Fried Clams - New England Fried Clams Recipe | Hank Shaw (2024)

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4.78 from 27 votes

By Hank Shaw

May 29, 2014 | Updated June 14, 2022


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Hi, my name is Hank and I am addicted to fried clams…Face planting into a basket of fried clams is one of my earliest food memories. Crunchy batter, salty clams, that shellfishy meatiness that only a clam really has — oysters and mussels are too dainty — and just a little whiff of an “ick” factor. After all, you eat the whole clam: foot, belly and all. And who knows what clams eat, anyway?

Fried Clams - New England Fried Clams Recipe | Hank Shaw (2)

I have this gauzy memory of being on the dock in Galilee, Rhode Island. It’s somewhere around 1975, and I am with my family. My sisters Laura and Lizz are minding me. They’ll correct me, but I think the ferry to Block Island was late that day, and we decided to eat something at one of the clam shacks that were right there.

This was probably that tipping point moment into my addiction, because I ate a lot of clams that day. A lot. So many I remember my sisters prodding my distended belly, half-joking that I might explode. Almost, but I didn’t.

Once on the Block, I ate more fried clams, as well as Block Island clam cakes, another of my favorites. I gorged myself on clams at almost every meal that year and every vacation since then all through my childhood. Funny, we rarely ate clams when we were back home in New Jersey, except for my mom’s “clam things,” which are stuffed clams.

Only when we were on vacation, or whenever we were in Massachusetts. The Bay State, I soon learned, was fried clams mecca. You see, mum’s from Ipswich — and Ipswich is in Essex, Massachusetts, the home not only of Woodman’s, but of several other legendary clam shacks (such as the Clam Box) that all vie for the title of Greatest Fried Clams on Earth. All have great clams.

Fried clams are an art. The fat must be very hot, or the clams will overcook before the batter is golden and crispy. To my mind, you must have the whole clam in there, too, belly and all. Yes, they serve them without the bellies, but that to me seems like eating a lobster pre-shelled.

Fried Clams - New England Fried Clams Recipe | Hank Shaw (3)

No fun and certainly not part of the real experience. You want a little seasoning in the breading, but not much or it will overwhelm the clams. Lemon wedges are a must, and many reach for either tartar sauce — “tah-tah sahss,” as mum pronounces it — or ketchup. (My mom’s tartar sauce recipe is here.)

I like just lemon, then maybe a dash of hot sauce after I’ve eaten 20 or 30 clams.

Fried Clams - New England Fried Clams Recipe | Hank Shaw (4)

Virtually all fried clams in America are either Mya arenaria, the steamer clam, orMercenaria mercenaria, the quahog, cherrystone or littleneck clam; the names are size grades, not different species. Alas, I live in California, where my beloved clams do not.

What to do? Well… we do have littlenecks here, only they areLeukoma staminea. Not the same, yes, but damn good. Manila clams are another excellent clam to fry like this.

I found myself near my Secret Clam Spot a few months back just at the right time.

Why not, I thought? So I went there, got my limit of 50 clams in short order, and headed back inland. What to do with them? The thought of New England fried clams kept popping up as I drove. But it was still cold out. Not the right weather. Not at all. Screw it. I made them anyway.

I was glad I did, These are about as close to real New England fried clams as you can get 3,000 miles away. And I should know. I’ve eaten a lot of them in the past 48 years…

4.78 from 27 votes

Fried Clams, New England Style

This is a pretty basic recipe. The only part even remotely tricky is finding the "corn flour," which is not the same thing as corn starch! Corn flour is just finely ground corn meal. The easiest way to find some is in the "ethnic" aisle where you find Louisiana foods. It's called "fish fry," and if you look at the ingredients it's just corn flour. If you absolutely can't find any, just use more regular flour. It'll be fine.

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Course: Appetizer, Main Course

Cuisine: American

Servings: 4 people

Author: Hank Shaw

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes minutes


  • 1 pound shucked clams cherrystones, littlenecks, Western littlenecks or Manila clams
  • 1 cup corn flour, as in "fish fry" mix
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup buttermilk or evaporated milk
  • oil for frying


  • Pick through the clams to make sure there are no bits of shell or obvious grit. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Submerge the clams in buttermilk.

  • Preheat the oven to 200ºF and put a rack set over a baking sheet inside the oven. Heat enough oil to float the clams, about a quart or so. What oil? Anything you feel like, but I prefer peanut oil. You want the oil hot, about 360ºF.

  • When the oil is almost ready, coat a few clams in the breading. Don't do more than your fryer can handle in one batch, as you want the clams to go right from breading into the fryer. If you want super-extra crispy clams, dip the breaded clams back in the buttermilk and again in the breading; I think this is too much, but some people like them that way.

  • Fry the clams until they are golden brown, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Move them to the rack in the oven and repeat with the remaining clams -- make sure the oil gets back up to temperature between batches. Serve with homemade tartar sauce, malt vinegar, remoulade, ketchup or hot sauce.


Fried clams almost have to be eaten with lemon wedges, potato salad, other fried things, maybe a lobster roll, and either beer or, if you feel all fancy, some white wine, maybe even Champagne.


Calories: 290kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 750mg | Potassium: 114mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 254IU | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

Categorized as:
American Recipes, Appetizers and Snacks, Featured, Fish, Recipe

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Read More About Me

Fried Clams - New England Fried Clams Recipe | Hank Shaw (2024)


Fried Clams - New England Fried Clams Recipe | Hank Shaw? ›

The prices are rising due to factors such as interest in local food during the pandemic and a limited supply of the clams on the market, said Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias whose research focuses on shellfish.

Why are fried clams so expensive now? ›

The prices are rising due to factors such as interest in local food during the pandemic and a limited supply of the clams on the market, said Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias whose research focuses on shellfish.

What's the difference between fried clams and fried clam strips? ›

One of the main differences between fried clam strips and fried clam bellies is the texture. Fried clam bellies are more tender and succulent than strips, which are typically firmer and chewier. This makes fried clam bellies a popular choice for people who prefer a more luxurious and satisfying seafood experience.

What are fried clams with bellies? ›

The coated clams are fried in canola oil, soybean oil, or lard. The usual variant in New England is made from whole soft-shell clams, known as "whole-bellies"; these include the clam's gastrointestinal tract and have a fuller flavor.

What's the difference between fried clams and fried oysters? ›

Flavor Profile and Culinary Uses

Clams and oysters also differ in their taste and culinary uses. Clams tend to have a mild, sweet, and briny flavor, while their meat tends to be soft and lean. They also work well in chowders, pasta, fried dishes, and more. Oysters have a much stronger briny, salty taste.

What is the downside of eating clams? ›

The illnesses of most concern from eating raw or undercooked oysters or clams are Vibrio infection, norovirus infection, and hepatitis A. See fact sheets for those diseases for more details. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pains, severe weakness.

Are fried clams healthy to eat? ›

Clams are popular shellfish that have a high nutritional density and are high in vitamins and minerals. Whether steamed, fried, or grilled, clams are a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet.

What makes fried clams rubbery? ›

Overcooked clams typically get rubbery (same goes for squid). There's a give and take. Canned clams are already overcooked just from canning so they'll be rubbery to start. But if you cook them long enough they'll actually go tender again, same with squid.

How many fried clams in 3 oz? ›

Clams are lean, low in calories and rich in protein, but like other shellfish, they are higher in cholesterol. A 3-ounce serving (about 12 medium-sized cooked clams) has about 125 calories, fewer than 2 grams of fat, 22 grams of protein and 57 milligrams of cholesterol.

Which clams are best for frying? ›

I like just lemon, then maybe a dash of hot sauce after I've eaten 20 or 30 clams. Virtually all fried clams in America are either Mya arenaria, the steamer clam, or Mercenaria mercenaria, the quahog, cherrystone or littleneck clam; the names are size grades, not different species.

What is the juice in clams called? ›

Clam liquor is also a.k.a clam extract. It is liquid that gets extracted during the steaming of the clams when the clams open up.

What goes good with fried clams? ›

Sprinkle the clams with salt and pepper and transfer to a platter. Serve with the Tartar and co*cktail sauces and lemon wedges.

Are clams healthier than oysters? ›

Clams are commonly found in freshwater and are a bit healthier than oysters. They are low in calories and fat. Contain high levels of iron, selenium, manganese. Clams help the body with making collagen and hemoglobin.

Are clams aphrodisiacs? ›

Recently, mussels, clams and oysters have been found to contain D-aspartic acid and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) compounds may be effective in releasing sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen.

How do you eat fried clams? ›

Fried clams are a popular seafood dish that are made by coating fresh clams in a seasoned flour mixture and deep-frying until golden brown and crispy. The dish is typically served with various dipping sauces, such as tartar sauce or co*cktail sauce.

Why are clams so expensive right now? ›

So why are clams so darn expensive? WBUR explains that the skyrocketing cost of clams mainly boils down to the fact that there is such a limited supply (due to more marine predators as waters warm from climate change) coupled with high consumer demand.

Why is there a clam shortage? ›

Coffin and some researchers are confident they know the main reason: green crabs. This invasive species eats clams voraciously, and warming waters are causing the crabs' population to explode.

Is there a clam shortage? ›

Due to the quahog shortfall, sea, or surf, clams have come under significant “pressure from a supply and cost standpoint” and are now in very short supply, according to Sea Watch. Surf, or sea, clams are harvested at depths between 20 and 80 feet.

What is the most expensive clam to eat? ›

These are geoducks, a large and elusive burrowing clam species. The clams grow in few parts of the world, making them a highly coveted and expensive delicacy in seafood restaurants around the globe.


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