An authentic New England clambake contains a number of ingredients but few seasonings.

Seasonings for an Authentic New England Clam Bake

by Natalie Smith

Few meals are as memorable as a New England clambake. Whether you enjoy your clambake on the beach or in your backyard, the flavors of the ingredients and seasonings blend with the smoke from the driftwood or charcoal to create a distinctive flavor that is difficult to duplicate in a restaurant. The seasonings you use for a traditional New England clambake can vary, but most versions are simple and include only a few basic ones.


The actual ingredients in a traditional New England clambake provide the majority of the flavor. As a result, you really don't need a lot of additional seasonings as too much seasoning can mask the natural flavors of the seafood and vegetables. The actual ingredients can vary according to the season and the availability of fresh seafood. However, the typical ingredients include red or white potatoes, husked ears of corn, Littleneck clams and sausage. Optional ingredients include mussels, shrimp, lobster, sliced onion and tomatoes.

Herbs and Spices

Some authentic New England clambakes do not include any seasonings other than salt and pepper, while some include none at all. However, you might prefer to use a few basic seasonings such as sweet paprika, cloves, mustard seed, thyme, toasted coriander seeds, crushed red pepper and/or bay leaves to flavor your clambake. Choose the ingredients that best suit your tastes. For example, crushed red pepper flakes will create a spicy clambake whereas thyme will add an herbal flavor.

Other Seasonings

Herbs and spices are not the only seasonings that you can use to flavor the clambake. Fresh garlic cloves are also common ingredients. Also, some cooks use white wine or beer as an addition to the broth as these ingredients flavor the clambake as it cooks. You can also serve your clambake with lemon and melted, or drawn, butter on the side. Diners can season with the lemon to their likings and dip their clams and other seafood into the butter as they eat, or even drizzle it over the corn.

Food Safety

Whenever you prepare seafood, safety should be your first consideration. Clams and other types of seafood can harbor harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning if you don't prepare them correctly. Always discard any clams or shellfish that aren't opened after the cooking process is complete. Fish and lobster should be opaque and flaky when they are ready to eat. You should insert a cooking thermometer into the middle of the seafood and ensure that it registers a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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