Which is healthier Manhattan or New England clam chowder?

Clam chowder is a thick, creamy soup made with clams, potatoes, onions, and other vegetables. There are two main types of clam chowder in the United States – New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder. New England clam chowder is cream-based, while Manhattan clam chowder has a tomato base. Both types of clam chowder can be delicious and satisfying, but which one is healthier?

Nutritional Breakdown

To determine which type of clam chowder is healthier, we need to look at their basic nutritional profiles. Here is a comparison of the nutritional content in one cup of each chowder:

Nutrient New England Clam Chowder Manhattan Clam Chowder
Calories 223 196
Total Fat 12 g 8 g
Saturated Fat 7 g 2 g
Cholesterol 45 mg 24 mg
Sodium 629 mg 827 mg
Total Carbohydrates 19 g 28 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g 3 g
Sugars 3 g 6 g
Protein 12 g 10 g

Based on the nutritional profiles, Manhattan clam chowder is lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol compared to the cream-based New England version. The tomato base makes Manhattan clam chowder higher in carbs, fiber, and sugars. However, New England clam chowder contains more protein. When it comes to sodium, Manhattan clam chowder is actually higher despite having a tomato broth.


To dig deeper into the nutritional qualities of each soup, we need to look at the key ingredients that give them their signature flavors:

New England Clam Chowder

  • Clam broth – Provides moisture and depth of flavor
  • Heavy cream or half and half – Adds richness and creamy texture
  • Butter – Also boosts the creaminess and fat content
  • All-purpose flour – Thickens the chowder
  • Potatoes – Starch helps thicken the chowder and adds body
  • Onions – Provide flavor and nutrients
  • Celery – Extra flavor and crunch
  • Clams – Major source of protein
  • Salt and pepper – Seasoning

Manhattan Clam Chowder

  • Tomato base – Adds tangy flavor and nutrition from tomatoes
  • Clam broth – Provides clam flavor
  • Potatoes – Thicken and add body
  • Onions – Flavor and nutrients
  • Celery – Crunch and flavor
  • Carrots – Extra nutrients and sweetness
  • Clams – Main protein source
  • Thyme – Herb seasoning
  • Salt and pepper – Seasoning

When looking at the key ingredients, the use of heavy cream and butter give New England clam chowder a higher fat and cholesterol content. The tomato base makes Manhattan clam chowder lower in fat. However, the use of carrots and celery boosts the fiber, vitamin, and mineral content of the red chowder.

Vitamins and Minerals

Getting more granular, here is how the vitamin and mineral content stacks up in each bowl of chowder:

Vitamin/Mineral New England Clam Chowder (1 cup) Manhattan Clam Chowder (1 cup)
Vitamin A 10% DV 45% DV
Vitamin C 2% DV 45% DV
Calcium 10% DV 15% DV
Iron 10% DV 25% DV
Potassium 5% DV 25% DV

Due to the tomato base, Manhattan clam chowder provides significantly more Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and potassium. The cream in the New England version leads to a bit more calcium. Overall, Manhattan clam chowder packs more nutritious vitamins and minerals per serving.

Potential Health Benefits

Given the nutritional profiles, here are some of the potential health benefits of each type of clam chowder:

New England Clam Chowder

  • Provides lean protein from clams
  • Contains some calcium for bone health
  • Creamy, satisfying broth

Manhattan Clam Chowder

  • Higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals
  • Tomatoes provide lycopene, an antioxidant
  • Potassium helps regulate blood pressure
  • Lower in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Provides iron for healthy blood

While both chowders provide protein from the clams, Manhattan style has more potential health benefits from the tomato base. The tomatoes boost the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content, while the lower fat and cholesterol levels also give Manhattan an advantage for heart health.

Downsides and Considerations

While Manhattan clam chowder appears to be higher in nutrition, each style does have some potential downsides:

New England Clam Chowder

  • Higher in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol
  • Heavy cream adds a lot of saturated fat
  • May contain MSG, preservatives
  • Lower nutrient density

Manhattan Clam Chowder

  • Higher sodium content
  • May be more processed and less fresh
  • Acidic tomatoes may cause reflux for some

When enjoyed in moderation, both types of chowder can be part of a healthy diet. Those limiting calories, fat, cholesterol may want to enjoy Manhattan style more often. However, sodium content should be monitored in both versions.

Ways to Make Healthier

There are some easy ways to boost the nutrition in both types of clam chowder:

  • Use low fat milk instead of heavy cream
  • Add extra vegetables like spinach, kale, carrots
  • Use whole grain crackers or oyster crackers
  • Top with avocado or olive oil for healthy fats
  • Season with fresh herbs and spices instead of salt
  • Make with fresh, natural ingredients
  • Avoid adding bacon or other processed meats

With some simple ingredient swaps and additions, both New England and Manhattan clam chowders can be very healthy. Homemade versions give you control over the ingredients.

Environmental Impact

When comparing seafood dishes, it is also important to consider environmental sustainability. Here is how the two types of clam chowder generally stack up in terms of environmental impact:

New England Clam Chowder

  • Clams harvested from the Northeastern U.S. coast
  • More likely to use fresh, local seafood
  • Cream production has some environmental impact

Manhattan Clam Chowder

  • Clams may be farmed or imported
  • Tomatoes likely imported when not in season locally
  • Canned tomatoes out of season have a larger carbon footprint

Overall, fresh New England clam chowder made with locally sourced dairy and seafood has less of an environmental impact. The ingredients for Manhattan clam chowder are more likely to be heavily processed, imported, or sourced from larger commercial farms.

Price Differences

There is often a significant price difference between New England and Manhattan clam chowders, with New England versions costing more per serving. Here are some of the factors influencing the pricing:

  • Fresh local clams cost more than canned or farmed imported clams
  • Fresh cream is more expensive than canned tomato products
  • New England style is considered more “gourmet”
  • Higher demand and perceptions of quality for New England chowder
  • Higher costs for fresh ingredients in New England style

The perception that New England clam chowder is a premium, high quality product allows restaurants to charge more for it. The fresh components like the dairy and seafood also cost more than the canned and processed ingredients often used in Manhattan clam chowder.

Popularity Differences by Region

As the names imply, New England and Manhattan clam chowders are more popular in their respective home regions. Here is how the preference shakes out in different areas of the U.S.:

  • New England – New England style overwhelmingly preferred
  • Mid-Atlantic – Mixed preferences depending on exact area
  • Manhattan – Strong Manhattan style preference
  • Pacific – Manhattan style grows increasingly popular moving down the coast
  • Midwest and South – Tend to prefer New England style
  • Pacific Northwest – Prefer their own clam chowder style with cream, potatoes, and smoked fish

While both chowders have fans nationwide, New England clam chowder enjoys broader popularity across more regions of the U.S. Manhattan style is a close second though and has loyal fans as well.

Global Preferences

Looking outside the U.S., clam chowder preferences vary across the globe. Here are some tendencies in different regions:

  • United Kingdom – Usually prefer cream-based, reminiscent of New England
  • France – Enjoy white chowders inspired by Mediterranean seafood stews
  • Spain – Favor saffron and sherry flavored soups with chorizo
  • Japan – Open to trying both but often fusion with native dishes
  • Russia – Like hearty stews and soups, so enjoy rich New England style
  • India – Go for spicy tomato-based chowders with familiar flavors

Abroad, New England clam chowder resonates in areas like the U.K. and Russia where cream-based soups are already popular. Manhattan style translates better in regions where tomato-based stews are more common. Both offer tempting new flavors to countries like Japan though.

Clam Chowder Health Conclusions

When comparing the two most popular types of clam chowder in the U.S., Manhattan clam chowder has some advantages over New England clam chowder in terms of nutrition and health:

  • Lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol
  • Higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
  • Provides heart-healthy benefits from tomatoes

However, New England clam chowder remains a favorite for its creamy, comforting flavors. With a few adjustments like using lower fat dairy and boosting vegetables, it can also be a healthy option. Trying clam chowders from different regions can let you experience diverse flavors and ingredients.

The Best Healthy Clam Chowder

While the tomato-based Manhattan variety often edges out New England in health comparisons, you don’t have to give up that creamy broth to have a healthy bowl of chowder. By making some substitutions and additions, New England clam chowder can have a nutritional boost while keeping its comforting essence. Try lightening it up with:

  • Low-fat or skim milk instead of heavy cream
  • Extra vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, celery
  • Adding kale or spinach
  • Olive oil or avocado garnish
  • Seasonings over salt for flavor
  • Whole grain oyster crackers

With fresh, natural ingredients and some nutritional tweaks, New England style clam chowder can be healthy, satisfying, and still capture that quintessential chowder experience.

Clam Chowder Taste Test

Debating Manhattan vs. New England clam chowder preferences is a fun food feud. To settle the score, why not host a taste test?

Step 1: Get Samples

Obtain a Manhattan clam chowder and New England clam chowder from restaurants or make them from scratch. Prepare the samples in similar containers.

Step 2: Evaluate

Sample the chowders side-by-side and rate qualities like:

  • Aroma
  • Appearance
  • Flavor
  • Mouthfeel/Texture
  • Overall preference

Take detailed notes on the differences you notice.

Step 3: Rank and Discuss

Once finished, rank the chowders from most to least favorite. Share impressions and debate preferences with other tasters.

Step 4: Declare a Winner

Tally the votes to declare the favorite clam chowder. Use the taste test to appreciate the unique qualities of each soup.

A clam chowder sampling lets you dig into the subtleties of Manhattan vs. New England. Enjoy the tasting experience as you decide which chowder suits your tastes.

Leave a Comment