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What Is Clam Base?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Clam base is a bouillon paste that is often used in seafood soups and chowders, namely in clam chowder. While many recipe versions of clam chowder call for clam juice or broth for the flavor, some experienced cooks have found that mixing in clam base adds a more pronounced flavor and prevents blandness. This bouillon paste can either be used as a substitute or mixed with the required amount of clam juice. Clam base is usually purchased in jars and can be found alongside other bouillon flavors in most grocery stores; several brands can also be ordered online. Those who like to make seafood meals at home from scratch can also easily make their own versions of this ingredient.

Most prepared clam base is made from a mixture of finely chopped or pureed clams, a small measure of clam juice, salt, various seasonings, and sometimes lemon juice. Since it is a thicker ingredient than clam juice alone, it usually needs to be first mixed with an additional amount of either clam juice or water. The mixture is then heated for about two minutes before being added to the rest of the chowder ingredients. This can be done either in a microwave or in a saucepan on the stove depending on the volume of chowder that will result. The average clam chowder recipe calls for about two tablespoons of clam base mixed with two cups of water or clam juice, though these measurements can be doubled for larger batches.

Cooking with clams is usually a simple process when it comes to making this clam-flavored ingredient. Home cooks who make their own clam base often claim the best results come from freshly dug, shelled, and cleaned clams. Canned clams can be used instead for those without easy access to fresh ones. Once the clams are cleaned and drained, they are usually pureed in a food processor along with lemon juice, salt, and sometimes a pinch of black pepper. Some cooks also like to add small amounts of their other favorite spices such as garlic or oregano.

Professional cooks who specialize in seafood meals can often have different opinions on whether a soup thickening ingredient should be used along with a clam base. Some report good results when they add flour, dried potato flakes, or even prepared mashed potatoes to their chowders. Others believe these thickeners can detract too much from the texture unless they are added only in small amounts and blended thoroughly.

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Discussion Comments

By julies — On Feb 16, 2012

@andee - Yes - a filling bowl of clam chowder can have a lot of calories and be hard on the waist line!

I have made some changes to my original recipe for chowder so it is a little bit more figure friendly.

One of the first things I did was cut out the bacon bits I used to put in my chowder. You can also cut out some calories by not using as much cream.

When you do this, you will probably need to add some cornstarch because you will have a thinner chowder. That is when adding a clam base along with the clam juice can help as well.

As far as cutting out some carbohydrates, you can eliminate some of the potatoes and add more vegetables like onions and celery.

There are ways you can make this chowder healthier for you without giving up on the wonderful taste of it. It just takes a little experimenting and it is hard to go wrong when you have fresh clams to work with.

By andee — On Feb 16, 2012

I have never made clam chowder myself, but this is something my husband really enjoys, so I think I will surprise him with a bowl of this some evening.

It sounds like the list of clam chowder ingredients is pretty basic. It also sounds like it has a lot of calories.

We are trying to watch our calories and carbohydrate intake. Is there a way to make this without so many calories? I don't want to skimp on taste or flavor, but also don't want to feel guilty after eating a bowl of homemade clam chowder.

By sunshined — On Feb 15, 2012

Fortunately I live in a place where fresh clams are easy to find. Because of this I have a lot of good recipes for clam chowder.

Nothing hits the spot quite like a hot bowl of New England clam chowder on a cold, wintry night.

One of the reasons I like using a clam base when I make clam chowder is because it also helps give it a thicker texture. For me, I like my clam chowder thick and hearty. A thin base just doesn't taste as good as a thick, hearty base for this type of chowder.

I like to add a little bit of lemon juice when I make my base. Lemon pepper and garlic are also two ingredients that I always use when making my base.

Once, without knowing it, I had some clam chowder that was made with canned clams. I knew with the first bite that something was wrong. When you are used to the real thing, nothing else tastes nearly as good.

By Mykol — On Feb 14, 2012

If you have eaten clam chowder and it tastes bland, it could very well be because they didn't use a clam base.

I have found that using a clam base along with the clam juice is the secret ingredient that makes my clam chowder taste so good.

Of course, the spices and seasonings you add can make a difference too, but this really gives a much tastier base to your chowder.

I have always said that a good soup base is the key to an excellent tasting soup. This goes for clam chowder as well as chicken noodle soup.

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