Moroccan Sardine Balls Recipe – Fish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Moroccan
Moroccan Sardine Balls Recipe – Fish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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Moroccan Sardine Meatballs in Tomato Sauce are one of our favorite ways to enjoy fresh sardines, which are cheap and plentiful in Morocco. The dish is so popular that “kefta” of ground sardines is available at the fish market, a purchase that can save a busy cook some time on preparation and cleanup.

However, you are not limited to using sardines to make Moroccan fish balls. Fish balls can also be made with whiting, another popular choice in Morocco, or any other firm-fleshed fish fillet.

Moroccan tomato sauce

A tangy homemade tomato sauce is key to the dish’s classic flavor.

We start with fresh, ripe tomatoes that are peeled, seeded, chopped (some cooks prefer to grate them) then boiled with garlic, olive oil, parsley, coriander, and the Moroccan spices of cumin and paprika. A bay leaf is optional.

Homemade tomato sauce cooked in a tagine.Homemade tomato sauce cooked in a tagine.

Moroccan tomato sauce cooked in a tagine. Photo: Christine Benlafquih | Flavor of Morocco

While it’s not essential, I sauté some onion and green pepper in olive oil before adding the garlic and tomatoes. I also like a little heat, so some whole chilies go in the pot or tagine too.

The same tomato sauce forms the basis for other Moroccan dishes, including the Moroccan kefta tagine. In both cases, the meatballs have a rather small shape and the sauce can be as spicy or delicate as you like.

How to make Moroccan fish balls

The seasoning for Moroccan fish balls is almost the same as for beef, lamb or chicken meatballs. Traditionally chopped sardines or whiting are mixed with salt, pepper, paprika and cumin along with chopped coriander and parsley.

I also like to add a little ginger, turmeric, and a clove or two of minced garlic, but overall I go a little lighter with the seasoning for fish balls than I do for regular meatballs.

Raw sardine balls on a plate.Raw sardine balls on a plate.

Seasoned minced fish is shaped into tiny balls. Photo: Christine Benlafquih | Flavor of Morocco

Shaping the fish mixture into traditional marmot- or cherry-sized fish balls can be a little tricky. This is because minced fish is less tough than minced meat, so you’ll need a lighter hand. Wetting your hands with water will help prevent the mixture from sticking to your palms.

A note on fresh sardines

If you’ve never tried fresh sardines and can get them, try them in this dish or Moroccan Stuffed Fried Sardines with Chermoula. Fresh sardines don’t have that salty “fishy” spiciness that characterizes their canned cousins. However, they have more flavor than a very mild fish, so you’re in for a real treat.

Be sure to have your fishmonger fillet the sardines or other fish you have selected, or purchase boneless fillets. Once home, a food processor will quickly chop the fish.

Serve the fish balls as a main course or as a side dish to other fish or seafood. Moroccans tend to eat by hand using khobz instead of utensils, but you may want to break with tradition and serve saucy fish balls over rice or pasta instead.

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Moroccan fish balls in tomato sauce.Moroccan fish balls in tomato sauce.

Moroccan sardine meatballs in tomato sauce

Christine Benlafquih | Flavor of Morocco

An authentic Moroccan recipe for poached fish balls with a spicy homemade tomato sauce. This classic dish is popular throughout Morocco, but especially in coastal areas where fish is plentiful. Use sardine fillets, whiting or other firm fish.Traditionally fish balls are quite small in shape, about the size of marbles or cherries, and Moroccan bread (khobz) is used instead of utensils to scoop the fish balls and sauce. Serve the sardine meatballs as a main course or as a side dish to other fish and seafood.

Preparation time 40 minutes

Time to cook 1 Now

Total time 1 Now 40 minutes

Course Main dish, side dish

Kitchen Moroccan

Product 4 portions

Calories 403 kcal

Prevents the screen from going dark

For the tomato sauce

  • 3.3 lb fresh and ripe tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oilor more as desired
  • 1 small onionchopped
  • 1 small green pepperchopped
  • 6 Cloves garlicor more as desired
  • 2 table spoon finely chopped parsley
  • 2 table spoon finely chopped coriander
  • 1.5 teaspoon cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon saltor to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepperor to taste
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves
  • cayenne pepperas desired (optional)
  • whole chili peppersas desired (optional)

For the fish balls

  • 1.1 lb. boneless fish filletspreferably sardine or whiting
  • 2 table spoon finely chopped parsley
  • 2 table spoon finely chopped coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 or 2 Cloves garlicpressed or grated

Prepare the tomato sauce

  • Peel, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Set aside.

  • Heat olive oil in the base of a tagine or deep skillet over medium heat. (See notes if using a clay or ceramic tagine.)

  • Add the chopped onion and green pepper and sauté until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to burn.

  • Add the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, spices, and cayenne or chili pepper. Bring to the boil and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down and a rich sauce has formed.

  • When the sauce is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want, you can make it smoother by crushing the cherry tomatoes or using an immersion blender sparingly. If you think the sauce is too thick at this point you can add a few tablespoons of water.

Prepare the fish balls

  • While the tomato sauce is cooking, prepare the fish balls.

  • Place the boneless fish fillets in a food processor along with the garlic, parsley, cilantro and spices. Blend several times until the fish is finely chopped and the seasoning is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

  • Prepare a small bowl of water and wet your hands. Take small portions of the fish mixture and form tiny patties the size of marbles or cherries.

  • Add the fish balls to the tomato sauce and bring back to the boil. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring gently once or twice, until the fish balls are cooked through.

  • Remove the pan or tagine from the heat. Serve the fish balls straight from the tagine or pan with Moroccan bread on the side.

  • I use a serrated potato peeler peel the tomatoes, but if it seems too tedious, cover the tomatoes with boiling water for a few minutes; drain it and the peel will slide off.
  • Instead of peeling and cutting tomatoes, some cooks prefer to grate them. This works best with very ripe tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise, remove the seeds, then finely grate the pulp into a pulp with a pointed tip. box grater.
  • If cooking in a clay or ceramic tagine on a stove other than gas, a speaker It is a must. This is because the bottom of a clay tagine should not come into direct contact with its heat source.
  • And, if you’re cooking with a clay or ceramic tagine, be sure to cook no higher than medium heat because too high heat will break a tagine. Be patient while you wait for things to come to a boil.

Calories: 403kcalCarbohydrates: 22GProtein: 24GFat: 27GSaturated fats: 2GCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 1045mgPotassium: 1310mgFiber: 6GSugar: 11GVitamin A: 4428UIC vitamin: 75mgSoccer: 388mgIron: 4mg

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate obtained from online calculators. Optional ingredients may not be included in nutritional information.


Christine Benlafquih is the founding editor of Taste of Maroc and owner of Taste of Casablanca, a food tour and culinary activities business in Casablanca. A long-time resident of Morocco, she has written extensively about Moroccan cuisine and culture. She was a Moroccan cuisine expert for The Spruce Eats (formerly About.com) from 2008 to 2016.


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