Many chowders have rich, creamy broths that only lend themselves to minimal seasoning. Mild onion, carrot or celery — or a blend of all three — imparts subtle flavor. And salt and ground pepper are standard inclusions in most non-dessert dishes. Beyond those basic low-key ingredients, most chowder recipes only call for one or two seasonings. Even the few chowders that are dairy-free — such as tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder — often contain the same understated herbs and spices as the cream-based counterparts that inspired them. But there are nevertheless some opportunities to enliven the dish with seasoning.
It is important to consider the ingredients in a type of chowder to determine which herbs and spices would enhance the recipe most effectively.
Some people prefer to add a little heat to their chowder, especially if it’s Manhattan clam chowder, which lends itself well to spicy ingredients. But you can spice cream-based chowders, too, depending on your preference. Red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and paprika are all pepper-based seasonings that turn up the heat in chowders. Dry ground mustard adds a warm spiciness without the heat of pepper.
Paprika and dry mustard complement each other especially well in a potato chowder that contains cheese. The pairing is also a winning combination for the other creamy chowders.
Add spices to chowder after any meats you are using are fully cooked so that you can taste-test the dish as you season it, ensuring that you achieve the desired flavor.
Some common seasoning blends are also suitable for chowder recipes.