Sardine Stew in a Flash

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    4 to 5


Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Sardines have been rediscovered in the West. Years ago, our Victorian ancestors considered them haute cuisine, and served them at dinner parties in fancy crystal and silver sardine servers. More recently, they have gained favor because they are filled with protein, minerals, vitamins, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Yet they remain inexpensive, and can be conveniently stored in cans on the shelf next to cans of tuna fish. They are already cooked, and have a mild, pleasant flavor.

My Norwegian grandfather used to eat sardines, but I never ate them until I worked in Ghana and learned to favor them accompanied by a ball of kenkey and some fiery shito, or in this simple and satisfying stew. My grandfather ate the tiny sardines in oil in the flat tin box that you open with a key. Those can be used, but more common are the larger sardines that are canned with chili sauce or tomato sauce. This recipe features those marketed by Goya in 15-ounce cans or the smaller 3.5-ounce “tinapa” size. When I first went to Ghana my future sister-in-law always wrote “tinapa” on our shopping list and I thought that was a Ghanaian type of fish.

Sardine stew can be cooked in a flash after a busy day or when company arrives unexpectedly. It takes about twenty minutes, and goes well with plain boiled rice, so for a quick meal, put 2 cups of long-grain rice on to cook in an electric rice cooker before beginning the stew.


  • 2 to 4 tablespoons peanut or other vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped or sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried ground red pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (optional)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Goya sardines in tomato (or chili) sauce; or 3 (-ounce) cans Goya tinapa sardines in tomato sauce or hot tomato sauce
  • Salt to taste



  1. Heat oil on medium heat in a heavy 10-inch skillet, then add the onion and sauté on medium heat for a few minutes until translucent and just beginning to brown.
  2. Stir in the ground red pepper, tomato paste, if using, and ¼ cup of water. (Optional: Add the eggs when adding the water to make a richer, thicker sauce. It is fine if the eggs solidify and curdle in the sauce, but to prevent that, lower the heat to cook.)
  3. Gently empty the cans of sardines into the pan, leaving the sardines whole or allowing them to break up into small pieces. Use ¼ cup water to rinse out the sardine can, and stir into the stew.
  4. Add salt to taste (or none), turn the heat to low and allow the stew to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add a little more water if necessary.

To serve

If serving with rice, ladle a generous spoonful of rice onto a plate and cover with a spoonful of stew. If another vegetable is desired, cook up some fresh or frozen veggies in the microwave, or sauté some cabbage or other greens while the stew simmers. My family members automatically spoon some Shito onto the side of the plate alongside the stew (or use any hot sauce). Top the meal off with seasonal fresh fruit.