steamed clams in white wine & butter

Some of my fondest summer memories involve sitting at a picnic table with friends and a box of steamed clams with a bowl of melted butter. This is a slightly fancier version of our takeaway clams, but still captures the easy, summer-ness of them. This dish is very simple to put together, but has a big impact. It is a perfect summer meal to serve for a date night or when having a few friends over. Just remember to set out a big bowl for discarded shells, and have plenty of napkins on hand because you will get covered in butter/clam juices.  That is part of the beauty of it.



I pick up the clams on the day that I plan to serve them, which allows me to also pick up a freshly-made loaf of bread at the same time.  I usually go for an Italian or French bread. I wouldn’t buy clams in advance, because freshness is key. I store them in their bag on a paper-towel lined plate in the refrigerator until I am ready to prepare them.



Steamed Clams in White Wine & Butter

Serves 2 – 3


  • 50 littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup flour or cornmeal // I prefer cornmeal, but if you don’t have any available you can use flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine // I used a pinot grigio
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut up into chunks
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Serve with:

  • Crusty bread
  • Pasta


  1. Wash all of the clams under cold water. I have a designated nylon brush that I use for scrubbing clams and mussels.  Discard any clams that have broken, cracked, or open shells. If the shells are slightly open, I give them a firm tap and set them aside. If they are still open by the time that I am done with cleaning the rest of the clams, I discard them. Most of the time, they will close. Place them into a bowl that is big enough to cover by at least 1 inch of water.
  2. Fill the bowl full of clean clams with cold water. Sprinkle the cornmeal or flour over the top. Swirl gently to combine. The clams will ingest this and release any sand. This is the key to non-gritty clams.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  Rinse clams and return to a clean bowl. (I usually put them in a large colander, which is the placed inside of a bowl. This allows the sand to drop to the bottom, and makes it easy to rinse them.)
  3. Repeat the soaking process if you would like, but I find that once is enough as long as the clams weren’t super dirty to begin with. Drain the clams, and place in the refrigerator until you need them.
  4. In a large, heavy pot with a tight fitting lid heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  5. Pour in the white wine, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until it has reduced by half.
  6. Add in the clams. You don’t have to be super gentle, but you don’t want to crack any of the shells either. Cover and let steam for 5 minutes.
  7. At this point, the shells should begin to crack open slightly. If none are open, give it a couple more minutes with the lid on and check again. Sprinkle the butter and red pepper over clams.  Recover and give the whole pot a good shake.  This moves the clams slightly so you don’t have to worry about them burning.  Let them steam for another 5 minutes.
  8. Check the clams again.  Steam them until most or all have opened completely.  Discard any clams that are not open.
  9. Transfer the clams into bowls, making sure to scoop up lots of the yummy juice. Serve with lots of fresh bread to dip with. Or serve the clams/juices over pasta.


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