Jamaican Jerk Clams

Savory, earthy, warm, spicy, yet bright, Jamaican Jerk Clams will have you jammin’. Pop open a Red Stripe and prepared to be transported to the islands.

Jamaican Jerk Clams

It’s no secret how much I love seafood, like Macadamia Crusted Hot Honey Salmon or Grilled Whole Snapper. Clams however are totally my jam. There’s something just so happy and cheerful when they pop open, especially when cooked directly over fire.

What is Jamaican Jerk?

Jamaican jerk refers to both the style of cooking also a dry spice and wet marinade. The first reference of jerk in history is associated with the indigenous Taino. The word itself is believed to come from the term charqui, a Spanish word that eventually led to the English word jerky.

Traditionally jerk was cooked over an open fire with pimento wood providing the fuel. It was often a whole pig. Today, old oil barrels split in half fueled by charcoal are the predominate cooking method. Chicken, pork, beef, and seafood are all popular.

Regardless of the protein, there are certain hallmarks to the sweet, spicy, savory, and herbaceous flavors of jerk. Allspice and the fruit and fiery scotch bonnet are a must. Green onions and thyme are also common components. Onions, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are other common aromatics that add to this complex flavor profile. Every bite is an experience, alive with a burst of different flavors.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Quick Cooking – The most labor-intensive portion of this recipe is chopping the vegetables and aromatics. The clams themselves grill up in 2-4 minutes while the sauce doesn’t take long to simmer and reduce.
  • Depth of Flavor – Sweet, savory, spicy, herbaceous, warm, and bright, the combination of ingredients in this grilled seafood recipe hits all of the flavor notes. Plus, beer.
  • Interactive – Get your friends and family gathered around the grill. Grilled clams are fun to watch cook and they bubble, sputter, and pop. Not only is cooking them an fun experience but gathering around a cast iron skillet with chunks of charred bread is also part of what makes this dish an experience.
  • Budget Friendly – Clams are on the more budget friendly side of seafood. Throw in spices you may already have, and easily accessible produce and this impressive clam recipe will be as easy to shop for as it is delicious.
  • Easy Process – Skip the hassle of a digital thermometer. Clams have their own built-in sign to immediately let you know they are done. The second they pop simply remove them from the heat. No guessing required and also no fear of overcooking them.


Jamaican Jerk Clams

This jerk seafood recipe is all about combining fresh ingredients with warm, fragrant spices. Not only is it budget friendly but it also combines aromatics you might already have.

  • Littleneck clams – These quick cooking cheerful bivalves are the most tender of the clams. Always make sure that you don’t have any cracked or chipped shells when you’re purchasing your clams, and that they’re all closed.
  • Shallot – Adds a mild, aromatic onion flavor and sweetness.
  • Garlic – Pungent, sharp, and aromatic, it perfumes all of the broth.
  • Scallions – Adds fresh, bright onion flavor to the broth and also used as garnish.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper – These colorful peppers have a spice level similar habaneros but are fruitier and a little sweeter. The more citrusy habanero can be substituted if you don’t have access to fresh scotch bonnet peppers.
  • Ginger – Sweet, spicy, and deeply fragrant, this adds depth of flavor to the broth.
  • Whole Allspice Berries – Part of the trademark of Jamaican jerk is the flavor infused into every bite from pimento wood, the tree that grows allspice berries. Sprinkling whole allspice berries over your hot charcoals will give you a similar experience.
  • Ground Allspice – This warm spice is a little sweet yet savory and spicy. It adds complexity to Jamaican jerk.
  • Cinnamon – Sweet, warming, and aromatic, cinnamon compliments the allspice.
  • Brown Sugar – Balances the bitter components while both mellowing the heat of the scotch bonnet and enhancing its fruitiness.
  • Soy Sauce – Adds salt and instant umami to the broth.
  • Thyme – This citrusy herb adds a fresh, verdant pop to the broth.
  • Roma Tomato – Not only do the tomatoes add a layer of acidic sweetness, but they’re also just fun to scoop up with the clam shells.
  • Beer – Red Stripe is the way to go for this recipe. Since you already have it open for the clams, go ahead and finish the rest while you cook these up! Any Caribbean style lager or pilsner will work for this recipe.
  • Broth – This helps stretch out the broth while balancing the bitterness of the beer. Use vegetable broth to keep it pescatarian or use chicken broth for a neutral flavor.
  • Limes – Adds a burst of sunny brightness. Make sure to serve extra wedges when serving.
  • Unsalted Butter – A couple of tablespoons of butter at the end add instant richness and creaminess to the finished broth.
  • Crusty Bread – Skip the forks, the only utensil you need for these is slices of charred bread to dip up all of the deeply flavorful broth.

How to Make Jamaican Jerk Clams

Whether you’re looking for a fun dish to serve while watching the game, or an easy and elegant Friday night addition to your happy hour, these grilled clams are sure to become a favorite.

Jamaican Jerk Clams
  • Fire It Up – Prepare your grill for two zone cooking, banking your charcoal to one side while leaving a cooler zone on the other side of your grill. Once your charcoal is ready sprinkle a good handful of allspice berries directly over your hot coals. This same recipe can be prepared on a gas grill, without the addition of the allspice berries.
  • Heat It Up – Heat your cast iron skillet over the hot coals. Once hot move it over to indirect heat. Add your neutral oil.
Jamaican Jerk Clams
  • Aromatics – Add in your aromatics. Let your shallots, garlic, scallions, ginger, and scotch bonnet peppers sauté until they are tender, and the shallots are slightly translucent.
  • Spice it Up – Add your allspice, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Stir to combine and then add your tomatoes.
Jamaican Jerk Clams
  • Cheers – Add your beer, thyme, and soy sauce. Let it reduce by half.
  • Simmer – Add in your broth and allow everything to come to a simmer.
Jamaican Jerk Clams
  • Clam Jam – Place your cleaned clams over direct heat. They will begin to slightly bubble and then pop open. Once they open add them to your skillet, careful to retain as much of the brine as possible. Discard any clams that don’t open.
  • Serve it Up – Squeeze in your lime juice. Stir your clams into the jerk broth. Garnish with extra lime wedges and your reserved scallions. Don’t forget the crusty bread!
Jamaican Jerk Clams


While beer adds a bitter note that goes well with the warm spices and bright pop of acid from the lime, dry white wine also works in this recipe. The amount is the same and will give you a slightly lighter and brighter tasting broth.

In addition to swapping the beer for wine, you can also swap the clams for shrimp. Allow your jerk broth to come to a simmer, letting some of the alcohol cook out. Then arrange your shrimp in your cast iron skillet and let them cook for 5-7 minutes until they are pink, slightly curled, and firm to the touch but with a little spring to them. They should be 120 degrees.

Finally, while there is nothing more fun than grilling clams directly over charcoal, this recipe can be prepared on the stovetop. You will want to use a skillet with a lid or a Dutch oven. Allow your Jamaican jerk broth to come to a simmer. Once simmering add your clams into the broth and cover your skillet or pot. Let them cook for 5-7 minutes or until they have just popped open. Remove any clams that didn’t open.

How to Store and Clean Live Clams

  • Buying – When purchasing your clams, always look for clams that are closed and don’t have damaged shells. If they are open, give them a light tap. If they close back up they are still alive.
  • Storing – Always plan on cooking your live clams the same day that you purchase them. However, they can be bought earlier in the day and stored in the refrigerator. Keep them in a colander either on a plate or with the colander in a larger bowl so the air can flow around them. Cover the top of them with a damp paper towel.
  • Cleaning – There are multiple methods when it comes to cleaning clams including but not limited to adding them to salted water or throwing in a sprinkle of cornmeal. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best and also easiest. Give your clams a gentle scrub to remove any outside grit. Place them in a colander and put the colander into a larger bowl. Fill the bowl with cool water and allow your clams to soak for 10 minutes. Dump the water from the bowl and give the clams a rinse. Repeat the process another 1-2 times until there is no sand in the bowl. Your clams may open while they are soaking in the water. Give them a gentle tap to make sure they close. Discard any clams that remain open.
Littleneck Clams

Tip From the Beach

Grilling clams isn’t just a great way to add additional flavor to them, it’s also an easy way to cook them. This works for all sizes of clams, from littlenecks to meaty and might quahogs.

Don’t stop with the clams though! Grilling bivalves is a quick and easy to prepare them. If you’ve ever been intimidated by cooking oysters and haven’t masted the art of shucking, pop the whole oysters on the grill. As they build up pressure inside from the heat, their shells will naturally pop open on their own. No shucking required!

Jamaican Jerk Clams

Looking for more Jamaican jerk? Make sure to check out my recipe for Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken.


Jamaican Jerk Clams

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Grilled clams are combined with the sweet, spicy, savory, and herbaceous flavors of Jamaican jerk that will have you double dipping crusty charred bread. 

  • Author: Nicole Stover
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2-4 1x
  • Category: Seafood
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: Caribbean


Units Scale
  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 scotch bonnet peppers, seeds removed, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 4 scallions, chopped, reserve a couple tablespoons for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 23 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 teaspoons less sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup beer, lager or pilsner recommended
  • 1/2 cup broth
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Crusty bread for serving
  • 5 tablespoons allspice berries, optional


  1. Prepare your grill for two-zone cooking, banking your charcoal to one side. Sprinkle your allspice berries over the charcoal.
  2. Heat your cast iron skillet with oil over the direct heat. Move to the indirect side.
  3. Add your shallots, garlic, ginger, and most of your green onions. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until the shallots are translucent.
  4. Add your allspice, cinnamon, sugar, and tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the beer, soy sauce, and thyme. Allow it to come to a simmer and slightly reduce.
  6. Add the broth and stir to combine.
  7. While the jerk mixture is simmering, place your clams over direct heat. 
  8. As soon as they begin to pop open, transfer them to the skillet, careful to keep as much of the brine as possible.
  9. Discard any clams that don’t open.
  10. Remove the skillet from the grill. 
  11. Squeeze in the lime juice. Add the butter and stir to combine. 
  12. Garnish with reserved scallions. Serve with crusty bread and extra lime wedges. 


A dry white wine such as pinot grigio can be substituted for the beer in this recipe. The scotch bonnet pepper can also be substituted with habaneros.

This recipe can be prepared on the stove as well. Bring the Jamaican jerk broth to a simmer and add your raw clams to the skillet or Dutch oven. Cover it up and allow them to simmer for 5-7 minutes in the broth or until they open. Discard any clams that remain closed. 

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