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Canned sardines go upscale in this easy Sardines Tapas recipe, created by celebrated Basque Chef Martin Berasategui for Gastro Bar by MB, at Paradisus Los Cabos, Mexico.
Try these crostini topped with sardine pâté for a luscious party appetizer, budget game day food or tasty snack.
Creamy, salty with a hit of tanginess from the capers – this is one of our favourite tinned sardine recipes ever!
Sardine Tapas by Basque Chef Martin Berasategui
If you’ve ever looked in your pantry and wondered how to prepare those canned sardines tucked in the cupboard corner, you’ll love this recipe.
It makes a delicious appetizer that’s fancy enough for entertaining yet is made with everyday canned sardines.
The main ingredient of this luxurious Cream of Sardines appetizer is canned sardines in olive oil. The finished dish is so diverse — featuring hits of salt, smoke and sweetness — you’d never believe it was made from a pantry staple.
I first discovered this dish during an afternoon at Gastro Bar by Martin Berasategui, an upscale tapas bar located at Paradisus Los Cabos, Mexico.
Titled simply Cream of Sardines it was presented in a whimsical dish shaped like a sardine tin and came topped with smoked salmon, capers and piquillo pepper.
We slathered the pâté on tiny toasts and it was a sophisticated treat that channelled the essence of the traditional Spanish conserva or food preserved in a can.
Executive Chef Thomas Quenet, who hails from Aquitaine, France and honed his culinary skills at several Paradisus properties, generously supplied me with a copy of the Cream of Sardines recipe.
It’s been adapted for the home cook, for us to enjoy. I was surprised to discover how quick and easy it was to make!
Menu at Gastro Bar by MB at Paradisus Los Cabos
Located within the elegant Paradisus Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo, one of the best resorts in Los Cabos, Gastro Bar by Martin Berasategui is the Basque chef’s newest restaurant venture in Mexico.
The restaurant menu features street snacks, tapas and casual dishes drawn from Chef Berasategui’s childhood roots in San Sebastián, Spain.
Although the decor is posh, the concept of Gastro Bar by MB is quite different than the molecular gastronomy that’s the hallmark of Chef Martin Berasategui’s restaurants Passion by Martin Berasategui, located in Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla and Paradisus Resort Palma Real, Cancun.
It’s also a world away from the haute cuisine at his acclaimed restaurants in Europe.
With the granting of the third star to his Lasarte restaurant and eight Michelin stars in total, Chef Martin Berasategui has garnered the most stars in the history of the Spanish edition of the Michelin Guide.
The menu at Gastro Bar is relaxed and features a selection of small plates. Guests choose from the a la carte menu or opt for the tasting menu of tapas.
Memorable tapas — beyond this pâté of sardines recipe — include addicting crisps of Parmesan cheese, sangria infused watermelon and creamy porrusalda, the traditional Basque soup. Larger appetizers include a classic ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and Iberian ham.
It’s a fun experience dining at Gastro Bar by MB. The cuisine is approachable yet features the signature Martin Berasategui elements of excitement, skilled technique and exceptional ingredients.
Locally-sourced fish from the Gulf of California appear in a stellar selection of dishes such as grilled rocket and roasted totaoaba with airy rice foam and bisque.
Choosing the Best Canned Sardines for Pâté
When it comes to making this recipe, the key is quality ingredients.
Use the very best sardines you can find. Although my fellow North Americans might argue that Canadian sardines–which include brands such as Brunswick–are the best in the world, in my opinion canned sardines from Portugal and Spain are truly exceptional.
European brands of sardines larger, firmer and meatier than those canned in North America. Beloved and available in bars, restaurants and virtually every grocery store throughout Europe, Spain’s canned seafood — which can include octopus, anchovies, sea urchins and even baby eels — is sourced primarily from the pristine waters of Galicia on Spain’s Atlantic coast.
There are actually 21 different species of marine fish which are canned as sardines.
At the cannery, the fish are washed, the heads and tail are removed, and the fish are then smoked or cooked, either by deep-frying or steam.
They are then packed in either olive, sunflower or soybean oil, spring water or in a tomato, chile or even mustard sauce.
Tinned sardines are also a very economical food. A can of sardines generally costs under $20 so opting for a sardine recipe for an appetizer is very budget-friendly. When choosing canned sardines for this dish, purchase the best sardines you can afford.
You can find good brands from France, Spain or Portugal in a speciality shop or order a quality brand such as Matiz Gallego Sardines or those from the gourmet line by Chef José Andrés Foods online through Amazon.
How to Eat Canned Sardines
Because canned sardines are so portable, they’re perfect for a quick meal if you’re travelling, camping or on a hike. A sardine can is virtually indestructible, opens easily and is ready to serve so is handy for travelling or as a boating snack.
To eat canned sardines, just scoop out a sardine, mash it slightly on a piece of crusty bread, buttered toast or cracker, squeeze on a bit of lemon, top with a sliver of red onion and it’s ready to eat.
There’s no need to separate the bones from the sardines. Just eat them whole, bones and all.
You might also enjoy our recipe for Bacalao a la Vizcaina – Spanish-style battered Salt Cod
Ingredients for Spanish Cream of Sardines Pâté
You don’t need many ingredients for this cream of sardines tapas recipe, but they should be high quality. Use the very best quality of tinned sardines you can find.
I love that this recipe calls for the Laughing Cow brand of cheese. It might seem surprising to see a chef who has amassed so many Michelin stars using this cheerful wedge of spreadable cheese in a recipe but Fromageries Bel has been producing this popular cheese since 1865.
It’s a blend of milk, cheese and fresh and aged cheese, primarily Comté, a French cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in eastern France.
So it actually makes perfect sense to include the creamy French cheese spread in this Basque-inspired tapas snack.
How to Make this Tapas Recipe
Purée all ingredients (less oil) until smooth. Use the entire sardine – skin, bones and all.
Process the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
Then add a little olive oil (as you would make a mayonnaise), strain well to remove any lumps and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Serve the chilled Cream of Sardines within the empty sardine tin or a small decorative dish.
Garnish with bright ingredients such as slivers of smoked salmon, fried shrimp, piquillo peppers, capers or whatever your imagination suggests.
Served accompanied by small bread toasts, crostini or premium crackers. It also goes well with Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho.
Pair it with a glass of sparkling cava, a Spanish Gin & Tonic or a bubbly prosecco cocktail.
Tips & Variations on this Tinned Fish Pâté
- Use the best quality ingredients you can afford.
- This no-fuss recipe works best using the whole sardine straight from the can. No need to try to separate the bones! They’re soft enough to be easy to eat, especially when blended into a pâté.
- Get creative with the decorative garnish, but try to use Spanish piquillo peppers as they add an important smoky hit of flavour.
- For other delicious dishes using tinned fish, try this quick & easy appetizer recipe for Smoked Mackerel Pate or this recipe Canned Salmon Impossible Pie, an entree the whole family will love.
Cream of Sardines with Smoked Salmon and Capers
- 130 grams canned sardines in olive oil high-quality packed in olive oil
- 125 grams Laughing Cow cheese
- 150 grams extra virgin olive oil
- 150 grams mineral water
- 20 grams mustard
- 4 slices smoked salmon
- 8 capers
- 4 fried shrimp optional
- 40 grams red piquillo pepper sliced
- 4 baby spinach leaves fried
- 2 small pickles sliced
- Purée all ingredients (less oil) until smooth.Then add a little olive oil (as you would make a mayonnaise)Strain well and refrigerate for 2 hoursServe the chilled cream pate within an empty sardine tin or a small decorative dish. Garnish with decorative ingredients and serve accompanied with small bread toasts.
- You can substitute well-drained, jarred roasted red peppers for the piquillo peppers and while they deliver the sultry taste of a charred pepper and add nice colour they lack the heat of a Spanish piquillo pepper.
- Fried shrimp is optional but is a welcome addition for a heartier snack.
Try This Dish at Paradisus Los Cabos, Mexico
Paradisus Los Cabos Mexico: The ninth Paradisus by Melia property and the fourth in Mexico, the sprawling Paradisus Los Cabos property, created through a $35 USD million-dollar transformation of the former Melia Cabo Real.
It features expansive ocean views, proximity to Cabo Real Golf Course and one of the largest swimmable beaches on the Cabo Corridor.
In addition to Gastro Bar by MB, dining options include Naos Fresh Market (international buffet), Bana (contemporary Asian), Terraza & Market Grill (Italian-Argentinian), Mole (modern Mexican), La Palapa (exclusive to Royal Service) and GABI, the two-storey beach bar and restaurant.
Check for the best prices at Paradisus Los Cabos, Mexico.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
Read more about Michele Peterson.
Hi, love your site and I love sardines, can you tell me why it needs to be drained and for how long? Could you omit draining it, if it’s for one’s own personal consumption and not for a fancy dinner party? Thanks
I followed this recipe but changed smoked salmon for smoked tuna! amazing!!!
Thank you for this lovely recipe, and the detailed post on sardines. I’m sure it will be of great use to sardine lovers. 🙂
Alan @ MorePassportStamps.com
Really good of you to choose a sustainable fish, over fishing is killing our oceans! Recipe looks very tasty too 🙂
This sounds a divine and easy recipe, I am so going to make this. I always have a can of good sardines in the cupboard and Laughing Cow cheese in the fridge!! I love the look of the circular bar too. How nice that the chef gave you the recipe