Portuguese pork and clams is from the Alentejo, the country’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 (aka pork butt), an excellent choice for juicy, tender morsels—with significantly less time on the stove.–David Leite

Pork and Clams FAQs

Can I use a leaner cut of pork, such as pork loin?

We don’t recommend it. The lean cuts of pork will be tough and chewy after the long braise. Stick with pork shoulder or butt here.

How do I choose the freshest clams?

Always look for clams with closed shells when buying live, and always buy from a licensed and reputable supplier. Fresh clams (and other shellfish, for that matter) should have a “Harvested in the USA” label, and the supplier/fishmonger should be able to tell you exactly when and where they were harvested.

You may notice that there’s a bit of dirt and sand on your clams. No worries at all, the muck around it actually helps keep the clam moist until you’re ready to use them. Just soak the clams and give them a good brush before cooking.

Why didn’t my clams open?

Generally speaking, a clam that doesn’t open is probably dead. While you could still eat it, don’t. You don’t know why it died (and there are lots of reasons…none of them good) before you got your hands on it, so don’t tempt fate.

This also goes for open clams that don’t close when you tap them on the counter before cooking. As well, some clams are just so tightly joined to the shell that they’re not going to open—they’re alive but tough enough that you wouldn’t want to eat it anyway. Stubborn bast*rds!

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

Portuguese Pork and Clams | Porco Alentejana

4.79 / 41 votes
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.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisinePortuguese
Servings8 servings
Calories670 kcal
Prep Time2 hours
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time4 hours

Ingredients 

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
  • 1/4 cup red pepper paste
  • 1 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely choppped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/4 pounds small clams, such as cockles, manila, butter, or littlenecks, scrubbed and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Instructions 

  • 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.
The New Portuguese Table Cookbook

Adapted From

The New Portuguese Table

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 servingCalories: 670 kcalCarbohydrates: 28 gProtein: 39 gFat: 41 gSaturated Fat: 12 gMonounsaturated Fat: 21 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 129 mgSodium: 289 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 3 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 David Leite. Photo © 2009 Nuno Correia. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This hearty meal 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 inexpensive Pinot Grigio and Manila clams. I didn’t need to add any additional oil between batches of meat or any water while searing or braising the meat.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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71 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    OMG so good. We cut the recipe in half because it’s just my husband and I. We retired to Portugal, and David was kind enough to translate the cut of beef we needed. Still learning Portuguese. The rest of the pork is in the freezer, and I think we will do the taco pastor recipe that you recently posted.

    Thanks, David. My husband kept saying OMG! I take that as a good meal, or a heart attack, but he’s doing the dishes, so not the latter. 💕

    1. Carrie, it’s my turn to say OMG! That looks AMAZING! Congrats on the success, and I still am envious of your living in Portugal. Tenho saudades de Portugal!

  2. Hi David. I stumbled upon your recipe and it sounds scrumptious. My husband and I, also from New England (CT) retired in December 2022 and moved to Lisbon in April 2023. We’re still learning Portuguese. In the Mercado do I ask for ombro de Porco? Also, the clams here are so tiny, delicious but really small from what we’re used to in NE. Should I buy razor clams instead? Any advise, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Carrie, how envious I am! I’ve always dreamed about moving to Portugal, or at least living there for half the year.

      As far as pork for the pork and clams, it’s traditional to use lombo de porco. The reason is the pork in Portugal is not nearly as lean as the pork in the US.

      For this recipe, I changed it to shoulder only because it was more closely aligned with pork loin in Portugal. You could also use shoulder (ombro de porco).

      And even though the clams are very small in Portugal, I would just say, use more! They’re so sweet and delicate. I think razor clams would be too chewy for this dish.

      1. Go to the interior, try to find Sertā, all around there you will discover the most amazing real Portuguese cooking. Or go to the far north of Portugal, for even more extraordinary cuisine.

        1. Samuel, I’ve done both–many times! I lived in Portugal for a while and traveled extensively while researching the book—a wonderful country.