Sardines and Parsley Salsa

I know it’s been a mild winter, but I miss summer. Barbeques and patio dinners are still months away, but together we can fake it. It’s February outside? Throw some sardines in the oven, whip up a summery parsley salsa, uncork a Vinho Verde and you’ll swear you heard the ocean swell and seagulls calling.

I still remember the first time I watched my future mother-in-law make this salsa in her mortar and pestle. It’s a recipe straight from her home in the Azores, where they serve it on everything from barbequed meats and fish to omelettes, boiled potatoes and more.

I’ve separated the salsa and sardines into two recipes in case you want to mix and match them with other sauces or meals.


Parsley Salsa/ Molho de Salsa

It may be tempting to use a food processor, but it makes the sauce too runny. Use an old fashioned mortar and pestle or a small bowl and the back of spoon to get a nice, thick consistency. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even add a teaspoon of finely minced lemon zest for extra kick. This dressing is best made fresh just before using.


Parsley Salsa


  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) fine salt
  • Pinch coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) olive oil
  • Dash piri-piri or Tabasco sauce


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the salt and pepper until smooth. Add the onion and parsley and mash until paste-like.
  2. Transfer the paste to a small bowl, scraping any bits from the mortar, and whisk in the vinegar, oil, and piri-piri sauce.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Serve. Stir before using.


Barbecued sardines are great in the summer, but pan frying or grilling in the oven are just as tasty. Sardines are rich in omega-3 and great as an appetizer. Stack them on thick slice of Portuguese cornbread and dribble your parsley salsa overtop.




  • About 25 sardines, cleaned, gutted, heads and tails on, ends trimmed
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) flour
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
  • Lemon wedges


  1. Add flour to shallow dish and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Dredge 5 or 6 sardines in the flour, coating completely; shake off the excess flour. Discard the remaining flour.
  3. In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 up of the oil over medium-high heat. Fry the sardines in small batches (4 to 6 at a time) for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, just until the sardines are no longer opaque and the edges turn golden brown.
  4. Gently turn the sardines over with a spatula and fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until cooked through. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
  5. Repeat with the remaining sardines, adding oil, if necessary. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a hearty helping of parsley dressing.



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