Celebration of California Garlic: Spicy Garlicky Clams Recipe by Spencer Huey


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Celebration of California Garlic: Spicy Garlicky Clams Recipe by Spencer Huey

May 16, 2023
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Celebration of California Garlic: Spicy Garlicky Clams Recipe by Spencer Huey

This Spicy Garlicky Clams recipe from Spencer Huey makes the most of California grown garlic, and uses lemon, olive oil and wine to make an incredible sauce – plus garlic toast! Be sure to chill the rest of the white wine you cook with – you’ll want a glass (or two) with these amazing garlic clams.

spencer huey grown to be great garlic influencer

From Spencer:

Garlic plays an essential role in so many food cultures all over the world. Personally, I can’t imagine cooking without it. I use garlic in vinaigrettes, sauces, braises, marinades and stir fry recipes, and in this clams recipe of course. I love how it can add a subtle savoriness when using it to sauté greens or it can be assertive and punchy like in this aioli.

California garlic is available all year long!

I’m so glad that California garlic is available year-round. Most people know how famous the city of Gilroy is for garlic, but what people might not know is that most of the garlic is grown in California’s central San Joaquin Valley.  In fact, garlic is an “Only in California” crop, meaning that California grows over 99% of the commercial garlic in our nation. You can support California farmers by looking for a California or USA origin sign when shopping at the market.

California farmers work so hard to provide us with tasty and beautiful produce. I love going to farmers markets to connect directly with the farmers, to hear what they’re growing, and try their favorite varieties or new produce. I’ve met fellow shoppers and swapped ideas on how to cook different kinds of California produce. California grows more than 400 different commodities, growing more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. That’s so crazy and it makes sense that California is the leading agricultural state in the nation and the Golden State grows just over 50% of the nation’s produce.

garlic at farmers market farmstand

Using Green Garlic in spring:

Le Grand Aioli recipe shown with seasonal vegetables

I love being able to stay connected with the seasons by supporting California farmers and visiting farmer’s markets. During the spring, we get to celebrate garlic’s seasonality and cook with immature green garlic. Think of them like green onions but with garlic; they lend a more subtle and herbaceous flavor than head garlic. My Green Garlic Aioli recipe highlights this specialty California crop.

As opposed to the green garlic in the aioli, this clams recipe uses head garlic and it’s the true star of this dish.

About this garlic-laden clams recipe:

Clams are a great way to highlight garlic and other California produce. Clams really aren’t as intimidating as people think. Feel free to add some canned tomatoes with the onion and fennel to make a red sauce version. You can easily turn this into a pasta by taking the open clams out, throwing in al dente cooked pasta and tossing it around and finally adding the clams back in. Thanks to California garlic, these garlic clams make a tasty and delicious meal.

Garlic GTBG graphic
finished bowl of spicy garlic clams recipe

Spicy Garlicky Clams Recipe

Spencer Huey
People are often intimidated to cook clams and other shellfish at home. Clams actually make the perfect weeknight meal, and you can have dinner on the table in 15-20 min. In this version, garlic is the true star and brings the whole dish together. It’s spicy, savory, garlicky, herby with tons of tasty broth to enjoy with crusty garlic toast.
2.93 from 42 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 322 kcal


  • 1.5 lbs Manila clams
  • 2-3 tablespoons California extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 2 heads garlic
  • Heavy pinch chili flakes
  • 3/4 cup California dry white wine plus more for serving
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 baguette
  • Salt


Prep the clams:

  • In a large bowl, wash the clams in lots of water until water starts to run clear (about 4-5 washings). This gets rid of the grit and dirt which can ruin the dish. Soak in water for 30 min for more grit to come out of the clams. Use your hands to lift the clams out of the water into a clean bowl (dumpling the clams into a strainer will dump the dirt right back on top of them).

Make the garlic toast:

  • Slice the baguette on a bias. Toast them in a hot pan with olive oil until golden and toasty. While hot, rub a cut head of garlic on the toast.
  • Peel and thinly slice 8-9 cloves of garlic. Cut the onion in half, peel and then chop into a small dice. Cut the fennel in a similar way removing the tough outers.

Cook the garlic clams:

  • In a large pan on medium heat, add olive oil along with the onions and fennel. Season lightly with salt (the clams have a lot of natural salt in them) and sweat for a few minutes. You want them to cook without getting too much color.
  • Add the garlic and chili flakes and sizzle for about 30 seconds until aromatic (you don’t want the garlic to get any color – it will be bitter).
  • Pour in the white wine and clams. Cover for 2-4 min giving the pan a shake everyone once and awhile. The clams are done once they have opened. Discard any clams that are not opening. .
  • Finish the clams with chopped parsley, lemon juice and zest. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve with the garlic toasts.



Serve with the same wine you used for cooking!
For a red sauce version: add 12-15 oz. canned tomatoes with the onion
For a pasta version: take the cooked, opened clams out of the pan, toss in al dente cooked pasta and stir to finsh cooking a coat the pasta, then add the clams back in


Calories: 322kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 11gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 435mgPotassium: 448mgFiber: 4gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 183IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 125mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Easy dinner recipe, garlic
Tried this recipe?Mention @cagrownofficial or tag #CAGROWN!
Spencer Cooks

About Spencer Huey:

Spencer sees food as a fertile medium for creating community. He grew up watching Jacques Pepin and Julia Child on TV, fueling a lifelong love of food. In addition to running his successful Spencer Cooks YouTube channel, he works as a cook at the world famous Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA.

Try more of Spencer’s recipes:

stone fruit and tomato salad from spencer cooks

Stone Fruit and Tomato Salad Two Ways

These salads are easy to put together, easy to adapt with what’s on hand, and the best way to enjoy summer on a plate.
Check out the video to get both salads: Tomato, peach and burrata salad with prosciutto and avocado⁣ AND summer nectarine, corn and tomato salad with hazelnuts⁣!

crispy chicken thighs with meyer lemon salsa verde

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Meyer Lemon Salsa Verde 

The chicken slowly renders resulting in golden brown, crunchy skin while the meat remains juicy, flavorful and well seasoned. Spencer’s chicken goes perfectly with the Italian herby sauce called salsa verde, with this version highlighting the zesty and prized Meyer lemon. Get the full recipe on YouTube

Are clams alive?

Clams are sold live and should be purchased from a trusted seafood monger. Look for closed shells, stored on ice, and they should smell briny like the ocean. Store clams in the fridge in a single layer with a damp paper towel on top. Clams that don’t close after being tapped should be discarded.

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