Homemade Spanish Sardines (without the need for pressure cooker or canning bottles)

Homemade Spanish Sardines recipe
Spanish sardines is one dish that I have long been wanting to learn because it comes in handy for church activities. For one, it is something that can be cooked ahead. I like that for then I can cook a gigantic pot days before an event and then do not have to worry about a dish on the day of the event itself. Secondly, it can feed a crowd — a big pot could feed up to 50! It also means it could feed your family for weeks! 

Thirdly, sardines is cheap — would you believe that at the time I did this, sardines (also called tamban or tuloy or malalangsi in Cebuano) was sold for only 15 pesos a kilo here? (Okay, it has since gone up to 60 pesos a kilo, but still, it helps to have this recipe around, ready for times when schools of sardines hit the shores.) Fourthly, Spanish sardines is delish — spicy, salty, oily and bone-tender sardines peppered with tangy, melt-in-your-mouth cucumber pickles and carrot circles. Lastly, this is really healthy as it’s just omega-3-rich fish cooked in spices and coconut oil.

I don’t think you could find this recipe in any other cooking site or blog. Trust me, I have been hunting down a recipe for spanish sardines that can be cooked sans pressure cooker or canning bottles for a long time now, and to no avail. I made 3 try-outs to come up with this recipe. The first one was a fail as I did not arrange the fishes in layers and the spices did not permeate the fish evenly. The second was a bit off as it lacked some deep flavors. I finally cinched the dish on the third try — as my family and last week’s church campers said so — and have since then made two more batches.

I highly recommend this recipe for Spanish sardines fans out there. This does taste the same as the pricey bottled ones — minus the MSG of course.

Homemade Spanish Sardines (without the need for a pressure cooker and canning bottles.)

Note: Click on the links to read up on the nutritional profiles of the ingredients.
  • 3 kilos sardines
  • salt (unrefined sea salt), about 4 to 5 tablespoons
  • black peppercorns, about 3 tablespoons
  • bay leaves, about 8 pieces, torn
  • sweet pickles (whole, sliced thinly), 1 bottle
  • 1 big carrot, cut into thin circles
  • whole green or red chili pepper, depending on your taste
  • coconut oil, 500 ml
  • 6 cups water

  1. Carefullly arrange a layer of sardines on the bottom of a big stainless steel pot. Make sure the fishes are arranged tightly yet in a single, non-overlapping layer.
  2. Salt the fish layer the way you would salt fish when frying, about a teaspoon for a single layer of fish.
  3. Sprinkle some black pepper corns, about half a teaspoon per layer of fish.
  4. Add some torn bay leaves, about 2 bay leaves per layer of fish.
  5. Arrange half a handful each of sweet pickles, carrot circles and chili pepper.
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 until all the fishes have been layered.
  7. Pour in the juice of the sweet pickles.
  8. Add in enough oil as to cover the fish.
  9. Pour in 6 cups of water. (Note: a cup of water per kilo of fish.)
  10. Cover the pot with a lid and bring the pot to a boil. As soon as it boils, bring down heat to a simmer and let it simmer for about 6 to 8 hours.
  11. You’ll know it’s done when all the water has boiled away, the oil has turned brownish, fish meat is compacted, browned and softened all the way to their bones.

This goes so well with my lacto-fermented, probiotic Sauerkraut and Curtido. How about you, would you like to try this recipe? Please do tell me how it goes.

Homemade Spanish Sardines recipe

26 thoughts on “Homemade Spanish Sardines (without the need for pressure cooker or canning bottles)

  1. i will be following this recipe today. Will let you know how it turns out. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  2. i really loved spanish sardines….i have to try this recipe minus the pressure cooker….but if only a cup of water in every kilo is ideal.. i wondered you made it to 6 cups of water in your 3 kilos fish?……:)..anyway i will make it to perfection! 🙂 thanks 😛

  3. Hi! Thanks for the recipe, im doing trial and error for the salt as i find yours a bit too much, and for the water its says your having 3kg fish and 6cups water. But you put a note that for every kg u need a cup of water. So i tried 3X and ended all so good, still trial and error for water and salt. (Tansta tantsa in tagalog) if you can revise?? Or advise me. Appreciated

    1. Oh, it is 2 cups per kilo dear! My bad. Sorry. That much water is so that it can simmer long without burning the fish, just enough to soften the fish down to the bones you know. Just make sure the fire is very low, like the surface liquid simmers very very gently.

    2. I made a mistake. It is 2 cups of water per kilo of fish. Yes, it takes trial and error to put in salt. It all depends on your taste, actually. I salt the fish the same way I do with fish paksiw.

  4. Hi Michelle, no need to turn the fish over? And does cooking this for 6-8hrs won’t burn the bottom of the pan? Thanks in advance.

    1. No need to turn the fish over. And no, the fish won’t burn as there is much water on top of the oil and the fire is very low.

    1. Yes, you may. Here in the Philippines we normally use corn oil as the oil does not solidify at ref temps. Coconut oil freezes you know. 🙂 I think olive oil is even better.

  5. You don’t mention if sardines has be cleaned first like removing intestines, etc.
    Is it ok to use small sardines without adjusting cooking time?

    1. They have to be cleaned first, at least if they are not too small to gut. If you ever use very small sardines, I think you need to turn down the heat lower as tiny fish breaks up with high heat.

  6. I cooked this yesterday and it was perfect!!!
    Delicious down the bones!
    I have a question though, if I use a pressure cooker to cut down cooking time, are there any adjustments in water/oil and other ingredients? I thank you for sharing your recipe and thoughts on this. I will wait for a response…

    1. Glad you tried out the recipe yourself! Not so sure about the pressure cooker. I haven’t tried, but I guess you need not adjust the ingredients as pressure cookers do not mess up with the ingredients, they just cut down cooking times.

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