Love Canned Sardines? This canned sardine recipe uses chili-infused sardines to make mini Sardine Fish Cakes! Serve them with a Spicy Yogurt Sauce as Tapas or Hors D’Oeuvres.
This post is sponsored by King Oscar, but as always, all opinions are my own.
About a year ago, I discovered a quirky little tapas restaurant downtown. To get inside, I wandered down an indoor staircase, past the loud furniture upholstery and dimly lit chandeliers, following the smell of something delicious. That night, as I shared tiny plates of very fancy food with friends– one dish in particular surprised me.
As we passed food from person to person, I took a bite of some tiny fish cakes– expecting them to be familiar and mild. Instead, I bit into a spicy flavor explosion! Those cakes stayed in my mind, and months and months later, when I saw tins of spicy chili-oil sardines, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.
These mini Sardine Fish Cakes are perfect as a party appetizer, or as a tapas dish shared with friends.
Why Eat Sardines?
Have you tried sardines yet? If you haven’t– you should! Why? For one thing, it’s easy to find sustainably sourced sardines, and they’re on the Marine Stewardship Council’s list of “Fish to Eat.” Plus, unlike tuna, sardines have incredibly low levels of mercury! In other words, choosing to eat sardines is a healthy choice for both the environment and for you!
One of my favorite things about sardines, though, is that they can make cooking easier. Browse through the canned sardine section at your local grocery store, and you’ll realize something amazing– Canned sardines come packed in infused oils and sauces! (And that, my friends, means there is LESS WORK for you while cooking!)
Now, quite honestly– I don’t always recommend fish that comes canned in flavoring or sauces. Why not? Because I haven’t always been impressed with the quality of the fish. Recently though, I tried some sardines that changed my mind.
The flavor-packed sardines that won me over are from King Oscar. Their Spanish Style Sardines are packed in olive oil and chili pepper, and they are INCREDIBLE. As soon as I opened the first can, I was impressed with the plump, shiny fish and the flavor of the chili-infused oil. One bite, and I was sold! These fish are delicious, high-quality, and just a little spicy!
Quick Tip: Love canned sardines and want to learn more? Read this Ultimate Guide to Canned Fish!
How to Make Fish Cakes Without Mayonnaise
One thing always holds me back from making fish cakes– normally they use an INCREDIBLE amount of mayonnaise. (Or at least, it seems like a lot to me, because I rarely use mayo in anything.) I decided to see if I could swap out the mayo for yogurt– and it was DELICIOUS.
At first, I was worried that skipping the mayonnaise would give me dry fish cakes. Then I remembered that I was using an oily fish that had been packed in more oil, and was fairly sure it would work. I tried out a few variations of this recipe, and this one is my favorite!
First of all, for this recipe you need two cans of chili oil-infused sardines. Remove the sardines from the cans, reserving the oil and discarding the chili peppers. Add the sardines to a mixing bowl, along with two tablespoons of the reserved oil. Add the rest of the fish cake ingredients, and gently mix everything together with a fork.
Next, scoop out small balls of the batter. (I tried this with two different small scoops– one 1 tablespoon scoop and also a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop– both worked, they just gave me slightly different size patties.)
Press the cakes into disks about two inches across, and chill them for a half hour. While the cakes chill, mix together the ingredients for the sauce, and set the sauce in the fridge to chill.
Next, broil the cakes for about five minutes per side. Make sure to use an oven-safe container with raised edges– a baking sheet, a cast iron skillet, a casserole dish– any of those will work. As you broil the cakes, oil from within the cakes will drain out, and the fish cakes will fry in the pan.
Note: I tried this recipe with less added oil, and the cakes tasted dry inside. Make sure to add the full two tablespoons.
Once the cakes finish cooking, remove them from the pan, and serve them while they’re still warm along with the spicy yogurt sauce. Enjoy these along with other small plates (like loaded crab fries, mini shrimp tacos, and of course– a cocktail or two), or serve them at your next dinner party for a tiny, but flavorful, appetizer!
How to Eliminate Fish Smells: Since these fish cakes are party food, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll have guests over while cooking or immediately after, and don’t want ANY fishy smells. Simply clean up immediately! Rinse the sardine cans out as soon as you’re done with them, and throw them away. Make sure to clean off the pan you used to broil the fish as soon as it cools down. And that’s it! Any fish smell should be gone!
A Canned Sardine Recipe: Mini Fish Cakes
These mini Sardine Fish Cakes are served with a Spicy Yogurt Sauce, and are perfect to serve as Tapas or Hors D’Oeuvres.
This recipe makes approximately 15-18 mini 2" fish cakes. Serving estimate is 2 fish cakes per person. Alternately, make larger 4" patties and serve as a main course.
30 Minutes of estimated Prep Time is inactive, while the cakes chill.
Sardine Fish Cakes:
- 2 tins sardines (~4oz) packed in chili + oil, oil reserved King Oscar Spanish Style Sardines Recommended
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole milk)
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 twigs fresh thyme
- 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 egg
Spicy Yogurt Sauce:
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole milk)
- 1 TB Dijon mustard
- 1 TB capers
- 1 TB capers brine (from capers jar)
- 1 tsp Worshteshire sauce
- 1 tsp cayenne powder, to taste
- 1 tsp salt, to taste
Remove sardines from tin, reserving oil, and place fish in a mixing bowl. Add remaining fish cake ingredients, along with the oil from one tin (about 2 TB) to the bowl.
Gently mix all the ingredients together with a fork. Mix until incorporated, and then stop. (Do not use a blender or food processor for this step, because you don't want to purée the fish.)
Use a 1 TB measuring spoon (or another small scoop) and scoop the fish cake mix into small balls.
One by one, roll the balls in your hands, and then flatten into small patties 2" across, and about 1/2" thick. You should end up with 15 - 18 patties, depending on the size of your scoop.
Set patties on a rimmed baking sheet, large cast iron pan, or casserole dish.
(Note: We've added oil to an oily fish. While cooking, oil from the fish will drain out of the fish, and the fish will fry in the oil under the broiler. Avoid using a rimless baking sheet, because the oil will drip all over your oven.)
Refrigerate patties for about 30 minutes.
While fish cakes chill, mix together all the ingredients for the yogurt sauce. Make sure to taste as you add the cayenne and salt-- use more or less as desired. Put sauce in the refrigerator until it's time to serve.
Move oven rack to the top 3rd of the oven (or about 6" from the broiler). Broil 5 minutes, flip, and broil 3-5 minutes more, until fish cakes are dark and golden.
Remove cakes from pan (and residual oil) immediately. Serve while still hot with the yogurt sauce.
Sardine Options: Can't find sardines packed with chili? Try one of these combinations:
- (Unflavored) Sardines, plus 2 TB chili-infused oil used INSTEAD of the oil in the tin
- (Unflavored) Sardines packed in olive oil. Use the oil in the tin (as directed in the recipe) PLUS 1 tsp red chili flakes