Is clam chowder high in carbs?

Quick Answer

Clam chowder can be high in carbs, depending on the recipe and ingredients used. Traditional New England clam chowder made with cream, potatoes, and crackers can have 30-60 grams of carbs per serving. Manhattan clam chowder made with tomatoes instead of cream tends to be lower in carbs at around 15-30 grams per serving. Lower carb options include cauliflower clam chowder with only 5-10 grams of net carbs per serving.

What is clam chowder?

Clam chowder is a thick, creamy soup made with clams, a broth base, vegetables, and seasonings. There are several main types of clam chowder:

  • New England clam chowder – Made with cream, potatoes, onions, clams, and crackers
  • Manhattan clam chowder – Made with tomatoes, clams, onions, carrots, celery, and broth
  • Rhode Island clam chowder – Made with broth, tomatoes, clams, potatoes, onions, celery
  • New Jersey clam chowder – Made with tomatoes, clams, broth, vegetables

The ingredients used in clam chowder recipes, especially the amount of cream and potatoes, determine the carbohydrate content.

Carbohydrates in traditional clam chowder

Traditional New England clam chowder often contains higher amounts of carbohydrates due to two main ingredients – potatoes and heavy cream.

A 1 cup serving of New England clam chowder may contain:

  • 5-10 grams of carbs from potatoes
  • 5-10 grams of carbs from heavy cream
  • 5-10 grams of carbs from crackers/oyster crackers

This adds up to around 30-60 grams of total carbs per serving.

Manhattan clam chowder uses tomatoes instead of heavy cream, so it tends to be slightly lower in carbs with around 15-30 grams per serving.

Lower carb options

There are several ways to make clam chowder with fewer carbs:

Use cauliflower instead of potatoes

Replacing starchy potatoes with low carb vegetables like cauliflower or turnips can significantly reduce the carb count.

Cauliflower has around 5 grams of carbs per cup compared to 36 grams in a cup of potatoes. This simple swap cuts around 30 grams of carbs per serving.

Use lighter cream or milk

Substituting lighter dairy products like half and half or milk instead of heavy cream can trim some carbs. Half and half has around 6 grams of carbs per cup compared to 12 grams in heavy cream.

Skip the crackers

Oyster crackers are used to add texture and crunch to clam chowder. However, they add significant carbs with around 15 grams per 1/4 cup. Skipping the crackers helps lower the carb content.

Increase clams and veggies

Adding more clams, seafood, and non-starchy vegetables like celery, mushrooms, spinach helps bulk up the chowder while adding minimal carbs. This increases nutrition while lowering the carb percentage.

Nutrition facts comparison

Here is a nutrition comparison of 1 cup serving sizes of different clam chowder recipes:

Clam Chowder Type Total Carbs Net Carbs
New England (cream and potato based) 30-60g 25-50g
Manhattan (tomato broth based) 15-30g 12-25g
Cauliflower (cream and cauliflower) 10-15g 5-10g

This table shows that traditional cream and potato-based New England clam chowder is highest in carbs, while using cauliflower instead of potatoes drastically reduces the carb content.

Low carb clam chowder recipe

Here is a delicious low carb cauliflower clam chowder recipe:


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups seafood stock
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) cans chopped clams, drained and juice reserved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook for 5 minutes until tender.
  2. Add cauliflower and garlic and cook 3 more minutes.
  3. Stir in flour to coat vegetables. Slowly whisk in clam juice and seafood stock. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until cauliflower is very soft.
  5. Remove bay leaf. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot until smooth and creamy.
  6. Stir in half and half, chopped clams, thyme, salt and pepper. Heat through but do not boil.
  7. Ladle into bowls and garnish with extra thyme and black pepper.

This cauliflower clam chowder is creamy, comforting, and full of clam flavor with only around 5-10 net carbs per serving. It’s a great low carb alternative to enjoy the taste of clam chowder without all the carbs.

Ways to reduce carbs in any clam chowder

Here are some easy tips for reducing carbs in any clam chowder recipe:

  • Use low carb thickeners – Try xanthan gum or glucomannan instead of flour.
  • Load up on extra veggies – Add spinach, kale, mushrooms, celery, onions, etc.
  • Use carb-conscious thickening agents – Whisk in a small amount of cream cheese or coconut milk.
  • Skip the crackers – They add a ton of unnecessary carbs on top.
  • Ladle your portion into a bowl instead of over crackers or bread bowls.
  • Garnish with herbs, cheese, or hot sauce instead of oyster crackers if you want crunch.
  • Opt for lighter dairy – Half and half, milk, or nut milks instead of heavy cream.

With a few easy substitutions and ingredient swaps, you can enjoy hearty, creamy, and delicious low carb clam chowder. Focus on increasing nutrition with extra vegetables and protein while choosing lower carb thickeners and avoiding unnecessary carbs from crackers, flour, and potatoes.

Healthier alternative recipes

If you are looking for healthier or lower calorie clam chowder recipes, here are some great options:

Lighter Manhattan Clam Chowder

– Use reduced sodium tomato or vegetable juice instead of regular tomatoes
– Load up on extra vegetables like carrots, celery, mushrooms, spinach
– Use chicken or vegetable broth instead of heavy cream
– Season well with garlic, onion, cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes

Creamy Cauliflower Clam Chowder

– Sautee cauliflower rice, onions, garlic as the base
– Use almond milk or lite coconut milk instead of heavy cream
– Puree for a creamy soup without the cream
– Garnish with parsley and lemon juice

Spicy Shrimp and Clam Chowder

– Use a mix of clams and chopped shrimp for extra protein
– Add diced tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onion, garlic
– Replace some clam juice with vegetable or chicken broth
– Spice it up with jalapenos, cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes

Mediterranean Clam Chowder

– Sautee leeks, fennel, garlic, minced clams
– Add clam juice, white wine, chicken broth
– Finish with fresh basil, lemon zest, grilled artichoke hearts
– Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice just before serving


Clam chowder can range widely in its carbohydrate content based on the ingredients used. Traditional creamy New England style clam chowder with potatoes and heavy cream has the highest carb count at 30-60 grams per serving. Switching to tomato-based broths or using cauliflower instead of potatoes can significantly reduce the carbs to 5-15 grams net carbs per serving. Further modifications like increasing vegetables, avoiding thickeners like flour, eliminating crackers, and using lighter dairy can make clam chowder a low carb and healthier option. With some simple substitutions and clever cooking, you can still enjoy the delicious taste of clam chowder on a low carb or low calorie diet. Focus on nutrition and smart ingredient swaps for the best results.

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