Vietnamese Style Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Easy

Sorry, not the most photogenic dish in the world!
I think sardines get an unfair bad rap in the US. I think it must have to do with an association with Oscar the Grouch and sardines. Or something else. Who knows? But either way, it seems that most people, even people who generally like fish, avoid sardines. And its a shame, because sardines are pretty nutritious, and they're some of the cheapest fish out there.
Some people who don't like sardines have only ever tried sardines in a can, and perhaps didn't like the taste.
Or they tried fresh sardines, and couldn't find a good recipe for it.
I was in that second category for a while- wanting to make sardines because they were cheap, but not having a decent recipe. Then via google, I found this recipe for Vietnamese style sardines in spicy tomato sauce, which I tweaked to my liking.
It absolutely hit the spot, and after making it quite a few times for sardines, I discovered that it can be used for other small cheap fish as well, in addition to fillets. It is now my go to fish recipe because it's cheap to make, its easy and quick with few ingredients, and my kids like it and I absolutely love it. It also gives me a good excuse to use my homemade fermented fish sauce, but if you don't have any homemade stuff, you can use bought stuff.

I sometimes serve it over spaghetti or rice or mashed potatoes. If grain free, consider serving it over zucchini spaghetti. In Vietnam it's usually made into a sandwich on a baguette with mayo, pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, and soy sauce. (Use homemade gluten free French bread as your baguette.) I often just dip flatbread into the sauce after I finish eating the fish plain- the sauce is so finger lickin' good that I would even use it as a condiment!

This recipe works for a variety of diets, including GAPS, Paleo, gluten free, grain free, etc... The only diets I can think of that it doesn't work for are vegan, and nightshade free, and fish free diets.

And if you don't have homemade fish sauce and can't buy it- I recommend that you make some, if only so you can make this recipe!

Vietnamese Style Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe- Refined Sugar Free

1-2 onions
4 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups tomato paste
2 cups water
4-8 tablespoons fish sauce (ideally homemade fermented fish sauce)
1-2 tablespoons honey, date honey, coconut sugar or sugar
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Sprinkle of hot pepper flakes (to taste)
2 1/2 lbs fish, such as 10 fresh sardines or other small fish like bone-in young hake, or cheap white fish fillet

1. Saute the onions and garlic in oil.

2. Add tomato paste, water, sweetener, salt, fish sauce, and hot pepper flakes. Taste, and adjust as necessary.

3. Remove fish heads, fish guts, fish tails, and scales. Chop into small pieces if desired, or leave whole.

4. Put the fish in the tomato sauce, making sure they're entirely covered, and simmer, covered, on a low heat for 20 minutes or so, flip over the fish, uncover, and cook some more. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit and the fish flakes off the bone easily.

5. Serve either hot or cold. Remove bones before eating.

Are you a sardine fan? Have you ever cooked fresh sardines before? How did you prepare them? What is the cheapest fish you can get your hands on? What is your favorite way to cook cheap fish?
Does this look like a recipe you'd try?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


Thank you for leaving a comment on your blog. Comments are moderated- please be patient to allow time for them to go through. Opposing opinions are permitted, discussion and disagreements are encouraged, but nasty comments for the sole purpose of being nasty without constructive criticisms will be deleted.
Just a note- I take my privacy seriously, and comments giving away my location or religion are automatically deleted too.

  1. I'm planning to try this -- we can't get fresh sardines here but we do get the cheap white fish. And with the tomato sauce, that should hide the fishiness. (I like fish, the family objects.)

  2. I think most people that say they don't like sardines have only ever had the cheap ones packed in rancid vegetable oil.

    I buy the best quality sardines (canned, as fresh aren't available) and they're not fishy at all. They're rich, salty and delicious. I buy sardines often as they're so healthy, and the best recipes I've found are thesecanned sardine recipes. My faves are the sardine pate and sardine sandwich.

  3. I really want to try grilling fresh ones, but fresh fish is hard to find here. I'm not a fan of canned fish at all.

  4. We eat lots of canned sardines as well. Very convenient, cost effective and versatile. We frequently use it in sandwiches, sometimes we cook it with tomato paste and onions - quite similar to your recipe, which I'm definitely gonna try

Previous Post Next Post