Recipes for Pacific Sardine

Ken Jones

Staff member
McClane’ s Fish Buyer’s Guide: Pacific Sardine — (A) Flavor: intense or robust (B) Texture: soft (C) Flake: fine (D) Fat Content: high (E) Odor (Raw): moderate: (F) Color after Cooking: off white (G) Cooking Methods: broil or bake

Posted by Ken Jones

Pacific Sardine are a fish that I have caught from the most southern pier in California, Imperial Beach, to the state's northernmost pier in Crescent City. When present, they're usually in big schools and can be caught on a Sabiki-like bat rig four at a time and coolers can be filled for bait and food. In many ways they are similar to large schools of herring. However, sardines can cover the California coastline while herring are primarily found to the north. In addition, sardines can show at almost any time of the year while herring are more seasonal, generally entering estuary areas and bays in the winter months to spawn. A difference though (at least to some degree) is the tremendous fluctuation in the numbers of sardines over the years, an up and down cycle that often sees sardine numbers go down while anchovy numbers go up and then sardine numbers go up while anchovy numbers go down. At certain water temperatures less of the small fry make it to adulthood (for a variety of reasons) and if the number is already low due to over fishing, there can be a huge decrease in their population. The collapse of the commercial sardine fishery in the '40s, a fishery that had been California's largest, is one of the most famous stories in fishery biology. At first it was blamed solely on over fishing, today we know it was over fishing combined with a change in water temperatures. But that collapse was real and for many years you rarely saw a sardine. I began fishing California's piers in the late '50s but never caught a sardine from a pier until 1990 and even then did not start to catrch large numbers until 1994. Since then I have caught them virtually every year (with peak years being 2002 and 2009) although a decrease in numbers was reported again around 2010. Today they seem to be showing up at the piers again but who knows for how long?

Even if most of the sardines caught are used for bait (live bait or frozen bait) there are almost always more than needed which means some may be destined for the dinner table. But what are the best ways to prepare and eat them? Herein a few ideas.

Posted by blahblahblah on September 18, 2003

Sardines are one of my favorite things to eat. Those of you who won't "eat bait" may take exception, which is fine. Kindly return your sardines to the water for those of us with more sense. A few years back I had grilled sardines at a restaurant off Union Square in San Francisco and they were so good I wanted to swear I'd never eat anything else again. This recipe includes the distinctively Sicilian ingredient of raisins. I find the raisins a little weird, but if you leave them out you might want to slightly reduce some of the saltier ingredients such as capers and olives and anchovies. Make sure the sardines are fresh, fresh, fresh. They spoil quickly.

"*Sarde Ripene al Forno* — Stuffed Baked Sardines


• 3 pounds fresh sardines
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 cup bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons capers [the salted ones are best, but be sure to rinse them well]
• 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
• handful chopped parsley [the flat kind if you can get it]
• 1/2 cup pine nuts
• 1/2 cup raisins
• 1 can anchovies [there is some debate over whether those packed in oil or those packed in salt are best. I prefer the ones in oil, but do get the ones that are laid flat in the can, regardless]
• 2-3 crumbled bay leaves [don't leave big pieces -- they're nasty surprises what hurt when swallowed]
• juice of 1 lemon


• Clean fish and remove head and fins. Split in half and remove backbone. Wash in salt water and dry on paper towels. Set aside.
• Add bread crumbs to heated pan with half the olive oil and stir unil they begin to brown. Add capers, garlic, olives, parsley, pine nuts, raisins, and anchovies. Mix well. Stir-fry 5 minutes and remove from heat.
• Spread some of the mixture on each sardine. The roll the sardines up from neck to tail and fasten with toothpicks so that tails stick up in the air. Put remaining olive oil in baking dish and place sardines in rows. Do not piggy-back. [Also best not to crowd them too much] Sprinkle bits of bay leaves, some dry bread crumbs, and a bit of olive oil over the fish and bake 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven of 375 [degrees]. Serve with a little lemon juice squeezed on top.
Serves 4-6."
From: The Sicilian Gentleman's Cookbook," by Don Baratta, Prima Publishing, 1988.

Posted by mrtuna

A couple weeks ago I ran into a school of horrse sardines and could have caught a cooler full. I caught a few and took them home. They were great fried in olive oil and topped with a sauce with garlic and hot pepers. Yum! I like fishing just for the Halibut! -----<'###{

Posted by Riorust

I have always loved the canned variety. I recently caught 150-200 sardines for bait. I keep my bait on ice as a rule and did so this day. After brining and packing 100 or so "dines", I looked at the rest and thought about dinner. I cleaned the remaining sardines (heads, guts and tails), patted them dry, breaded with flour, sea salt and fresh pepper and fried in olive oil. All I can say is, they are nothing like the canned grisleing sardines...the fresh guys are great, asking only for some lime juice or Tapatio sauce. Served with salad, some mango salsa and an ice cold adult beverage....hard to beat! Location: Head in the clouds, eyes on the horizon.

Posted by eelmaster

Fresh sardines are crazy good. salted with kosher salt and grilled over a hot grill.
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