Stuffed Sardines with Pine Nut Sauce

Taratorlu sardalya dolması


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About

Large fleshy sardines are boned, filled and trussed for this delicious dish with its soothing sauce. Use a sharp knife to slit the underside of each sardine from head to tail. Remove the guts and carefully smooth the area around the backbone with your fingers to gently prise it out. Once released, snap it off at each end, keeping the rest of the fish intact. Rinse well under cold water.

As with all fish, these sardines are tastiest when cooked over a charcoal grill, but a conventional grill can be used.


  • 12 large sardines, prepared

For the stuffing

  • 6-7 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumak
  • small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

  • 3 oz/90 g pine nuts, crushed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
  • 1 slice stale bread, soaked in water
  • juice of ½ lemon or pomegranate
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 thin sharp sticks for trussing


  • Preheat the charcoal grill
  • Brown the onions with the garlic in the oil. Stir in the cumin seeds, sumak and parsley. Season to taste and put aside to cool.
  • Prepare the sauce. Squeeze the bread to get rid of the excess water, and pound it with the nuts and garlic in a bowl (or whizz together in an electric mixer). Slowly trickle in the oil and lemon juice, beating all the time to form a smooth paste. Add extra oil or lemon to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Put aside, with a piece of damp greaseproof paper pressed down on top to keep it moist.
  • Now moisten the stuffing with a little of the beaten egg, and spread a thin layer of stuffing down the middle of each sardine. Seal the flaps by threading the sticks in and out of the flesh. Sprinkle with a little extra sumak, and grill over hot charcoal for 2-3 minutes each side. Serve immediately with the pine nut sauce.