I Tried 9 Cans of Clam Chowder — And There Were Two Clear Winners

updated Feb 23, 2020
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Clam chowder (or chowdah, as many New Englanders tend to say) is something people have strong opinions about. They love it or hate it; they believe real chowder is red and slightly soupy or white, thick, and creamy; they almost certainly have a favorite place to get a piping hot cup; and when it comes to the canned stuff, they lament that it doesn’t come close.

But not everyone lives mere miles away from a joint that makes the stuff fresh (or wants to leave their house when the craving strikes). So I set out to try every can of New England and Manhattan clam chowder that I could find at my local supermarket.

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

How I Tested the Canned Chowders

I made each New England chowder (sorry, chowdah) to start. When they were all still hot, I did a blind taste test. I repeated this process with all the Manhattan chowders.

I was looking for a few different things with each: flavor, consistency of the broth, and chunkiness. Flavor-wise, I wanted a soup that was clammy, but not too clammy. For both soups, I was looking for a soup that was not too thin and not too thick. And I wanted substantial, but tender chunks of clams and veggies.

Two winners, one for each type of chowder, clearly emerged from the bunch.

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

The New England-Style Winner: Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder

The main thing that set this soup apart was the broth: creamy, without being too thick or too thin. The other cans were too either too watery or so thick they jiggled — and I don’t want my food to jiggle unless it’s Jell-O.

Beyond the broth, this soup was also a winner when it came to flavor and chunkiness. While some chowders had clam pieces that were so chewy, I just had to swallow them to get them down and others, despite having a very clammy taste, had very few actual pieces of clams, this one had generous, tender pieces of clams and perfectly soft chunks of potatoes.  

Buy: Campbell’s Chunky New England Clam Chowder, $1.78 for 18.8 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Kendall Wenaas

The Manhattan-Style Winner: Campbell’s Condensed Manhattan Clam Chowder

During my taste test, it quickly became clear that I prefer New England-style clam chowder. But I know there are people out there who feel the same about Manhattan-style clam chowder!  

After searching five different grocery stores, I found only three Manhattan-style cans. To me, they all tasted kind of like veggie soup with clams. Ultimately, Campbell’s Condensed won because it had the most complex flavor and the thickest consistency, which I personally liked. Plus, it was chock-full of veggies and clams. 

Buy: Campbell’s Condensed Manhattan Clam Chowder, $1.59 for 10.75 ounces at Target

Your turn: Do you have a go-to can of clam chowder? Share with us in the comments!