Magida's Homemade Sardines in Tomato Sauce
Seafoods Appetizers Filipino Lunch Meats and Seafoods Philippines

Homemade Sardines in Tomato Sauce Recipe

Why homemade sardines?

This homemade sardines in tomato sauce recipe is the easiest you would find. The last time I did this was just a week ago, and a friend asked me if I ever buy canned sardines. She continued that there is no need for me to buy them as my homemade version was easy, fresh, and yummy. Of course, I was pleased.


Homemade sardines – a better option

Admittedly, canned sardines of different brands fill my pantry. They are quick to prepare – huh, of course, because all I needed was a can opener, juice of half a lemon, 3 pieces of small red chilis, and a tablespoon of fish sauce. However, I know that homemade versions (of anything) are almost always a better option.

The first time I tried cooking sardines at home was more than 30 years ago back home in the Philippines; I was still learning the ropes in the kitchen then.  That was an experiment from a recipe I found in a free cookbook by Del Monte, a food company. Despite a couple of failed attempts, my persistence paid off, and I am sharing my recipe here with you. I now call it my recipe as I have made different adjustments, i.e., addition and deletion of ingredients and amending their amounts. Oh, this recipe called for another type of fish although similar. Anyway, this recipe has been tried and tested through the years; did I say 30 years?

The connotation for the word sardines

At times, the word “sardines” is used to describe cramped spaces, as in public transportation or a queue for something mundane but urgent. It gives you a picture of some sweat glands in action. Let us leave it at that, and go for what it brings in the imagination when referred to as food that it is, really. Although sardines in tomato sauce immediately brings to mind canned sardines,  homemade sardines, or even the thought of it, should elicit a different kind of excitement. You are guaranteed freshness to begin with as it comes from no other than your kitchen than the grocery shelves.

Benefits of eating sardines

Sardines are not unhealthy, as some might have a tendency to believe. They have Omega-3 fatty acids that can help prevent heart disease, Vitamin B-12, calcium, and other minerals. At times, it is part of a healthy diet for weight loss as it can help curb appetite. There are several recipes that call for sardines, including pasta and vegetable dishes.


Choice of fish for homemade sardines

Fresh mackerel fish is what I used in this recipe. You can use any other type, such as Russian mackerel or yellowfin scad. Sardine fish is also another choice, however if find it to be scaly. Small but meaty, I should say, is what I look for when I plan to make homemade sardines.

Fresh mackerel for homemade sardines


Ingredients for homemade sardines in tomato sauce

Sardines in Tomato Sauce Ingredients

  • mackerel fish, or any meaty fish type of your choice. The type and size of fish you would use in this recipe would also call for more (not less) cooking time.
  • olive oil. This can be easily replaced by any vegetable oil.
  • carrots. this provides a touch of sweetness to the sauce.
  • pickled cucumbers or sweet pickles – your choice. While the recipe asked for sweet pickles, the sour version is also acceptable as the rest of the ingredients will create the necessary balance.
  • bay leaves – this will take away whatever fishy smell from the sardines when cooked. Let us talk briefly about the fishy smell in fish. It is usually “fishy” when the poor thing is not fresh anymore, that is not a fishy statement. But as with any other foodstuff, a fish will smell fish, though not necessarily fishy. Bay leaves will help in getting rid of that smell. We do not want to have our sardines smelling like fish, we want it to smell like sardines – and sardines in tomato sauce, that is.
  • black pepper corns
  • Whole red chilis (fresh or dried) to taste (optional). This indeed is a matter of preference.
  • green olives (optional). You can omit this ingredient. This sardine recipe can be as simple as we wish.
  • water (at least). the last time I cooked this recipe (yes I said a week ago), I did not use water. I wanted the sauce to be as thick as possible
  • tomato sauce. Yes, of course, this is important.
  • tomato paste. This ingredient adds thickness to the sauce.
  • juice of lemon brings a little ting. This can be replaced by vinegar (half the amount versus the lemon)
  • salt
  • sugar
  • rice wine

Homemade sardines ingredients

Sardines are best with rice, bread, or salad

Sardines, for me, is nostalgic. It brings a lot of memories from back home, made dreamy by the fact that Saudi Arabia is not a place where this product is attractive. Although sardines are found in the local market here, they are normally for expats, and in my observation, Filipinos. We love sardines with steamy white rice, fried rice, hot pandesal, or bread rolls. It is also best as a salad accompaniment or salad ingredient.

Magida's Homemade Sardines in Tomato Sauce

Enjoy, I am sure you will!



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Magida's Homemade Sardines in Tomato Sauce

Homemade Sardines in Tomato Sauce

  • Author: Magida
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: cooking
  • Cuisine: International


Homemade sardines in tomato sauce from fresh fish and ingredients


  • 1 kilo sardine fish or mackerel
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small carrot (cut into florets)
  • 57 pieces of small pickled cucumbers (also called sweet pickles)
  • 3 pieces bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp  black pepper corns
  • Whole red chilis  (fresh or dried)  to taste (optional)
  • About 8 pcs green olives
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cups water (at least)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp juice of lemon
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine


  • Cut off the heads of fish, trim fins and tails. Clean fish of its innards. Drain or dry using paper towels.
  • Arrange half the fish in a pressure cooker. Cover the fish with half the amount of carrot florets, peppercorns, chili (if using), salt, sugar, and green olives. Repeat the order.
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice and rice wine, tomato sauce, tomato paste, then add water.
  • Cover and let boil over medium heat. Then lower the heat and leave for 45 minutes or until the sauce reaches a good consistency – not watery.
  • Serve hot or cold. Good with bread, nice with plain steamed rice, and wonderful with garlic fried rice. Burp!


  • Use pepper flakes as a replacement for chili peppers.
  • Replace rice wine with white wine or white vinegar.
  • Fried sardines from this recipe? Try it!
  • You may want to try MMK’s recipes for bangus sardines and Spanish sardines.

Keywords: homemade sardines in tomato sauce, homemade sardines, sardines in tomato sauce


      1. Hi Alfred, I am sure you would do well. Would love for you to share your experience and photos, please.

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