Grilled sardines are a classic Spanish tapas, and for good reason– they are cheap (like $2-$5 a pound), sustainable, delectably oily, and easy to punch up with different spices and flavors. A bit different than their canned counterpart, fresh sardines are often bigger and fatter, making them the perfect appetizer to tear apart with your hands and scarf down with crusty bread and lots of red wine. Lean into Spanish and Moroccan flavors by seasoning the tiny fishes with smoked paprika and pairing them with a preserved lemon, pine nut, and roasted pepper relish.
- Check your local fish market for fresh sardines, it’s OK if they were previously frozen. If you can’t find them, feel free to try this recipe out with whole trout stuffed with lemons and herbs. They will need a longer cook time, but the flavors will work great.
Grilled Sardines with Preserved Lemon and Pepper RelishCourse: AppetizersDifficulty: Easy
Lean into Spanish and Moroccan flavors by seasoning these sardines with smoked paprika and pairing them with a preserved lemon, pine nut, and roasted pepper relish.
- For the grilled sardines
1 pound fresh sardines, gutted and thoroughly cleaned. If your sardines are not pre-gutted, check out this quick tutorial on how to do it at home (it’s not hard, I promise). You don’t need to go as far as removing the bones (though you certainly can), those will come out easily once cooked.
Salt and pepper.
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, finely minced or smashed into a paste.
Lemon wedges, for serving
- For the preserved lemon and pepper relish
1 tbsp finely minced shallot
2.5 tbsp minced preserved lemon (about 1/2 a lemon, rind included)
2 tbsp finely minced roasted red peppers (about 1/2 a pepper)
1.5 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp Calabrian chili paste
2 tbsp finely minced parsley
1.5 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- First, marinade the sardines
- Place the sardines in a rimmed dish as season generously with salt and pepper. Make sure to get the salt inside the fish as well.
- Coat generously with olive oil, then add the paprika, lemon juice, and garlic. Toss to coat.
- Place in the fridge to marinade for 30 minutes.
- Next, prepare the relish
- Combine all the ingredients for the relish in a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Finally, grill the sardines
- 15 minutes before the fish is done marinading, preheat the grill over high. Grease the grill grates.
- Add the sardines in one even layer and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. They should be very charred.
- Flip and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the flesh is fully cooked (you can check by quickly piercing one and seeing that the flesh pulls away from the bones easily).
- Place sardines on a plate and garnish with the relish, extra olive oil, crunchy salt, pepper, and lemon wedges.
- To eat, grab hold of the spine from the tail end of the sardine and pull the entire spinal cord out. Its should come out quite easily.