Clams in White Wine Sauce

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portugese clams recipe

Portuguese cuisine has a soft spot for shellfish, apparently. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make some easy clams, and with this cultural challenge, I finally found my opportunity.

clam out of the shell recipe

And even if you don’t speak a lick of Portuguese (like me), at least your taste buds will be saying “estes mariscos são incríveis” after experiencing this dish.

This recipe is especially amazing since it doesn’t require a whole lot – plus, where I live right now, clams and mussels are stupid cheap, so even better for my budget.

garlic clams for pinterest

Here’s What You Need

ingredients for garlic clams
  • Little neck clams: The star ingredient, providing a delicate and briny flavor.
  • Garlic: Adds a savory aroma and taste to enhance the overall flavor profile.
  • White wine: Infuses the clams with a subtle fruity and acidic note.
  • Super fine bread crumbs: Adds texture and absorbs the flavors of the dish.
  • Water: Helps create steam for cooking the clams and contributes to the sauce.
  • Red pepper flakes: Provides a spicy kick and adds depth of flavor.
  • Olive oil: Used for sautéing the garlic and adding richness to the dish.
  • Fresh parsley: Optional topping for a vibrant and herbaceous finish.
  • Fresh cilantro: Optional topping for a fresh and aromatic touch.
  • Crusty bread: Served alongside the clams to soak up the flavorful white wine sauce.

Sauteing the Flavors

To begin, let’s infuse the dish with some bold flavors. Start by sautéing the garlic in a pan with a touch of oil, along with the fiery kick of red chili pepper flakes. Now, I have to confess, I got a little distracted while the oil was heating, resulting in some blackened bits in my pan. Oops. But you know what they say, sometimes the best flavors come from happy accidents!

sauting garlic

Adding Depth and Texture

Once the garlic has released its aroma and the kitchen is filled with its delightful scent, it’s time to add some texture to our dish. Toss in the bread crumbs, letting them soak up the flavors of the garlic-infused oil. And now for the star ingredient – the clams! Gently introduce them to the pan, allowing them to mingle with the aromatic breadcrumbs.

garlic and breadcrumbs
clams with garlic and breadcrumbs in skillet

The Steaming Magic

As the breadcrumbs start to turn golden brown and crispy, it’s time to take the flavor to the next level. Pour in a combination of water and white wine, which will create a heavenly steam bath for the clams. As the liquid simmers and mingles with the other ingredients, it will infuse the clams with a delightful essence.

Cover the pan and let the clams steam away for 5-8 minutes, or until each and every one of them has graciously opened up. But remember, my hungry friends, don’t forget to sneak a peek every now and then to ensure they’re not overcooking! We want those clams to be tender and succulent, not rubbery.

simmering clams in wine sauce

A Discerning Eye

After the steaming process, it’s time to give our clams a quick inspection. Any clams that stubbornly refuse to open their shells should be discarded. They were likely already deceased before cooking and can potentially harbor harmful bacteria. However, fear not! In my batch, I only encountered two unopened clams, which assures me that the rest are fresh and ready to be enjoyed.

lemon and clams in wine sauce

A Perfect Pairing

In true Portuguese fashion, this dish is traditionally served with a loaf of crusty Portuguese bread. However, you can pair it with the crusty bread of your choice. The purpose of the bread is to soak up the flavorful white wine sauce and add an extra layer of satisfaction to every bite.

open clams in wine sauce

Tips & Tricks

  • Choosing Fresh Clams: When buying clams, make sure they are fresh and alive. Look for clams that are tightly closed or close when tapped. Discard any that are already open and don’t close when tapped.
  • Properly Washing and Debearding Clams: Rinse the clams under cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Use a small knife or your fingers to gently remove the beard (the fibrous threads) attached to the clam.
  • Adjusting Spice Level: Red pepper flakes can vary in heat intensity. Adjust the amount according to your personal preference for spiciness.
  • Avoid Overcooking: Keep a close eye on the clams while they steam. Overcooking can result in chewy and rubbery clams. Remove them from heat as soon as they open fully.
  • Discard Unopened Clams: If any clams remain unopened after cooking, discard them. They were likely dead before cooking and may not be safe to consume.
  • Pairing with Crusty Bread: Serve the clams with crusty bread, which can be used to soak up the flavorful white wine sauce. It adds an extra element of satisfaction to the dish.
  • Garnish with Fresh Herbs: Consider adding fresh parsley or cilantro as optional toppings. They provide a pop of freshness and complement the flavors of the clams.
  • Experiment with Wine Choices: Feel free to experiment with different types of white wine, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, to customize the flavor profile of the dish.

The Moment of Truth

Now comes the much-awaited moment – savoring your perfectly cooked clams. When gently forked, the clams should effortlessly release from their shells, showcasing their tender and juicy meat. No chewiness allowed! The harmony of flavors between the garlic, red chili pepper flakes, and white wine sauce will create a symphony in your mouth.

garlic clam recipe

I can’t wait to add this easy and delicious recipe to my arsenal of regularly cooked meals! It’s a dish that not only satisfies my taste buds but also my budget.

garlic clams in wine sauce

So go ahead hungry people, and give these Clams in White Wine Sauce a try. Your taste buds will thank you for this Portuguese delight!

steamed clams

Clams in White Wine Sauce

The Starving Chef
Tender clams infused with garlic, red pepper flakes, and white wine, served with a crusty bread for a delightful seafood dish.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine Portuguese, Seafood
Servings 2


  • 15 little neck clams
  • 5 cloves garlic sliced thin
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup super fine bread crumbs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley for topping, optional
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro for topping, optional


  • Wash and debeard the clams. Discard any that are already open or don't close when tapped.
  • Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Slice the garlic and add it to the pan with the red pepper flakes.
  • Pour in the breadcrumbs to the pan and let them soak up the flavors of the garlic-infused oil.
  • Infuse the lemon slices with the wine (either let them sit overnight or add the juice directly).
  • Add the clams to the pan followed by the infused wine and water.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and cover. Let it steam for 5-8 minutes or until all of the clams have opened.
  • Top the cooked clams with parsley and cilantro, if desired. Discard any unopened clams.
  • Place the opened clams into small bowls and pour the white wine sauce over them. Serve the clams alongside crusty bread and enjoy!
Keyword clams, garlic, seafood, wine
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!