Sardinas en Escabeche (Preserved Sardines/ Pickled)

It’s pretty much fish that is floured then fried, finally preserved in a mixture of oil, vinegar, aromatics and spices of one’s choice. So it’s cooked and in a sense pickled because of the vinegar. In Spain things preserved in oil and vinegar are known as “Escabeche” it can be done with meats as well but it’s a different process.

Growing up my grandmother would love buying canned sardines and fish that came packed in olive oil from Spain. Nowadays those are harder to come by and are getting pricey. So this satisfied her craving, and honestly it taste way better 🙂

-1/5- 2 lbs. sardines (cleaned, gutted, heads removed, rinsed well, pat-fry)
salt to taste
flour (enough to coat fish lightly)
-1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-6 cloves garlic skin (lower stem removed, lightly pressed with a knife)
-2 bay leaves
-2 sprigs thyme or 2-4 sprigs rosemary or tablespoon dried oregano (aromatic herbs of your choice I used 4 rosemary sprigs)
-1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
-1 tablespoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton Dulce de la Vera)
-1/2 cup vinegar (red, white, apple which ever your choice I use white)
-1/4 cup water


(1) Clean and gut the sardines, it’s easy, simply make an incision down the stomach, pull everything out, and scrape out any black parts, remove the head (slice it off with a knife) then just pat-dry it.

(2) Get your sardines and season them with salt, then roll them in flour, and set the sardines aside.

(3) Heat olive oil in a large shallow pan on high heat as soon as the oil get’s hot, it will release a fragrance not smoking however, to test if it is hot enough dip a wooden spoon or put once fish in it, if it bubbles and sizzles the oil is hot enough. At this point add sardines and lower heat to medium high. Fry them until golden brown on both sides. You may have to fry them in batches. I had to fry my sardines in two batches.
100 6330
(3) Set them aside in a container.

(4) In the same oil, lower heat to medium high fry the garlic, bay leaves, aromatic herbs and black pepper corns.
100 6331(5) When the garlic changes color, remove from heat the pan, throw in sweet smoked spanish paprika, give a quick stir, add vinegar and water (careful it jumps) and a bit of salt, stir well. Bring to a boil on high heat for about 1 -2 minutes.
100 6332(6) Pour the boiling oil, vinegar, water, garlic and spice mixture over the sardines
100 6334100 6336These can last in the fridge a couple weeks maybe more, we finished them in less than a week, they taste better the next day 🙂 You can eat them with anything, simply remove from the oil mixture and you can make sardine sandwiches inside a mini- baguette, put them on toast with some fire roasted red bell pepper, eat them with rice and any other sides, I like to eat them with just a large leafy salad dressed in olive oil, lime, and salt for a light healthy meal, etc. Truth be told I love love the oil it’s preserved in I drizzle it with some of that oil whenever I eat it 😉

Please Note:
(1) I love the leftover oil, when you finish all the sardines and you don’t know what to do with all that oil, I really like it drizzled over things or use it to make salads (I know I know sinful but the oil is infused with garlic, aromatics in my case I used rosemary, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and the wonderful sweet smoked Spanish paprika so it is so flavorful)

(2) This can be done with Mackarel fish, or fish steaks, in Cuban cooking they also make Escabeche usually using shark, sword fish or red snapper fillets/ steaks cut into pieces and the spice blend is different and maybe the procedure I honestly have never had “Escabeche” before until this time, so if anyone has any recipes for the “Cuban” version of this (I know my reader/ friend Mamey/ Omar might have a recipe he uses since he knows so much about Cuban cooking 🙂

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