In Jasper White’s
, the New England chef describes sardines as “possibly the most full-flavored of all fish—either you love them or you don’t.” Summer Shack Cookbook
Those of us who fall into the former camp adore these oily little members of the herring family for their strong taste, rich texture, and snackable size. Doesn’t hurt that they’re also sustainable, inexpensive, and a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.
Since we’ve never hidden our fondness for
tinned fish, it’ll shock exactly no one to learn that around here, canned sardines get gobbled up in sandwiches, atop salads (this Thai-style option is a favorite), and cooked with cannellini beans and tomatoes for a hearty stew.
But what to do with the market-fresh version? Depends on how you plan to prepare them. Whole, gutted fish can be
stuffed with gremolata and grilled, or tucked into a hearty Cornish stargazy pie. Alternatively, you (or your fishmonger) could fillet them for use in Japanese-style miso soup or Sicilian pasta with saffron, raisins, and pine nuts. Lastly, if your goal is to treat just-caught sardines the same way you would canned ones, try your hand at marinating or salt-curing the fillets.
No matter how you hope to eat these polarizing fish—canned, fresh, broiled, stewed, grilled, baked, pureed, etc.—the following best recipes for sardines will show you the way.
Linguine with Sardines, Raisins, and Pine Nuts (Pasta con le Sarde)
In this representative Sicilian dish, which seamlessly combines Arab and Sicilian flavors, pasta is tossed with sardines from the Mediterranean, raisins and pine nuts grown in the mountains, and a dash of saffron, which imbues the pasta with a golden color. Look for small sardines, which are sweeter and more delicate than larger ones. Get the recipe for Linguine with Sardines, Raisins, and Pine Nuts (Pasta con le Sarde) » William Hereford Charmoula-Stuffed Sardines
Fresh or canned sardines can be used in this spicy, crispy Moroccan snack. Eat ’em like french fries. Get the recipe for Charmoula-Stuffed Sardines » André Baranowski Sardine and Lemongrass Salad
Combining sardines with Thai spices moves the flavor away from purely fishy in this sweet and spicy salad. Get the recipe for Sardine and Lemongrass Salad » Farideh Sadeghin Marinated Sardines (Sardeles Ladolemono)
For this appetizer from Kea, fresh sardines are lightly pickled in a tart marinade. Get the recipe for Marinated Sardines (Sardeles Ladolemono) » Penny De Los Santos Sardine Miso Ball Soup
Sardines flavored with white miso are formed into delicate puffed balls for dashi broth in this recipe adapted from one served at K-ZO restaurant in Culver City, California. Get the recipe for Sardine Miso Ball Soup » André Baranowski Grilled Gremolata-Stuffed Sardines
Stuffing sardines with fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon before grilling suffuses them with zesty flavor. Get the recipe for Grilled Gremolata-Stuffed Sardines » André Baranowski Sardine Sandwich
Briny sardines get added intensity from fresh onion and Dijon mustard in this open-face sandwich from chef and radio host Mike Colameco. Get the recipe for Sardine Sandwich » Todd Coleman Sardine in Saor
These tasty cicheti are traditionally made with fried sardines, but they’re just as delicious when the fish are broiled. Get the recipe for Sardine in Saor » Cured Sardines
Easily filleted by removing the heads, then pulling the spines away from the fillet from the neck toward the tail, sardines are cured in a bright mixture of sugar, salt, and thyme. Get the recipe for Cured Sardines » Ingalls Photography Olive Oil-Braised Sardines with Fennel
Braise the sardines with fennel, chiles, celery, onions, and carrots for a slightly spicy flavor. Get the recipe for Olive Oil-Braised Sardines with Fennel » André Baranowski Marinated Sardine Crostini with Salsa Verde and Fennel
These little sandwiches have a big range of flavors, from the salty sardines to to the tangy flavors of tarragon and chive salsa verde. Get the recipe for Marinated Sardine Crostini with Salsa Verde and Fennel » Maxime Lattoni Sardine and Swiss Chard Gratin
This casserole combines sardines with a creamy Swiss chard and a layer of crunchy bread crumbs. Get the recipe for Sardine and Swiss Chard Gratin » Ingalls Photography Sardine Sandwich with Horseradish Cream
This update on the sardine sandwich provides an extra kick in the horseradish cream. Get the recipe for Sardine Sandwich with Horseradish Cream » Todd Coleman White Bean and Sardine Stew
With their delicate tenderness, canned sardines are ideal for this robust Mediterranean stew. Get the recipe for White Bean and Sardine Stew » Ingalls Photography Stargazy Pie (English Sardine Pie)
In this whimsical Cornish dish, whole sardines poke their heads through the crust of a savory pie filled with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and a mustard-laced custard. Get the recipe for Stargazy Pie (English Sardine Pie) » André Baranowski