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.
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.
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.
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.
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- 1 pound frozen puff pastry
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup white onion chopped
- 2 cups white button mushrooms cleaned and diced 8 ounces
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup ripe Roma tomatoes chopped about 1/2 pound
- 1/2 cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos chopped
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños chopped
- 2 cans (3-4 ounces) of sardines in oil broken into chunks
- 2 eggs separated
- All-purpose flour for rolling out puff pastry
- 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 in 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.
88comments inSardine Empanadas
Hi, I have read through this several times and can not find at what temperature they are supposed to be baked.
Could you please let me know?
Here is the full recipe for you Maggie, it is at 400F. Hope you will love these empanadas!
Hi, Pati! I love your show and have watched this episode so many times, I have to try these empanadas. I have smoked trout which I am using instead of the sardines, so I am hoping it will be as yum as your sardine ones! Abrazos fuertes!
Yummy Ann, let me know how the empanadas come out 😉
This was my friend’s and my first time making empanadas and these turned out great! We knew we were going to love them when we tasted the filling after we added the sardines. In fact, we could have just eaten the filling with spoons straight out of the bowl. A huge success. Thank you so much Pati!
Haha, I can see you ladies doing that! So glad to ready you waited and enjoyed the empanadas 🙂
Would this be a good recipe to try for someone who doesn’t like sardines, but really wants to and keeps trying?
🙂 I guess Katie, the problem is that I really like sardines so I love this empanadas. Give them a chance, and if you don’t like them then you can make them with tuna, here is the recipe for you: https://patijinich.com/pati_2020/embrace-the-empanada/
1st time making empanadas. I made the dough cause i had no puff pastry. These were so yummy. We ate for dinner, and that was all we ate, no salad, no side. Ha ha. Thank you for another fabulous recipe.
Thanks so much Dee Dee, so glad you enjoyed the empanadas 😉
Ciao Pati! I’m going to pass this recipe on to my sweet italian mother. She & my dad love sardines. I love your tv show! I only discovered it recently & am keen to try a few of your vegetarian dishes (your vegetable lasagne looks PHENOMENAL!!! Those layers!). Your enthusiasm is a joy to watch. Love from Carmela (in Australia)
Thanks so much Carmela 😉 Greetings all the way to Australia!
Can you freeze them?
Yes you can Teresa, both before or after baking them. Thanks for giving this recipe a chance 😉
Sandra Zuniga Taylor
We love Pati’s Show as my husband mentioned he tried the Sardine Empanadas – which were delicious, I took a picture and would love to post it…..There were delicious, thank you for sharing your culinary genius, but more importantly for doing it in a way so that everyone can enjoy good food prepared in an authentic and simple way. I wish there was a way to send you the picture.
Oh thank you Sandra! You can send me a pic at hola at patijinich.com. I would love to see them.
Thank you for the recipe Pati! My family immigrated from Aguascalientes, Ags, over a hundred years ago. I love sardines, and I’m going to try your recipe!
Hope you love it, Amy!
I saw your delightful recipe on Create a couple of weeks ago and now, after the excess of Christmas, finally had the chance to put it together.
I carried recipe in my head and this afternoon (NY), have just pulled them from the oven. The oven was a bit too hot and I forgot the stuffed olives … which was just as well since I managed to overstuff the pastry!
I am English; my wife is Guatemalan and I enjoy the delicious Mexican cuisine which you present so enthusiastically! Thank you.
I’m so glad you guys enjoyed the empanadas, Paul.
These are delicious!
The recipe is so easy to follow and they look like made by a professional!
I have made them with chicken also and they have been a hit!
My mother in-law love them so much that she asked for the recipe.
I have made these three times so far.
That’s awesome, Laura! Happy Holidays and New Year!
My grandfather (Daddy Mac😁) ate them with saltine crackers and hot sauce, I still enjoy them! Definitely will make these!
Enjoy the empanadas, Cassandra!
I love all the ingredients. I can’t wait to make the empanadas. You swam with the shark whale. Brave. You go girl. I love Create channel, your show and recipes. Thank you do much.
Swimming with them was so much fun! Enjoy the empanadas, Blasa.
Been watching pati show on create,Love your cooking specially I lived southbay near the border of Tijuana,Leaning a lot about your cooking.I amazed you got the sardine empanada recipe.I keep love to watch on createvT.V. Im a baker famous with Strawberry Cakes in Chula Vista.30 yrs.
Your strawberry cakes sound great, Nena! Thanks for tuning in.
Patti, tell Steve that he could copy and paste recipes on note pad where he can delete spaces to control how much to print. I do this all the time to save space and paper! And I’m a 77 year old granny who loves your show.
Great tip…thanks for sharing, Sally!
Hi Pati , love you great attitude and it shows how much love you have for food , and the happiness it brings to you to share that love ,,,,I too love canned sardines with Da Saltine Cracker and someone gave me several cans of Mackerel in olive oil with lemon first time I had that was yesterday quite delicious ..so this Saturday I will make both and taste test will let you know how it turns out PeaceBeWithYou. and family
I hope your taste test went well, Joseph!
Oh my, i just made this rwcipe and i am in love with these sardine empanadas!! I had to walk away from them because I wanted to eat them all, lol!
Awesome! So glad you enjoyed them, Jetta.
Planning on making them this week, I may half the recipe.
Have you ever had the gorgeous white sardines from Italy? So yummy, they will convince anyone to love sardines- pricey though-lol
So yum! And I hope you love the empanadas, Jenn.
I live 60 miles nw of nyc…where in Orange cty , ny can I buy pickled jalapenos
Oh try the International aisle at your local super market or online. You can also make them: https://patijinich.com/pati_2020/pickling_jalapenos/
Can these be made ahead of time and frozen/reheated?
Absolutely! Enjoy the empanadas, Marcia.
Hi Pati! I’ve never made empanadas before and I’ve never eaten sardines, but after watching your show on PBS and watching you make them, I had to try these! Especially when you prefaced these by asking us to trust you with using sardines. These were AMAZING!!! I’m so happy I tried these and watching you make them gave me the confidence to try. Thank you!!!
Oh I’m so happy you gave them a go and loved them, Rosette!
I have been waiting for a long time to get a recipe using sardines and this’ is what I am going to use I love sardines thank you
Awesome…enjoy the empanadas, Moira.
Robin the Shipwreck
I, like you, are 3rd generation from the old country. At 50ish, still learning from your “Dziadek”. Albeit, different countries.
What a great Hi’story’…(we all have one), and I like to hear them, sans drama.
Keep ‘punching out’ your stories…and ‘Yums’, and ‘Mmmmmmmmmmms’,….can’t wait to share ‘you’ with my Granddaughter!!! (after the Pie Clan gets her…)
(Ju Ju has the best Mommy!!!!!)
As always…thank you so much Robin 💙
Riquisimas! Gracias Pati! And super easy to make at home.
Mil gracias, Alex!
Have you ever tried making them with lumpia or spring roll wrappers from phillipines or other orient styles?
I haven’t…but go for it and let me know how they turn out.
There is small mom and pop tamalee shop here in Union Gap that won a James Beard award for best authentic mexican food.. Howerevr I wont believe it unless someone famous like you visits.
Yes, I just tweeted about it 🙂 Hopefully I get to go soon.
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!
Thank you so much for tuning in Debra!
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
Thanks for your message, J.
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!
Thank you for enjoying the show and books, Steve! I’ll see what we can do about the printing.
What can be used instead of the pickled jalapeños
You can totally skip them! If you want to substitute them, you can use pickled onions too.
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.
Thank you for tuning in Norma!
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.
Oh thank you for sharing your lovely memory Mary.
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.
It would be great with tuna or salmon too!
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.
Oh I hope you and your husband enjoy the empanadas, Aileen.
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.
Oh yes it’s so easy to change up the fillings to whatever you want! And I’m so happy that the story resonated with you.
I really enjoy your recipes
I’m cooking these for my valentine
Thank you Pati <3
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
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!
You can make them without the sardines 😉
Rusty Pancamo, New Orleans, LA
thanks for the suggestion, but I will be substituting beef or pork for the sardines!!!!! Possibly, I’ll do shrimp, crabmeat or crawfish.
All would be great, Rusty!
Any sauce to go on them?
You can eat them with your favorite salsa 🙂
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.
No video yet…but here is me making other empanadas to help you with how to fold them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERdzAG4HZm4
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.
Hola Marylou! No tengo una receta para falafels….
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.
What a lovely memory…thank you for sharing, Irma.
SANDRA G RICHARDSON
Thanks pati i love sardines now have a new way to enjoy them
Pati-wow, look how gorgeous you are in the photo. You have not changed. Luv your show! So entertaining.
Oh thank you Sandy.