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How to Cure Sardines


Image of Sardines Curing

Sardines Curing

Photo © Molly Watson

Sardines are wonderfully flavorful and nutritious little fish. Curing them with a bit of salt overnight softens their strong flavor and makes them perfect for topping salads, putting on toast or bagels and cream cheese, or serving as an easy, elegant appetizer.

Cured sardines can be kept, covered with oil, for up to a week. As you might guess from looking at it, this recipe is easy to double or triple as needed.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Curing Time: 36 hours

Total Time: 36 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


  • 12 Pacific sardines
  • 1/2 cup fine sea salt


  1. Use a sharp knife to cut off the heads of the sardines just past where their gills are. Cut a slit down their bellies to the tail. Under running water open them up and slip out their guts. (You can ask your fishmonger to do this, but if you're new to cleaning fish, sardines are a super easy first attempt!) Don't bother trying to remove the skin, it's much easier to slip off after they've been cured.
  2. Rinse the fish clean and pat them dry. Place them in a baking pan or similar container and sprinkle them on both sides with the salt. Cover the pan thoroughly with plastic wrap (a few layers is in order) and tuck the pan in the fridge for about 2 days (36 to 48 hours).
  3. Remove the sardines from the pan and rinse them clean of salt. Peel off their skin, if you like (it's easy to do now), and serve or cover them completely with oil and store them in the fridge for up to a week.
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