How to Smoke Sardines

Smoked Sardines
Melanie Acevedo / Getty Images
Prep: 13 hrs
Cook: 4 hrs
Total: 17 hrs
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
44 Calories
0g Fat
11g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 44
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 3546mg 154%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 6mg 29%
Calcium 24mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 71mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Smoked sardines are mostly seen living in cans, and honestly, smoked sardines are fabulous that way—the teeny bones break down so much you can eat them once the fish rests in oil a while. Here's how to make your own homemade version, which once marinated in olive oil for a few weeks, is far better than any canned product.

For this recipe, you will need almond wood, maple, hickory, or apple hardwood chunks.


  • 20 to 30 small fresh sardines

  • 4 cups water

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1 medium onion, grated or finely chopped

  • 5 medium bay leaves

  • 2 tablespoons cracked peppercorns

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Start by gutting and washing your sardines. If you want to take the time, split your sardines and remove the backbone and ribs. (Instructions linked below) This is useful but makes the fish far tougher to deal with in the smoker. We leave the bones in.

  3. Make the brine by putting all the ingredients above (except the sardines) into a pot; bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat. Stir to combine and cover, then let come to room temperature.

  4. When the brine is cool, submerge your sardines in it in a large, covered, nonreactive container.

  5. Let the sardines soak in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight. Do not let them soak longer, or they will become very salty.

  6. Take your sardines out of the brine, rinse under cold water quickly, then pat dry. Let them dry on a rack in a breezy, cool place or run a fan on them for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Be sure to turn your fish over once. This forms a layer called the pellicle on the outside of the fish that helps the smoke adhere to the meat.

  7. Once the sardines look dry and shiny, put them in the smoker as far away from the heat as you can. Smoke sardines very slowly for 4 to 5 hours over almond wood. You could use any hardwood, such as maple or hickory or apple. Do not use pine.

  8. The goal is to gently cook the sardines to an internal temperature of about 140 F. You must do this slowly so the smoke can penetrate the fish and so that the oils in the sardines—a huge source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids—do not weep out of the meat.

  9. When you are ready, take the sardines out and put them back on the rack to cool to room temperature.

  10. Enjoy.


  • If you find yourself short of brine, make a second batch. In a pinch, you can simply add more water and salt in the same ratio as the original: 4 cups to 1/4 cup.
  • Seal the sardines in plastic and they will keep for two to three weeks in the fridge or a year if you vacuum-seal them and put them in the freezer.
  • Another thing to do with smoked sardines is to cut the heads off and arrange them in a jar or Tupperware container and then cover them in oil. Kept in the fridge, these will last months if they're completely covered in oil.

Recipe Tags: