Anyone tired of using French onion dip or plain sour cream as a dip for crackers, vegetables, or potato chips can substitute homemade clam dip. Even though the many variations of homemade clam dips aren’t as popular as salsa, most people enjoy the taste once they are introduced to this Mid-Century favorite.

A clam-based condiment was introduced to the American public on the Kraft Music Hall Show in the early 1950s. People were so anxious to replicate the recipe for the dipping condiment that canned clams sold out in New York City within a day.

The recipe for this televised version contained lemon juice, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, and minced clams. Over the years, this condiment has been prepared in various ways. Sour cream is sometimes used in place of cream cheese. Commercial versions were sold in supermarkets, usually in plastic tubs.

Clam dips are usually served chilled, but you can serve them at room temperature or hot. The condiment has a creamy mouthfeel and is similar to sour cream-based dips. Many manufacturers made canned clam dips during the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1990s, salsa had replaced clam dip as a popular condiment.

What Kind of Clams Do You Use?

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Use canned, fresh, frozen or cooked clams to make clam dips. Steam or pan cook clams at home, or drain canned claims and store liquid for later use. Liquid from canned clams will thin dip if it becomes too thick after refrigeration. Alternately, use cream or milk to make the mix thinner.

Use smoked clams for a more distinct, smoky flavor. Smoke clams in their shells and then mince them and add to the cream crease or sour cream-based dip.

Packaged Kits 

Kits to help you make homemade clam dips are available today, but new regulations and changes in popular taste have made canned clam dips obsolete. Packaged clam dips contain chopped sea clams and a dip mix. The dip mix has parsley, cayenne pepper, herbs, chives, and onion. The clams are flavored with salt and clam juice.

You mix the packaged herbs and clams with cream cheese, Worchester sauce, and mayonnaise. Add chopped clams, mix the spices, clams and cream cheese, and then chill before serving.  

These ready-made kits may contain preservatives, so most people prefer making their own version with fresh ingredients at home.

Varieties of Clam Dip 

commonly used ingredients used to make clam dips
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You can add onions, scallions, chives, shallots, Worcestershire sauce or pepper sauce to homemade clam dips. If you want to serve the dip hot, in a chafing dish, use melted cheese for extra flavor.  

Use a food processor to mix the ingredients, and garnish the dip with paprika, parsley or any other spice you like.

You can serve clam dip in a hollow French or sourdough bread loaf, similar to recipes of the 1950s and 1969s. Serve red peppers, cauliflower, carrots, celery or other crudités with homemade clam dips to dress up the vegetables.

Creative cooks have adjusted the basic recipes for clam-based dips and come up with Bacon Horseradish Baked Dip, Baked Dip with Mozzarella and Five Minute Hawaiian clam-based dip (still a favorite on the islands).  

The main ingredients used in most clam dips are:

  • Canned clams
  • Cream cheese
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Garnish (usually onions or scallions)
  • Cayenne pepper or another spice

Hot, Cool or Cold?

Refrigerating the dip helps bring out the flavors and intermingle them for a tastier condiment. Most people do prefer serving the dip cold, but it’s just as tasty hot, and you can add melted cheese, bacon or other ingredients.

You’ll find many recipes for baked versions of dips with clams. Add olive oil, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese to chopped clams and the usual spices for a dip that looks like a meal of its own.  

A baked dip tastes like baked clams, but you use it as a dip for crackers, bread, and vegetables. Use a crock dish that’s oven-safe, preferably one that’s around 17 ounces. You can use a muffin tin for baking more if you have a few extra guests, or if you want some more dip for yourself.  


The original version of clam-based dip had 71 calories, five grams of protein, five grams of fat, 136 milligrams of sodium, five grams of protein, one gram of carbohydrates, and 25 milligrams of cholesterol.

Making your own dip helps you control the amount of sodium and fat in the mixture. Clams contain iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin B12. This seafood also has potassium, Vitamin A, calcium, and Omega 3 fatty acids. Some of the spices used in certain recipes, like cayenne pepper, are excellent for lowering blood pressure and reducing depression.    

Recipe for Old-Fashioned Clam Dip 

Here’s a recipe for old-fashioned, creamy clam dip. It’s easy enough for kids or amateur cooks of any age to make. Once you fix the basic version, you can always add different spices or try more ingredient-heavy baked dip.

You can make four cups of chilled or hot clam-based dip with this recipe. The dip takes ten minutes of preparation time. You’ll need the following ingredients, but feel free to add more, or different, spices.

  • Two cups chopped clams, and save the juice
  • Two eight-ounce packages of soft cream cheese
  • One tablespoon lemon juice
  • One tablespoon garlic
  • Two teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • Chives, parsley or scallions as garnish

Use fresh clams for best taste, but canned clams are fine, too.  Put cream cheese in a glass bowl, and then add lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Stir the mixture using a wooden spoon and combine well. Cover with a glass lid and chill in the refrigerator for several hours. As the ingredients cool, they’ll meld together for a better flavor.  

Bring the bowl to the counter or kitchen table, and let it warm up to room temperature. Garnish with scallions, chives or parsley. Serve with crackers, vegetables or bread.

Heat the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute if you prefer warm dip.

Baked Dip

There are other variations anyone can prepare. For example, make baked dip by combining the following ingredients in a casserole dish or nine-inch pie plate.

  • One small onion, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Two cans minced clams with liquid
  • Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • One cup bread crumbs
  • Half pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • One teaspoon chopped fresh garlic or garlic powder

Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a bowl. Pour into pie plate or dish, and top the mixture with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes to half an hour until the top of the dip is golden brown. Let the mixture cool slightly and serve with bread, veggies or crackers.  

Smoky- Flavored Dip

Try the following variation if you prefer a smokier-flavored dip.

  • One teaspoon each of Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and minced or powdered garlic
  • Two teaspoons minced onions and two teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce
  • A small can of chopped clams or six ounces fresh clams
  • One block cream cheese, softened, and a half-cup sour cream
  • Chives or green onions as garnish

Add red pepper flakes, paprika or chili powder to taste if you like a hotter or smokier zing to your dip.

Blend the cream cheese and sour cream by hand or with an electric mixer. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the garnish. Cover the mixing bowl and chill for an hour or two, so the flavors can set. Take out of the fridge and garnish before serving.


Clam dips, along with casseroles, meatloaf and sloppy joes, evoke dinners of ?the Mid and late 20th Century?. Include clam-based dips as part of a retro dinner party, or add them to any summer party as a festive alternative to salsa.

Use clam dips as one of the appetizers at an informal brunch. Baked dip with bacon or other hearty extras is a welcome condiment at Christmas parties. Clam dips are also a welcome addition to any Super Bowl or World Series party.

Any party or buffet with lots of chips, crackers, and crudités will benefit from plain or spicy versions of clam-based dips. Surprise your guests with something different.  

Many recipes recommend that you save the liquid in canned clams to thin out the dip, but you may prefer thicker dip. Experiment with your homemade recipe until you find the consistency that works for you.  

Anyone who likes to experiment in the kitchen can use onion soup mix for a quick, tasty version of this seafood dip. Use sour cream, lemon juice, and spices to taste, along with canned clams and the soup mix.

Your Mom or Grandma may have bought Nalley’s, a brand of dip popular in the 1960s. Make your own version with canned clams, mayonnaise, horseradish, garlic powder, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce.  

Check with the food editor of your local newspaper or online groups dedicated to foods in your region or city if you want to imitate an old recipe for one of the long-gone 20th century clam-based condiments. There are many fans of discontinued canned dips, and they’ll be able to help you recreate your favorite recipes.

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