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Skillet Sardines


There are many reasons to eat sardines: They're healthy, affordable, safe and sustainable, according to our Natural Medicine health tip "4 Reasons Sardines are Great — and 2 Recipes to Convince You." And according to Bastyr faculty member Becky Selengut, sardines also are quite tasty. As evidence, she shares this recipe from her 2011 book Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast, which includes several recipes designed to convince the sardine-skeptical to reconsider.


1⁄2 lb
whole fresh sardines
1⁄4 cup
fresh mint leaves, cut into ribbons
  to taste
  to taste
freshly ground pepper
1 medium
lemon, juiced
1 tbsp
high-heat vegetable oil


Rinse the sardines under cold water and scrape off any scales with your fingernails. Starting with one sardine, gently bend the head back and remove it. Place the sardine on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut a slit along the belly line, all the way to the tail. Rinse the cavity under running water without removing the innards.

Place the sardine back on the board, with the open cavity facing you, and carefully cut into it, splitting it open like a book, being careful not to cut through to the other side. Carefully pry the spine and rib bones out with your fingers, leaving as much meat on the fish as possible. (Don't worry about the small bones. The high cooking heat will make them so tender you won't notice them.) Cut or pull off the tail. Snip off the dorsal fin on the top of the fish. Repeat with the remaining sardines.

Season the inside of each sardine with salt and pepper and add in some mint, squeeze some lemon juice over the fish, fold the sides over, and secure it closed with a toothpick.

Heat a pan (preferably a well-seasoned cast-iron pan) over very high heat. Add the vegetable oil and, 30 seconds later, carefully add the sardines, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for about two minutes on the first side and flip the fish. Cook for another minute or two on the other side. Transfer to a plate. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

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Skillet Sardine garnished with shallots and herbs on a white plate
SourceRepublished with permission from Becky Selengut's Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast
Prep time
15 minutes
Cooking time
5 minutes
Total time
20 minutes