These easy fish balls (meatballs) with sardines are a take on the Mexican dish Albondigas de Pescado. Serve them with a quick and easy tomato sauce as an appetizer, or add them to pasta for seafood spaghetti and meatballs!
This post is sponsored by King Oscar.
Sometimes inspiration strikes at unlikely times, from unlikely places.
Case in point– one night, a few months back, I came home, plopped my tired self on the couch, and declared that I was– without a doubt– much too tired to cook dinner.
The husband strapped on his superhero cape, and made a big ol’ pot of spaghetti.
As he was cooking, I remembered that we had leftover fish cakes from a canned sardine recipe I’d been working on.
We warmed them up, added them to the spaghetti, and quickly found ourselves gazing at a dish that seemed reminiscent of spaghetti and meatballs– and it was FANTASTIC!
I wondered though– could these fish cakes be transformed into something MORE like a meatball? Could they have the uniform texture of a classic meatball? Would they hold their shape and stay round?
The answer– happily– is most definitely YES! I took a cue from the Mexican dish Albondigas de Pescado (Fish Meatballs), and the result– easy to make, party perfect, delicious fish balls!
Want more sardine recipes ideas? Read this: How to Eat Canned Sardines
Fish Balls: Why Use Sardines?
As I browsed through various Mexican-style fish meatball recipes– I saw one thing in common– White fish. These albondigas de pescado recipes typically use white fish that’s flaked or puréed with a binder and seasoning.
But I had something else in mind– something like– SARDINES.
Why sardines? For one thing, my initial “fish cake on spaghetti” revelation was with sardine cakes! (So I knew the flavor was AMAZING!)
But I also love how easy it is to store sardines– grab a few cans, and they’ll be there waiting on you when you’re ready for them. Plus, high-quality sardines are still incredibly affordable.
It’s a win, win, and yes– another win!
Which sardines do I buy? I buy the finest sardines from his majesty the king– King Oscar that is! King Oscar’s Wild Caught Brisling Sardines are just gorgeous– these hand-packed tins are without a doubt the PRETTIEST canned fish I’ve ever seen. And they just so happen to taste fish-tastic too!
Want to Try King Oscar’s seafood? Use their store finder.
Love sardines? Try these too: Mini Sardine Fish Cakes, Greek Salad (Horiatiki), Pasta con le Sarde, and Fish Tikka Masala.
How Do I Get A Uniform “Meatball” Texture?
When I make fish cakes, I typically mash them very gently with a fork. That way, I get large chunks of fish inside the cakes.
With fish meatballs, though, you want a uniform consistency. The best way to do this is to add the ingredients to a food processor and blend until everything is smooth.
Cooking Tip: No food processor? You can use a blender, or mash them as well as you can with a fork.
How Can I Get Fish Balls to HOLD THEIR SHAPE?
After you finish puréeing– scoop the batter out of the basin, and into a bowl. Next, stir in more breadcrumbs. These unpuréed breadcrumbs will help hold everything together, and give you a more moldable, sturdier meatball.
What’s the Best Way to Cook the Fish Balls?
I wanted these albondigas de pescado to be firm enough to eat as an appetizer. (You know– the kind of meatball you can stab with a toothpick and drag through sauce without it crumbling into pieces!)
I tried poaching them inside the sauce– and that was a MAJOR fail. (We ate boxed mac and cheese for dinner that night– it was that big of a fail.) The fish meatballs completely fell apart, and crumbled into the sauce. I don’t recommend poaching these particular meatballs.
Next, I tried broiling them, just like I cook my fish cakes. SUCCESS! This worked perfectly– the fish meatballs were firm on the outside, tender on the inside, and just absolutely perfect.
Can I Freeze These Albondigas de Pescado?
I don’t recommend it. I tried freezing them, but I found it was hard to reheat them evenly. If you want to make them ahead, I recommend puréeing the fish mixture, scooping it into balls, and refrigerating the uncooked meatballs.
You could do this the day before, and then since the meatballs only take about 5 minutes to cook, set them in the oven right before you want to serve them.
How Should I Serve These?
However you want! The recipe includes an easy tomato sauce recipe, and these fish meatballs are fabulous dipped in the sauce.
Serve the albondigas de pescado as an appetizer with the sauce on the side for an easy party food! Or– toss freshly cooked spaghetti (or the low-carb spaghetti squash!) in the sauce, and then top it off with a few meatballs for an easy seafood spaghetti and meatballs dinner!
Want more canned fish tips? Check out this Ultimate Guide to Canned Fish.
Want more TAPAS or GAME DAY recipes? Try these:
Fish Balls: Albondigas de Pescado
Makes approximately 16 large fish meatballs, or more smaller fish meatballs. Recipe easily doubles or triples.
- 2 tins sardines (~4oz), packed in olive oil, oil reserved King Oscar Brisling Sardines recommended
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs, divided
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole milk)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
Quick Tomato Sauce:
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig rosemary, destemmed
- 2 cups canned whole tomatoes (2/3 28oz can) high-quality tomatoes like San Marzano recommended
- Remove sardines from can, reserving oil, and place them into the basin of a food processor or blender. Add remaining fish meatball ingredients, along with the oil from one tin (about 2 TB) to the basin. Blend until smooth.Tip: Don't have a blender? Mash the ingredients in a bowl with a fork as thoroughly as possible.
- Scoop batter into a bowl. Use a spoon to stir in the remaining breadcrumbs.
- Use a 1 1/2 TB scoop (or another small scoop) to form the mixture into small balls. Use your hands to roll the balls into more perfect spheres if necessary.
- Set fish meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate about 10 minutes.
- While the meatballs chill, start the tomato sauce.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan or wok. Cook the onions and garlic until they soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes to the pan, and crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add the spices, rosemary, and the bay leaf. Cover pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, turn on your broiler.
- Take the meatballs out of the fridge, and broil them for about 5 minutes until they're golden. Tip: Smaller meatballs may finish cooking faster-- keep an eye on them as they cook.
- Serve the meatballs as an appetizer with the sauce on the side, or toss freshly cooked pasta into the tomato sauce and serve the meatballs on top.
- Serve over spaghetti squash
- Serve on a hoagie / submarine sandwich bun, and top with mozzarella cheese