Steamed Clams

steamed clams in a bowl

The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

  • Total: 13 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 8 mins
  • Soaking: 30 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Yield: 1 pot

Steamed clams are buttery, garlicky nuggets of goodness drenched in a briny sauce that’s perfect for mopping up with grilled bread. Working with clams may sound daunting if you don't cook shellfish often, but it couldn’t be easier. Everything happens in one pot and the clams steam up quickly. It’s a perfect appetizer or served as a complete meal with a salad. You can also toss some cooked linguine into the pot for perfect linguine with clam sauce. 

Small, sweet clams work best for this recipe, but you can use any smaller-sized clams you like.


  • 2 pounds clams
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Garnish: chopped scallions or chives

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    steamed clam ingredients
  2. Add the clams to a bowl of salted, cold water (add about 1/4 cup of salt to a 1/2 gallon of water). Allow to sit either on the counter or the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The clams will filter out any sand from their shells while sitting in the water. 

    Remove the clams from the water and scrub the shells thoroughly and rinse with more cold water. Set the cleaned clams aside.

    clams soaking in cold water
  3. Add the butter to a large pot, one that’s large enough to fit the clams as well. Heat the butter on medium heat until the butter melts. Add the diced onion, salt, and half of the garlic. Saute until the onions are soft and translucent.

    sautéed onions in garlic
  4. Add the chicken bouillon to the onions and stir to combine. Add in 1/2 cup of water, the white wine, and lemon juice. Add the clams and remaining garlic to the broth.

    clams in broth
  5. Cover the pot with a lid. Cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the clams have just opened. Discard any clams that have not opened.

    If you are adding the cream you can add it at this point. Garnish with scallions, parsley, or chives. Serve immediately with crusty bread, pasta or just on its own. You can season with salt and pepper if you wish.

    steamed clams in broth

What Are the Best Clams for Steaming?

  • The best clams for steaming are steamers, littlenecks, cherrystones, or cockles. Smaller clams work best since they are typically sweeter and more tender. Fresh clams are a must and will be tightly closed when you purchase them. It’s best to let the clams breathe, so store them in a bowl in the fridge or in a mesh bag. Make sure they smell fresh and briny and not “fishy” when you are purchasing them. 

Do I need to soak the clams before steaming?

  • Soaking clams before steaming is a must. Clams naturally filter sand and water in and out of their shells. Place the clams in a bowl of salted, cold water for at least 30 minutes but up to 24 hours. Place the bowl in the refrigerator while soaking.

How Long Can Clams Stay in the Fridge?

  • You want to use clams as quickly as possible after purchasing, within a day is ideal. Since they have already traveled to the grocery store and then to your home, they have already been out of water for a while. If you are saving leftovers, remove the clam meat from the shells and eat within a day after cooking.