for a taste of the real McCoy from the Empre State. It’s just too inconvenient to fly back East as a self-indulgence.

  14. Lazy Acres makes New England-style clam chowder from scratch. You can find it in the salad bar. They make great soups, but this one I haven’t tried, as I’m a vegetarian!

  15. Ed says:

    Haven’t been there for a while, but the clam chowder at Norstroms Cafe (usually on the menu) was pretty good. It was a BIG fave with my kids years ago. The outdoor patio is always a pleasant place to sit as an added bonus.

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