Grilled Sardines Wrapped with Grapevine Leaves

From Matthew Altizer

2013 Nov/Dec

The grape leaves not only protect the sardines from drying out, they also add a delicious briny flavour to the fish. Sardines are available frozen at most grocery stores and often are already cleaned and ready to cook.


Tahini Sauce:

  • 2 T. tahini paste
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 6 sardines, gills removed, gutted
  • 1 t. fennel seeds
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 12 grape leaves (available at specialty grocers)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedge


Preheat a grill or barbecue to medium heat.

To make the tahini sauce, mix the tahini with the garlic in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, whisking until mixed. The tahini might seize up at first, just whisk in a few drops of warm water until the sauce becomes liquid again. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Crush the fennel seeds with the salt in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle the inside of each sardine with the fennel salt.

Rinse the grape leaves in cold water to remove any excess brine. To wrap the sardines, cover their bellies with one grape leaf and wrap it around the fish, then cover their backs with another and wrap it around the fish.

Grill the sardines for 3-5 minutes per side. The grape leaf should char slightly and when the fish is cooked it will be firm to the touch. Serve with lemon wedges and tahini sauce.

 Serves 6.