How to Cook with Canned Clams


Ingredient GuidesCanned ClamClamFish and Seafood

Fresh clams are a thing of beauty, but canned clams should have a place in your pantry. They are healthy, affordable and can take that plain pasta from drab to fab. Here’s everything you wanted to know about canned clams.

Print Two cans of clams and a bottle of clam juice set on a table. Why you should buy canned clams

Plenty of people turn their nose up at canned seafood, preferring to eat only fresh. Clams are no exception.

And while I’m the first to dig into a bowl of chowder festooned with meaty clams in their shells, I also make space in my pantry for the canned variety. Bottom line: there’s room for both in your repertoire.


The canned clams you’ll find on supermarket shelves are either minced, chopped, or whole baby clams. Other clam products you may discover include smoked clams and bottled or canned clam juice.

It’s worth noting that you can also find ready-to-eat clams in vacuum sealed pouches and in the frozen food section, though both are less common than canned.


For briny ocean flavor and tender texture, it’s hard to beat fresh clams. You’ll find an entire post about buying, cleaning, and cooking fresh clams here. As for canned clams, they have much to offer the home cook.

  • First, the canning process cooks the clams, so they need no additional cooking once you crack open a can.
  • Canned clams are shelf-stable, which means they’re at the ready when you are.
  • Plus, there’s little food waste (versus fresh clams, where a least a few duds tend to show up in every batch).
  • Canned clams are also a budget-friendly source of protein. A recent scan of supermarket prices found chopped clams cost between $3 and $5 for a 6.5-ounce can. Fresh tends to be pricier, particularly when you consider that the by-the-pound price means paying for the weight of not just the clam meat, but the shells, too.

It’s frankly hard to beat the convenience of turning a tin or two into a pasta dinner or bowl of soup.

A guide to canned clams with a close up of canned clams and a bottle of clam juice in the background.


It’s worth reading the label, looking for clams canned with few added ingredients or preservatives. Look for brands packaged with little more than clams, clam juice, and salt.

Clams are typically canned with added salt, which is something to consider if you are aiming for a low-sodium diet. It can help to rinse canned clams before using to cut down on the sodium.


Fresh clams do have more versatility than canned clams, but that doesn’t mean you are left without options when reaching for a pantry staple. Plenty of recipes work well with canned clams.

  • CHOWDERS AND STEWS: Minced, chopped, and whole baby clams add a pleasing bite to a bowl of chowder or seafood stew. Some recipes call for a combination of canned and fresh clams, such as in this Manhattan-style chowder. This creamy Clam Chowder with Corn includes instructions for using canned in lieu of fresh.
  • PASTA AND RICE DISHES: Classic Spaghetti and Clam Sauce works well with canned clams (and means less work for everyone at the table trying to pluck the clams from their shells). Paella is also a place where you can swap in canned for fresh in a pinch.
  • SALADS AND APPETIZERS: Whole baby clams can be used in place of fresh in cold seafood dishes, such as ceviche and Frutti di Mar Seafood Salad. Canned smoked clams speared on a toothpick make a tasty add to a snack board. And old-school clam dip is routinely made with minced clams.

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Katie Morford

Katie Morford is the Nutrition Editor for Simply Recipes. She is a writer, registered dietitian, and author of three cookbooks: PREP: The Essential College Cookbook, Rise & Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings and Best Lunch Box Ever, which was nominated for an IACP award. Her work has been featured in Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Health, Real Simple, Oprah, Parents, Self, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times, among others. Katie lives in San Francisco with her husband and three daughters.

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