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Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce

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Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce is the perfect way to enjoy these wonderful fresh shellfish. Steamed in an incredibly flavorful broth, this easy dish will be on the table in about 30 minutes

This post and recipe card updated June 14, 2019
picture of clams and mussels in metal bucket, with lemons, garlic, parsley & red pepper flakes on table and glass of wine in backgriound

I love all kinds of seafood, and growing up we ate it regularly. Shrimp is the seafood I eat most often and I have quite a few Shrimp Recipes on the blog.

I rarely eat clams and mussels, and I had never cooked them. But then I saw some fabulous looking grilled clams my friends made and I got inspired.

I headed straight to a fresh fish market in Tulsa that flies in product daily. After some encouragement from the fishmonger, I put on my adventurous cap and created Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • It is a one-pot meal that is easy to make
  • The beautiful sauce soaks into every clam and mussel
  • Its ready in about 30 minutes
picture of clams and mussels in metal bucket, with lemons, garlic, parsley & red pepper flakes on table and glass of wine in background
SELECTING AND WORKING WITH CLAMS & MUSSELS

Go to a fish market or the seafood counter of your grocery store, especially if you’ve never bought clams or mussels before.

A reputable fishmonger:

  • will never sell you bad product
  • is knowledgeable
  • wants to help, and will give you recommendations

Clams and mussels are freshest and safest when they are completely closed.

TWO WAYS TO TEST PARTIALLY OPEN SHELLS

  • Manually close the shell with 2 fingers, hold for 2-3 seconds, and let go
  • Shock the shell by running it under cold water

If the shells close, they are good to go. If they remain open, they are dead and need to be tossed.

INGREDIENT TIPS FOR CLAMS AND MUSSELS IN GARLIC BUTTER WINE SAUCE

Use real butter! It has more flavor and melts better than margarine or imitation butter, and a little goes a long way

Use fresh onion and garlic. They both add such wonderful flavor, and garlic/onion powder really won’t do the trick

Use wine that you like to drink! If you use a wine you don’t like, you’ll have a dish you don’t like. I prefer a dry, crisp white.

Red Pepper Flakes add a big kick, so go light in the beginning and you can add more at the end

Fresh-squeezed lemon juice and fresh parsley add another punch of flavor as a final garnish

Clams and mussels don’t take long to cook

  • Clams will take anywhere from 3-10 minutes to open, depending on size and freshness.
  • Mussels only take 2-3 minutes to open
picture of clams and mussels in metal bucket, with lemons, garlic, parsley & red pepper flakes on table and glass of wine in backgriound
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS 

Rinse clams and mussels under cold, running water. Drain well in a colander.

Melt half of the butter in a heavy, wide-bottom pot. Add onions and cook until translucent. Remove onions and set aside

Melt remaining butter, plus oil in pot. Add garlic and cook until golden brown. Garlic cooks quickly, so keep an eye on it.

Add white wine and red pepper flakes, and bring to a low boil

overhead shot of broth in pot

Add clams and cook until they open, removing clams as they open. Transfer clams to a bowl, and keep the bowl covered

overhead shot of clams steaming in pot

Add a little more wine, if necessary. Add mussels and cook until they open.

overhead shot of mussels steaming in pot

Return clams and onion to pan, and add fresh lemon juice.

Transfer to a serving bowl.  Garnish with parsley and a little more red pepper flakes, if desired

picture of clams and mussels in metal bucket, with lemons, garlic, parsley & red pepper flakes on table and glass of wine in backgriound
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How many clams and mussels should I buy?  I typically buy about 1/2 pound each of clams and mussels per person. That sounds like a lot, but each one has very little meat and most of that weight is from the shells. Also, the fishmonger will usually give you a little extra, in case any are bad.

Do I have to use wine? I highly recommend it. The alcohol cooks out, leaving just wonderful flavor.

What if I don’t want to buy a whole bottle for one dish? Most stores now carry small boxed wine! It’s a great way to try new wines, and you don’t have to commit to a full sized bottle.

What are the best serving options for Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce? 

  • On their own, as a light meal
  • With any long pasta. I use Bucatini, because I love the thicker cut and the hole in the middle soaks up the sauce
  • With a chunk of crusty bread to soak up the sauce
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Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce

Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce

Yield: 2 people
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Clams and Mussels in Garlic Butter Wine Sauce is the perfect way to enjoy fresh shellfish. Steamed in an incredibly flavorful broth, this easy dish will be on the table in about 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound clams
  • 1 pound mussels
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
  • Fresh parsley, to garnish
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. CHECK ALL CLAMS AND MUSSELS! They should be completely closed
  2. Test any clams/mussels that are partially open: Press shell together with thumb and index finger, hold for 2-3 seconds and release. OR, shock the shells under cold, running water. If shells close, then they are safe to eat. If they remain open, THROW THEM AWAY
  3. Rinse clams and mussels, and drain in a colander
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy, wide-bottom pot
  5. Add onions, and saute over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes, until onions are light golden brown. Remove onions and set aside.
  6. Add remaining butter, plus avocado or olive oil.
  7. When butter has melted, add garlic and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
  8. Add white wine and red pepper flakes, and bring to a low boil
  9. Add clams, cover, and steam until they just open. (will take 3-10 minutes, depending on size and freshness)
  10. Remove clams with slotted spoon to reserve broth. Clams will not all open at the same time, so remove as they open. 
  11. Add a little more wine, if necessary. Add mussels, cover, and steam until just open. (will take 3-4 minutes)
  12. Turn heat to low, and add clams and onion to pan. Squeeze lemon juice over clams and mussels. For more heat, sprinkle with a little more red pepper flakes
  13. Transfer clams, mussels and broth to serving dish. Garnish with fresh parsley. 
  14. Serve immediately. 

Notes

Use wine that you like to drink! If you use a wine you don’t like, you’ll have a dish you don’t like. I prefer a dry, crisp white wine

Clams and mussels don't take long to cook

  • Clams will take anywhere from 3-10 minutes to open, depending on size and freshness. 
  • Mussels only take 2-3 minutes to open

Do I have to use wine? I highly recommend it. The alcohol cooks out, leaving just wonderful flavor. 

What if I don’t want to buy a whole bottle for one dish? Most stores now carry small boxed wine! It’s a great way to try new wines, and you don’t have to commit to a full sized bottle.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 6oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 553Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 155mgSodium: 908mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 55g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

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Angela

Saturday 13th of March 2021

Can I use frozen clams and mussels?

Karyl

Saturday 8th of May 2021

I have never tried using frozen. If you do, I would thaw them thoroughly first, as I do when I'm cooking any seafood, and then drain them well before adding them to the pan. If you do try it, I'd love to hear how it turned out!

Skip Ohs

Thursday 24th of September 2020

I add a can of minced clams for flavor

Jason

Friday 7th of August 2020

Do you pull the beards out of the mussels? Can’t wait to cook this!! Cooking it tonight!!

Karyl

Saturday 8th of August 2020

The mussels I get rarely have them, so I never really thought about that! You can definitely pull them out, but it's not required. I'd love to hear you like the dish Jason

Danielle

Friday 3rd of April 2020

I miss seafood recipes so much. With all the lockdown, I focus on a slightly different choice of ingredients, but I just can't wait to make this recipe when the time comes. It is too good to miss it.

Rebecca

Tuesday 13th of August 2019

I made this with mussels & baby shrimp. I used a bag of boil seasoning 1st & made the shrimp 1st then the mussels. I took both out about 2 min early & made your garlic butter sauce, 1/2 cup of my water from the boil & 1/2 cup of leftover spaghetti sauce. I mixed the seafood back in & served it w/collezione pasta & crusty bread. It was great!

Karyl

Thursday 29th of August 2019

Your version sounds really delicious Rebecca! I've never thought to try it with shrimp, but now you've inspired me :)

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