Sardine Empanadas

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Sardine Empanadas

What to do with a couple cans of sardines? Do what the people from landlocked Aguascalientes do: make the tastiest empanadas.

Over the past dozen years, I have been amazed by so many things, as I’ve ventured into a deep exploration of Mexico’s cuisine to share it with the world – or whoever will listen. Its richness, its diversity, its depth, its accessibility, its generosity… One thing that has also stood out, everywhere, is the resourcefulness of its people.

You know the saying, if all you have are lemons, make lemonade. That exponentially applies to the Mexican spirit.

Take the state of Nuevo Leon that is so rich in oranges. You will find everything from orange cake, orange cookies, orange drinks, orange chicken, orange candy, to amazing orange preserves.

Aguascalientes is a place deeply inland, with no water outside its borders and no water within its borders – no lakes, no rivers. Bien tierra adentro, as we say. Historically, the only fish and seafood that has been available there, for the most part, is that which can be preserved: salted, dried, pickled, or canned. Hence, these sardine empanadas, a dish that truly embellishes the sardines.

I was intrigued when I stumbled upon this recipe as a specialty of the region. It jumped out at me like a jack-in-the-box screaming: test me please! See, I inherited a deep taste for sardines. A funny ingredient to dig, I know. Pretty basic and not much glamour about them…

Oh, but it’s the lightly salty, oily, peculiar rich taste and kind of pasty consistency to them that I grew to appreciate from two men I love. My father, whose favorite torta – and he is a heck of a torta maker – has sardines, avocado, onion and pickled jalapeños. And my grandfather, my father’s father, who was an angel that happened to land on earth – ok, fine, he was a Polish man fleeing persecution, who found refuge in Mexico when he was merely a teen – loved eating sardines on saltine crackers smeared with butter.

Pati with her Grandpa
With my grandfather, like 25 years ago…

Turns out, you really only need basic ingredients to make these empanadas. And they end up gorgeous, inside and out.

Here is a bird’s eye view of the empanadas.

sardine empanadas

You know why they have such deep and shimmering golden brown color on the top? Because in Aguascalientes, they brush the empanadas with only the egg yolks. No worries, you won’t waste the egg whites. You can use them to help seal the inner seam of the empanada.

As far as the filling: Sardines are combined with mushrooms that are seasoned and browned over softened onions and mixed with mushy cooked tomatoes, olives and pickled jalapeños. The sardine flavor is nuanced by the combination, yet not hidden. It is embellished in a way.

The mushrooms are a non-competing companion that makes the filling more substantial and adds a nice soft bite. The puff pastry becomes the perfect wrapping to envelop the savory, lightly spicy, teasingly rich mixture.

Ok, here is an inside photo, so you can see the chunky and moist filling too.

sardine empanadas

You can make them for lunch or dinner and eat them with a green salad on the side. You can also make them mini and have them as appetizers. You can eat them hot, right out of the oven. Or you can eat them at room temperature. And you know I am going to say this: they are actually also delicious cold.

The best thing is, if you have leftovers, everyone will have a delicious to-go lunch for school or work.

Sardine Empanadas
Print Recipe
Makes 20 empanadas Empanadas de Sardina
Ingredients
  • 1 pound frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) white button mushrooms cleaned and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (about 1/2 pound) ripe Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos chopped
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños chopped
  • 2 cans of sardines in oil (3-4 ounces) broken into chunks
  • 2 eggs separated
  • All-purpose flour for rolling out puff pastry
To Prepare
  • Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and let it thaw on your countertop.
  • Heat the oil in a medium casserole or a sauté pan set over medium heat. Once hot, cook the onion for 3 to 4 minutes until it softens. Incorporate the mushrooms, sprinkle the salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, until the juices come out and they begin to dry out, and the mushrooms start browning a bit. Add the tomatoes and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until they start breaking down and becoming mushy and soft. Add the olives and jalapeños, mix well, and cook for another minute.
  • Remove from the heat, add the sardines, combine well and set aside.
  • Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks in two small bowls. Use a fork or a whisk to beat them separately.
  • Place the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Lightly sprinkle flour on the countertop and rub some on the rolling pin. Roll out the puff pastry to thinner than 1/4-inch and use a 4-to-5-inch round mold to cut circles. Add a generous tablespoon of the sardine filling in the middle of each round. Brush a bit of the beaten egg white around the edges each round. Fold each one into a half moon shape and press the sides.
  • Using a fork, press the side of the empanada to help seal and decorate it. Brush the egg yolk on top of the empanadas and place them on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Place the empanadas in the oven. Bake anywhere from 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops of the empanadas have puffed and are a shiny golden brown.
  • Serve hot. Or serve lukewarm. Or serve cold! The empanadas may also be covered and stored, and then reheated.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) white button mushrooms cleaned and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (about 1/2 pound) ripe Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos chopped
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños chopped
  • 2 cans of sardines in oil (3-4 ounces) broken into chunks
  • 2 eggs separated
  • All-purpose flour for rolling out puff pastry
To Prepare
  • Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and let it thaw on your countertop.
  • Heat the oil in a medium casserole or a sauté pan set over medium heat. Once hot, cook the onion for 3 to 4 minutes until it softens. Incorporate the mushrooms, sprinkle the salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, until the juices come out and they begin to dry out, and the mushrooms start browning a bit. Add the tomatoes and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until they start breaking down and becoming mushy and soft. Add the olives and jalapeños, mix well, and cook for another minute.
  • Remove from the heat, add the sardines, combine well and set aside.
  • Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks in two small bowls. Use a fork or a whisk to beat them separately.
  • Place the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Lightly sprinkle flour on the countertop and rub some on the rolling pin. Roll out the puff pastry to thinner than 1/4-inch and use a 4-to-5-inch round mold to cut circles. Add a generous tablespoon of the sardine filling in the middle of each round. Brush a bit of the beaten egg white around the edges each round. Fold each one into a half moon shape and press the sides.
  • Using a fork, press the side of the empanada to help seal and decorate it. Brush the egg yolk on top of the empanadas and place them on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Place the empanadas in the oven. Bake anywhere from 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops of the empanadas have puffed and are a shiny golden brown.
  • Serve hot. Or serve lukewarm. Or serve cold! The empanadas may also be covered and stored, and then reheated.

36 comments on “Sardine Empanadas

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  1. Hi Pati,
    I just have to say that, I love watching your show on TV. I think you are an amazing cook and you bring such a talent to the kitchen, AND, you make it so informative and everything seems fun and easy. I also love that you bring your sons, your sister and friends, to the kitchen (I even like that song that plays before you start!) It’s all so cool!!! I’m happy, I get to watch your episodes! I also think that you are the prettiest cook on TV!

    Thank You, Pati!

  2. I so enjoy your shows, your simple and easy to make recipe are a blessing. At the same time, I so enjoyed the history behind each dish. I love the fact that you don’t care to go to the simple/indigenous part. Stay humble. Gracias. J.Martinez

  3. Patti,
    I love your work, enjoy your shows on PBS and have both your books – I am in your Fan Club. Thanks for such a genuine love of your homelands food, it is infectious. I really enjoy your Blog and recipes . . .BUT, I find it impossible to print out your recipes as they always come out in long 5 or 6 pages that are impossible to post on my must cook bulletin board. Can you have your computer gurus tweak your website to make it much more computer printer friendly. Mucho gratias!

  4. My husband & I really enjoy watching your TV program “Patti”. We especially love it when your sons help with cooking. You have such handsome sons, all three of them. This week-end when we watched your show, could not believe how your handsome sons had grown. We learn good tips from your cooking & love to watch the different ingredients that go into your meals.

  5. My family migrated from this region, and my grandma always made it with tomatoes, green onions, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper, chopped in small pcs, add chopped sardines, serve on crackers, it tasted so, so, good.

  6. Pati, I enjoy sardines, most often the way your Daddy liked them. I’d love to know if you can think of another ingredient to use as a substitute for the sardines.

    Oh, pity. I live alone and would have to eat this entire recipe.

  7. Thank you, Pati. My husband loves sardines. I am going to surprise him and make this recipe. It sounds so delicious. We love your show and look forward to watching them every Saturday afternoon. Thank you.

  8. Can wait to try this recipe! And now that I know how to make empanadas, I can change the ingredients when I want to , like chorizo, rajas y crema, camarones! Love the story of your grandfather, my friend was born in Chile, as her parents also found refuge there from the horrors in Europe.

  9. Those look great but I can’t eat sardines. I love them and used to buy them by the case. Then I developed a little condition called gout. Sardines are a definite NO NO. Looking forward to Season Seven!

  10. thanks for the suggestion, but I will be substituting beef or pork for the sardines!!!!! Possibly, I’ll do shrimp, crabmeat or crawfish.

  11. Is there a video for this? It looks difficult. In Tamaulipas, and south of there, mangoes are common so you see a lot of mango pie sold. I have to wonder why they don’t can things much down there. I used to see tons of mangoes go to waste, when they could have been canned and made into jam. It’s funny how cultures can differ.

  12. Hola Pati, yo tambien soy de descendencia Judia Sefardita y mis tatarabuelos encontraron residencia en Mexico. Yo hago falafels, tienes una receta Buena para falafels? No me salen muy Buenos con la que tengo.

    Gracias,
    Marylou

  13. I can’t wait to try the sardine empanada recipe. I acquired a taste for sardines as a little girl. I would eat sardine sandwiches with my Dad. Tins of sardines in olive oil on fresh French or Italian bread with thinly sliced Spanish onions. Yummy!! I wish he was here to share the empandas with him.
    Thank you Pati.