Portuguese Pork and Clams ~ Porco Alentejana

This combination of Portuguese pork and clams, also known as porco Alentejana, is a superbly comforting and oh-so-satisfying dish of marinated pork shoulder and briny clams in a white wine and red pepper sauce.

A blue bowl filled with Portuguese pork with clams and fried potato cubes.

This dish is from the Alentejo, Portugal’s vast plains region, but my version bears only a passing resemblance to the original. Portuguese cooks typically fry the marinated cubes of pork loin in lard, making for some tough chewing, even with Portugal’s tender pork. The version I was weaned on was braised, requiring hours of cooking so that the meat would soften and break down. I use pork shoulder (butt), an excellent choice for juicy, tender morsels—with significantly less time on the stove.–David Leite

Portuguese Pork with Clams | Porco Alentejana

  • Quick Glance
  • (12)
  • 2 H
  • 4 H
  • Serves 6 to 8
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Ingredients

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Directions

In a medium bowl, toss the pork chunks with the red pepper paste. Add the wine and toss again. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 36 hours.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and crank up the heat to 400°F (200°C).

In a colander set over a large bowl, drain the pork, reserving the marinade. Pat the pork dry with paper towels.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil. Working in batches, add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Add more oil in between batches, if needed. Transfer the pieces to a plate using a slotted spoon. If the bottom of the pot develops a dark coating, tip in some water in between batches and scrape it up.

Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Pour in the reserved marinade, return the pork to the pot, and cook, covered, over low heat until the meat is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If it looks as if the liquid will burble away, spoon in a bit of water.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the potato cubes with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, season lightly with salt and with plenty of pepper, and scatter in one layer on a rimmed foil-lined baking sheet. Roast, flipping them once or twice, until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Discard any clams that feel heavy (which means they’re full of sand), have broken shells, or don’t close when tapped.

Raise the heat under the pork to high, stir in the clams, cover, and cook until they open, 7 to 10 minutes. Toss out any that refuse to pop open. Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, remove half the clams from their shells, and return them to the pot. Toss out the shells. Line the bottom of the serving bowls with the potato cubes, top with the pork and clams and broth, and sprinkle with the cilantro. Have a large bowl at the ready for the shells.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

This hearty meal of Portuguese pork and clams was so satisfying and comforting and our whole family loved it. The pork was meltingly tender and the clams gave a pleasant brininess to the spicy broth. Even my kids were fighting over the last clam in the pot. It was an enjoyable weekend project and well worth the effort.

I used an inexpensive Pinot Grigio and Manila clams. I didn't need to add any additional oil between batches of meat nor any water while searing or while braising the meat.

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Comments

  1. Great recipe! Can easily be eaten as a stew or as a soup. Having visited Portugal a few times, I’ve always been a big fan of Portugese home cooking. So being able to make this and have it with dinner with a nice red blend wine from Portugal brings back a lot of memories. The photo is the final product.

  2. I love your recipes. I made the Porco Alantenjana. I used to work at a Portuguese Restaurant. I think Ferna would be proud of me. She used to make this for her and I after the customers would leave. Your recipe is just as good if not better and my husband was in love. Donna

    1. Donna, you did a fantastic job. That image is stunning and we couldn’t be more pleased with how well this turned out for you. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know.

  3. I grew up eating this dish at Tony da Caneca in the Ironbound section of Newark, and it was the last homecooked meal I got to make for my folks. This recipe is spot-on, and I’ll be serving it to someone special soon. Thanks, David!

  4. I wanted to cook something special for my husband for Father’s Day. We typically go to a restaurant to celebrate special occasions, but the current state of the pandemic kept us at home. He’d grown up in Western, MA, where he enjoyed attending Portuguese festivals with his family and friends, and later when he moved closer to Fall River, MA, would frequent restaurants with this cuisine. Once I found a couple of recipes for pork and clams, one of his favorite dishes, I showed him both; he said that Leite’s Culinaria’s recipe looked more authentic.

    This recipe is straightforward. In the past, I would have considered the dish too time-consuming to make but again, in these days of staying at home, what else do I have to do? What I learned from making this recipe is how much time improves the flavors of a dish. I marinated the pork for 36 hours before braising it for an hour and a half, which made it so, so tender and delicious. It wasn’t fall-apart-tender but juicy and meaty. The potato preparation was simple; each nugget of Yukon had a salty savoriness, I couldn’t resist. The potatoes served as the bed for the pork and clams but which certainly didn’t put them to sleep!

    (Note: I used the site’s recipe for Red Pepper Paste which produced more than was needed. Later in the week, I marinated chicken breasts with the leftover paste combined with white wine and grilled them, which resulted in a meal full of flavor and a mouthful of joy.)

    As a New Englander, my husband’s favorite “special” dish has always been steamed lobster. He’s never happier than when he has a 2-pound lobster sitting on a dinner plate in front of him. On this Father’s Day, he stopped mid-bite, and said, “You know, this dish is a very close second to lobster.”

    I nearly dropped my fork.

    I signed up as a tester for this site the day after making the dish. I decided I wanted to be part of Leite’s Culinaria and their mouth-watering dishes.

  5. I found this recipe to be the best. I always use a large pork butt, The only problem is it’s never enough meat. My family loves it so much I have to hide some so I can eat too, LOL!

    I am looking for the best goat dinner recipe. I absolutely love the dinner at our local Portuguese restaurant. It’s a stew type similar to this Pork recipe I think.

    Joe

  6. So amazing. Combined a few different recipe cooking techniques but used this recipes quantity of materials.

    1. Fantastic, Andrea! We’re delighted you enjoyed it and that you were able to adapt it to make it perfect for you.

  7. This porco Alentejana does need salt. I added at the end. I used chicken breast rather than pork (gasp!) bc that’s what I had, fennel chorizo, pancetta with the onions. It was very tasty!

    1. Lisa, glad you liked the dish. The only thing I can think of is there wasn’t enough seawater trapped in the clam shells. (They may have been purged with fresh water.) I this because this dish is typically salty without adding salt.

  8. I love pork and clams! Tasty, easy and an impressive-looking dish for company! My husband loved it, and I didn’t let my pork marinate more than 4-5 hours because I was in a time crunch. It was still delicious, but I would suggest marinating overnight for fuller flavor as the recipe instructs.

    1. Kristy, that is a massively impressive dish of pork and clams! So glad your husband liked it. And, yes, next time let it marinate overnight. Big difference!

  9. This recipe looks lovely. Is there any reason why I could not make this ahead then reheat and add the clams just before serving? Thank you!

      1. Made this dish several times, always excellent. I didn’t have pepper paste, do I used chopped wet pepper. I always use at least 3 cups of wine and add a few bay leaves. I substitute fresh mushrooms for the potatoes sometimes. Kids love it that way.

        All I can say is this is the perfect recipe for pork and clams with or without the clams. Without using clam juice.

      2. I searched and searched for the “real” way to make these after having them in a Portuguese restaraunt in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, and one day happened upon this! What luck! This has become a family favorite and is requested whenever my cousin, a personal chef, visits here at the Jersey Shore. We have a clam shack, yes literally a shack, with fresh-caught clams down the road. Mix the freshest clams you can find with this recipe and you will be in sheer heaven.

        Trust the recipe, because it works like a charm every time. I make it ahead of time, before my guest’s arrival, and it easily reheats. In fact, I like it better as all the flavors continue to develop and get well acquainted and marry with one another. Obrigado!!!

          1. I always use little necks. They work the best. The little necks come right out of the Barnegat Bay. I tried other kinds that don’t seem to work as well. These are the perfect size. Provide the perfect bite. You deserve all the praise, it’s absolutely the best I ever tried. I tried a lot of them. ❤️

  10. David, thanks for all the great Portuguese recipes. My family has enjoyed every recipe I’ve attempted. Could, or even more importantly would you ever consider cooking this in a cataplana?

    1. Jon, you are more than welcome. You could cook this in a sturdy cataplana, but I find cataplanas are better for quick-cook meals such as chouriço and clams.

  11. there’s no salt mentioned here and I don’t know when to add it. Maybe while the meat is browning? And/or after pouring the liquid in? I’m puzzled. Thanks for your help!

    1. marcella, the reason why there’s no mention of salt is that the sea water that will spill from the clams will season the dish perfectly. Add salt earlier, and you’ll get a salty mess!

    2. First, why cilantro and not parsley? Also, you really need a little cumin and a couple of bay leaves. Your recipe is good , but not a traditional recipe. Not the same without those 3 ingredients.

  12. I love everything about the new site. Everything looks so delicious, and the presentation is out of this world. Joe.

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