How popular are Portuguese sardines?
Lisbon actually shuts down many streets through-out the the entire month of June to celebrate the Lisbon Sardine Festival in honour of its patron saint, Saint Anthony. The city celebrates this fish for a whole month! I’d call that popular.
During the festival, you can find these delicious grilled fish at grill stations across the city. If you happen to visit the city outside of June, you can still get these famous sardines at many restaurants. Fresh sardines are usually available between May and October.
However, if you can’t make it to Lisbon in June, we have another option for you. Today we present grilled Sardines that you can make at home yourself, anytime of year.
Often served with cornbread
We put the sardine on a slice of cornbread for a very tasty reason, and as we’ve learned, sardines are often served this way in Lisbon.
No, we don’t make a sandwich out of it.
We put the sardine on the cornbread so that it soaks up the flavours and oils while we open the fish to remove its bones. After the fish is eaten, what remains is a tasty piece of bread that’s delicious on its own, and even better with a glass of wine to wash it down. 😜
Sardines at the park
Before moving to Portugal, when I was 12 years old, our family used to get together with other relatives and friends for picnics at parks outside the city. We spent many sunny summer Sundays this way–outdoors, having fun, and eating. There was always a lot of food.
I remember my dad firing up the charcoal bbq and grilling meat and fish. Sardines were almost always a part of the menu. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t like sardines. I thought sardines had too many bones and so I decided that meant I didn’t like them.
Finally… I like sardines!
It was years later, but I finally tried sardines, and I realized I had been totally wrong! What was I thinking?
These fish are so delicious, and they’re healthy, to boot! Sardines are typically low in mercury and very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Win-win!
That stink… is that… yup, a Portuguese guy’s grilling sardines 😂
Years ago, a buddy of mine invited me over to his new place for a barbecue. He told me he was grilling sardines. I was surprised because as long as I’d known him, he wasn’t into sardines. He told me he just wanted his neighbours to know a Portuguese family had just moved in.
Well, I guess that’s one way. I suppose he could have just introduced himself and gotten to know people, but this was certainly a quick way of sharing news. Like a Portuguese smoke signal or something.
No complaints from me, though. By this point I already knew I loved sardines so I accepted his invite and made sure no sardines went to waste.
Yes, sardines are delicious, but they sure do leave a potent scent in the air. I highly recommend preparing sardines outside on the grill.
Sardines are quite fatty, so expect some flare-ups while grilling. In fact, the fattier the sardines, the bigger the flare-ups.
My technique to help with this is to heat up the whole grill, then lower the middle burners to their lowest setting. Then I place the sardines in a row under the middle burners.
This means the sardines have just enough heat under them to create grill marks but not enough to create huge flare-ups. If flames get a little out of hand under the sardines, turn off another burner and move the sardines to that spot.
Cook like it’s June in Lisbon
Don’t wait for a trip to Lisbon in June before trying this delicious fish. You can do it yourself, wherever you are, whenever you want. You’ll be glad you did. But it’s still stinky, so go outside and grill responsibly in the open air. Sardine on cornbread and eat well, friends
Portuguese folks love their sardines so much that many streets in Lisbon shut down in June for a month-long sardine festival. We hope you love our version!
- 8 large sardines (750g or 26oz)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp course salt
- + vegetable oil to grease the BBQ grates
Preheat the BBQ to around 450 ºF.
Place the sardines on a large plate or baking sheet (this is only to reduce the mess).
Use some paper towel to dry the sardines.
Drizzle the tbsp of vegetable oil over the sardines and spread the oil over both sides.
Sprinkle the salt evenly over all 8 sardines on both sides.
Open the BBQ lid and reduce one or two middle burners to the lowest setting. Make sure to leave the two end burners on to keep the BBQ hot.
Place the sardines over the grates where the burners are low and close the lid.
Cook for about 3 minutes. Open the lid occasionally to see if there is a lot of flairing.
If you see a lot of flames, shut off one of the burners and carefully move the sardines over the burner you shut off to reduce flairing.
Turn the sardines and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, opening the lid occasionally to check for large flames. Once again, move the sardines to another burner if flairing gets to high.
The sardines are ready to eat. We recommend this traditional way of serving the sardines on Portuguese cornbread like you see in the photo. In Portugal, sardines are often served with boiled potatoes and a green salad. Enjoy!