How many calories are in a bowl of homemade New England clam chowder?

New England clam chowder is a hearty, creamy soup filled with potatoes, onions, bacon, and clams. It’s a beloved regional specialty in New England and beyond. But like many creamy soups and stews, clam chowder can be high in calories. So how many calories are actually in a bowl of homemade New England clam chowder?

What Goes Into Clam Chowder

There are a few main ingredients that make up traditional New England clam chowder:

  • Clams – Chopped or minced clams are the star ingredient.
  • Bacon – Traditionally salt pork was used, but bacon is common today.
  • Onions – Diced onions add flavor.
  • Potatoes – Diced potatoes add thickness and texture.
  • Cream – Heavy cream or whole milk makes the chowder creamy.
  • Butter – Butter is used to cook the vegetables.
  • Flour – A flour and butter roux helps thicken the broth.
  • Chicken or clam broth – Provides clam flavoring.
  • Herbs and seasonings like thyme, basil, parsley, black pepper, and bay leaves.

So the main high-calorie ingredients are the cream, bacon, butter, and potatoes. The calories will add up quickly depending on how much of each ingredient is used.

Calories in Common Chowder Ingredients

Here are the calories found in 1/2 cup servings of the main chowder ingredients:

Ingredient Calories
Heavy cream 404
Whole milk 103
Bacon, cooked 427
Butter 512
Potatoes, diced and cooked 67
Onion, chopped and cooked 64
All-purpose flour 102
Clams, chopped and cooked 84

As you can see, ingredients like the cream and butter are very high in calories. Even though potatoes and onions are relatively low-calorie, it adds up when added to a large pot of chowder.

How Recipe Portion Sizes Impact Calories

The total calories in clam chowder will depend heavily on the recipe size and portion sizes. For example:

  • A small individual serving may have 1 cup of chowder.
  • A larger bowl may have 2-3 cups.
  • A pot of chowder meant for a family meal may make up to 12 servings.

The calories per serving will go down as the batch size goes up. If a large pot has 1000 total calories and makes 10 servings, each bowl would have around 100 calories. But a single-serving bowl could have 300-500 calories depending on ingredients.

Calories in Some Standard Chowder Portions

Chowder Portion Size Typical Calories
1 cup serving 300-500
Bowl (2 cups) 600-1000
Bread bowl (3 cups) 900-1500
12 oz restaurant bowl 400-800
16 oz restaurant bowl 650-1300

As you can see, a typical restaurant bowl or small home-cooked serving can range from 300-500 calories. Very large 3-cup bread bowls can exceed 1500 calories!

Calories in Thick vs Thin Chowder

The thickness of the chowder also affects its calories:

  • Thick, creamy chowder – Made with heavy cream and flour/butter roux. Highest in calories.
  • Moderate chowder – Made with milk instead of heavy cream. Still moderately high-calorie.
  • Thin chowder – Made with mostly broth and very little cream. Lower in calories than thick chowder.

For example, 1 cup of thick, flour-thickened chowder can have 300-500 calories. A thinner broth-based chowder may have 200-300 calories per cup.

How to Lighten Up Clam Chowder

There are several ways to reduce the calories in clam chowder:

  • Use milk instead of heavy cream. This cuts a significant amount of calories while still giving a creamy texture.
  • Cut back on the amount of bacon or butter. Even small reductions make a difference.
  • Use a light roux made with low-fat milk and flour instead of butter and flour.
  • Increase the amount of clams and reduce the cream. The clams provide plenty of moisture.
  • Use leaner bacon or turkey bacon.
  • Add more low-calorie vegetables like celery, carrots, mushrooms, etc.
  • Use low-sodium broth and reduce salt to cut bloating.

With simple substitutions like these, you can shave off quite a few calories per serving. A lighter chowder may have closer to 200-300 calories per bowl.

Calories in Common Clam Chowder Servings

Here are some estimates for calories in different common clam chowder servings:

Restaurant Chowder

  • Bowl (12 oz) = 400-600 calories
  • Bread bowl (16-20 oz) = 600-800 calories

Homemade Chowder

  • 1 cup serving = 300-500 calories
  • Large bowl (2 cups) = 500-700 calories
  • Bread bowl (3 cups) = 700-1000+ calories

Frozen Chowder

  • 1 cup prepared = 250-350 calories

Of course, the exact calories will vary hugely between recipes. But these ranges give you a general idea of calories in common clam chowder portion sizes.

Comparing Chowder to Other Soups

Compared to other creamy soups and chowders, New England clam chowder is on the higher end for calories:

Soup Calories per Cup
Chicken Noodle Soup 100-200
Minestrone Soup 200-300
Loaded Baked Potato Soup 300-400
Broccoli Cheddar Soup 300-500
Manhattan Clam Chowder (tomato-based) 300-400
New England Clam Chowder (creamy) 400-500
Lobster Bisque 400-600

The cream and often added flour or butter gives clam chowder a more substantial mouthfeel but also significantly increases its calorie density compared to broth-based soups.

Tips for Lightening Up Your Chowder

Here are some tips to lighten up homemade or restaurant chowder:

  • Ask how it’s thickened – with a butter/flour roux or cream? Opt for broth-thickened.
  • Skip the bread bowl – delicious but piles on carbs.
  • Choose milk-based – or broth-based over heavy cream-based.
  • Enjoy a cup – not a bowl. Chowder is rich so a smaller portion is satisfying.
  • Load up on clams and veggies to add volume and nutrients without excess calories.
  • Skip oyster crackers – they can add 150+ calories on top.
  • Pair with a salad – add veggies and filling fiber to balance the rich soup.

With smart choices, you can still enjoy clam chowder without going overboard on calories. And be sure to check out the restaurant or recipe nutrition info when possible.


New England clam chowder can range from 300-500+ calories per serving depending on exact ingredients and portion size. Thick, flour-based chowders made with heavy cream tend to be highest. The calories quickly add up when ladled into abundant bread bowls or served as multi-cup portions. But there are many ways to lighten up clam chowder, from using milk instead of cream to bulking it up with extra veggies. With mindful ingredient choices and moderate portion sizes, you can still enjoy the delicious taste of clam chowder without consuming too many calories in this hearty regional favorite.

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