Essential Herbs Used in Clam Chowder

Essential Herbs Used in Clam Chowder

Clam chowder is a beloved dish in American cuisine, known for its creamy texture and rich, savory flavors. While the core ingredients of clams, potatoes, and cream are essential, the herbs used in clam chowder play a crucial role in elevating its taste. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key herbs that make clam chowder so delicious, their culinary uses, health benefits, and tips for using them in your cooking.

Key Takeaways

  • Essential Herbs: Discover the key herbs used in clam chowder.
  • Culinary Uses: Learn how these herbs enhance the flavor of clam chowder.
  • Health Benefits: Understand the nutritional benefits of each herb.
  • Growing Tips: Get tips on how to grow these herbs at home.

Essential Herbs for Clam Chowder

Clam chowder recipes often call for a combination of herbs that add depth and complexity to the dish. Here are some of the most commonly used herbs:

1. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Description: Thyme is a hardy perennial herb with small, aromatic leaves and woody stems. It is a staple in many savory dishes, including clam chowder.

Culinary Uses: Thyme adds a subtle earthy flavor to clam chowder, complementing the briny taste of the clams and the creamy broth. It is often used in fresh or dried form.

Health Benefits: Thyme has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and is rich in vitamins C and A, which support immune health and vision.

Growing Tips: Thyme prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s drought-tolerant and can be grown in containers or garden beds. Prune regularly to maintain its shape and encourage new growth.

2. Bay Leaves (Laurus nobilis)

Description: Bay leaves are aromatic leaves from the bay laurel tree. They are commonly used in soups, stews, and sauces to add depth of flavor.

Culinary Uses: Bay leaves are typically added whole to the chowder during the cooking process and removed before serving. They impart a subtle, savory flavor that enhances the overall taste of the chowder.

Health Benefits: Bay leaves have antioxidant properties and can aid in digestion. They also contain vitamins A and C, as well as iron, manganese, and calcium.

Growing Tips: Bay laurel trees prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can be grown in pots or directly in the garden. Prune regularly to maintain size and shape.

3. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Description: Parsley is a biennial herb with bright green, curly, or flat leaves. It is commonly used as a garnish and flavor enhancer in various dishes.

Culinary Uses: Fresh parsley is often sprinkled on top of clam chowder just before serving to add a pop of color and a fresh, slightly peppery flavor.

Health Benefits: Parsley is rich in vitamins K, C, and A. It has diuretic properties and is known to support kidney health and reduce bloating.

Growing Tips: Parsley grows well in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Keep the soil consistently moist and harvest regularly to promote continuous growth.

4. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Description: Chives are a perennial herb with slender, tubular leaves and a mild onion flavor. They are often used as a garnish.

Culinary Uses: Chives add a mild onion flavor to clam chowder and are typically sprinkled on top just before serving. They add a fresh, green element to the dish.

Health Benefits: Chives are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants. They can help improve digestion and boost the immune system.

Growing Tips: Chives prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. They are easy to grow and can be propagated by division.

5. Celery Leaves (Apium graveolens)

Description: Celery leaves are the leafy tops of the celery plant. They are often used in cooking for their fresh, slightly bitter flavor.

Culinary Uses: Celery leaves add a fresh, herbaceous flavor to clam chowder. They can be chopped and added to the chowder or used as a garnish.

Health Benefits: Celery leaves are rich in vitamins A, C, and K. They also contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Growing Tips: Celery prefers cool weather and well-drained, fertile soil. It requires consistent moisture and benefits from regular feeding.

Using Herbs in Clam Chowder

Incorporating these herbs into your clam chowder can add depth and complexity to the dish. Here are some tips for using these herbs:

Classic Clam Chowder Recipe


  • Fresh clams
  • Potatoes, diced
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Celery, finely chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Fresh chives, chopped
  • Celery leaves, chopped
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Heavy cream or milk
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare the Clams: Rinse the clams thoroughly and steam them in a large pot until they open. Remove the clams from their shells and chop the meat. Reserve the clam juice.
  2. Cook the Vegetables: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté until softened.
  3. Add the Potatoes and Herbs: Add the diced potatoes, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to the pot. Pour in the reserved clam juice and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Make the Roux: In a separate pan, melt more butter and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook for a few minutes, then slowly whisk in the cream or milk until smooth.
  5. Combine and Simmer: Add the roux to the pot with the vegetables and stir to combine. Add the chopped clams and simmer for a few minutes to heat through.
  6. Season and Serve: Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped parsley, chives, and celery leaves just before serving.


The herbs used in clam chowder play a crucial role in enhancing its flavor and making it a truly comforting dish.

By incorporating fresh thyme, bay leaves, parsley, chives, and celery leaves, you can elevate your clam chowder to new heights. These herbs not only add depth and complexity to the dish but also offer various health benefits.

Try adding these herbs to your next batch of clam chowder and enjoy the rich, savory flavors they bring.