Cozy and comforting Instant Pot clam chowder is perfect to warm you up on a chilly night. It is creamy, rich, delicious, and so easy to make!
Though there are many varieties of clam chowder, the classic New England style is our absolute favorite. It is also known as white clam chowder or Boston-style clam chowder.
Pressure cooker clam chowder is really convenient to prepare, and comes together fairly quickly once you have the vegetables all diced up.
This hearty clam chowder features perfectly cooked potato chunks and tender chopped clams in a flavorful, thick, and creamy broth, seasoned with fresh herbs like thyme and parsley.
I love making things from scratch, however, I’ve made this Instant Pot clam chowder with canned clams since it is more convenient and economical than purchasing fresh clams.
Traditionally, clam chowder is made with salt pork. But we are using bacon in this recipe.
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Why will you love this recipe?
☑ It is thick and creamy, packed with delicious and heartwarming flavors
☑ Super easy to prepare using the Instant Pot
☑ Homemade is so much better than the canned clam chowder
☑ Much more economical to prepare it at home than to order it at a restaurant
To make this hearty Instant Pot clam chowder, gather the following ingredients;
Clams: I’ve used chopped canned clams for this recipe. You may also use whole canned clams.
Bacon: We cook the bacon first to render the fat and the crispy bits are used to top the chowder while serving.
Cooking fat: You will need some rendered bacon fat and unsalted butter to saute the vegetables.
Vegetables: I’ve used white onions and celery.
Garlic: I’ve added a heaping tablespoon of freshly minced garlic as I really love the flavor. You can add more or less to suit your palate.
Potatoes: I’ve used gold potatoes. You can also use red potatoes, russets, Idaho, fingerlings, or baby potatoes diced in halves. Ideally, it’s better to use waxy potatoes in chowder as they tend to hold their shape better. I’ve peeled the potatoes, but feel free to leave the skin on.
Liquid: For the liquid, I’ve used the juice from the canned clams in addition to chicken stock. If you have clam juice, please use that instead of the chicken stock. I’ve finished off the chowder with half-and-half. I made my own by combining 3/4 cup each of heavy cream and whole milk. Please avoid using the fat-free half-and-half in this recipe.
Cornstarch: To thicken it up!
Seasoning: You will need some fresh or dried thyme, along with bay leaves, fresh parsley, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper!
How to make Instant Pot clam chowder – Step-by-step process
Step 1: Drain the canned clams and reserve the juices
Drain 3-(6.5) oz canned chopped clams and reserve the juice for cooking. You should get about 1.5 cups of clam juice (Snows brand) and a little over a cup (170 grams) of clam meat. (Photos 1 and 2)
Step 2: Saute
Press the ‘SAUTE’ button, and set it to ‘NORMAL’ or ‘MEDIUM’ (depending on your IP model), press ‘START’. Once it displays ‘HOT’, add the 1/4 lb of diced bacon, and saute until the fat has rendered and it turns slightly crisp. (Photos 3 and 4)
Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off excess bacon grease leaving a tablespoon in the pot. (Photos 5 and 6)
Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, add 1 cup of diced onions and 3/4 cup of diced celery, and saute until vegetables soften. (Photos 7 and 8)
The onions will release enough moisture to deglaze the pot. But if it doesn’t, add about 1/4 cup of stock to deglaze the pot. (Photos 9 and 10)
Make sure you scrape off all the browned bits stuck at the bottom of the pot, to avoid getting a ‘BURN’ error.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and saute until fragrant. (Photos 11 and 12)
Step 3: Add potatoes, liquid, seasoning & pressure cook
Add 4 cups of diced potatoes, 1 cup of vegetable stock or chicken stock, 1.5 cups of reserved clam juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, you may add later), 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, 1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves. Mix well. (Photos 13 to 18)
The total liquid used for pressure cooking is 2.5 cups.
Press ‘CANCEL’. Close the lid of the Instant Pot. Set the valve to ‘SEALING’. Pressure cook on ‘HIGH’ for 5 minutes. It will take some time for the pressure to build up, after which the timer will begin. (Photo 19)
Step 4: NPR (5 mins)
Let the pot depressurize for 5 minutes. Then do a quick release of any leftover pressure as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the silver pin drops, turn the knob to ‘VENTING’ and open the lid away from you. (Photos 20 and 21)
Step 5: Add the remaining ingredients
Discard the bay leaves. (Photo 22)
Press the ‘CANCEL’ button and turn on the ‘SAUTE’ button, set it to ‘LOW’.
Add 1.5 cups of half-and-half and stir. (Photos 23 and 24)
Use room temperature half-and-half or cream to avoid it from splitting when added to the soup.
Add the cornstarch slurry, and stir until the soup has thickened. (Photos 25 and 26)
Next, add the drained clams and 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley. Mix well, and cook until the clams are heated through about 1 to 2 minutes. (Photos 27 to 29)
Press ‘CANCEL’ to turn off the ‘SAUTE’ mode. Check for seasonings, and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed. I added another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.
Let the chowder sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Dish out this Instant Pot clam chowder and top with crumbled bacon bits, crispy oyster crackers or saltine crackers, and chopped parsley, or chives! The bacon and fresh herbs definitely add a pop of color and lovely contrast against the off-white color of the chowder!
You may serve it with crusty homemade bread!
You could also serve them Panera style in bread bowls.
Garlic bread is also an excellent accompaniment for this clam chowder.
Leftovers: Allow the clam chowder to cool down completely. Transfer into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 to 5 days. Do not let the leftovers sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Freeze: I do not recommend freezing clam chowder since it has potatoes, dairy, and seafood. Also, herbs like thyme tend to add a little bitterness to the chowder on freezing.
On thawing the texture of the potatoes will turn soggy, the dairy will separate and the chowder will have a grainy texture.
Reheat: Clam chowder thickens on refrigeration. Transfer the chowder to a pot and reheat on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, to prevent sticking or burning on the bottom, until thoroughly heated through. Add a few splashes of clam/chicken stock or milk to thin it out.
Consistency: This clam chowder will thicken on cooling down. If you prefer a thinner chowder, add more stock or half and half.
Season to taste: These seasonings were just right for us! Please feel free to adjust it to your liking.
Thicken without cornstarch: You may omit the cornstarch and thicken the chowder by blending some of the potatoes. Remove half of the potatoes using a slotted spoon and blend the remaining contents of the pot till the chowder is smooth, thick, and creamy. Add the potatoes back, and the rest of the ingredients.
Avoid rubbery clams: Canned clams are already cooked, so avoid overcooking the clams once you add them to the chowder. You just need to let them heat through for a minute and switch off the IP.
Lighter version: For a low-calorie clam chowder, swap the half-and-half with milk. The texture will vary since it won’t be as rich, but it should still taste good.
Variations of this Pressure cooker clam chowder
Skip the bacon: Bacon adds a subtle smoky flavor to the clam chowder. Also, sauteeing the veggies in bacon fat adds a ton of flavor. You may skip the bacon if you wish to, and use only butter.
Vegetables: You can add diced carrots and leeks (instead of the onion). You can also throw in some corn kernels for a bit of sweetness.
Bacon substitutes: You can swap the bacon with pancetta, prosciutto, or Italian sausage to switch things up.
White wine: You can add about 1/4 cup of white cooking wine, after sauteing the vegetables to add some brightness and complex flavor to the chowder.
More clams: Feel free to add in another can of chopped clams. You can also replace the chicken stock with an 8 oz bottle of clam juice or you may use better than bouillon clam base for more of the clam flavor.
Seasoning: You can most certainly experiment with other herbs like oregano, rosemary, tarragon, or seasoning like old bay, etc.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How can I make this recipe dairy-free?
To make this recipe dairy-free, you can use a mix of coconut milk and coconut cream. Coconut pairs really well with seafood, so it would be the best substitute. If you don’t like the flavor of coconut milk, you could use oat milk.
What is the difference between Manhattan-style, New England-style, and Rhode Island-style clam chowder?
New England clam chowder is cream-based, white in color, and quite thick.
Manhattan clam chowder is tomato based, does not contain dairy, is red in color, and the broth has a thinner consistency.
Rhode Island-style chowder has a clear broth and does not contain dairy or tomatoes. If you prefer a strong clammy flavor, you will love this chowder!
Can I use frozen clams?
Yes, you can! Thaw the frozen clams in the refrigerator and use them as you would with the canned clams in this recipe.
What does clam chowder taste like?
This Instant Pot clam chowder is packed with savory deliciousness. It is thick and creamy packed with chunky potatoes and tender clam meat. It has a subtle smoky flavor from the bacon and a very tiny hint of seafood flavor from the clam juice.
You may also enjoy these creamy Instant Pot soup recipes
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Instant Pot Clam Chowder (New England Style)
- Instant Pot DUO Plus 6 qt 9-in-1
- 3-(6.5) oz canned chopped clams, drained and juices reserved
- 1/4 pound diced bacon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced white onions
- 3/4 cup diced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1.5 pounds Yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes, about 4 cups diced
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1.5 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
To be added after pressure cooking
- 1.5 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
To top the clam chowder
- Bacon bits
- Oyster crackers
- chopped chives
Drain the canned clams and reserve the juices
- Drain canned chopped clams and reserve the juice for cooking. You should get about 1.5 cups of clam juice (brand) and a little over a cup (170 grams) of clam meat.
- Press the 'SAUTE' button, and set it to 'NORMAL' or 'MEDIUM' (depending on your IP model), press 'START'. Once it displays 'HOT', add diced bacon, and saute until the fat has rendered and it turns slightly crisp.
- Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off excess bacon grease leaving a tablespoon in the pot.
- Add unsalted butter, add diced onions and diced celery, and saute until vegetables soften.
- The onions will release enough moisture to deglaze the pot. But if it doesn’t, add about 1/4 cup of stock to deglaze the pot.
- Make sure you scrape off all the browned bits stuck at the bottom of the pot, to avoid getting a ‘BURN’ error.
- Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant.
Add potatoes, liquid, seasoning & pressure cook
- Add diced potatoes, vegetable stock or chicken stock, reserved clam juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, you may add later), 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, fresh thyme, bay leaves. Mix well.
- Total liquid used for pressure cooking is 2.5 cups.
- Press 'CANCEL'. Close the lid of the Instant Pot. Set the valve to 'SEALING'. Pressure cook on 'HIGH' for 5 minutes. It will take some time for the pressure to build up, after which the timer will begin.
NPR (5 mins)
- Let the pot depressurize for 5 minutes. Then do a quick release of any leftover pressure as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the silver pin drops, turn the knob to ‘VENTING’ and open the lid away from you.
Add the remaining ingredients
- Discard the bay leaves.
- Press the ‘CANCEL’ button and turn on the ‘SAUTE’ button, set it to ‘LOW’.
- Add half-and-half and stir.
- Use room temperature half-and-half or cream to avoid it from splitting when added to the soup.
- Add the cornstarch slurry, and stir until the soup has thickened.
- Next, add the drained clams and chopped parsley. Mix well, and cook until the clams are heated through about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Press 'CANCEL' to turn off the 'SAUTE' mode. Check for seasonings, and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed. I added another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Let the chowder sit for 10 minutes before serving.
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