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Barbecue sardines with garlic and lemon – and wines to match

Fresh sardines sizzling on the barbecue are a beautiful sight in summer. We've teamed up with Alex Head, founder and chef at Social Pantry, to bring you this delicious recipe, with wine pairing suggestions from the Decanter team.

‘Sardines are a brilliant alternative to salmon,’ says Alex Head, of London-based caterer and events organiser Social Pantry. ‘I love them, they’re great on the BBQ and can be easily cooked in the oven if the heavens open.’

That’s less of a risk if you’re reading this in Los Angeles, but a recurring feature of summer in the UK.

How to make barbecue sardines with lemon and garlic 

Recipe by Alex Head

Serves: 2 people

What you’ll need:

  • 6 sardines
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • Malden sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper


  1. To create your marinade, mix the garlic, oil, lemon, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper.
  2. Place the sardines on a shallow tray and cover in the marinade.
  3. Set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Skewer two or three fish onto metal or wooden skewers. Top tip: whilst the fish is marinating, soak wooden skewers in water to avoid scorching during cooking.
  5. Cook the sardines on a high-heat BBQ for 2 – 3 minutes before flipping over. Then cook for a further 3 minutes until cooked through.

Side serving: Enjoy with a fresh green salad and lemon yoghurt

Wines to match with sardines on the barbecue:

sardines with wine

Let the feast begin. Credit: Social Pantry.

  • High acid whites with citrus flavours

  • Avoid heavy reds with big tannins

White wines

Picpoul de Pinet wine

A minerally Albariño, such as those from Rías Baixas in north-west Spain, should match the salt of the fish and the citrus of the lemon, whilst be transparent enough to let the food shine.

A Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France should also have the acidity and citrus notes to pair well with this dish.

Both are good alternatives to Sauvignon Blanc, which would be a more classic match.

Red wines

When it comes to red wines, oily fish can react with tannins to leave a metallic taste in the mouth. In other words, leave your vintage Bordeaux and Barossa Shiraz in the cellar for another day.

Try lighter styles of red with decent levels of acidity. Beaujolais or Valpolicella DOC would be good places to start. Try a traditionally lighter Beaujolais Cru like Fleurie. We would even suggest popping some of these reds in the fridge to chill before serving them with your sardines.

Wine pairings by Chris Mercer and James Button. 

Back to Decanter.com’s main barbecue wines page 

About Alex Head and Social Pantry

Alex Head, social pantry

Alex Head is the owner and founder of events and corporate catering company Social Pantry with a café in Battersea, south London, of the same name.

Alex strives to take the fear out of entertaining by placing emphasis on fresh, seasonal and accessible food presented in an elegant, personal way. With all her recipes, Alex encourages social entertaining by showing how easy it is to jump in the kitchen and cook up a feast for a crowd.



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