Cod is the king on a Portuguese table but Sardines can be called the Queens.

Sardines are one of the great food passions in Portugal!
The proof is that they’re the highlight of a Summer meal and the main feast during Lisbon Festivities of Santo António, the Popular Saints.

The smell of grilled sardines is present on every party and festivals that take place all over the country during the Summer months, from June to September.

Although during June it is already possible to find good sardines, the best time to taste them is at the end of August or beginning of September, as they are fatter and juicier this time of the year.

In addition to the flavor, it is a fat, healthy and nutritious fish, rich in protein and omega-3, and is also an important source of calcium, selenium, phosphorus and vitamin D, being all the nutrients that help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and also help to fight depression.

This year, there will be no Popular Saints festivities on the streets but there is still the chance to enjoy grilled sardines, the most popular fish of the season.

Take note of these selected suggestions and indulge yourself with a juicy and delicious meal of grilled sardines in Lisbon.

On the outskirts of Lisbon, in Paço de Arcos, this restaurant is a well-kept secret hidden behind the Nautical Center of Paço de Arcos and the Motard Os Navegantes da Estrada club, facing the sea.
Don’t mind the poor decor, because this is where you will find the freshest, best grilled, and cheapest fish in the Lisbon region.
The sardines are very fresh and fat, sided with a delicious salad and boiled potatoes and I’m sure you’ll keep ordering them until you’re full.

In another very popular neighborhood at this time of year, you will find Caldo Verde, in Madragoa.
Caldo Verde is the name of a famous Portuguese soup made with shredded cabbage and much appreciated with slices of chorizo, and it is also the name of this restaurant where, you’ll start your meal with a delicious plate of freshly grilled sardines and end it with a bowl of Caldo Verde, just as tradition demands.

Keeping the traditional neighborhood route, at Mouraria my favorite restaurant to eat sardines is Zé da Mouraria.
The quantity is perfect for my gluttony – 10 grilled sardines on a platter – very fresh and succulent, grilled perfectly with a small layer salt to season it just enough.

In this residential neighborhood, at this restaurant, there are only sardines on the menu when they are really good, fat and juicy.
This means that the neighbors and locals fill the space on a grilled sardine day because they’re sure to be served a delicious feast of this fish with the traditional boiled potatoes and pepper salad on the side.

Sardines grilled
Grill Sardines

However, if you prefer to make a sardine feast at home there are some places and some steps to take into account.

Let’s go shopping then! Sardines are not to be frozen and must be eaten on the same day you’ll buy them.
When buying sardines take note of the most important details – the skin must be shiny, the smell must be of algae or sea breeze and no other smell is allowed, the meat must be firm and elastic, the eyes must be round, transparent and not bloody and the gills must be bright red.

Having all this in mind, it’s easy to recognize that the perfect place to get sardines would be in a local market, where you can be sure of the freshness and quality, as well as the best service.

At Mercado da Ribeira, Rosa Cunha from Rosanamar is the most famous fishmonger in this market at Cais do Sodré.
Her space occupies four stalls and has newspaper clippings and recipes on the walls because she loves to give good pieces of advice to her clients.
She receives fish from the auctions in Peniche and Sesimbra and her sardines are juicy and fresh as we love them.

At Mercado de Alvalade, at Cantinho da Teresa (Teresa’s Nook) you will find fish coming from Peniche, Sines and some from the Azores, so let Teresa help you choose and ask her to prepare the best sardines ever for you to take.

At Mercado 31 de Janeiro, at Saldanha, the Veloso family, at Peixaria Veloso waits for you with a variety of high-quality fish that supplies many restaurants in the city.

Coming back home with the best sardines in a bag the recipe is pretty simple.

First of all, a grill and outdoor space are mandatory, for the smell, although mouthwatering, can be very intense.

Before grilling the sardines, place them in a bowl and sprinkle them with salt.

Prepare the coals of your grill and heat the grill well (it is important so that the sardines do not stick to the grill), placing it at a distance of about 5 cm from the coals.

Then place the sardines on the grid and grill them well on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side.

On the side grill some green peppers too. Peel the burnt peppers skin chop them in strips, clean them from all-white skins and seeds and place them in a bowl with a marinade with chopped garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Remove the sardines to a serving dish and serve them on top of a Portuguese cornbread slice and the green pepper salad.

I hope you like sardines as much as I do, and enjoy this season like a local.