Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce from 'The Adobo Road Cookbook'

Marvin Gapultos

For Marvin Gapultos, canned sardines in tomato sauce were the ultimate bachelor comfort food. These days, however, he has ditched the can for a fresh version featured in his new cookbook, The Adobo Road. His sauce is a perfect example of the melting pot of culinary influences in the Philippines: tomatoes from the Americas, smoked paprika and white wine from Spain, and fish sauce and calamansi lime juice from Southeast Asia. Fresh sardines quickly broiled atop the fragrant sauce are a step above the canned variety and just as effortless to prepare.

Why I picked this recipe: I couldn't resist the unique (and easy) sauce, and the sardines make it a full meal.

What worked: Everything, from the stovetop sauce simmer to the quick trip under the broiler, was on point.

What didn't: Not a thing.

Suggested tweaks: If sardines aren't your thing, this could work with any small fish or fillet. Shrimp would also work well and would be just as easy. If you can't find calamansi limes, you can substitute lemon juice.

Excerpted with permission from The Adobo Road Cookbook: A Filipino Food Journey--From Food Blog, to Food Truck, and Beyond, copyright 2013 by Marvin Gapultos. Published by Tuttle Publishing, a division of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Details

Sardines in Spicy Tomato Sauce from 'The Adobo Road Cookbook'

Active 50 mins
Total 50 mins
Serves 4 to 6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 large shallots, minced (2 tablespoons)

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, or regular paprika

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 pound (500g) cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1/2 cup (125mlwhite wine

  • 1/4 cup (65mlwater

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 8–10 small fresh sardines, about 1 pound (500g), cleaned and gutted

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon fresh calamansi juice, or fresh lemon juice

  • Fresh calamansi limes, or fresh lemon wedges, for squeezing over the sardines


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over moderately high heat. Add the shallot, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, and paprika and cook until the shallot becomes soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, continuing to cook until the tomato paste just begins to brown, 1 minute more.

  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes into the pan and sauté until the tomatoes soften and have released some of their juices, 5-7 minutes.

  3. Pour the wine into the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the water and fish sauce and simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit, about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

  4. Season the sardines, inside and out, with the salt and black pepper. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the calamansi (or lemon) juice. Using your hands, toss the sardines in the olive oil and citrus mixture, making sure the mixture dresses the fish inside and out.

  5. Place an oven rack in the closest position to the broiler and turn the broiler on high heat.

  6. Remove the sardines from the bowl and arrange them in a single layer on top of the tomato sauce in the sauté pan. Place the pan underneath the broiler and broil for 10-12 minutes, flipping the fish over once. The sardines are ready when the skin is nicely browned and crisped, and the thickest part of the fish easily flakes from the tip of a knife.

  7. Serve with steamed white rice and calamansi limes, or lemon wedges, on the side for squeezing over the fish

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
297 Calories
17g Fat
16g Carbs
22g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 297
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 3g 16%
Cholesterol 61mg 20%
Sodium 1006mg 44%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 75mg 373%
Calcium 58mg 4%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 888mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)