Moroccan Sardine Balls in Spicy Tomato Sauce Recipe

This spicy tomato sauce forms the basis for many Moroccan dishes including the classic Sardine Balls recipe.


Sardine Balls Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo sardines
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli pepper powder (optional/ to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Ingredients for the Tomato Base:

  • 3 tomatoes, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons canned tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli pepper powder (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Optional: bay leaf

For decoration :

  • 1/2 preserved lemon
  • A handful of green olives



1. Make the Sardine Balls

  • Wash the sardine fillets one-by-one in a bowl of water, taking care to remove any stray bits of bone, fins, tails and scales. Drain thoroughly in a colander.
  • Place the cleaned fillets in a food processor. Pulse or process on high speed until the sardines are pureed or finely ground to a thick paste-like consistency.
  • Transfer the pureed sardines to a bowl. Add the spices, parsley, and coriander and mix well with your hands, kneading the mixture to distribute the spices evenly.
  • Lightly wet your hands and shape the sardine mixture into small balls the size of large marbles or cherries.
  • Set the sardine balls aside, covering and refrigerating if they won’t be cooked immediately.

2.  Prepare the Tomato Sauce

  • Cut the tomatoes in half, and grate the pulp using the large holes of the grater. Discard the skin.
  • In a large bowl, combine the grated tomato pulp, pepper, salt, ground paprika, ground cumin, red chili pepper powder, crushed garlic, tomato paste, finely chopped parsley, finely chopped cilantro, and olive oil. Mix all the ingredients.

3.   Bring the tomato mixture to a simmer over medium heat (or medium-low heat if cooking in a clay or ceramic tagine) and cook, covered, for 15  to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes to a puree with your spoon as they soften.

4.  When a rich, smooth sauce has formed, stir in a few tablespoons of water and add the sardine balls. Cover, bring back to a simmer and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the sardine balls are cooked through.

Final Touches

  • Cut the preserved lemon into thin slices.
  • Once the sardine balls are done, top them with the preserved lemon slices and add the green olives to the sauce. Cover and continue cooking for another 3 minutes for the citrus flavors to combine with the sauce.
  • Serve immediately, hot, with crusty bread.


Recipe Contributor :  Saïdia Marina

The Saïdia is known as the Mediterraneans ‘Blue Pearl’ and its Marina is the gateway to a dream destination for exploring the in north eastern M orocco.  The modern marina complex accommodates yachts with draft up to 6 metres.

Located in the heart of the tourist resort of the town, Saïdia Marina is the perfect base to discover Saïdia with its many stalls of fabled local artisans. In these narrow streets, you will find blankets, djellabas and wool carpets specific to the region. For lovers of decorative art, they will find their happiness with decorative objects made of fiber alfa and wrought iron. Beyond the Marina and Town, the region of Saïdia is full of things to see and discover. Enjoy the beautiful 14 km of beach along the coastline, or else adventure into the Beni Snassen massif on a hike. Alternatively take a trip to Oujda or Debbou.  If the Saïdia Marina opens its doors for a relaxing stay, it also opens the door to a whole new country to discover. Then it’s up to you to get started!

For further information please visit the Saïdia Marina website at :

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