Sardines on the Gril Rule — Les sardines grillées sont reines

BBQ grilled sardines

Grilled Sardines
With Marinated Fennel and Radish Salad

Bring me some good fish oil, B12 and D vitamins, will you?

I say, Sardines!

Although I cook and eat fish a lot and often, I realize that I rarely blog about it. This does not seem to be making a lot of sense to me.

I have always had this special tie to sardines. I really like sardines! Every time I visit my fish monger, my eyes are always in search of these precious little fish. “Do you have sardines today?” I hear myself ask so often that it now seems an old song to my fish guy. “I can special order some, if you like,” he often replies, when failing to meet my desperate need.

Yes, I know he can. But don’t you agree that there is so much more fun when you can spontaneously go home with a bag of fresh sardines, without having to wait?


When I was a kid, we use to BBQ sardines a lot, especially while we were away on vacation à la mer (by the seaside), like many French people during les grandes vacances (summer vacation). We particularly loved to explore the West coast of France with its large beaches and tides, from Brittany to Vendée and l’île d’Oléron, where it was less hot and crowded. But as kids, did we really care? The point for us was voir la mer, ramasser des coquillages et jouer avec les poissons (see the sea, collect shells and play with fish). There, the fish was so good, and fresh of course! A treat was to walk to the market every day, and twice a week, bring some fresh sardines to prepare une friture de sardines**, or grill them. The sardines we found were tiny, much smaller than the ones I find here. Not sure what the reasons are, but I surely should try to find out (making a note to myself). And because they were so small, we could swallow down the whole thing, without having to pay close attention to les arêtes (fish bones). The best memory.

With the sardines I find here however, no such luck. Even if trying to, it is just impossible to eat the bones. They are too big. But this does not stop me whatsoever. On the grill, sardines are simple to make and delicious.


There is nothing difficult in this recipe. It is really how you prefer them. Enjoy the BBQ as long as you can, with sardines. This is one of the best ways to keep the heat from cooking outside, non ?

**Friture: deep-fried, a word close to what is commonly known as fritter. If you know the word “frites” (French fries), you understand “friture” then. Same root.

Sardines on the Gril

(For 4 people)

You need:

  • 8 sardines (medium, more if small)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh savory
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper


  • Grate the garlic cloves with a microplane to have it very fine.
  • In a bowl, mix the garlic with the oil, salt and pepper, and the herbs finely chopped. Coat the sardines with this sauce and place in the fridge, covered, for 1 hour.
  • When ready to eat, heat a grill.
  • Cook the sardines on each side for 3 to 4 min only, according to size. Brush with the sauce while cooking. Adjust the seasoning.
  • Serve the grilled sardines with a marinated fennel and radish salad — with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice — and plain Jasmine rice.
Le coin français
Sardines grillées au thym

(Pour 4 personnes)

Ingrédients :

  • 8 sardines (moyennes, plus si petites)
  • Thym frais
  • Sarriette fraîche
  • 4 càs d’huile d’olive
  • 2 gousses d’ail
  • Sel et poivre

Étapes :

  • Rapez les gousses d’ail très finement avec une râpe microplane, si vous en avez une (sinon hachez très finement).
  • Dans un bol, mélangez l’ail avec l’huile, du sel et du poivre et les herbes hachées finement. Enrobez les sardines de cette sauce et placez au frigo pendant 1 heure, à couvert.
  • Une fois prêts à servir, faites chauffer votre gril.
  • Cuisez les sardines de chaque côté pendant 3 à 4 min seulement, selon la taille des poissons. Badigeonnez-les de sauce pendant la cuisson. Rectifiez l’assaisonnement.
  • Servez les sardines grillées avec une salade de fenouil et radis roses marinée — huile d’olive, sel et poivre, et un peu de jus de citron — et un bol de riz jasmin Thaïlandais.

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Posted in Fish, Gluten Free


  1. I live in Cambridge too. You should visit
    New Deal Market
    622 Cambridge St
    Cambridge, MA 02141

    * (617) 876-8227

    for fresh fish.

  2. i just searched your blog all morning for good fish ideas bec im having company tonight, and i thought wow, there is not so much fish, doesent she like fish…and then this 🙂

  3. Bea…only you can make sardines look so damn sexy on a plate. I had them in Porto and they were so good! Guts still intact but who cares? It probably gave them better flavor.

  4. This has to be one of my favorite dishes! I adore grilled or roasted sardines! So glad you wrote about them.

  5. I’m a massive sardine fan too. will definitely be giving your grilled version a go when I can get my hands on some

  6. Growing up we always had canned sardines.
    My first fresh sardines were our first land meal after our first Atlantic crossing. We were in the Azors. Oh my goodness. They were a revelation. Such tasty little bites. We ordered them every meal we could.
    That first picture is captivating.

  7. Just came across your site.LOVE it! And just when I needed dinner inspiration…ha! I’ve already got my bottle of Muscadet Sevre et Maine chilling. Thanks for sharing!

  8. mmmm… sardines are good! I’m rather fond of them. If you like them, if you ever get the very chance of eating eulachon (ooligan) fish, you’d most likely enjoy them. They are an oiler fish with lots of fishy yummy goodness that beg to be treated just as you treated these lovely sardines.

  9. Une sardinade ! Voilà ce qu’il nous faudrait pour conjurer la pluie et la grisaille de ces derniers temps !

    Et si en plus, il y a de la vitamine D et B12, pourquoi se priver ?! ;O)

    Personnellement, c’est grillées que je les préfère et je les accompagne d’une petite rouille, exquis !

    Amicalement blog,

  10. I am so happy to see this post, Béa! I LOVE sardines as well. They are a big part of our cuisine. You have reminded me that we don’t grill them often enough. These are beautiful!

  11. Bea, I coat sardine fillets in beaten egg and herbs and then roll them in crushed macadamia nuts before frying them in virgin olive oil, then I serve them on a salad of fresh leaves drizzled with balsamac. YUM

  12. oups j’en ai mangé des fraiches samedi soir à paimpol toutes pareilles aux tiennes. Vive la Bretagne

  13. You’re right, sardines are reigning now! Nothing more wonderful than the sight of some sardines over the coals! Lovely pics.

  14. Such a beautiful ode to summer, Bea. Once when we lived in a small apartment without a terrace we were so desperate for grilled sardines we cooked them in the house. The house, our clothes, the carpets, everything smelled of them for at least a week. But it was worth it. Grilled sardines are the perfect summer food!

  15. I owe a wonderful lunch to you, Bea. I was inspired by the sardines on your blog so I suggested to my FinLaw as a lunch item. They were quite splendid and toothsome.

  16. Thanks a lot to all of you for your suggestions — which I take notes of, ie fish monger in Cambridge (where I have been before btw, but thank you!), comments and nice words. I am also glad that I inspired a lunch (Nerissa), thank you. And Mercotte, yes encadrer la photo, pas mal comme idee. Merci! I agree sardines grilled on BBQ are a highlight of summer eating!

  17. If a cooked sardine could be reincarnated as a 19th century dandy, this is exactly what it would look like. J’adore your photos!

  18. What a beautiful memory that is. I adore grilled sardines, and I long for the day I don’t live in a little New York apartment with no fan over the stove, so I can make them to my heart’s content without infusing the scent into everything I own! Really lovely photos here.

  19. Your sardines look so good Bea I can almost smell and taste them! The last time I had grilled fresh sardines was by the sea in Malaga, Spain…so delicious! (and great memories too…) 🙂

  20. You’re right! Sardines are the best summer fish on the grill – we have it every weekend when we go to the beach…..grilled sardines with lemon and a tomato and red onion salad and a glass of cold white wine….a perfectly simple summer lunch.

  21. Merci beaucoup pour cette délicieuse promotion de notre belle ile d’Oleron. Un vrai petit coin de paradis.

  22. Finally, there are other ways to cook the sardines. Thank you Bea, and the other readers who shared their sardine recipes. We are celebrating the annual BC Sardines Festival on Sep 01 2007. Find out more at
    Cheers to all!

  23. Je Deteste Sardines… but the sardines in your photographs look appetizing even to me because they are portrayed so beautifully!

  24. Hi Theresa,

    To clean, you need to make sure they are properly scaled, and then you cook everything. See recipe attached here. I typically like to grill them.

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  26. Thx for awsome recipe,can u plz tell me does this fish has its own oil,becase when ever i try cooking there is extra oil in dish ,will appersiate ur reply.

  27. I’m very late to comment, but oh my goodness! Yet another photo of fish that makes me want to cry. They were so beautiful, and reminded me of my first fresh sardines (Cannes, late June last year).

  28. So happy this was one of the first results that came up after I searched ‘grill sardines’. Having spent my summers growing up in Normandy, the memory of sardine grillees in the chimney (yes, we still used the chimney even in the summer in Normandy) stayed with me until today, when I found some sardines at the local market (in Cambridge, MA). They turned out great! Thanks for the memories.

  29. Glad this post is still around! My boyfriend and I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago while searching for a recipe for the amazing fresh sardines we picked up at a local farmers’ market in San Francisco (sourced from Monterey Bay). So easy to grill and delicious! Very impressive to guests as well!

  30. Just like you, I also love eating sardines since it has a lot of benefits for our health. It contains multivitamin and it is good for people with cardiovascular problems, because it rich in omega 3 and 9. Healthy recipe!

  31. I love sardines-I ate some in Portugal and fell in love with them.My question- in Portugal it seemed like they were whole, but here in the USA it seems they are cleaned/gutted. Do you cook yours whole, stomach and all? I remember eating what I thought was the roe sac (or mabe a liver?)and thought it was the best

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