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

4.77 / 42 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
Servings8 servings
Calories670 kcal
Prep Time2 hours
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time4 hours


  • 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


  • 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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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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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    My father was Portuguese, born and raised in Leça de Palmeira, so I cooked this dish for Mother’s Day 2023, as my mom and dad bonded over their mutual love of cooking and instilled that passion in me as well. I took a slightly alternative approach in an attempt to “upscale” the dish from rustic to “fine dining.” purely for the sake of pampering mi madre for the holiday. I’m not entirely happy with my cilantro leaf placement but feel that the final result ultimately honors the memory of my dad and left a smile and single tear on my moms face. Thank you, David.

    1. Fernando, that look amazing! What’s your issue with the cilantro? North of Porto is a lovely area. I fell quite hard for Matosinhos. And..you mother must have been thrilled with this dish. Por favor, deseje a sua mãe um feliz dia das mães atrasado.

  2. 5 stars
    Yummm. Great recipe! All my friends at the holiday gathering loved it! Thank you for having so many authentic Portuguese recipes! It is my heritage and my Dad grew up in the Flint section of Fall River!

  3. 5 stars
    Sorry, I came back to reprint this recipe and saw you question, The dish I am looking for is made with pork and pork liver (no potatoes) with similar flavors to pork and littlenecks but I believe it had either cinnamon or allspice in it. she would boil the liver first remove the skin that forms on the liver and then add it to the pork meat which had been braised for at least hour before adding the liver and braising for at least another 1/2 hr. I have had the dish at a local restaurant that is no longer open and their recipe was very close to my mothers. Unfortunately none of the other restaurants make anything that is even close. Pork liver is not easy to find anymore (even in Fall River).

    1. I think you might be looking for porco com molho de figado. There are several recipes on the internet. I can’t recommend any, as I haven’t tried them. But it’s a start!