The Sardine Experiment: Part Three

How to Eat Sardines

After last week’s sardine taste-testing, wherein many a sardine was eaten plain, on a cracker, with and without mustard, I finally got a little creative with the fishes and tried several recipes that also included such delights as capers, olives, tomatoes, eggplant, and long skinny noodles.

It was exceptionally disappointing.

Despite a growing affection for sardines and an existing passion for capers, olives, tomatoes, eggplant, and long skinny noodles, only one of my dishes could be described as anything beyond “interesting”.

However, it cemented the idea in my tiny pea-brain that sardines are best served simply, on something crisp, and with a generous adornment of some pungent, vinegary condiment.

The tinned sardine is a beautiful thing when left to its own devices.

Please try sardines on crackers with Colman’s mustard. Or perhaps with spicy horseradish. And please remember to have out the Sriracha and Tabasco sauces. Put out some fat green olives and pickled peppers for a sardine antipasti. Here is a recipe for gremolata, a fresh condiment of Milan, which I found complemented sardines and crusty bread exquisitely.



  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about half the lemon)
  • 1 chile de arbol, crumbled or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (may omit if you like)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley


  1. Combine the zest, garlic, salt and lemon juice with a fork until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Add everything else and mix well.
  3. Spoon some on a piece of bread, then top with a sardine and eat it.

And here is the one sardine recipe I really enjoyed.

Panko-Crusted Sardines

You really want the whole sardines for this recipe, bones and all. Boneless sardines are far too delicate for the rolling and dredging. Also, if you can’t find panko bread crumbs in the Asian foods section of your grocery store, try using finely crushed cracker crumbs instead. I tried this with regular breadcrumbs, too, and it was not nearly as good.

  • 1 tin of sardines in oil or water
  • 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (if using sardines in water)


  1. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Drain the sardines. (My dog Goldie LOVES the sardine water!)
  3. [Coat them in oil if you are using water-packed sardines.]
  4. Roll in crumbs and place on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until the crumbs are nice and brown.
  6. Serve with hot mustard, a high-horseradish cocktail sauce, or soy sauce for dipping.

Thanks to my pal Great Stone Face for this recipe!

I’ll continue to experiment with variations and make sure to holla atcha if I discover any gems! Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with regular Tuesday episodes on September 20!


  1. Great Stone Face on August 29, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Whoo Hoo! A shout-out!

    • Hilah on August 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Whoa! That makes TWO for you, counting the G+ shout-out!

  2. Andrew on August 29, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Sardines are awesome. Mostly for the Omega-3’s, but also because they taste good. I generally eat them at lunch time on a bed of rice that was cooked with some lime juice, garlic and cilantro. It’s delicious!

    This is one of the things I love about you, Hilah. You talk about foods that I can find and afford, and not so much about how to cook organic free range something I never heard of stuffed with fresh harvested Mongolian wild grass flowers that bloom once every 30 years during the full moon.

    • Hilah on August 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

      Andrew! Hey buddy! It’s good to hear from you! 🙂

      I’m glad you appreciate my posting about the lowly sardine. I have yet to try them on rice, but a few people have suggested that so I will put it on my list of things to eat soon.

      Thanks for writing!

  3. Great Stone Face on August 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I’m sardine-inspired. My wife is out so my bachelor dinner is a half-recipe of Alton Brown’s sherried brislings over avocado toast. I’ll try to post a photo to my blog and send you the link. For brislings, I’m using Seasons brand sprats in olive oil.

  4. Great Stone Face on August 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    My gremolata using your recipe.

  5. Great Stone Face on September 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm
    • Noah on September 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      Hah, I like it.

  6. Great Stone Face on September 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I did the baked breaded sardines tonight, using King Oscar sardines in olive oil. The breading was panko mixed with minced cilantro, grated lemon zest, and S+P. I sprinked on sriracha after baking. Here’s a photo.

  7. Mary Helen (@MaryHelenOrama) on March 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    The best way to eat sardines, if you ask me, is to put them on top of really good Italian bread (real crusty) with cold butter and hot cherry peppers. It will blow your mind, and impress Italian men when you eat them.

    • Hilah on March 15, 2012 at 7:44 am

      Oh yeah. You had me at cold butter. And then you really had me a hot cherry peppers. And then Italian men.
      Basically: best recipe ever, MH.

  8. Drew on October 6, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    “The tinned sardine is a beautiful thing when left to its own devices.” So true! Great reviews on the tinned fish. When do we get to see Hilah, sardine live action on Hilah Cooking? Look forward to your future discoveries.

    • Hilah on October 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Drew! Thank you! My favorite thing about this post is how many sardine-lovers have come out of the woodwork around it. I never knew there were so many sardine-devotees! Checking out your blog now. 🙂

  9. Bob on August 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I wuv sardines too! A killer sauce is Cross & Blackwell Extra Zesty Shrimp Sauce. They also make a cocktail sauce, but if your looking for a horseradish kick go for the former.

  10. Nicole on January 2, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Hi Hilah! My husband and I truly love to eat sardines on saltines but I feel we are in the minority. I was trying to convince my parents to try them but they couldn’t get past them looking like little dead fish so I put them in a food processor and made a paté… the sardines, not my parents. Though the color isn’t pretty it looked more enticing being served with colorful fresh veggies and crackers. I used sardines, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, agave nectar and dijon mustard and it was delicious! I would love to see a sardine dip creation of yours because I love watching your show! My husband bought me your Learn to Cook Book for Christmas and it was the best present I got besides my cast iron skillets =)

    • Hilah on January 2, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      That’s a great idea! I know a lot of people have a hard time with the appearance of sardines. Thanks, Nicole!

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