By Times Staff
If your experience with sardines is limited to what you get from a can, then you are in for a special treat with Portuguese sardines.

Good, grilled sardines are a shock for most people who have only had them canned. Even Oprah includes sardines as one of the 25 superfoods to include in your diet. According to her, &qu ot;Wild-caught sardines are low in mercury and high in vitamin D; a 3-ounce serving has as much calcium as a cup of milk. Even better, they're one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's top picks for sustainability."

Executive Chef Billy Brandolini of Ceia Kitchen & Bar in Newburyport shows us his way of brining and grilling sardines a la Portuguese style. Grilled sardines are also eaten all over Southern Europe along the Mediterranean coast. In Portugal, sardines are very popular, especially in the summer at outdoor celebrations and festivals, when the sardines are fattest. To the Portuguese, the little fish are like hot dogs and hamburgers, available from outdoor vendors and served at private food gatherings.

Sardines are salted and seasoned before grilling and can be eaten as a snack or as part of a larger meal. They have a rich, assertive flavor and can be served on a large platter at special gatherings.

Fresh sardines are harder to come by but you can often buy freshly frozen sardines from Portugal at a fish store or ethnic grocery, especially in Portuguese neighborhoods.

Grilled Portuguese Sardines


4 Portuguese Sardinhas (Sardines)


1 cup cider vinegar

3 cups water

1 lemon zested and juiced

1 lime zested and juiced

1/4 cup salt

3 tablespoons Portuguese spice ( smoked paprika, coriander, granulated garlic, chopped cilantro, salt and pepper)

Smoked Pepper Puree:

2 red bell peppers, seeded and de-ribbed

4 cloves minced garlic

1 minced shallot

1 tablesppons Portuguese spice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar



1. Mix all brine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Taste the mixture to insure desired flavor.

2. Place Sardinhas in a shallow dish and pour the brine over it. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Smoked Pepper Puree:

1. Grill peppers on each side until cooked tender. Skin should be charred lightly on each side.

2. Sauté© shallot and garlic in a sauté© pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil until translucent.

3. Combine grilled peppers, sauté©ed garlic and shallots, cider vinegar and Portuguese spice in a food processor. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the food processor until all ingredients are smooth and well combined. Season puree with salt and pepper to taste.

Grilling Sardinhas:

1. Preheat grill to medium high heat. Dry the sardines.

2. Grill the Sardinhas for about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

3. Plate the sardines and drizzle with the pepper puree.

Ceia pairs this dish with a grilled citrus frisee salad. At home, the grilled Sardinhas would pair nicely with a simple mixed green salad dressed with lemon and olive oil.

Article courtesy of
Image courtesy of Simon Howden

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