Canned Clam Chowders, Ranked Worst To Best

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Clam chowder has a long and storied history in North America. The soup was first created by Native Americans more than 400 years ago (via Indian Country Today). Per Culture Trip, Union Oyster House in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country and they've had on their menu since 1836. These days, you don't need to go to a restaurant or make your own from scratch, as you can find canned clam chowder in grocery stores and supermarkets across the United States.

Not only is clam chowder tasty, but the clams in this soup can also be a part of a healthy diet due to being low in calories and fat. Additionally, these mollusks are high in vitamin C, vitamin B12, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.

Unfortunately, not all canned clam chowder is created equal. To help you separate the good from the bad, we've ranked these canned soups starting with the worst and finishing with the cream of the crop. While not every brand of canned clam chowder is listed, we've made sure to include the most popular brands.

Cole's New England clam chowder

Cole's New England Clam Chowder is so bad that it's actually shocking to your senses if you make the mistake of putting a spoonful to your lips. This canned soup tastes like a combination of stagnant lake water, old onion soup, and decomposing fish guts. To make matters even worse, all the bits and pieces of indistinguishable flotsam that can be located in the soup are chewy. It's honestly amazing that this stuff tastes nothing like clam chowder at all.

A relative newcomer to the world of canned clam chowder, Cole's has only been in business since 2008. Hopefully this company eventually figures out to make a high-quality clam chowder because they are an environmentally-friendly operation. In fact, the clams they use are all wild caught. The good news is that Cole's clam chowder literally can't get any worse. No matter how they switch up their recipe, the soup can only improve upon its current disastrous state.

Great Value clam chowder

One taste of Great Value clam chowder and you'll understand why a Mashed survey found that this Walmart brand is regarded as the worst private label of them all. This soup is so gross that you wouldn't even consider feeding it to your cat. No living being should be forced to eat this abhorrent excuse for clam chowder.

The first problem you'll notice is that this soup has way too many potato chunks. A more appropriate name for it would be potato chowder because spuds are sure to be swimming in each and every scoop. If you dare to taste Great Value clam chowder, the other glaring problem is the overwhelming and unescapable saltiness. It's like they accidentally tripled or quadrupled the amount of salt that needed to be in the chowder. Why does Walmart add so much salt? It's probably to camouflage the other shortcomings of this culinary abomination. Even if you need to pay ten times as much for a brand of clam chowder that is higher in this ranking, do it without hesitation.

Ivar's Puget Sound Style clam chowder

When you think of states known for yummy clam chowder, you probably think of Massachusetts and other states on the East Coast. However, if you look hard enough, you can also find fantastic clam chowder on the other side of the United States. Regrettably, Ivar's Puget Sound Style clam chowder isn't an example of the best the West Coast has to offer.

To be fair, Ivar's has restaurant locations that serve delicious clam chowder. However, when this company, which according to its website is headquartered in Mukilteo, Washington, cans its clam chowder, something goes terribly wrong. Every ounce of flavor that's found at the restaurants is lost and all that is left is a bunch of mushy sadness. To add to the misery, Ivar's clam chowder was once recalled due to fears of sharp pieces of plastic being in the soup. With that in mind, just stay away. This stuff isn't even worth putting into your mouth.

Progresso Manhattan Clam Chowder

If all you know is New England clam chowder, do yourself a favor and try Manhattan clam chowder. It's quite different but it can be just as scrumptious. Comparing the two, while New England clam chowder is typically white due to the addition of cream, Manhattan clam chowder doesn't have cream. Instead, this version is packed with tomatoes and a host of veggies like celery and carrots. Due primarily to the presence of the tomatoes, this version of the soup tends to be reddish in color.

While Progresso knows how to make excellent New England clam chowder (as you'll see if you keep reading and reach the top of this list), don't be fooled and believe that Progresso Manhattan Clam Chowder is a winner. This soup is actually a subpar example of what can be found in Manhattan. It's too watery and the clam pieces are way too rubbery. Eating the clams in this chowder is about as fun as gnawing the eraser off the end of your pencil.

Campbell's Homestyle New England clam chowder

Although Campbell's sells more than $8 billion worth of soup a year, according to Food Processing, and has a product line that features dozens of varieties, some of which are the best in their category, an unfortunate truth is that their New England clam chowder isn't very good. It's far from the worst soup on this list but it's not anything you should be purchasing on a regular basis.

Of Campbell's New England offerings, the Homestyle New England clam chowder is the best — but it will still leave you wanting something else. First of all, the lack of clams can't be ignored. You'll spoon through the soup looking for clams but you won't be able to find many. Second of all, the potatoes are a major letdown. They have an unappetizing grittiness and virtually no flavor. Generally speaking, Campbell's is a trustworthy name in the soup universe. That said, just say no when it comes to their New England clam chowder. You can do so much better.

Stonewall Kitchen New England clam chowder

Unlike other soups on this list, Stonewall Kitchen New England Clam Chowder is made in small quantities and has soft pieces of delectable clams. Sadly, that's where the positives end and the problems begin. The overriding issue is boredom. This clam chowder has little to no spice or flavor of note, which makes it an extremely bland experience. Even the yumminess of the clams can't save the day because everything else about it is so yawn-inducing.

If you buy Stonewall Kitchen New England Clam Chowder, just know that you are going to need to add ingredients to it to make it flavorful enough to put a smile on your face. Thankfully, if you add enough cream, butter, salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice, it can become quite tasty. Then again, you can save yourself the trouble of a do-it-yourself project and just pick another clam chowder that resides higher in this ranking.

The Black Pearl clam chowder

If you're feeling lucky, go ahead and purchase a can of The Black Pearl clam chowder. It's expensive, but if things go your way, you're in for some of the best clam chowder you've ever eaten. On the other side of the coin, you're in for a world of disappointment if you get unlucky. What's the deciding factor? It's all up to the amount of clams you find in your soup. If there's a lot, you'll be thrilled and you'll see your bowl of clam chowder as money well spent. Sadly, sometimes this canned clam chowder is practically clam-less, which predictably eliminates all of the joy.

If you don't want to risk it and roll the dice, just go to The Black Pearl, a restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island (via Facebook). Located right on the water, this highly-rated eatery has splendid clam chowder that is reliably delicious and always has an adequate number of clams.

Snow's New England Clam Chowder

Although Snow's New England clam chowder won't be the best clam chowder you'll ever have the pleasure of eating, this stuff is decidedly above average. Every can of this clam chowder tastes exactly like the previous can, which is impressive considering that Snow's has been making this soup for more than 100 years (via New England Today). If you grew up eating it, you'll be happy to learn that it tastes the same as you remember. The clams are numerous and the texture of the potatoes is superb.

While Snow's also sells condensed clam chowder, the cans you should buy say "ready to serve" on them. As that phrase indicates, you don't need to add any water, cream, or milk. You don't need to even add any salt or pepper. Simply heat it in a saucepan on your stove or pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and prepare your taste buds for a consistently tasty treat.

Chincoteague Seafood Manhattan clam chowder

If you want Manhattan clam chowder that allows the clams to take center stage and be the star of the show, look no further than Chincoteague Seafood Manhattan clam chowder. From the first bite until the very last mouthful, you'll revel in the glorious flavor of clams. The flavor is so fresh that you'll be convinced that the clams were plucked out of the ocean just minutes earlier.

In addition to all the clam-powered greatness, Chincoteague Seafood Manhattan clam chowder also has a lot of other fresh-tasting ingredients playing supporting roles, including tomatoes, carrots, celery, sweet peppers, and onions. This dark red clam chowder smells great and tastes even better. The freshness of everything in the soup will make you reminisce about the homemade soups your grandmother used to make.

Chincoteague Seafood might be a strange name but per its website, this company has been selling clam chowder from its very first days in business back in 1955.

Boudin San Francisco Wharf clam chowder

While the aforementioned Ivar's Puget Sound Style Clam Chowder is forgettable, don't let that sour you on what the West Coast is capable of doing when it comes to mastering the art of clam chowder. Boudin San Francisco Wharf clam chowder is crafted in the Bay Area and it's so tasty that it is sure to make even New Englanders fall head over heels for it. The potatoes, in particular, are perfect in terms of taste and texture and are the optimal match for the clam flavor.

According to the National Park Service, in San Francisco, clam chowder is typically served in a bowl made out of sourdough bread. To taste Boudin San Francisco Clam Chowder at its absolute best, you need to eat it out of a sourdough bread bowl or at least dip pieces of sourdough bread into it. That elevates it from a really good soup to unforgettable clam chowder that you'll be telling your friends and family about.

Tony's clam chowder

The Great Chowder Cook-Off has been an annual event in Newport, Rhode Island, for four decades (via What's Up Newport). Each year, a world champion is crowned in the category of best clam chowder. Three times, Tony's Clam Chowder won the coveted title as the world champion of clam chowder. A single spoonful of this majestic soup is all you'll need to agree that this is indeed some next-level stuff and that it richly deserves its spot in the top five of our ranking.

What makes Tony's Clam Chowder stand out from the competition is its supersized peppery kick. The white pepper in the recipe adds just enough spice to keep you on your toes as you enjoy all of its inherent clam chowder goodness. Even if the thought of spicy foods scares you, don't fret because there's enough gentle creaminess to cool off your tongue before you dig in for your next mouthful of award-winning greatness.

Campbell's Chunky Manhattan clam chowder

If you want voluptuous Manhattan clam chowder that is thick in all the right places, reach for a can of Campbell's Chunky Manhattan clam chowder. As the name implies, you won't need to break out a microscope to figure out what ingredients are in this soup. This clam chowder has unmistakably large pieces of clams, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, celery, red bell peppers, and green bell peppers. While you chew, the explosions of flavor in your mouth will leave your taste buds in a state of ecstasy.

As mentioned previously, Campbell's doesn't have a New England clam chowder that is worth buying. This Manhattan clam chowder, though, is easily good enough to be the only soup of its kind that you ever buy because it's easy to find on your local grocer's shelves and there's enough going on to keep you entertained. All other Manhattan clam chowder will look and feel puny by comparison.

Progresso Rich & Hearty New England clam chowder

Progresso makes multiple varieties of New England clam chowder. While there is nothing wrong with their Traditional version or any of the other varieties, the one you need to get your hands on is the Rich & Hearty version. You're sure to be blown away by the multiple levels of awesomeness it provides.

First, the creamy texture is matched by a creamy flavor that will make it seem like the soup melts in your mouth. Second, there are plenty of soft, juicy clams that are overflowing with deliciousness. Third, the potatoes are just firm enough and add a bit of heartiness to help fill you up even if you started your meal with a pit in your stomach. Add it all together and it's fair to say that Progresso Rich & Hearty New England Clam Chowder is the best widely available canned clam chowder. You can find it in grocery stores from sea to shining sea.

Bar Harbor New England clam chowder

If you're willing to put in the effort to track down a can of this stuff, Bar Harbor New England clam chowder is without a doubt the best canned clam chowder you can find anywhere. While it's not as ubiquitous as the soups made by Progresso and Campbell's, it's definitely worth going the extra mile or two. In fact, not only is this the best clam chowder, it's one of the best canned soups of any kind.

Bar Harbor has called Maine home since 1917 and their dedication to excellence can be tasted in each can of their clam chowder. Most canned soups can't compare to restaurant-quality soups that are prepared from scratch. Bar Harbor New England Clam Chowder is different, though. Not only does it compare to the quality you'd find at a fancy seafood restaurant, it surpasses what most restaurants are capable of making. From the clams to the potatoes to the cream and everything in between, this clam chowder is the best of the best in each category.