Clear Broth Clam Soup

This dish is for serious clam lovers!!!  It can be made with almost any clam but works best with live topneck or cherrystone clams as they have the most meat without being too tough to eat.

You want to scrub the outside of each clam to remove all sand and grit.  Here I have 2 dozen cherrystone clams but I think my fish monger snuck a couple of quahogs in there.   But if I don’t overcook them it shouldn’t matter.  At this size the clams are great for steaming.    I prefer them in this kind of clear broth meal instead of a chowder during the summer so it isn’t too heavy.  This soup is quite nourishing without leaving you feeling stuffed.

First we add 2 cups of cold water to our pot.

Then 1 quarter cup of dry white wine.  Here I am using a Chardonnay. After that we add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce instead of salt.  The clams have a lot of salt on their own but the fish sauce will give our broth some depth of flavor.

Among the fresh herbs I grow during the summer, one of them is silverleaf thyme which is in the lower right corner of the picture above.  I add just a small pinch of these to my broth.  Don’t add too much but this will give us a lemony thyme taste in our finished soup.

Bring the liquid in the pot to a boil.  Here I have all my clams scrubbed and ready to cook.

Into the pot they go where they will cook covered for 10 minutes.  Make sure to cover them.  You want them to cook until all the shells open.

Strain out the broth and reserve it.  We want to remove all the clams from their shells except for one.   Take one that looks pretty and set it aside and remove the clams from the rest of the shells.  Then pour as much broth as is needed for the soup.  Add the clams and then put the decorative one you saved into the bowl.  Season with cayenne pepper and add 2 TBS of butter.

There’s enough clams here for two servings.  Sometimes I get a real craving for steamed clams.  And this soup takes care of that.  The broth is very light in contrast to the very bold flavor of the clams.   I make this more often for lunch than for dinner.


Here is the recipe:

South Carolina Clear Broth Clam Soup (serves 2)


  • 2 dozen live cherrystone clams or 3 dozen top neck clams
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs good quality Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
  • Pinch of fresh silverleaf or regular thyme leaves
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbs butter divided
  • 1/2 tsp Tom Yum paste (optional but gives it a Thai flair)


  • Scrub all clams to remove any sand or grit
  • Add water thyme, wine and fish sauce to a large pot with a tight fitting lid
  • Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat
  • Add Tom Yum paste if using.
  • Add clams to the pot and cover
  • Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes
  • Strain the broth and reserve
  • in 2 bowls put 11 of the clams without shells and put one remaining clam in shell each bowl for decoration
  • Top off each bowl with the reserved broth
  • Add 2 Tbs butter to each bowl
  • Add 1 pinch of Cayenne to each bowl and serve

Thank you!