Sarde in saor – the Venetian sardines

Have you ever been to Venice and tried this apetizer?

Do you ever go to the market and always end up buying the same salmon?

Fish doesn’t have to be expensive. Nor do you always have to buy bigger fish, that have spent more time growing and more probably contain heavy metals, like tuna or swordfish.

The same goes for farmed fish – unless you really know where it comes from, fish farming is a dirty thing, they are fed antibiotics and live in very dirty waters in some places. You want to buy a fish with high omega-3 content and other polyunsaturated fatty acids, but with farmed fish you just end up buying something with little omega-3 (so no benefit for your cardiovascular health) and instead containing a higher amount of saturated fat. Look at that salmon at the fish market, if the white stripes in the meat are very visible and thick, you will already know it was farmed.

But there are so many other fish, that are more healthy and more sustainable, and… CHEAP! Like sardines! They have a very short lifespan, so they don’t spend enough time in the sea to absorb any heavy metals and they don’t eat other smaller fish, another reason why they are less prone to contain toxins.

If you are worried about the sustainability of the oceans (and you should be!), small fish are also the best fish to choose as they have a shorter reproductive cycle, they become adults much quicker and reproduce quicker, unlike some big fish, like tuna, that spends many years to get to adult size and reproduce.

So if you don’t know what to do with your sardines, and you want an alternative to grilling, here is a fantastic traditional recipe from Venice!


  • 500g sardines
  • Flour for the batter
  • 2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar (I used red)
  • One white or purple onion cut in thin slices
  • Some raisins
  • Extra virgin olive oil for cooking
  • Salt to season


I normally don’t take the innards out from the sardines, they are already very little and they give you a more funky taste.

Wash them under running cold water and leave them to dry on a paper towel.

Use some flour to cover all the fish in batter.

In a pan heat some oil, enough for the fish to fry slightly. Don’t overcrowd them because then they will just boil.

Turn them over gently, so they don’t break.

Cook them until they are nice and golden brown on both sides. When ready, take them out of the pan and put them on a paper towel to dry off any excess oil and salt them.

In the same pan, cook on a low heat the sliced onion and raisins until soft. Be very careful with the heat, don’t burn the onions, you just have to soften them!

When the onions are nice and soft, pour in the vinegar and turn up the heat just for it to evaporate slightly.

To finish, place the cooked sardines in a bowl, cover with the onions and the vinegary liquid, put some kitchen film or a small dish on top, and put some heavy object on top of it to squish it all and help it marinate.

Let it cool down to room temperature and later on leave it in the fridge. You can leave the fish to marinate for a few hours or try them the next day.

Voilá! An easy and tasty way of using sardines and you can just keep them in the fridge for a few days and have them as a quick appetizer, saving you time to cook on the busier days.


Graduate in Gastronomic Sciences, Q Arabica Grader, WSET L2 in wine. Obsessed with cooking new recipes, I love visiting producers and travel for food!

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