Recipe: Portuguese New England Clam Boil

This recipe is inspired by my first boyfriend, who not only has Portuguese roots but also hails from the great region of New England. When he would mention these "clambakes" that would happen back in Massachusetts, I would have no idea what he was talking about (I'm from California).

Eventually, I learned that he and his friends would take part in the glorious New England tradition of building a fire, heating a layer of stones they'd found on the beach then covering the stones with wet seaweed once they were glowing and very hot. They'd then steam clams (or other shellfish) right over the top and feast on seafood, plus steamed potatoes, sausage and corn. It's a technique said to have been learned from Native Americans, and the feast is one of the most quintessential summertime meals.

This is all well and good, but it's a little impractical (and possibly illegal) for people who don't have access to an open coastline. An easier option is a clam boil, which preserves the essential elements of a clambake but makes things a little more pragmatic at home, and leaves you with the added benefit of a ton of hot, flavorful shellfish broth. Load up a pot with clams, aromatics and linguiça (spicy Portuguese sausage) for the ultimate party in a pot.

For more fun summer ideas, check out The Hot 100. Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Portuguese New England Clam Boil
5 from 112 ratings
Learn how to make a New England clam boil in a big pot, complete with Portuguese sausage.
Prep Time
Cook Time
to 10 servings
new england clam boil
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic heads, split in half
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Four 12-ounce bottles light lager beer
  • 2 pounds medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 pounds linguiça, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 35 (about 4 pounds) littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
  • 4 ears corn, husked and cut in half
  • ½ cup thinly sliced (about 3) scallions, green and white parts
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • Lemon wedges
  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, black peppercorns and red pepper flakes, and season with salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft but haven't browned too much, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the beer and potatoes, and season with more salt. Increase the heat and cook at a high simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size. Add the sausage, nestling each piece into the broth. Top with the clams and corn. Cover and cook until the clams begin to open, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, divide the clams, sausage and vegetables into bowls. Ladle the broth into each bowl and sprinkle the scallions and parsley over the tops. Serve with lemon wedges.
Rate this recipe