Pan-grilled sardines with lemon-zest & chilli

Fish is a whole food, and nothing could be truer when it comes to sardines — since you can eat the skin and bones too (yep, the bones are edible).

Sardines are a fabulous source of healthy protein and are naturally high in iodine and essential omega-3 oils, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Sardines, being small fish, are very low in mercury too.

As if protein, iodine, and omega-3 aren’t enough nutrients you can get from the little ol’ sardine, these fish also deliver high amounts of calcium — if you eat the bones (eating sardine bones are good for your bones!). The bones are quite soft in tinned sardines, making them easy to eat.


pan-fried sardinesServes 2

  • 12 fresh sardines (cleaned and gutted as described above)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • zest of ½ a lemon
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • sea salt, to taste

Mix the last 4 ingredients in a large bowl then place the sardines into the marinade and coat evenly.

Heat a large griddle pan over medium heat, then pan-grill the sardines on one side for 3–4 minutes, then flip over and do the same on the other side. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook the sardines in 2 batches, which is what I had to do.

I enjoyed my sardines with a side of some middle-eastern inspired veggies and chickpeas.


16 thoughts on “Pan-grilled sardines with lemon-zest & chilli”

  1. I love sardines. I think it’s a pity all these delicious, healthy, and cheap fishes are not better appreciated. They’re great for your body and your budget. Great to see you put them to good, yummy use!

    1. Thanks Shu Han. After writing this post, I’ve actually discovered that a few people do love this little fish. So all is not lost! 🙂

  2. Great Post Lesh – Unfortunately i have horrid memories of my grandfather eating sardines from a tin. The smell was horrendous and hung around for what seemed like days however with excellent information like this I am tempted to try the real deal and put that horrible memory to bed. Thank you.

    1. Oh, Sherilyn, it’s such a shame when that happens – when childhood experiences mar such delicious and nourishing food. Like Brussels sprouts, for example. I hope you can overcome your sardine dislike and start enjoying this little fish! x

  3. I have grown to love sardines in the last year or so. I usually mash the flesh into a dip with other things like onions, peppers and mustard. One thing I have wondered about it how some have nice fatty livers but others have what seems like organs with tiny balls. You can kind of rub the organ between your fingers and little balls of something just come out.

  4. Dear Holly,

    I cooked fresh sardines today for lunch. I will repeat this again next week and use a griddle pan.
    I had fresh lime juice squeezed over them. They were OK but I prefer sardines tinned in tomato sauce canned in Germany from Aldi. Many thanks for your info.

    1. Not when cooked. Sardines bones are softer than other fish, but you still need to chew them thoroughly. You can remove them if you don’t like them.

  5. Sardines are my favourite fish ever. I now live in Darwin and unfortunately like most cities/places in Australia, they are not available for sale for human consumption!

    Is there any way I could order the frozen ones online? Please help! 😦

    Thank you,

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