Clam chowder has long been a presidential favorite.  And why not – clam chowder is rich, soothing and the perfect reward after a long tiring day in the Oval Office.

Maybe that’s why clam chowder has been a presidential favorite from John Adams to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Possibly the president best known for his love “Chowdah” was John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. Having been raised in Massachusetts, it only makes sense that he was devoted to New England style chowder – no tomatoes please!

Even before he was president, his love of clam chowder was a legend. As a young senator, he is rumored to have proposed to his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier, at Boston’s famed Union Oyster House.

Presidential Clam Chowder


  • 8 pounds Taylor Manila clams, scrubbed
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh chives
  • Oyster crackers or Vermont Common Crackers


  1. Bring clams and 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.
  2. Cook until clams just open, 8-10 minutes (discard any that do not open).
  3. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer clams to a large rimmed baking sheet; set broth aside.
  4. Let clams cool slightly, then pull meat from shells; discard shells.
  5. Chop clams into bite-size pieces. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl.
  6. Add water if needed to measure 6 cups. 
  7. Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat.
  8. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon begins to brown.
  9. Add celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  10. Add reserved broth (or 6 cups bottled clam juice), potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf.
  11. Bring chowder base to a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.
  12. Stir cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl to form a slurry.
  13. Stir slurry into chowder base; return to a boil to thicken. 
  14. Bring base to a simmer before continuing.
  15. Remove base from heat.
  16. Discard bay leaf. Stir in reserved clams (or two 10-ounce cans baby clams) and cream.
  17. Season with salt, if needed (clams' brininess varies), and pepper.