5 Best Side Dishes & 5 Best Wine Pairings for Grilled Clams

by Ella

Grilled clams are a seafood lover’s delight, offering a tantalizing combination of smoky flavors and briny goodness. Whether you’re planning a backyard barbecue or an intimate dinner party, grilled clams can be the star of the show. However, to truly elevate your seafood feast, you need to consider what to serve alongside these delectable bivalves. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore a variety of accompaniments, from complementary side dishes to perfect wine pairings, to ensure your grilled clams shine on any occasion.

Grilled clams, with their succulent and tender meat, are a versatile seafood dish that can be enjoyed in various culinary contexts. While they are delicious on their own, serving them with the right accompaniments can enhance the overall dining experience. Whether you prefer a classic approach or are looking to experiment with new flavors, there’s something for everyone when it comes to complementing grilled clams.


Grilled Clams

Before diving into the world of side dishes and pairings, it’s essential to understand the appeal of grilled clams on their own. Grilling clams imparts a unique smokiness to their naturally briny and slightly sweet flavor, creating a harmonious balance that seafood enthusiasts adore. The cooking process elevates the clams’ taste and texture, making them a sought-after delicacy.


See also: How To Cook Clams: A Step-by-Step Guide


Ingredients for Grilled Clams

1. Fresh Clams: Opt for high-quality, fresh clams from your local seafood market. Varieties like littleneck, Manila, or cherrystone clams are excellent choices for grilling.


2. Olive Oil: A light drizzle of olive oil helps prevent sticking and adds a subtle richness to the clams.

3. Garlic: Crushed or minced garlic adds depth and complexity to the clams’ flavor.

4. Herbs: Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or basil provide a burst of freshness.

5. Lemon: A squeeze of lemon juice adds a zesty, citrusy note that complements the clams’ natural flavors.

6. Salt and Pepper: Seasoning with salt and pepper enhances the taste of the clams.

Now that we’ve established the foundation, let’s explore various accompaniments that can elevate your grilled clams from tasty to unforgettable.

How do I grill clams?

Grilling clams is relatively simple:


  • Fresh clams
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic (minced)
  • Herbs (such as parsley)
  • Lemon wedges
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.

Rinse the clams thoroughly to remove any sand or debris.

In a bowl, toss the clams with olive oil, minced garlic, chopped herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place the clams directly on the grill grates.

Grill for about 5-7 minutes or until the clams open. Discard any clams that do not open.

Serve the grilled clams with lemon wedges for added flavor.

How can I tell if the clams are fresh and safe to eat?

When selecting clams for grilling, follow these guidelines:

Look for tightly closed shells: Fresh clams should have tightly closed shells. Avoid clams with shells that are cracked, chipped, or open before cooking.

Check for responsiveness: Gently tap open clams on the counter. If they close when tapped, they are still alive and safe to cook. If they remain open, discard them.

Smell test: Fresh clams should have a clean, briny scent of the sea. Avoid clams with a strong, unpleasant odor, as this may indicate spoilage.

Store properly: Store clams in the refrigerator in a breathable container (like a mesh bag or a bowl covered with a damp cloth) and use them within a day or two of purchase.

Complementary Side Dishes

1. Garlic Bread:

The classic combination of garlic bread and grilled clams is a match made in culinary heaven. Toasted baguette slices slathered with garlic butter not only provide a delightful crunch but also help soak up the delicious clam juices.

Recipe: Garlic Bread


  • Baguette or Italian bread
  • Butter
  • Garlic cloves (minced)
  • Fresh parsley (chopped)
  • Salt and pepper


Slice the bread into manageable pieces.

In a bowl, mix softened butter, minced garlic, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.

Spread the garlic butter mixture generously on the bread slices.

Toast the slices until they are golden brown.

Serve alongside your grilled clams for a delightful combination.

2. Grilled Vegetables:

Adding grilled vegetables to your seafood feast is an excellent way to balance the richness of the clams with a healthy and colorful side. Asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini, and corn are perfect choices.

Recipe: Grilled Vegetables


  • Assorted vegetables (asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini, corn)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic (minced)
  • Fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, or oregano)
  • Salt and pepper


Toss the vegetables with olive oil, minced garlic, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.

Grill the vegetables until they are tender and have grill marks.

Arrange them on a platter and serve alongside your grilled clams.

3. Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil:

A simple yet flavorful pasta dish can complement the grilled clams perfectly. Linguine or spaghetti tossed in garlic-infused olive oil creates a harmonious pairing.

Recipe: Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil


  • Linguine or spaghetti
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic (thinly sliced)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Fresh parsley (chopped)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, sauté thinly sliced garlic in olive oil over low heat until it turns golden but not browned.

Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a touch of heat (optional).

Toss the cooked pasta in the garlic-infused olive oil.

Garnish with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve alongside your grilled clams for a satisfying meal.

4. Coleslaw:

Coleslaw provides a refreshing contrast to the richness of grilled clams. Its crisp, tangy, and slightly creamy nature balances the seafood’s smokiness.

Recipe: Coleslaw


  • Green cabbage (shredded)
  • Carrots (grated)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Celery seeds
  • Salt and pepper


In a bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, celery seeds, salt, and pepper to create the dressing.

Toss the shredded cabbage and grated carrots in the dressing until well coated.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve alongside your grilled clams for a delightful contrast in textures and flavors.

5. Quinoa Salad:

For a healthier and protein-rich side dish, consider a quinoa salad. It adds a nutritious element to your meal while providing a delightful blend of textures and flavors.

Recipe: Quinoa Salad


  • Quinoa
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Cucumber (diced)
  • Red onion (finely chopped)
  • Fresh herbs (mint, parsley, or cilantro)
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Cook the quinoa according to package instructions and let it cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, finely chopped red onion, and fresh herbs.

Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

Toss everything together and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Accompany your grilled clams with this vibrant and nutritious salad.

Wine Pairings for Grilled Clams

Pairing the right wine with grilled clams can elevate the dining experience by complementing the flavors and enhancing the overall enjoyment of the meal. Here are some wine options to consider:

1. Chardonnay:

A crisp and unoaked Chardonnay works well with grilled clams. Its citrus notes and moderate acidity complement the brininess of the seafood, while the absence of heavy oak allows the clams’ natural flavors to shine.

2. Sauvignon Blanc:

Sauvignon Blanc’s bright acidity and herbal undertones make it an excellent choice for grilled clams. The wine’s zesty character pairs wonderfully with the smokiness of the clams.

3. Pinot Grigio:

Pinot Grigio, with its light and refreshing profile, is another superb match for grilled clams. Its subtle citrus notes and clean finish enhance the seafood’s delicate flavors.

4. Rosé:

A dry rosé, with its hints of red fruit and balanced acidity, can be a surprising but delightful choice for grilled clams. It provides a refreshing contrast to the smoky, briny taste of the clams.

5. Sparkling Wine:

If you’re celebrating a special occasion, consider serving sparkling wine or Champagne with your grilled clams. The effervescence and acidity of these wines can elevate the entire dining experience, making it feel truly festive.


Grilled clams are a culinary delight that can shine even brighter when paired with the right accompaniments. Whether you opt for classic choices like garlic bread or explore more inventive options like quinoa salad, the key is to strike a balance that enhances the smoky, briny goodness of the clams. Additionally, choosing the right wine to complement your meal can elevate the experience to new heights.

Next time you fire up the grill for a seafood feast, consider the suggestions in this guide to create a memorable and satisfying meal centered around grilled clams. By paying attention to both the clams themselves and the dishes and wines you serve alongside them, you’ll ensure that your guests savor every delicious bite. So, get ready to impress your family and friends with a seafood extravaganza that they won’t soon forget.



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