Homemade Sardines Get a Crockpot Makeover

TS-509315296 Sardines

My readers have let me know how much they enjoy crockpot cooking. They allow working families the chance to come home to long-simmered soups, sauces, stews and other comforting meals that warm the soul. The trick to developing or converting recipes for slow cookers is to correctly estimate the liquid needed. Figure that about 2 cups of liquid will be evaporated during the cooking process over six to eight hours, so plan accordingly.

For instance, if you want to make chicken soup or minestrone soup in the slow cooker, just add 2 extra cups of water to your recipe and it should work out well. Don’t add pasta or rice until the end (15 minutes before serving for pasta, 30 minutes before serving for white rice, 40 minutes before serving for brown rice). Chili works particularly well in the slow cooker. Most chili recipes have long cooking times and won’t need much adjustment, but if the cooking time calls for only one or two hours of heat, add those two extra cups of water and let it simmer all day.

Olive Oil Sardine cropped0358

Because of the long cooking times, lean towards using tougher cuts of meat and heartier fish for best results. Lamb shanks hold up well to 10 hours of braising as do short ribs. Pork shoulder and rump roast become very tender after stewing for hours. Don’t be afraid to make fish in your slow cooker. My Homemade Sardines cook for about 6 hours and can be made with mackerel, smelt, herring, or even trout.

Sardines are any type of small fish like mackerel or smelt or herring that have been preserved in oil or packed in sauce. Sardines are a good source of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, and calcium (if you eat the bones). I like to make my own at home because it’s not very difficult and the result is wonderful. This cooking process can be applied to larger fish like trout very well. Just cut the bigger fish into pieces. The sweet-pickle juice adds a beautiful complexity to these homemade sardines. The olive oil provides the protection of polyphenols. I like to smash the sardines up and eat them on Saltine crackers.

Homemade Sardines

sardines in crock pot

Serves 2-4


Brine of ¼ cup salt dissolved in 2 cups water
2-3 lbs. of mackerel, herring, or smelt, cleaned with heads removed (skin on, bones in)
¾ cup olive oil
¾ cup water
¾ cup vinegar from a jar of sweet pickles
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. peppercorns


Add the fish to the brine and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Remove the fish from the brine and add to a crockpot with the olive oil and all remaining ingredients. Be sure the fish is completely covered with liquid. Add more water if necessary.
Simmer on low heat for 3-6 hours (depending on the size of the fish) or until the fish is very soft, even the bones.

About Grace O

Grace O has been cooking and baking professionally and recreationally all of her adult life. As a child in Southeast Asia, she learned the culinary arts by her mother’s side in her family’s cooking school. She became so well versed in hospitality and the culinary arts, she eventually took over the cooking school and opened three restaurants. She is widely credited with popularizing shrimp on sugar-cane skewers and being one of the first culinarians to make tapas a global trend. She has cooked for ruling families and royalty. Grace O’s move to America precipitated a career in healthcare, inspired by her father, who was a physician. Twenty years and much hard work later, she operates skilled nursing facilities in California. Grace O strives to create flavorful food using the finest ingredients that ultimately lead to good health. Her recipes, although low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, are high in flavor. Grace employs spices from all over the world to enliven her dishes, creating food that is different and delicious. She believes that food can be just as effective at fighting aging as the most expensive skin creams. And since she’s over 50 herself, she’s living proof of that. foodtrients.com
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