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Where (and how!) to eat Sardines in the Algarve

by Sun’s Dragon    

It’s sardine season in the Algarve and everyone is keeping the fishermen busy as they feast on what is arguably the most popular fish in Portugal. Throughout July and August there are feasts, festivals and celebrations from East to West in almost every town and village. More about the ‘where’ coming up!

Sardinhas Assadas (grilled sardines) are offered in most local restaurants. Some places offer a salada montanheira (mountain salad) which is finely chopped tomatoes, onion and peppers, sprinkled with oregano and dressed with oil and vinegar. Add boiled new potatoes and you have a feast fit for a king.

One of the best things about sardines is that there are so many ways to eat them! Some will use a knife and fork and a plate. Some will only use a fork and some (mentioning no names) will use their fingers. However in the Algarve there is a ‘correct’ local way to enjoy sardines, which is rather unusual!

How to eat grilled Sardines the Algarvean way:

First you find some nice fresh sardines, and an experienced cook to grill them!

Selecting Sardines Algarve Portugal Grilling Sardines Algarve Portugal Sardines Ready for Eating Algarve Portugal

Sardines Algarve Portugal 




Place a grilled sardine on a slice of rustic bread





Sardines Algarve Portugal 



Using your hands to hold the bread,

chew off the meat on one side of the sardine




Sardines Algarve Portugal



Flip the fish and eat all the meat on the other side,

leaving just the skeleton of the fish. (This takes a bit of practice.)




Sardines Algarve Portugal




Show off your sardine skeleton to prove to

everyone you didn’t miss anything! (This step is optional)




Sardines Algarve Portugal






Replace the skeleton with a fresh sardine and continue

in this way until all the fish have been consumed








Sardines Algarve Portugal 



Only then do you eat the delicious sardine-oil-soaked bread!




Watch how it’s done!

If you prefer, you can see this in action as Meravista recently took a camera crew along to the wonderful Flor Da Ameixa restaurant in Bordeira (the one near Faro, not the one in Aljezur!) and the following video was the result… enjoy!

Sardine festivals across the Algarve

Historically the most lavish of these festivals is in Portimão. This year the city hosts the 19th annual celebration of sardines with a bit of a twist. Starting on 1st August and lasting for ten days, the event is being labelled as a ‘Sardine Party’.

Sardine Festival Portimao Algarve Portugal

The local Portimão restaurants will be featuring sardine menus and the wonderful aroma of the sardines grilling in the open air gets your mouth watering as soon as you arrive. There are many other kinds of fish on offer as well as chorizo for the non fish eaters.

The waterfront near the old fish market will have a large stage and will feature nightly entertainment including popular music, comedy, traditional dancing and the haunting strains of Fado, the national music of Portugal.

Thousands of visitors from all over the country as well as tourists from overseas can enjoy stalls selling local sweets and handicrafts, fresh produce and plenty of activities for all ages. Because it’s a ‘party’ rather than a festival, there will be no admission charges and therefore becomes more affordable for locals and visitors alike.

16th annual Sardine Festival at Olhos d’Agua

Between the 8th and 10th of August you can enjoy the traditional Festa da Sardinha at Olhos d’Agua. With free entry, entertainment and lots of food and beverages on offer, it promises to be a delight. Located between Vilamoura and Albufeira, it’s next to Pine Cliffs golf & country club – you can get in a round of golf before heading over to the festival!

28th (yes, 28th!) Seafood Festival Olhão

Festival do Marisco Olhao Algarve Portugal

The world-famous annual Festival do Marisco (seafood festival) takes place in Olhão between the 10th and 15th of August. Featuring all types of shellfish and seafood, Sardines are one of the many tasty dishes available. An event not to be missed! More details coming up in the Festival do Marisco blog, coming up in early August.

16th annual Fish Festival in Albufeira

September 6 – 8 sees the annual fish festival in Albufeira, which will feature sardines along with many other types of fish – find out more about it in our September events blog in late August.

Check the local papers for more details of a Sardine Festival near you – and don’t forget – try eating them the Algarvean way and then please do let us know how you got on!



   Brought to you by Meravista – the place where smart people search for Algarve property for sale.

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This is totally not the Algarvean way! Who came up with this?

this is absolutely wrong as far as sardine eating is concerned. in Portugal we never do it like this. 1. peel the sardines, take the skin and scales off. they are very unconfortable to eat, bad to digest tooo... 2. then carefully remove fish meat from bones, (with or without cuttlery. I do it with my fingers). starting from the top of the fish so it looses better from the akward thin belly bones... Whoever came up with this idea of eating sardines has not a clue, is badly informed and does not eat sardines on a regulöar basis, be he/she portuguese or nogt. Sorry!

I’m with Joe on this one. I’m also a finger picker! If fingers are good enough for Rick Stein, then they’re good enough for me. Must admit I do eat the skin though.

I’m with Joe on this one. I’m also a finger picker! If fingers are good enough for Rick Stein, then they’re good enough for me. Must admit I do eat the skin though.

I’m with Joe on this one. I’m also a finger picker! If fingers are good enough for Rick Stein, then they’re good enough for me. Must admit I do eat the skin though.

Joao, some French guys told us about it at the Faro airport. What more proof do you need?

Hi Joao, I'm guessing you're a young and modern chap: this is apparently a very old tradition and nowadays mostly only the grandfathers eat this way. One of our inexperienced particpants commented that it is actually much easier this way than with a knife and fork. We like to help keep old traditions alive! :-)

The old ways are obviously the best! I love freshly grilled Algarve sardines, but I always found tackling a plateful in a restaurant more than a little daunting. Until, that is, I tried Meravista's step-by-step guide. Brilliant! Didn't get a mouthful of bones, didn't make a mess (well, not as much as normal) and had a lovely slice of tasty bread to end my delicious meal :-)

These people are eating the skin also. Wouldnt fancy that all that salt

No Pun intended here... since when do french people know how to eat grilled sardines? I have yet to find one myself. Since when do British people ever know how to eat grilled fish anyway? I have not found one as yet. There are lots of good places and literature where one can learn the propper way to enjoy a grilled sardine or other grilled fish. Whether one uses knife and fork or fingers it does not really matter. What matters is to eat it and enjoy it and not waste it as I have seen it take place too many times in my life. Believe it or not I have seen people eating sardines with a spoon and wasting more than 60% of the fish. Don't be affraid of the bones. A properly grilled fresh sardine is very easy to eat as the meat just peels away from the bones leaving only the back bone and head. Don't be affraid neither of the belly contents. Sardines eat plankton and minute shrimps. They do not leave off nasty nutrients. Grilled Sardines are only eatable between mid May and end of August. That is when they are fattest and taste better. they consequently grill bettrer. outside that period eat at your own risk and taste. A good grilled Sardine shows a bubbled up fatty skin which just peels away on touch. If it sticks to the fish is not fresh. One out of 10 might be not so fresh, but that is natural. Some get damaged on transport. Have fun everybody.

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