Clam juice is a broth that is made from steamed clams and is commonly sold in small bottles which can be stored in the pantry until needed. The liquid has a “taste of the ocean” rather than a strong fishy flavor and has a variety of uses in the kitchen. Stir it into a New England clam chowder, splash it into a cocktail, deglaze a pan, or add it to sauces. Clam juice is an excellent natural flavor enhancer, but if you can't get your hands on a bottle or you have a seafood allergy then you're going to need an alternative. We've put together a list of our favorite clam juice substitutes for a variety of cooking applications.
What can I use to replace clam juice?
To replace clam juice in your next recipe then the best options are fish stock, chicken stock, vegetable stock, dashi, or oyster liquor. Although these options won’t perfectly mimic the original ingredient, they won't be out of place in most recipes. Of course, if you can source clams locally then you can also make your own clam juice that tastes as good as the bottled stuff. Check out our simple recipe at the bottom of the page if you're interested in this option.
1. Fish Stock
Fish stock is an excellent clam juice alternative as it brings a seafood flavor to your dish that isn't overpowering. The store-bought packs of readymade stock or bouillon cubes dissolved into water work fine.
For a more authentic taste consider making your own. Add a pound of fish heads or scraps to a stockpot along with chopped onions, carrots, bell peppers, celery, and seasoning. Pour in five cups of water and allow the liquid to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid; it is perfect for soups and sauces. For best results, add the same amount of fish stock as you would use clam juice.
We tried using this stock in a Low Tide Martini, but the taste wasn't great; for this application, we suggest making your own clam juice or trying oyster liquor.
Fish stock is excellent for mimicking the taste of clam juice, but keep in mind that it won't be suitable for those with a fish allergy.
Related reading: What's the difference between fish sauce and fish stock?
2. Chicken Stock
Seafood allergy sufferers are best to use chicken stock as a clam juice substitute. While the flavor won't be the same, it will still be suitable for adding to food like salmon chowder, bisques, and sauces. To ensure the dish doesn't have an overwhelming chicken taste to it, dilute the stock with extra water. For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of clam juice then use half a cup of stock combined with half a cup of water.
Using a low-sodium chicken broth is a good option for those trying to reduce salt in their diet. A small bottle of clam juice can range anywhere between 100-200mg and more. As an example, the Bumble Bee brand of all-natural clam juice contains 30mg of sodium in just one tablespoon of liquid. If you're making a soup using a cup of this product, then the salt content will be very high.
3. Vegetable Stock
For those on a meat-free diet, vegetable stock is your best option as a clam juice alternative. As with the other stocks on this list you can easily buy a pre-made product from the grocery store. For a more flavorsome meal, try making stock. Add chopped Portobello mushrooms, onions, celery, carrot, seasoning, and dry white wine to 6 cups of water and simmer for up to one hour. Strain the liquid for a delicious homemade stock, great for stews and sauces. Vegetable stock will be out of place in a cocktail and isn't recommended for seafood bisques.
Dashi is a Japanese stock that adds intense umami flavor to the food it combines with. It makes an excellent poaching liquid for fish cooked à la nage. In Japanese cuisine, it forms a base of miso soup and noodle broth soup and is often mixed into flour for coating foods before grilling. You can make dashi at home, but an easier way is to buy some Shimaya or Kayanoya dashi powders which are free from additives and MSG. If you can't find them at your local supermarket then take a visit to an Asian grocer or search for them online.
5. Oyster liquor
Oyster liquor is a natural juice that can be found in raw oysters - it keeps fresh oysters alive when they are out of water. Instead of discarding this flavor-packed liquid, use it in place of clam juice to flavor savory recipes including miso soup and pasta alle vongole. You can also use it in paella, risotto, or add it to your next cocktail.
Keep in mind that levels of saltiness can vary depending on the seafood you use. Add half the amount of oyster liquor as you would clam juice and taste test. Continue adding more liquid until you achieve a nice balance of flavor in the dish.
Got canned oysters sitting unused in the pantry? Try one of our delicious recipes for canned oysters.
6. Make your own
If you have time, you are best to make clam juice at home to create more authentic tasting dishes. Add 2 pounds of clams to a steamer with an inch of water in the bottom. Allow the clams to steam for about 7 minutes, occasionally stirring the pot so that all the claims are given time to cook. The result is a pot of delicious seafood as well as steaming water filled with clam flavor which you can use in your next recipe. Most store-bought clam juice is quite salty so you may need to add additional salt to get a similar taste.
Fast facts about clam juice
- Back in 1937, William Frazier invented an innovative clam opener which allows the user to quickly open clams and retain all the juice in a bowl.
- Clamato juice is a brand of beverage that combines tomato juice with spices and clam juice. The inventors wanted to make a cocktail themed around Manhattan clam chowder.
- Clam juice can be used in a range of cocktails including the Caesar, Low Tide Martini, Vampira, and Bloody Mary.
- Use clam juice in place of Asian fish sauce to deliver umami-packed food. You can enhance the taste of shrimp sauce without adding unwanted additional flavors.
- It adds brightness to heavy dishes like risotto and balances the acidity from tomatoes when added to Bolognese or marinara sauce.
- Use clam juice to deglaze a pan without needing to use white wine.
- If you've had a big night out on the town, clam juice is believed to get rid of your hangover fast.
Clam juice adds a delicious salty, umami hit of flavor to savory dishes, and is also useful for cocktail making. If it's not available in your part of the world or you're simply looking for an alternative option then use fish, chicken, or vegetable stock. Other good alternatives are dashi or oyster liquor. To more closely mimic the taste of store-bought clam juice you can make your own by steaming fresh clams and using the flavor-infused water.
What recipe are you looking to make that includes clam juice? Please let us know in the comments below.