How To Cook Sardines At Home

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 24, 2021

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If you like this fish a lot, but your house stinks, sign these tricks to how to cook smelly sardines at home it in many ways without having to suffer its smell.


They are healthy, inexpensive, can be prepared in a thousand ways and are excellent in all of them. Sardines are the real delight of the sea, but they have a small drawback: the smell they give off when cooking is not only strong. But it also settles in your house as if it were theirs (and nobody wants to live with curtains flavored with Eau de sardine).

That means you have to resign yourself to eating this delicacy alone in restaurants, barbecues, and out of a can? We would never do that to you: with these tips, tricks, and inventions you will be able to prepare sardines at home in so many ways that you will never get bored.

Raw Sardines


You don’t have to be a genius to realize that sardines only smell when they pass through the fire, so the easiest way to eat them without an eyelash is to do it raw. You can start by putting them in a brine and marinating them in apple vinegar, as Mikel López Iturriaga – the boss of all this – did in a versioned recipe by Joan Roca.

He finished them with a little tomato, olives, and chopped chives, but you could give them exactly the same treatment as some anchovies, put them in olive oil with garlic and eat them just like that. You can also serve them on a base of salmorejo or ajoblanco: the meaty touch of the marinated sardine is perfect with both creams.

If you can’t wait and the taste of raw oily fish isn’t too strong for you, you can chop them up and put them directly on top of prepared rice as if you were going to make sushi (with a little sugar, salt, and rice vinegar). Don’t let it get too cold: the heat will melt the sardine’s fat a little and give it an incredible honeyed texture.

If you can get some pickled radish, dice it: the acid and crunchy contrast will make the whole thing come even higher. On the other hand, you have plenty of time and patience, try this recipe from my colleague Carlos Román, who marines them for a couple of days with soya and Modena vinegar (if you can, choose a decent one without added caramel).

In Papillote


It’s the easiest way to cook them without them smelling, and it also has multiple advantages. First, you can do it in a frying pan, on a grill or in the oven (it’s terrible if you don’t have one of these three things at home). Second, you can give them flavors and aromas by putting herbs, lemon, or other dressings inside the paper.

You don’t have to add any fat either because the fat from the sardine itself will be enough; it won’t stick to you. Something this fish tends to do when the frying pans are no longer at their best – and you just need a little baking paper (or aluminum, although I prefer the other one).

The only disadvantage is that they are not left with the crunchy layer they would have grilled or fried, but you will get super juicy sardines with all their flavor. You can put a little leek, carrot and chopped onion in the base, or a few slices of lime or lemon and spices and aromatic you prefer.

Use sardines without head or gut, make a wrapper big enough so that they do not pile up between them and do not prepare more than four or five per package. You can bake them at 180 ℃ between 10 and 15 minutes -depending on the size- or in a frying pan on a happy fire for three or four minutes on each side.

You have to be careful when turning them so as not to get burned and not to be disassembled, and also when opening it: the steam inside burns, and the cooking juice that will have released the fish as well. If you don’t know how to prepare the small package of papillote, in this video they show it to you.

A Kitchen Torch


It’s not an expensive contraption there are them starting at $11. It doesn’t take up much space and has many applications: if you don’t have a kitchen torch yet,

I recommend that you get one. In addition to caramelizing, burning the remains of bird feathers, browning cheese, flambéing, toasting a meringue, quickly roasting the skin of some vegetables to peel them better, you can also prepare odorless sardines in a matter of seconds.

Put some clean fillets of scales and thorns on a heat-resistant surface, pass the flame over the entire surface, and they will be ready to be incorporated into any dish. If you don’t want to complicate your life, put them on a toast with some good piquillo peppers and you have already solved the dinner.

Baked, On A Bed of Salt


We can roast the sardines in the oven without the smell of staying to live at home, using a couple of tricks. We will need coarse salt, which is used to make fish to salt, some aromatic as thyme or rosemary and whole sardines (if not, the salt will be put in the gut, and we can bite some stones).

We put a base in an oven tray with the chosen herbs and heat it to 200 ℃. When the salt and the plate are hot, quickly put the sardines on top and cover with more salt. We bake about 12 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking. Setting the tray so that the part behind is in front, remove the salt carefully and immediately put in the oven still hot a suitable container with water and lemon juice or vinegar.

There is a slightly more sophisticated version in which the salt is mixed with egg white. But I have not noticed any substantial differences with the one that only contains salt.

No tail


If all these tips are right for you, but what you want is a fried or battered sardines. If you leave them soaked for half an hour in milk with a little salt -in the fridge- and then wring them out, dry them thoroughly and batter them as you usually do, it will be more bearable.

If, in addition to the head and intestines, you also remove the tail, you will even notice it. Fry them with the extractor at the top, enjoy your sardines, open the windows, go for a walk and for sure when you come back you remember more the delicious taste of the dish than its smell.

Related:How To Cook Fish on a charcoal grill

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.