Clam juice can be a tasty addition to pastry, fish, and even cocktails. It is very versatile but can be hard to find in the local grocery shop and when the recipe calls for it and you don’t have it at hand, you’re in need of a substitute.
But since it is hard to find a substitute for clam juice that has the same taste, using the original is always recommended. Nonetheless, there are a handful of alternatives that can help you reach very similar flavors.
The best substitutes for clam juice
Clam juice is broth made from clams that have been steamed after removing their shells. The steaming process allows clams to create the signature juice full of flavor, which is then sold as bottled clam juice.
There are several brands that sell clam juice, each one might taste a little different depending on the quality and the origin of the clams.
However, what they have in common is that these products are sold with little to no artificial preservatives, but they’re usually rich in salt, so take this detail into consideration when adding salt to your dish later.
You can easily make homemade clam juice if you have chowder clams. This would allow you to control the characteristics of the broth and its taste.
Even though canned clam juice isn’t one of those products full of industrial additives, if you happen to know a trusted supplier it is certainly recommended to make your clam juice at home.
Usually, clam juice is employed as a flavoring agent in recipes and it’s well-loved because it adds a sort of umami flavor to your dishes. There are different uses for this broth:
– For roasted fish, you can use clam juice and white wine to enhance the flavor of a marinade.
– After a rough night, clam juice added to a brunch cocktail can help you get over the hangover.
– When deglazing a pan, you can use clam juice as a non-alcoholic substitute.
– You can enhance the taste of a Bloody Mary with a little clam juice, as long as you enjoy the strong oyster taste you will get as a result.
– When making ceviche, you can substitute citrus juice with clam juice for a scallop taste instead of the usual lemon taste.
– Clam juice balances the acidity of tomatoes, so you can use it to boost your spaghetti sauce.
Many recipes that feature seafood, as well as other types of soups and sauces, might have clam juice listed among the ingredients. If you don’t like clam juice or you’re allergic to clams, you can use one of the following clam juice substitutes to get similar results.
1. Fish stock
Fish stock (fumet) is made by simmering fish bones and other parts of fish meat along with aromatic vegetables and herbs. The fish parts usually come from white-fleshed fish and include heads, spines, tails, and ribs.
Bass, snapper, halibut, cod, and tilefish are just some of the options you have when making fish stock, but any suitable fish can do.
Avoid using dark-fleshed or oily fish like tuna, salmon, or mackerel because their flavor is too strong: remember that the purpose of fish stock is to be an addition or a base, therefore it shouldn’t be too overwhelming.
As for the aromatics, celery, onions, fennel, and parsley are among the most-used vegetables when making fish stock. You could also try carrots, but be aware it would give totally different color to the broth.
Just like with other meat stocks, adding vegetables in small pieces rather than big ones helps you achieve a better flavor.
The broth is made from a mix of water and dry white wine, which has a similar function to that of lemon juice when used on fish, which is to add a fresh note that balances the fishy flavor of the stock.
Since the cooking time is only around 20 minutes, a good ratio for fumet should have more fish than liquid, to avoid having a watered-down broth.
Fish stock is fairly less versatile than chicken broth or vegetable stock, but it’s perfect to substitute clam juice when you need to enhance the flavor of your seafood recipes.
If you don’t have time to make fish stock at home, you can purchase it from the grocery store. However, if you make it yourself you will have full control over which parts of the fish you want to add.
2. Chicken stock
Chicken stock is easy to make and can enhance the flavor of many different recipes. It also allows you to avoid food waste because you can use leftover roasted chicken bones and meat to make it.
Chicken stock is often confused with chicken broth. They’re actually almost the same thing, except chicken broth is made with more meat, while as chicken stock is made with leftovers, it usually features more bones.
Apart from this difference, both chicken stock and broth can be used in most recipes interchangeably and will give your dish a mild but savory flavor.
When you make homemade chicken stock, you can add whatever ingredient you prefer, as long as it features the 4 main components: chicken, water, aromatic vegetables, and herbs.
Some tips to make your clam juice substitute more tasty include:
– Add fresh greens, better if leafy, like carrot tops or celery tops.
– Roast the bones first (if raw) along with onions, at 400°F.
– If you’re out of bones, you can find very affordable packs of turkey necks at the grocery store, which are perfect for the flavor.
– Any leftover stock, gravy, drippings, or meaty parts can be added to the mix.
– Don’t skin your onions if you wish to add color to the broth.
Of course, if you’re making clam chowder, chicken is probably not the best clam juice substitute there is, since the clam flavor will be fundamental to the recipe.
For different usage, maybe one where clam juice is meant to be just addition, the chicken stock will work just fine as long as you keep a 1:1 ratio of chicken stock and water, in order to water down the chicken flavor.
3. Vegetable stock
Vegetable stock is delicious and completely customizable. In fact, there are no strict rules to follow and you can add the vegetables you prefer to achieve the flavor you’re looking for, differently from chicken and beef stocks that strongly rely on bones.
It is recommended to make your own homemade vegetable stock because it will always taste better than the ready-to-use one you find in grocery stores.
The base for vegetable stock usually consists of celery, carrot, onion, and fennel. The vegetables should be browned or roasted before using them to make the broth because it will add a delicious flavor from the caramelization.
Clam juice is known for adding umami flavor to the dish. In order to achieve umami flavor with this clam juice substitute, you should add rehydrated dry mushrooms and a bit of tomato paste to your vegetable stock.
When making beef or chicken stock, there are long hours of simmering to do because it takes time to extract the flavor from the bones. This doesn’t happen with vegetable stock, whose cooking time is around one hour.
Be careful not to let the vegetable stock simmer for longer than 90 minutes, because beyond that point the flavor will start to disappear.
Vegetable stock isn’t as good of a clam juice replacement as fish or chicken stock, but when you’re in a pinch it works pretty well. Remember to water it down by adding half water and half vegetable stock. Also, add a bit of tomato paste for better flavor.
Substituting clam juice with vegetable stock works best for tomato-based clam chowders and seafood stews.
Dashi is a Japanese word used to refer to a group of broths made from various ingredients. It is actually thanks to dashi that today we know what the “umami flavor” is. In fact, the dashi flavor was the first to be identified as “umami” in 1908.
The most popular dashi is made by combining katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes) and kombu (dried kelp). The high sodium content in the dried tuna flakes and the glutamic acids in the dried kelp is what give dashi the umami flavor that is so appealing to many.
Dashi is a fundamental ingredient in many Japanese soups, stews, and noodles dishes, among other recipes.
Today, homemade dashi is not so popular anymore, because it’s easily found in grocery stores in granules or powder form. This instant dashi has in addition glutamates and ribonucleotides which enhance the flavor and are therefore preferred over the mild taste of homemade dashi.
Since dashi is basically Japanese fish stock, it makes a great substitute for clam juice, probably the best along with the normal fish stock. You can use it as a replacement in seafood soups and chowders, or you can also add it to your fish stock for additional flavor.
How to choose a clam juice substitute.
Clam juice is not easy to replace because no substitute will give you the exact same taste.
When making seafood recipes, it is better not to stray too far from the seafood path and use fish stock or dashi as replacements. It won’t taste exactly the same, but it may also enhance the flavor of your recipe in ways that clam juice doesn’t.
For recipes that don’t rely heavily on clam juice, you can use other kinds of stock if you wish to reach a similar flavor as the original, but you can also take this chance to experiment with other ingredients and additions and see what works best for you.
If there are no issues with allergies or personal taste, the best choice is always to make a quick trip to buy clams and make your own clam juice with your selected ingredients.