Sardines en Escabeche with Red Onion, Tomato, and White Wine


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

You’ll find pickled fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna, and, in summer, various “blue” fish) all around the Mediterranean. This recipe, pleasantly pungent with some dried hot pepper and white wine vinegar, is based on a pied-noir (French Colonial) dish I ate in Oran in the early 1970s, similar to recipes prepared in southern France and Spain. All are based on simmering whole fish in a strong medium, then boning and leaving them to marinate in the same liquid. A lengthy pickling gives best results. Wait at least three days before serving.


  • 4 large or 8 small super-fresh sardines
  • ¼ cup (all-purpose) flour
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 dried hot red pepper
  • 1 scant teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Rinse and dry the fish. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Roll the sardines in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Fry in hot oil, allowing 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden. Drain on paper towels, then place in a single layer in a shallow glass or ceramic dish.
  2. Reheat the oil in the skillet over medium heat and gently sauté the carrot, red onion, and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the hot pepper, peppercorns, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, the tomato paste, vinegar, and wine. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, open each sardine along the stomach and bone the fish. (Boning the fish after cooking creates much more flavorful results.)
  4. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce, adding a few drops of vinegar, if necessary, and pour while still hot over the opened sardines. Allow to cool, cover tightly, then refrigerate at least 2 days before serving. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.