Clam Shack Style Fried Clams

This clam shack style fried clams recipe tells you exactly how to make fried clams. Whole belly ones, natch, which are the best. And it’s so ridiculously easy.

An Ode to Fried Clams

I’ve made no secret of my absolute addiction to fried clams—especially clam shack style fried clams with big, luscious, profane whole bellies. I remember going as a kid to Macray’s, a local clam shack in Westport, MA., several Sundays during the summer. There my parents, grandparents, godparents, cousins, and I dove into pints of deep-fried oceanic goodness. My only regret as I tapped the last bits of crumbs from the greasy red-striped box into my mouth was that we couldn’t make them at home; it’s near impossible to shuck steamer clams. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) That little snag meant this treat would be relegated to the hot, steamy days of a New England summer.

A paper basket filled with golden fried clams

When I made this recipe, adapted from the great Jasper White, I was tempted to doctor up the coating mix with all kinds of herbs and spices. (Yes, for a moment I thought of myself as the Colonel  Sanders of Seafood.) “The secret to fried clams,” says Chickie Aggelakis, owner of The Clam Box in Ipswich, Mass., “is the flavor of the clams.” The coating and its crunch protect the tender belly meat. Mucking it up with spices—which is hard to resist—should be avoided at all costs. Originally published July 18, 2011. David Leite

Clam Shack Style Fried Clams

  • Quick Glance
  • (9)
  • 25 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 9 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The Summer Shack Cookbook cookbook

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Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer or an electric deep fryer, a Chinese wire-mesh skimmer or a pasta basket, a pair of tongs


  • For the New England style fry mix
  • For the clams


Make the New England style fry mix

Combine the flours, salt, and both peppers in a large mixing bowl and mix well. You’ll have more than you need for this recipe, so whatever is left over you can store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for several weeks or more.

Fry the clams

In many cases, you will be frying in batches to avoid the problems that can happen if you overcrowd your fryer. In anticipation of this, line a baking sheet with paper towels and preheat the oven to 250ºF (121°C).

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375°F in a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat or in a deep fryer.

While the oil is heating, pour the buttermilk into a large bowl, and put the fry mix in another. Drop the clams into the buttermilk and stir gently. Using a Chinese wire-mesh skimmer or a slotted spoon, carefully lift up a small batch (in this case, about half of the clams you’re frying), allowing the excess buttermilk to drip back into bowl, then drop the clams into the fry mix and gently toss it to coat evenly with the mix. Quickly dry off the skimmer.

When the oil is hot, lift the food out of the fry mix with the skimmer, gently shake off the excess, and drop it carefully into the oil. Try to spread the food out in the pot so there is less chance of the pieces sticking to each other. The first few moments are crucial: let the seafood cook for 15 to 20 seconds without moving the clams (or the fryer basket)—if you do, some of the breading could fall off, making the dish greasy. Then stir the clams so that they cook evenly, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more. This also helps to loosen any pieces that might have stuck together. If anything sticks to the bottom of the pot, loosen it with tongs. Stay right there at the fryer, moving the seafood occasionally so it cooks evenly.

Transfer the first batch of clams from the hot oil to the paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain. You can keep the clams warm in the oven while you fry the second batch, but with clams or oysters, you should consider serving them as soon as they have drained. Because they are whole creatures with wet innards, they tend to lose their crunch faster than shrimp, scallops, and other seafood. Set the food on a plate or platter and send it to the table with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs–and fries aren’t out of the question. [Ed. note: A side of salad, as in the picture, is hardly traditional, but it makes for a pretty plate, right?] A nice casual, and very appropriate, touch when serving fried foods is to serve it on deli paper or butcher’s paper. We serve most of our fried foods on colorful deli paper printed with our logo—the paper isn’t really intended to soak up excess oil, it’s more to show off how greasy it isn’t.

Print RecipeBuy the The Summer Shack Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    *What Is Corn Flour And Where Do I Find It?

    • Corn flour is essentially very finely milled cornmeal made from the entire kernel of corn—the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. Corn meal—whether coarsely ground, medium grind, or finely ground—is not an acceptable substitute due to the textural difference. However, masa harina, which you can find in the Latin section of most supermarkets, is a perfectly fine swap. A caution to our friends the Brits and Aussies and Canadians. We understand that in your corners of the world, “corn flour,” or rather “cornflour,” is synonymous with “cornstarch,” but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Cornstarch is ground from only the endosperm of the corn and makes a lousy coating for fried clams. Trust us.


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    1. Hi, I bought fresh clams in the shell and I have purged them and frozen them. I want to try this recipe. How should I defrost them, in the fridge or under cool running water? Thanks.


      1. Steve, ideally you want to let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator. But, if you’re in a rush, cold running water will thaw them quickly.

      2. Steve, I’ve never cooked with frozen clams, so I can’t vouch for the quality/texture. But…to thaw clams, remove them from the bag, place them in a bowl of cool water until completely thawed, or place them not in water in the refrigerator for 24 hours until thawed.

        1. Thank you Angie. I should have been more clear. I’m buying a pint of already shocked clams. Should these also be rinsed?

          1. I don’t think you need to rinse them, Scott. The liquor that the clams will come in has plenty of flavor, so I’d just drain them before coating and frying.

    2. I’m lactose intolerant can I use and unflavored oat milk instead? And how would this work with left over steamers?

      1. Kevin, we haven’t tried making these with non-dairy milk, so we can’t say how they would turn out, but if you try it, do let us know. You do need to use raw clams though. Leftover cooked clams won’t work here.

      1. Yes! It’s a very flexible breading for New England style seafood; you can use it for shrimp, scallops, clams, and any light tasting fish you want to fry (e.g. haddock, cod, pollock, flounder, halibut, catfish, tilapia).

      2. We haven’t tried it, Doreen, but it is done at clam shacks, so definitely give it a try and let us know how they turn out.

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