Whip up these fast and delicious Sardine Cakes with Cannellini Beans for a nutrient-packed meal. If you’re not sure if you like sardines, I promise you, this recipe is for you!
Recipe Price: $4.92 | Per Serving: $1.23 for 4 servings | Makes: 12 patties
The US palate doesn’t seem to have a taste for canned sardines, and I myself am still just learning to like them! These fish cakes are my answer to my clients’ long-standing question: how can I make sardines taste good?
I based this recipe on a vegetarian carrot and chickpea recipe in the Downshiftology cookbook, with a few changes to the recipe and the addition of sardines for added protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
These sardine cakes are very well balanced on their own, but we typically use them as the protein option for our meal and add a salad and a starch. Try them with this tahini quinoa salad, or make them half the size to go in bento boxes!
Why You Will Love These Sardine Fish Cakes!
- Budget-friendly meal. Sardines are one of the most affordable seafood options, and they're packed with nutrition!
- Easy to make recipe. These sardine fish cakes come together in just a few simple steps!
- Flexible recipe. It's pretty easy to make adjustments to change the flavor or use a few different ingredients to fit your dietary needs and use what you have on hand.
These sardine patties are made using canned sardines and white beans along with a few fresh ingredients. Here's a look at the main ingredients but be sure to check the full list and quantities in the recipe card.
- Aromatics and veggies: Garlic and red onion add a savory depth of flavor that's subtle and aromatic while the grated carrots give them some color and additional texture. Cilantro adds some brightness with its citrus-like undertones.
- Cannellini beans: These white beans mash up really well making them perfect to mix with the sardines.
- Sardines: If possible, try to use sardines canned in olive oil. There are many different-sized cans of sardines all over the world. I have used anywhere from 3.75 to 4.4 oz of sardines along with the olive oil in the can with good results. Just keep in mind that nutrient values will be different.
- Egg: Works in tandem with flour to hold these fish cakes with sardines together.
- Almond flour: A great gluten-free binder for making these sardine patties. Chickpea flour is a great nut-free substitute. (Regular AP flour will also work!)
- Olive oil: We're primarily using this for frying the sardine fish cakes, but you might want to add some to the cakes as well if you don't use sardines canned in olive oil.
What canned sardines are best?
I highly recommend using sardines in olive oil. When using sardines canned in olive oil, you can keep the oil. Since EPA and DHA are fat soluble, if you drain the oil, you will lose some of the Omega-3 benefits as well.
If you can't afford or access those canned in olive oil, canned in water is my next recommendation.
You can use sardines canned in water but I would drain the water. If your sardines are canned in another type of oil, I suggest draining about half the oil simply because the flavor might be too strong.
Substitutions and Variations
- Swap the sardines: You can easily make this fish cakes recipe with white beans using canned salmon or canned tuna instead of canned sardines.
- Baked instead of fried: These can also be cooked in the oven with extremely good results! Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Bake the salmon patties on a rimmed baking sheet for a total of 25 minutes, flipping each patty at about 20 minutes. If you bake these AND use sardines canned in water, I recommend adding one tablespoon of olive oil to the batter both for richness and to ensure you’re able to absorb the fat-soluble compounds in this dish!
- Use a different flour: If you need a nut-free option I've tested these fish cakes with chickpea flour with great results! You can also use all-purpose flour, arrowroot starch, or cornstarch, which I believe will work well but I have not tested them.
- Paleo: Nope! Unfortunately, this recipe isn't Paleo. (Beans are not Paleo.) I suggest trying my tuna and sweet potato patties and swapping the tuna for sardines.
- Vegetarian: No, but you can leave out the sardines and simply make white bean patties.
- Nut-free: Swap the almond flour for one of the recommendations above!
- Egg-free: feel free to use an egg substitute here, such as chia eggs or flax eggs.
How to Make Sardine Cakes
Let's get cooking! Here's an overview of the main steps for making this recipe. Be sure to check the recipe card for all the details.
- Prep your vegetables. Mince or grate the garlic, mince the red onion, shred the carrots, and finely chop the cilantro.
- Combine the cannellini beans and the canned sardines in a bowl.
- Mash the beans and sardines in the bowl until a slightly chunky paste is formed. Add the egg and whisk it into the bean and fish mixture.
- Add the garlic, onion, carrots, cilantro, almond flour, salt, and black pepper to the bowl.
- Mix until everything is well combined.
- Form the mixture into 12 patties and set them on a plate or tray.
- Cook the sardine cakes in enough oil to fully coat the bottom of the pan. Cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they’ve developed some nice browning.
PRO TIP: For best results cook 3-4 sardine patties at a time. You don't want to overcrowd the skillet as it makes flipping harder. They cook fairly quickly so doing it in batches won't take all that much more time. You can also make them in the oven if you want to cook them all at once.
How to Store
- Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container or bag in a single layer. If you stack them, place a piece of parchment between the layers. Store them in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months.
- Reheat: If frozen, thaw them out in the refrigerator overnight. Then heat in the oven at 350° F for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. You can also heat in a skillet on the stove with a bit more oil added.
What to Serve with Fish Cakes
This sardine cakes recipe is easy enough to make for weeknights, meal prep, or a weekend dinner with friends.
Enjoy them as a main dish or you can serve them up as a starter for a meal. Another option is to make them slightly smaller and serve them up as a small appetizer.
- Add a Sauce and Some Garnish: I love to top with a bit of fresh cilantro and serve with a creamy sauce such as yogurt, sour cream, tzatziki sauce, or tahini sauce. Don't forget to add lemon wedges for squeezing!
- Sides to Serve with Sardine Cakes: Enjoy them with this pesto quinoa side dish, purple cabbage slaw, or sesame cucumber salad.
- Use canned sardines in olive oil. This way you can use the oil too and get the full benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids.
- Make your sardine cakes even in size. This will ensure they all cook in the same amount of time.
- Add more oil. If you use sardines in water you will likely want to add about a tablespoon of oil to give the fish cakes a bit of moisture.
Sardines are an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), and when canned with bones, they provide more calcium than dairy! They make a safe and nutrient-packed choice for pregnancy, brain health, and bone health.
We often recommend sardines because they’re a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, but are extremely low in mercury, which is a concern for many other types of seafood.
Yes usually, but it is important to note that sourcing does matter when it comes to sustainability. If you have the means, be sure to look for sustainable brands, and check Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for up-to-date information on sustainable fisheries.
More Fish Recipes
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Sardine Cakes with Cannellini Beans
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small red onion minced
- 1 ½ cups grated carrots from 2 medium carrots, 7oz
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- 15 ounce can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- 1 can sardines canned in olive oil if available, 4oz/115g
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup almond flour
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil more as needed for frying
- lemon wedges
- sauce such as yogurt, sour cream, tzatziki, or tahini sauce
- Prepare your vegetables. Mince or grate the garlic, mince the red onion, shred the carrots, and finely chop the fresh cilantro (stems included here!)
- In a large bowl, add the drained and rinsed cannellini beans and the canned sardines.
- Mash together the beans and sardines until a slightly chunky paste is formed, then whisk in the egg.
- Add all the remaining ingredients (except the oil) - the prepared garlic, onion, carrots, cilantro, as well as the chickpea flour, salt, and black pepper.
- Mix this until well combined.
- Form the mixture into 12 patties and set on a plate or tray.
- Bring a skillet to medium-high heat. When hot, add 2-3 Tablespoons of oil. You want enough to fully coat the bottom of the pan. Add 3-4 sardine cakes to the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they’ve developed some nice browning. Continue cooking in batches until you’ve cooked all the sardine cakes! See below for oven instructions.
- Top with a bit of fresh cilantro and serve with a creamy sauce such as yogurt, sour cream, tzatziki, or tahini sauce.