Air Fryer
How to Cook Frozen Fried Clams in the Air Fryer

How to Cook Frozen Fried Clams in the Air Fryer

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I often hear my husband lament the days of indulging in the fried clams from Howard Johnson Restaurants. Those days are long gone but apparently the remembered incredible taste lingers on for him. This recipe attempts to reclaim what time has taken from him.

Air Fryer Fried Clams Cover Image

In the world of culinary exploration, convenience, and innovation often come together to transform everyday dishes into extraordinary creations. Imagine the satisfaction of sinking your teeth into a perfectly crispy and succulent piece of breaded clam strip, its golden coating giving way to a tender, flavorful interior.

Now, envision achieving this culinary masterpiece with the magic of an air fryer. Welcome to a realm where frozen breaded clam strips, usually reserved for standard frying, are elevated to new heights through the art of air frying.

The air fryer, a modern marvel of kitchen technology, has reshaped the way we approach cooking. It offers the promise of indulgence without the excessive oil from the traditional deep fry in oil, and speed without sacrificing quality.

Gone are the days of greasy fingers and the guilt that can accompany traditional deep frying. With the air fryer’s ingenious technology, frozen breaded clam strips take on a whole new dimension, becoming a delightful treat that offers both convenience and culinary excellence. 

Get ready to embrace a world where convenience and quality harmonize, and where the joy of a well-cooked meal is only a button away. From crispy bites to culinary satisfaction, let’s unveil the secrets of creating restaurant-worthy breaded clam strips right in the comfort of your own kitchen.

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History of the Fried Clams

Fried clam strips, as a popular seafood dish, have been enjoyed for several decades. The exact origin of fried clam strips is not definitively documented, but their popularity can be traced back to the mid-20th century.

The earliest known references to fried clams and clam strips date back to the 1940s and 1950s, when seafood shacks and coastal restaurants in the United States began to offer fried clam dishes as part of their menus. These dishes gained popularity as a convenient and delicious way to enjoy clams without the need to shuck them from their shells.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an increase in the popularity of fast-food seafood chains, which further contributed to the spread of fried clam strips as a favorite dish. These chains made fried seafood easily accessible to a wider audience, leading to their integration into the American culinary landscape.

Since then, fried clam strips have become a staple in many seafood restaurants, coastal eateries, and casual dining establishments across the United States. While their specific history might not be extensively documented, their popularity continues to endure, with variations and regional adaptations becoming part of the culinary fabric of different coastal areas.

It’s worth noting that the practice of breading and frying seafood in various cultures is not unique to clams. Many cultures around the world have their own versions of fried seafood dishes, using different types of seafood and batters. However, the popularity of fried clam strips in the United States has helped shape the way they are enjoyed today.

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These Can Be a Quick Appetizer

Their crispy texture and savory flavor make them a popular choice for appetizer menus in many seafood restaurants and gatherings. Here’s why fried clam strips work well as a quick appetizer:

Quick Cooking Time: The best thing about it is that fried clam strips cook relatively quickly due to their small size and the high heat of frying. This makes them ideal for a time-sensitive appetizer.

Crispy and Flavorful: The breading and frying process gives the clam strips a satisfyingly crispy exterior and delicate crunch while preserving the natural flavor of the clams. This combination of textures and flavors is perfect for an appetizer.

Finger-Friendly: Fried clam strips are easy to pick up and eat with your hands, which is convenient for guests mingling at an event or social gathering.

Dipping Opportunities: They can be served with a variety of dipping sauces, adding extra layers of flavor and customization to suit different tastes.

Versatility: Fried clam strips can be served on their own as a classic appetizer or combined with other small bites to create a seafood platter or sampler.

Visual Appeal: Their golden-brown color and inviting appearance make them an attractive option that can enhance the overall presentation of your appetizer spread.

Crowd Pleaser: Fried clam strips are generally well-loved, making them a safe bet to please a diverse range of guests.

serve clams with sauce and squeeze of lemon

When serving fried clam strips as an appetizer, consider offering a selection of dipping sauces like tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, aioli, or even a squeeze of lemon wedges. Remember to keep them warm and crispy until they’re ready to be enjoyed by your guests. Whether you’re hosting a casual gathering or a more formal event, fried clam strips can add a touch of coastal comfort to your appetizer spread.

What Can You Serve with Air Fryer Clams? 

Pairing your air fryer clams with complementary dishes can create a well-rounded and satisfying meal. Here are some ideas for what you can serve alongside air fryer clams:

1. Fresh Salad: Serve a crisp, refreshing salad as a side. A simple garden salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a light vinaigrette can balance out the richness of the clams.

2. Garlic Bread: Garlic bread is a classic accompaniment to seafood. Toasted slices of baguette brushed with garlic-infused butter add a delightful crunch and flavor contrast.

3. Coleslaw: Creamy coleslaw provides a creamy and tangy component that complements the crispy texture of the clams. It’s a great way to add a refreshing contrast to the meal.

4. French Fries or Potato Wedges: Potatoes are a beloved pairing with fried seafood. Whether you opt for classic fries or seasoned potato wedges, they’ll add a satisfying carb element.

5. Grilled Vegetables: Lightly grilled or roasted vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, and asparagus, offer a healthy and flavorful side to balance the meal.

Ingredients for Air Fryer Clams

air fryer clams ingredients
  • Frozen clams, breaded – these tasty morsels are the star of our dish, bringing a taste of the sea to your plate. They should be in the frozen seafood section of your grocery store.
  • Lemon – the tangy freshness of this citrus fruit is a classic accompaniment to seafood, brightening up the flavors.
  • Seafood sauce – this mouthwatering condiment adds a savory umami depth to the dish.
  • Tartar sauce – its creamy, tangy notes provide a delectable contrast to the crispy, breaded clams. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even make your own!

Preparation Instructions

Preheat your air fryer to 375 degrees F or 400 degrees F, depending on the type and size of your clams.

While the air fryer is preheating, spray some oil on your air fryer basket or place one of the air fryer liners in it and arrange the frozen, breaded clams in a single layer on the basket.

place clams in air fryer

Air fry for about 8 minutes, ensuring to flip halfway through for even browning (for the best results)

fry clams until golden brown

Remove from the air fryer once golden brown and crispy.

serve with tarter sauce or cocktail sauce

Serve your air-fried clams with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of tartar sauce, and some cocktail sauce if you’re feeling saucy.

How to Switch This Up a Bit

Fancy a different clam vibe? How about you swap your usual clam type for whole belly clams or amped-up stuffed clams? If you want a bigger crunch factor, toss your clams in beaten egg wash and then into panko or crushed crackers instead of regular old flour. 

Want to elevate the flavor? Give your breading a kick with paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, or even a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  

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Air Fryer Clams FAQs

“I’ve got some leftover air fryer clams; how long can they hang out in the fridge before they’re a bad idea?”

Your leftover air fryer clams can chill in the fridge for up to 3 days. Just make sure they’re in a snug, airtight container. Remember, the sooner you eat them, the tastier they’ll be!

“I need to reheat my air fryer clams without turning them into a soggy mess. How can I do that?”

The best way to keep the crunch in your clams is to pop them back in the air fryer at 370°F for about 4-5 minutes. Stay away from the microwave unless you’re a fan of rubbery seafood!

“Can I freeze my air fryer clams leftovers for later use, or is that a seafood disaster waiting to happen?”

Indeed, you can freeze these bad boys for up to 3 months. Ensure to drain the clams well, then store them in a freezer-safe, airtight container. If you’ve got them still in the shell, give them a rinse, clean them up, and pack them in a plastic bag. Thaw them in the fridge or under cold water, then reheat them in the air fryer or oven.

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

How to Cook Frozen Fried Clams in the Air Fryer

air fryer clams

When serving fried clam strips as an appetizer, consider offering a selection of dipping sauces like tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, aioli, or even a squeeze of lemon wedges.

Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes


  • 1 package frozen clams, breaded
  • lemon, seafood sauce, tartar sauce for serving if desired


  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees and spray the basket with nonstick spray.
  2. Cook clams in single-layer batches for 8 minutes.
  3. Serve with lemon, seafood sauce, and tartar sauce if desired.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 72Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 453mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 6g
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