Pan-Fried Sardines with Sweet-and-Sour Onions, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

Photo: Thomas J. Story; Styling: Karen Shinto

Time: 50 minutes, plus marinating time. Based on a classic Sicilian marinated fried version, this is a great entry-level way to try sardines. The vinegar adds a mouthwatering acidity that balances the oiliness of the fish—and also, in pre-refrigeration days, helped preserve it.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Recipe from Sunset

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Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 356
  • Calories from fat: 62%
  • Protein: 17g
  • Fat: 24g
  • Saturated fat: 3.7g
  • Carbohydrate: 16g
  • Fiber: 1.5g
  • Sodium: 401mg
  • Cholesterol: 49mg


  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 pounds sardines, gutted, heads off*
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • About 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. 1. Slice onions into thin half-moons. Combine vinegar and raisins in a measuring cup. Rinse sardines well inside and out, dry with paper towels, and roll in flour, shaking off excess.
  2. 2. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry sardines in 2 batches, 1 1/2 minutes per side, being careful not to overcook. Transfer to a large shallow serving dish or platter and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt (you can layer the sardines if necessary).
  3. 3. Wipe pan clean with paper towels, return to heat, and add remaining oil. When oil is hot, add onions and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, until onions are a soft, browned mass, 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. 4. Add vinegar and raisins and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Pour over sardines and sprinkle with pine nuts. Let marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, covered, or chill for up to 4 days. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.
  5. *Preorder cleaned sardines from your fishmonger.
  6. Make ahead: Up to 3 days, covered and chilled.
  7. Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.
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