Clam Cakes Block Island

4.78 from 36 votes
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New England clam cakes in a bowl.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Clam cakes. They’re just like crab cakes or fish cakes, only with clams, right? Oh no, my friend. If you think that, you would be terribly, tragically wrong. Because as much as I like crab cakes, a true Rhode Island style clam cake is so, so much more.

Think clam beignet, or donut hole. Only savory. Crispy, golden brown on the outside, pillowy and light on the inside. Steam rises from the first bite. The slightest aroma of brine surrounds you. Tiny chunks of clam nestle themselves in the folds of the pillow, offering surprising bites of chewy meatiness as you down one of these little glories after another. And another.

With the possible exception of the Pacific Northwest, no region can boast mastery of the humble clam like New England. And within New England, it is Rhode Island that does it best. I have never seen these clam cakes any other place. They are a masterpiece of street food. To me, they are why you arrive early at the port of Galilee to await the Block Island ferry.

When I was a boy, I was partial to gigantic plates of fried clams. When I grew a little older, I discovered these clam cakes. And I’ve lusted after them ever since. They are to me the gateway food of Block Island, which is the place I learned to forage and the place whose natural beauty I still hold closest to my heart. My fondest wish is to die an old man in a little cottage on that island. But not just yet.

I am 3,100 miles from Block Island right now, a long way from Galilee and Rhody clam cakes. A few days ago, as I drove home from Bodega Bay, laden with clams, I realized that this was my first real chance to make clam cakes with fresh clams I had caught since I’d moved West years ago.

I looked at my bucket of horseneck clams, dug an hour before. While they are certainly not the glorious quahog of my youth, they would do just fine in a clam cake — after all, you grind the clams anyway.

As it happens, these are basically clam beignets. My recipe has no corn. More clams than the typical fritter, cake flour instead of all-purpose, and a touch of maple syrup. Maple syrup? Trust me. You need it.

Now normally Rhode Island clam cakes are served with Tabasco and tartar sauce. As you might imagine, I am more of a Tabasco man. But I could not keep thinking about how much these were like New Orleans beignets. So I decided to break from Rhode Island tradition and add a little bit of the Big Easy to this recipe: Remoulade.

If I thought I loved clam cakes before this, I may now be a clam cake junkie. Holy crap but this was good! The recipe I made was way too much for Holly and I to eat at one sitting, but I decided to make them all anyway. We gorged ourselves on clam cakes until we were about to burst. I put the leftover cakes in the fridge.

And you know something? They fried up almost as good the next day. Popped back in the deep fryer for 2-3 minutes, they came out fine.

Premade fried food? Yes, please.

clam cakes recipe
4.78 from 36 votes

Rhode Island Clam Cakes

This recipe is best made with freshly ground clams, although it would still be good with finely chopped clams. Canned would be OK, and better to make it with canned than not at all, but please, please, please make this at least once with fresh clams. You will not be sorry. Use cake flour if you can get it; it will make a lighter, fluffier cake. All-purpose is fine if you can't find cake flour. Use a "regular" beer, not a fancy one. Think Budweiser. Be sure to keep your oil as close to 350°F as you can. The cakes will come out greasy if your oil gets too cool. Fry in batches to prevent this. 
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 recipe for remoulade
  • Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup clam broth
  • 1/2 cup cold beer
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped or ground clams
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour, or all-purpose flour


  • Make the remoulade first and set aside. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  • Mix all the liquid ingredients together except the beer. Mix all the dry ingredients together. When your oil is hot, add the beer to the liquid ingredients and mix gently. Stir in the dry ingredients just until combined.
  • Drop a tablespoon of batter into the hot oil at a time. Do not crowd the pot. Let them sizzle for 30 seconds or so, then dislodge any that are stuck to the bottom with a chopstick or wooden skewer. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  • Drain on paper towels and serve while hot with the remoulade, Tabasco or tartar sauce. And beer. Lots of beer.


If you can't eat all the cakes in one sitting, leave the oil in the fryer overnight; it'll be fine. Then reheat and refry the leftover cakes for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. If you want a more traditional New England Fried Clam recipe, I got one.


Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 425mg | Potassium: 237mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 155IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Rhode Island? They, and mostly I mean the Portuguese families of the area and closely aligned Fall River & New Bedford, use Drum Rock Fritter & Clam Cake Mix. It’s made in Rhode Island. Check it out, and if you must, try to make it “better”. Simple is often better, and there isn’t a simpler way to make “Rhode Island” clam fritters….always made with fresh quahog…sea clams in a pinch…never with soft shell clams (steamers)…

  2. Amazing recipe! What drew me to it was the buttermilk….beer …… oh & the maple syrup!!
    Growing up in Rhode Island clam cakes was near the top of my food list . I would give this recipe a 10 star! Thank you for bringing myself & my husband back to the days ……!!

      1. Amazing! I would have never put the clams in the grinder, but it totally makes the perfect texture. This brought me right back to Point Judith.

    1. That was my Uncle.George… He also had a rig called the “Cindy Bett II” Moored in Point Judith and would go lobstering all the time! He would give our family lobster shorts, bluefish, Tuna and more all the time… Best clam cakes EVER!!? WATCHING that batter drop into the Huge flat fryers was mouth watering! He is still missed by so many good friends and family!

  3. Just like Rocky Point in RI. My wife was craving clam fritters for years and this was so good. She said more clams but that is a personal choice. Nice recipe, my only Demi-note is I made the batter and put in the refrigerator for 35 min or so. The ice cream scoop was the right size.

  4. Not sure what I did wrong but I sure did ruina bunch of clams! I followed the recipe to the tea I couldn’t even taste my clowns like eating deep-fried cake flour by itself very very disappointed.

  5. An excellent recipe for clam cakes like I remember Aunt Carrie’s in Pt Judith made back in the day…

  6. ** DO NOT USE CANNED CLAMS ** (if you can help it.) Totally different experience. Use fresh. Get 1.5 dozen littlenecks from your local source, lightly steam with some spices, remove from shells (easy to do), add to food processor/blender with some broth, blend and WONDERFUL. Marvel at how wonder and tasty this recipe is. I spent a lot of experimentation with many recipes but was not successful to match my favorite clam shack taste until I went with fresh clams.

  7. One of the Hook, Line & Supper recipes we were most excited about! I took the “serves 8” seriously and halved the recipe for dinner for me & my husband, and we had leftovers even so. COMPLETELY delicious and I was really surprised by how easy it was to get them perfect. Hank is right that they reheat well, too. Will 100% make again, more regularly than is good for me (though I’ll probably double the amount of clams).

  8. My first and only tastes of clam fritters was in the Rhode Island Building at the Big E-Eastern States Exposition in W. Springfield. Always bought several bags of the mix to make them at home! Yum!

  9. Living in the Midwest, I definitely can’t find clamcakes anywhere. These comments take me back to growing up/living in New England and the wonderful summers spent in the South Kingston/Naragansett area. I, too, lived in Springfield, but it was always worth the 2 hr drive to get clamcakes from Aunt Carrie’s. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  10. I’m in Rhode Island for the 1st time since the pandemic put this” Hippie Gypsy” into isolation. Flo’s clam shack was on my agenda for the clam cakes chowda and stiuffys!! I’m looking forward to trying your recipe when I get home!!

  11. Thank you Hank. I have young kids that don’t give me a lot of time to cook anything that I want. I call them clam donuts and they eat them up. I’ve added ground sausage to your recipe because I’m a big fatty. The leftovers get put on sticks and heated like toasted marshmallows over a fire. Kids love it and I get my clam fix. You have a solid recipe here.

  12. This whole post warmed my heart! My dad called me last night, a friend of his went quahogging and he had a bunch of fresh quahogs and little necks for me! It was late, so I popped them in the fridge. I’m going to try to make clam cakes for the first time ever. (Pre Covid, we just went down to Iggy’s on Warwick Neck to get them, with some good ole Rhode Island Clam Chowda! Gonna try to make that too, actually. And some stuffies!)

  13. Made these with butter clams from Puget Sound. I’ve never had the real thing, I haven’t made it to Rhode Island, but these might just make the trip worth it! Simple recipe once you have your clams shucked and ground or chopped. Can’t wait to make it again for a crowd! This recipe makes a mountain of clam cakes.

    1. In Rhode Island, we like to add salt and malt vinegar to our clam cakes. For me, anything else is just not right, lol

  14. Making these tonight, unfortunately the current time now has me calling them covid containment clamcakes. No tabasco, no tartar, no chowdah dipping, I go with vinegar.

  15. My mom used to make my dad drive us down to Point Judith, from Springfield (2 hrs?) just to get clam fritters! No, we never called them “cakes” always fritters. Oddly, I also remember Corn Fritters as well, but you can never find those. Stopped at Kenyon Grist Mill on the way back to get stoned ground cornmeal. I turned out to be a Chef, go figure!

    1. I totally agree! Rocky Pointe clam cakes are the best! Served in alil brown bag!! I can almost smell them. Good Times!!