Grilled Pacific Sardines with Tangy Tomatillo Sauce

Pacific sardines are made for the barbecue. These smaller fish are naturally oily and salty, which turn to a smoky, deep meaty flavor when grilled.

After they are cooked, you can easily pull the flesh open and then lift out the spine with the head and tail attached.  Any tiny bones not attached to the spine are generally soft enough to eat.

Grilled Pacific Sardines with Tangy Tomatillo Sauce

Yield: 3-4 servings

Santa Barbara Pacific sardines are more briny than Atlantic sardines, perfect for grilling.


  • 12 ounces fresh tomatillos (about 6 large tomatillos)
  • Half of an onion
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds whole fresh (or thawed frozen) Santa Barbara Pacific sardines, scaled and gutted*


  • Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  • Remove papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse.  Place on a baking sheet.
  • Peel the onion and cut into wedges about ½” thick.  Lightly coat the onion wedges with olive oil and place on the baking sheet with the tomatillos.
  • Bake 20-30 minutes until onion is softened and tomatillos are lightly browned and blistering.
  • Transfer to a food processor, along with any juices that have collected on the baking sheet.  Pulse a few times to break up the tomatillos.  Add cilantro and lime juice.  Pulse a few more times until it reaches a chunky sauce consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Fire up the grill and let it get nice and hot.  Meanwhile, rinse the sardines and pat dry.  Lightly coat them with olive oil and sprinkle them inside and out with salt and pepper.
  • Grill the sardines over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side, or until skin is crisp and flesh is flaky.  Serve immediately with the tomatillo sauce.

*Sardines can be scaled and gutted according to the standard procedure for fin fish (such as bass or trout).

There you have it. Eating lower on the food chain has never felt so top of the world.

Posted Apr 21st by Danielle