What are the origins of Clam Chowder?

clam chowder


Clam chowder is the undisputed comfort food king of San Francisco. Whether you are really, really hungry or just need a quick pick-me-up, this delicious creamy fish-feast will leave you feeling warm inside.

From the New England version to San Francisco clam chowder, bringing up the origins of clam chowder often leads to animated discussions where people defend “their” version as the original. While many believe that this popular dish hails from Portugal, others are convinced that the Bretons from France brought it to our northeastern shores. What we do know is that fishermen who migrated the oceans to our shores would use the offal from their catches along with other available ingredients for a warm, hearty, healthy meal.

The San Franciscan obsession with clam chowder dates back to the mid-1800s, with the timeless dish traditionally served in a sourdough bread bowl. Over time, clam chowder fisherman’s wharf style has been modified to become the culinary staple it is today.

Clam Chowder – A San Francisco Staple
San Francisco chowder is a must for any visitor to the city, where fresh seafood is a point of pride. The delightful creaminess of San Fran clam chowder has made it a staple dish of this vibrant city, which is why it can be found in many eateries throughout.

The signature sourdough bread bowl in which the chowder is served has helped make this creamy bowl of deliciousness a go-to dish while out and about in San Fran. The salty goodness and flaky consistency with savory clams give this the thumbs up from anyone who has tasted it. Have the best clam chowder Fisherman’s Wharf has to offer, as this hearty meal is best enjoyed by the water, sitting on an outdoor bench, while people watching.

Why the bread bowl?


The infamous edible soup holder has been a tradition of the San Francisco cuisine going back to the gold rush days. In modern times it has become associated with clam chowder San Francisco-style. It is the go-to container for some of the best clam chowder in San Francisco. Nothing beats a bowl of savory, piping hot clam chowder presented in a tasty bowl of bread to finish off your delicious meal. The crusty bread compliments the salty taste of the chowder, while the carbs in the bread perfectly balance the proteins of this fishy dish, making for a healthy, well-rounded dish.

Boudin sourdough bread bowls are undoubtedly the best and most sour unique flavor that pairs perfectly with the rich creaminess of the clam chowder. Boudin sourdough bread bowls are served at most of the restaurants serving fresh house-made clam chowder around the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

Clam Chowder: they’re all the same — right?


If you want to start a heated debate, ask a New Yorker whether or not the New England version of clam chowder is the original and best recipe! While there are many versions and varieties (some with bacon, some with tomatoes, clear or creamy) each region defends its recipe as the “correct” version and, of course, the best.

While the recipe base is the same all over, there are subtle differences between them. If you order clam chowder in New England, you will get a creamy, thick broth, whereas the dish served in Rhode Island is a clearer broth. In San Francisco, the area of Pier 39 clam chowder is a version of the original recipe found on the east coast but served in a sourdough bowl. Sometimes bacon will be added giving a more modern twist to this traditional staple, but mainly the Manhattan, Boston, or New England clam chowder original recipes remain the most popular.

How to make the perfect Clam Chowder at home.
You don’t need to be a top chef to make the perfect clam chowder brimming with rich, delicious flavors. If you are hoping to make the best clam chowder, San Francisco style, you just need to follow a few basic rules to easily achieve the best chowder in San Francisco, right in your own home.

Use whole baby clams (with juice) and fresh, tender russet potatoes for a creamier consistency. The ultimate comfort food uses a roux to thicken the chowder, adding cream at the end to give it that extra-rich flavor. If you prefer a thinner version, simply add some milk. For the thicker, creamier variety, simmer the chowder for a little while longer.

Whatever you choose, you can dig into your homemade clam chowder from the comfort of your own home. Its taste will magically transport you to Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoying the best clam chowder in San Francisco!

Some creative twists on this classic recipe.
Adding salt pork or bacon to the original clam recipe gives an extra taste dimension to what is already a fulfilling, taste experience. Bacon brings warmth and extra savory deliciousness to the dish. For a Clam chowder Fisherman’s Wharf style experience, you cannot go wrong.

For a less traditional twist, some recipes add cheese to add a fuller flavor to this scrumptious dish. When the clams and potatoes are added, stir in the grated cheese until melted.

For a spicy, southwestern twist on clam chowder, roasted poblano peppers (or whatever chili types you have available in your area) can be added along with fire-roasted tomatoes. A taste sensation you will not forget!

For the ultimate chowders PIER 39 experience, taste this recipe the way we make it at our Pier 39 restaurant. If you’re looking for the best clam chowder Fisherman’s Wharf has to offer, you won’t be disappointed with our original recipe.