This article is about the soup. For other uses, see Chowder (disambiguation).

A seafood chowder prepared with shrimp and corn
Type Soup or stew
Main ingredients Seafood or vegetables, often milk or cream
Variations New England clam chowder, seafood chowder, corn chowder, potato chowder
Cookbook: Chowder  Media: Chowder

Chowder is a type of soup or stew often prepared with milk or cream and thickened with broken crackers, crushed ship biscuit, or a roux. Variations of chowder can be seafood or vegetable. Crackers such as oyster crackers or saltines may accompany chowders as a side item, and cracker pieces may be dropped atop the dish. New England clam chowder is typically made with chopped clams and diced potatoes, in a mixed cream and milk base, often with a small amount of butter. Other common chowders include seafood chowder, which includes fish, clams, and many other types of shellfish; corn chowder, which uses corn instead of clams; a wide variety of fish chowders;[1] and potato chowder, which is often made with cheese. Fish chowder, corn chowder, and clam chowder are especially popular in New England and Atlantic Canada.

Some people include Manhattan clam chowder as a type of chowder, but since it has no milk or cream and is tomato-based, it is actually more like a vegetable soup with clams.[2]


Seafood, potato, and corn chowder with pepper

The origin of the term chowder is obscure. One possible source is the French word chaudière,[3][4] the French word for cauldron, the type of cooking or heating stove on which the first chowders were probably cooked.[5][6] Chodier was also a name for a cooking pot in the Creole language of the French Caribbean islands: Crab pas mache, li pas gras; li mache touop, et li tomber nans chodier (if a crab don't walk, he don't get fat, if he walks too much, he falls into a cooking pot).[7] Another possible source of the word "chowder" could be the French dish called chaudrée (sometimes spelled chauderée), which is a type of thick fish soup from the coastal regions of Charente-Maritime and Vendée.[8]

In Merriam-Webster's dictionary chowder is defined as "a thick soup or stew made of seafood or corn with potatoes and onions and milk or tomatoes".[9]


In the sixteenth century in Cornwall and Devonshire, the vocabulary in vogue was chowder and chowter (a version of jowder), which meant fish-seller. Other usage which attests to its use in England in the middle of 18th century is in a novel by Tobias Smollett in which one of the characters states, "My head sings and simmers like a pot of chowder".[6] Cookbooks of the period included recipes for "Chowder, a Sea Dish". In 1830 an English baked dish made with salmon and potato was called a chowder.[10]

Chowder as it is known today originated as a shipboard dish, and was thickened with the use of hardtack.[4][11] Chowder was brought to North America with immigrants from England and France and seafarers more than 250 years ago and became popular as a delicious dish, and is now a widely used dish as it is simple to prepare.[12]

In 1870, in the fishing hamlets of Brittany, there were sign boards in front of cabarets which had, in pirate language, "Ici on fait la chudiere or "here be chowder". The usage "faire la chaudiere" is interpreted as cauldron used to cook fish and biscuit and many tasty condiments, which was a fisherman's delight. It is also said that "chudiere" translates to "cauldron", which denoted the food within it, a way of cooking which became popular when it was brought to Newfoundland and further into the mainland of New England. In 1890, in the magazine American Notes and Queries, it was said that the dish was of French origin. Among French settlers in Canada it was a necessity to stew clams and fish laid in courses with bacon, sea biscuits and other ingredients in a kettle called "Chaudière", and it thus came to be invented. Then the Native Americans adopted it as "chawder" which was then corrupted as "chowder" by the Yankees.[13]

In the United States, early chowder making is traced to New England.[14] It was a bowl of simmering chowder by the sea side that provided in its basic form "sustenance of body and mind – a marker of hearth and home, community, family and culture". It is a food which evolved along the coastal shoreline of New England as a "congerie" of simple things, very basic and cooked simply. It is a simple dish of salt and pepper, potatoes and onion, pork and fish, cream and hard crackers, and not a sophisticated dish of the elite. Its simplicity made it attractive and it became a regional dish of the New Englanders, and their favorite recipe was "chowder master".[15] "Symbolically, functionally, mnemonically or dynamically" chowder has become a powerful means for New Englanders to define themselves as a community, a rich community with a deep past and value that distinguishes their region from all others. The dish has been made there for a long time and is imbibed into the community culture.[16] As Etta M. Madden and Martha L. Finch observe that chowder provides "visceral memories that provided feelings of familiarity, comfort and continuity".[16]


Chowder is a soup with cream or milk mixed with ingredients such as potatoes, sweet corn, smoked haddock, clams and prawns, etc. Some cream-style chowders do not use cream, and are instead prepared using milk and a roux to thicken them. Some of the popular types are clam chowder and potatoes, seafood chowder, spiced haddock chowder, Irish fish chowder with soda bread, crayfish chowder, clam chowder with cod, British seaside chowder with saffron, thick smoked-haddock chowder, Raymond Blanc's light shellfish chowder, New England-style clam chowder with crunchy thyme breadcrumbs, smoked haddock chowder with leeks and sweetcorn, clam, broad bean and salami chowder and many more.[17] Chowder can be a comfort food,[4][18] especially during the winter months.[19]

Bermuda fish chowder

Main article: Bermuda fish chowder

Considered a national dish of Bermuda,[20] the primary ingredients in Bermuda fish chowder include fish, tomato, and onion that is seasoned with black rum and a Sherry pepper sauce. The dish is of British origin, and was brought to the New World by the colonists.[20]

Clam chowder

Main article: Clam chowder

Clam chowder is prepared with clams, diced potato, onion, and celery. It may be prepared as a cream-style or broth-style soup. Several variations of clam chowder exist, including New England clam chowder, which is a cream-style soup, Manhattan clam chowder, a broth-style soup prepared using tomato, vegetables and clams,[4][19] Rhode Island clam chowder, a simple broth-style soup,[19] New Jersey clam chowder, Delaware clam chowder, Hatteras clam chowder, and Minorcan clam chowder. In Connecticut clam chowder milk is used instead of cream. New England Clam chowder is made in a diverse variety of styles.[21] Clam chowder may be prepared with fresh, steamed clams or canned clams.[22] The clam liquor from steamed or canned clams may be retained for use in the soup,[22] and fresh or bottled clam juice may be used.[4][23] January 21 is the National New England Clam Chowder Day.[24][25]

Corn chowder

Main article: Corn chowder

Corn chowder is similar in consistency to New England clam chowder, with corn being used instead of clams. Additional vegetables that may be used in its preparation include potatoes, celery and onion.[26] Some are prepared using bacon as an ingredient.[26] Corn chowder may be prepared with fresh, frozen, or canned corn.[27]

Fish chowder

Main article: Fish chowder
A bowl of fish chowder, with tilapia, red potato, chopped dill, and other ingredients

Fish chowder is prepared with fish such as salmon or cod, and is similar to clam chowder in ingredients and texture. Ingredients used in fish chowder may include potato, onion, celery, carrot, corn and bacon.[28]

Southern Illinois chowder

Southern Illinois Chowder, also referred to as downtown chowder,[29] is a thick stew or soup that is very different from the New England and Manhattan chowders. The main ingredients are beef, chicken, tomatoes, cabbage, lima beans, and green beans.[29] Traditionally, squirrel meat was a common addition.[29][30] Southern Illinois chowder is a hearty dish that has been described as being closer in style to burgoo and Brunswick stew than coastal chowders.[29]

Seafood chowder

Seafood chowder is prepared with various types of seafood as a primary ingredient,[18] and may be prepared as a broth- or cream-style chowder.

Spiced haddock chowder

Spiced haddock chowder is made with haddock fillets, carrot, potato, plain flour, bay leaves, peppercorns mustard, and spices added to milk and cooked in a pot with butter.[31]

Other types

A recipe formulated and published in 1894 by Charles Ranhofer, a famous chef of Delmonico's restaurant, was called "Chowder de Lucines" and had ingredients of pork, clams, potato (sliced to a seven sixteenths-inch size), onion, parsley, tomato, crackers garnished by thyme, salt and pepper.[32] Others in the same family, totally different from the New England clam chowder, are: the clam chowder with the name "Fulton Market style", introduced in 1904 and made from clams, tomatoes, allspice, cloves, red pepper and Worcester sauce; a "Vegetable Clam Chowder" introduced in 1929 and made of clams, chopped onions, diced carrots, stewed tomatoes, and thyme; "Coney Island Clam Chowder" and "New York Clam Chowder"; and Manhattan Clam Chowder, a late entry after 1930.[32] White Castle has potato and bacon chowder.[33]

Use of canned clams

In North America, as people moved west, some homemade preparations of traditional chowder used canned clams when fresh clams were not available.[4] In some places the ingredients were modified based upon locally available foods such as salmon, corn and chicken.[4]

Commercial varieties

Mass-produced, canned varieties of chowder are manufactured and purveyed to consumers,[34] such as Campbell's New England Clam Chowder,[18] among several other brands.

See also


  1. "Fish Chowders Make Goodly Fare" Brooklyn Eagle (March 11, 1912): 22. via
  2. Jeanne Voltz, "What is a Chowder?" Journal-News (October 29, 1972): B-8. via
  3. Leslie Bilderback, CMB (2007). The Complete Idiot's Guide To Comfort Food. DK Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-4406-2617-3.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Ring in New Year with fresh chowder". The Seattle Times. 28 December 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  5. "Chowder Origins Still a Mystery" Fresno Bee (February 19, 1969): 17. via
  6. 1 2 Hooker, Richard (1978). The Book of chowder. Harvard, Mass.: Harvard Common Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780916782108.
  7. Fenger, Frederic Abildgaard (1917). Alone in the Caribbean. University of California Libraries. p. 21.
  8. Scalza, Remy. "14 Chowders + Craft Beer". Inside Vancouver. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  9. "chowder". Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  10. Hooker 1978, p. 100.
  11. Hooker 1978, p. 3.
  12. Hooker 1978, p. 1.
  13. Walker & Cox 2011, pp. 22–24.
  14. Walker & Cox 2011, p. 9.
  15. Walker & Cox 2011, pp. 11–12.
  16. 1 2 Walker & Cox 2011, p. 14.
  17. Torode, John. "Chowder recipes". BBC. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 Tilley, M. (2011). Hold That Hidden Salt!: Recipes for Delicious Alternatives to Processed, Salt-heavy Supermarket Favourites. Formac Publishing Company Limited. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-0-88780-952-1.
  19. 1 2 3 Publishing, DK (2011). Ultimate Food Journeys: The World's Best Dishes and Where to Eat Them. DK Publishing. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-7566-9588-0.
  20. 1 2 Alper, N. (2008). The Everything Easy Gourmet Cookbook. F+W Media. p. 284. ISBN 978-1-60550-432-2.
  21. Worrall, Simon. "What's Best, Worst, and Most Weird About American Food". National Geographic. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  22. 1 2 Brody, J.E.; Flaste, R. (1994). Jane Brody's Good Seafood Book. Norton. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-393-03687-9.
  23. "Smoky bacon adds extra richness to creamy New England clam chowder". Today. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  24. Dea, Cynthia. "National New England clam chowder day". Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  25. Smith, Emily. "National New England clam chowder day". Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  26. 1 2 Rombauer, I.S.; Becker, M.R.; Becker, E.; Guarnaschelli, M. (1997). JOC All New Rev. – 1997. Scribner. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-684-81870-2.
  27. Thorne, J.; Thorne, M.L. (2000). Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 309. ISBN 978-1-4668-0598-9.
  28. Stutman, Seth. "Sweet Potato Seafood "Chowder"". Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  29. 1 2 3 4 Stern, J.; Stern, M. (2011). The Lexicon of Real American Food. Globe Pequot Series. Lyons Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7627-6094-7.
  30. Wells, Len (10 August 2008). "Tradition Is Ingredient in Bone Gap Chowder". Evansville Courier & Press. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  31. Torode, John. "Spiced haddock chowder". BBC. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  32. 1 2 Hooker 1978, p. 9.
  33. "11 Fast Foods You Should Never Order". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  34. Thomas, L. (2014). Confessions of a Soup Nazi. Xlibris Corporation LLC. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-5035-1532-1.


Further reading

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