Can You Freeze Clam Chowder?

Clam chowder might as well be one of the most comforting meals ever made. However, it’s best eaten in smaller quantities. And considering it’s such a treat, it’s only natural that we want to preserve clam chowder and make it last forever. Is that possible to do by freezing the chowder? The short answer is, as with almost anything, yes. Pretty much anything can be frozen. 

However, clam chowder (see also Freezing Mussels) is among the trickier dishes to freeze. If you just throw the clam chowder you have into the freezer it might or might not come out tasting good. However, if you take some precautions and follow our tips, you might be able to enjoy a decent clam chowder right from your freezer (see also How To Freeze Lobster Tails). 

What Makes Clam Chowder so Difficult to Freeze? 

So, what exactly is clam chowder and what is it that makes it a tricky dish to freeze? But first of all, let’s consider the basic questions – what even is a chowder? Well, chowder usually refers to any type of soup-like dish with a creamy base. The thick base usually includes some form of dairy – be it heavy cream (see also Freezing Heavy Cream), milk or cheese, but it might also contain flour or crushed biscuits, for example. 

And that is the first hint: in general, dairy products are a bit sensitive to freezing. Especially the heavy cream, which is used in clam chowder the most often. Simply put, heavy cream has a tendency to change texture when frozen and then thawed. 

In addition to this, clam chowder is a sensitive dish to freeze simply because it contains clams. Seafood (see also article on freezing prawns) in general requires great care when freezing and it definitely shouldn’t be kept in the freezer for extended periods of time. 

But, to understand exactly what we can do to make freezing clam chowder a better experience, we need to discuss what exactly a clam chowder is. 

There are actually a couple of different types of clam chowder. How it will be made mostly depends on the area where you come from. So, these are the different clam chowders that exist: 

New England Clam Chowder 

The New England clam chowder is probably what most people think about when they hear the words ‘clam chowder’. Besides the obligatory clams, this chowder usually contains a simple broth with chopped onions and potato cubes. But what makes the chowder creamy? Well, of course, a rich base of butter and heavy cream. 

We’ll get into the details of freezing clam chowder below, but for now we’d just like to mention something about the New England clam chowder. Namely, almost all of the ingredients are a bit problematic for freezing: the heavy cream, the claims, and the potato – none of them are known to freeze particularly well. Is it still possible? Of course. 

Rhode Island Clam Chowder 

The Rhode Island clam chowder differs significantly from the New England clam chowder, notably because usually it does not contain any dairy products. Rather, the liquid part is clear broth with onions and/or leeks (see also Can You Freeze Leeks) often cooked in bacon fat. Sometimes, this chowder will also contain potatoes. There is no set recipe for the Rhode Island clam chowder, but one should expect to see a clear or pale-hued broth in any case. Often, this chowder will contain lots of herbs. 

Manhattan Clam Chowder 

If you expect you clam chowder to be bright red in color, then you must be from Manhattan! Or at least, you have eaten your clam chowder there. Just like the chowder from Rhode Island, the Manhattan clam chowder features a thin broth. However, in Manhattan the broth gets a distinct red hue from the tomate used which is something that would never happen in Rhode Island. The Manhattan version usually doesn’t contain any dairy or potatoes which actually makes it the best candidate for freezing from the three we described. 

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all the clam chowders in the world. These are the three most common versions, but there are countless others and many cooks give their own twist to the chowder. 

Tips for Freezing Clam Chowder 

Consider Excluding Delicate Ingredients 

When it comes to freezing clam chowder, your best bet is to cook a designated batch for freezing. Now, we know this is not always possible, and we’ll get to what to do when you already have cooked clam chowder that you want to freeze. 

However, if you are starting from scratch, skipping certain ingredients and adding them after thawing can help create a beautiful dish. First of all, there is the heavy cream. If you use cream in your chowder, you might want to consider skipping it and then adding it while you warm up the chowder later. While heavy cream is what gives the beautiful creaminess to the chowder, it is one of the worst ingredients for freezing. The cream can go rancid and ruin the flavor of your chowder, and sometimes it tends to curdle when frozen thus ruining the texture. Thus, skipping the cream when making the chowder and adding some while reheating can be a better option.

Tricks for the Veggies 

Another tricky ingredient in the chowder are the vegetables, especially starchy ones like potatoes. If you cook them completely and then freeze the chowder, they could end up mushy after thawing. There are a couple of options to avoid this. First of all, you could leave the veggies only half-cooked. Alternatively, you could scoop the potatoes out of the chowder before freezing and freeze them separately. Add the potatoes back in only when the chowder is reheated. This will help preserve their texture. 

Another issue with clam chowder is the risk of spoiling because it contains seafood (see also How To Freeze Oysters) and sometimes dairy). The best thing you can do to prevent this is to make sure you cool the chowder quickly. Bacteria won’t grow in the soup that’s hot or really cold. The temperatures in the middle are what you should try to avoid. 

Quick Cooling 

To quick-cool your chowder, find a large pot and fill it with cold water. Then, submerge the pot with the chowder in it, making sure that it’s not completely submerged so the water doesn’t end up in your soop. Stir the chowder gently until it’s cool. If the water in the outer pot gets warm, replace it with cold water again. 

Final Thoughts 

In short, clam chowder can be frozen, but there is some risk involved regarding the quality of the dish you will get after thawing. However, if you follow our tips you’ll have a better chance to enjoy delicious clam chowder from the freezer. 

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