San Francisco Clam Chowder

A Taste of the Bay: San Francisco Clam Chowder Recipe (Straight from Fisherman’s Wharf!)

Ah, San Francisco! The fog-kissed city by the bay is not only a feast for the eyes, but also a haven for the taste buds. On a recent trip, I found myself wandering through the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, drawn in by the mouthwatering aroma of countless seafood stalls. And what better way to experience the culinary delights of San Francisco than with a steaming bowl of San Francisco Clam Chowder?

New England Clam Chowder

Recreating the Magic at Home

Recently, we enjoyed sampling the chowders along Fish Alley at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s interesting to see how the consistency varies from each stand. Some are more watery, and some much thicker. I personally prefer a thicker clam chowder by adding more roux to my soup.

Inspired by my Fisherman’s Wharf experience, I decided to recreate the magic of San Francisco Clam Chowder in my own kitchen. This recipe captures the essence of the dish, using fresh clams, a creamy base, and of course, a hearty sourdough bread bowl (although serving it in a regular bowl is perfectly acceptable too!).

clam chowder

A Chowder Odyssey

Each vendor seems to have their own unique spin on this iconic dish, offering a medley of delicious flavors. It’s interesting to see how the consistency varies from each stand. Some are more watery, and some much thicker. I personally prefer a thicker clam chowder by adding more roux to my soup. But one thing remains constant – the generous helping of fresh, succulent clams, the star of the show in any good clam chowder.

The key to my San Francisco clam chowder lies in the delicate balance of flavors. The sweetness of the clams is complemented by the savory notes of bacon and the richness of the creamy base. A touch of thyme adds an earthy depth, while freshly cracked black pepper provides a subtle kick.

Beyond the Bowl

While the debate between New England and San Francisco clam chowder rages on, there’s one key difference that sets them apart: the sourdough bread bowl. San Francisco takes pride in its sourdough bread, and what better way to elevate a bowl of chowder than by serving it nestled within a warm, crusty sourdough vessel? It’s not just about presentation; the bread soaks up the flavorful broth, adding another layer of texture and taste.

New England Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl Recipe

Watch how to make this recipe!

Want to see this recipe come to life? Check out this video where I walk you through the entire process, step-by-step!

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New England Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl Recipe

San Francisco Clam Chowder (Aka New England Clam Chowder with a Bread Bowl)

Recipe by Jason Hill –
This creamy San Francisco Clam Chowder recipe is chock-full of tender clams, bacon and red potatoes. Serve it in a Boudin sourdough bread bowl for the full experience!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 1 pound red potatoes skin on, cubed
  • 5 slices semi-frozen bacon, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 20 oz. canned clams
  • 2 cups chicken broth may substitute water or clam juice
  • 3 cups half and half or heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce optional

Roux (Thickener)

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 stick butter


  • Dice onions, celery and potatoes. Place potatoes in cold water and set aside.
  • Over medium-high heat in a large stockpot, cook diced bacon until browned. Add celery and onion and cook until onions are translucent, scraping pan to get bits of flavor.
  • Strain potatoes and add to onions and celery. Strain clams into 2 cups of broth or clam juice, and add to pot along with the bay leaf. Reserve clams to use in a moment.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  • Add 2 cups half/half to pot, along with the reserved clams.
  • Make a roux in a separate pan by heating 1/2 stick of butter until melted. Stir in flour and whisk for about 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in 1 cup half/half and keep stirring until thick and smooth.
  • Use roux to thicken your chowder, stirring in about 1/4 cup at a time, until it reaches your desired creaminess.
  • Serving variations: Enjoy with a fresh thyme sprig and slice of sourdough garlic toast OR place it in a sourdough bread bowl and top with minced chives and cooked bacon bits.
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Keyword chowder, clam chowder, clams, comfort food, seafood, shellfish, Soup recipes, soups
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AboutJason Hill

Hi, I’m Jason Hill, host of YouTube’s “Chef Tips” series. I graduated from culinary school in 1998, and gained my experience working the lines in Southern California. I launched my cooking videos in 2007. I love sharing quick and easy recipes that get people back in the kitchen.

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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