Sardine and mackerel rillettes (the easiest apéro you’ll ever make)

Herblay, France

Hello Ladies,

Sardine and mackerel rillettes

As you know, the man and I have just come home from a wonderful 10 days in Belle-Ile-en-Mer. We really didn’t want to leave Brittany to come back to Paris – funny that seems to happen every time we go there! We had stunning weather that was perfect for hiking, strolling along the ports and barbecuing on the beach. The last time we were there a friend made simple BBQ of grilled sardines – a fish that I was convinced I didn’t like. The result was quite simply a food epiphany. Why had I shunned sardines for so long? How could I not know how delicious they are? Why am I so stupidly picky about food??? In any case, the same friend treated us to another sunset feast on the beach this time with sardines AND mackerels. Turns out, mackerel is delicious too. Needless to say that my life has changed forever.

Naturally, my food epiphany rapidly morphed into a food obsession. My attention quickly turned to the local canning company La Belle Iloise, which I proceeded to raid mercilessly. 


Grilling fresh sardines and mackerels in your home is a big smelly no-no unless you LOVE the irremovable smell of fish or have an outdoor grill and very understanding neighbours. Luckily these heart-healthy little devils are great canned and provide the base for the easiest apéro nibbles you’ll ever make: rillettes. It’s kind of like fish salad but a lot better and with zero mayo. Typically people use cream or soft and mild spreadable cheese. I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Here are a couple of recipes I made up, but I highly encourage you to improve and add ingredients you like. Next time I’m thinking capers. I’ve also seen quite a few recipes that match mackerel with curry powder, why not? What I love here is that you can throw all the ingredients required together in a few minutes. Plus, it’s cheap. What’s not to love?

Ingredients for Sardine Rillettes

  • 1 can sardines (I got mine boneless)
  • 2 triangles of Laughing Cow (about 30 gr / 1 oz)
  • Chives
  • Salt & pepper

Ingredients for Mackerel Rillettes

  • 1 can mackerels (mine came preserved in white wine)
  • 2 triangles of Laughing Cow (about 30 gr / 1 oz)
  • 1 small green onion
  • 1 tsp French grainy mustard (although I’m sure any mustard would do)
  • 1 nice pinch of paprika
  • Salt & pepper

Other ingredients

  • Baguette
  • Love (… just  kidding, this will taste just as good if you’re angry while making it)


Open the cans of fish and strain out the liquid. Place sardines in one bowl and mackerels in another.

Sardine rillettes

Mash up the fish in each bowl. Add 2 triangles of Laughing Cow in each bowl and keep mashing away.

Cut the chives finely and toss them into the sardine mixture. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and mix well. Texture should be pretty smooth and there should be no chunks of fish (unless you prefer a more rustic rillette in which case only use 1 triangle of Laughing Cow and mash less).

Chop the green onion nice and fine. Throw it into the mackerel mixture with the mustard, paprika, salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix well.

Cover the bowls and set aside. If making ahead, refrigerate but make sure you take it out well before serving. Cold fish spread is just nasty.

Slice the baguette into thin rounds and place on a baking sheet.

Sardine and mackerel rillettes on baguette toasts

Toast under the grill – don’t forget to flip them and watch them like a hawk. One minute they’re fine and the next minute they’re toast.

Serve the rillettes in cute dishes with the little baguette toasts. Accompany with white wine. Bask in the glory of having made such a simple and delicious apéritif.

Sardine and mackerel rillettes recipe - simple

Alternatively, pipe onto cucumber rounds and top with garnish to make deliciously fresh canapés!

Sardine canapes




Now I will end this post with gratuitous shots of our amazing BBQ on the beach during sunset 🙂

Sardine and mackerel rillettes - Culinary Correspondence

Sardine and mackerel rillettes - Culinary Correspondence

Sardine and mackerel rillettes - Culinary Correspondence


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9 thoughts on “Sardine and mackerel rillettes (the easiest apéro you’ll ever make)

  1. Jan April 21, 2014 at 9:52 am Reply

    I love the photos…they make me want to go back to Brittany too. I think your recipes are very smart. It’s so easy to keep these things on hand and have something delicious to offer friends who drop by. I always have those little toasty bites in the house so even if I didn’t have fresh baguette it would be good to go. Thanks for the ideas.
    We’re here on Milos, celebrating Easter with friends again today! Good food, wine, music and lots of laughter. Happy spring everyone!

    • Beth April 21, 2014 at 10:23 am Reply

      Lucky you – I can’t wait to make it Milos. I’ll bring some cans so we can enjoy rillettes together at sunset time 🙂

      I almost poached your little ready-made toasts (I would of replaced them, I promise!) but decided to make them myself in the end. I walked past the bakery and the bread just smelled so good.

      Happy Easter to all. Hopefully this will be the year Emily stops having nightmares about the Easter Bunny breaking and entering into her room.

  2. Emily April 24, 2014 at 2:36 am Reply

    This looks and sounds absolutely stunning! I’m currently on a paleo diet- so I am going to have to think how I can make these without the dairy and the gluten. But it’s making my mouth water….mmmmmmmm

    • Beth April 24, 2014 at 7:56 am Reply

      I would substitute cucumber rounds for the bread – it’s fresh and crunchy (and good if you’re on a diet). As for the cheese… that’s trickier. Are you not eating sheep/goat milk anymore? I imagine there are soy substitutes out there but I don’t know anything about them. Also, sardines on their own are yummers. Maybe just crush them up with some lemon and herbs?

  3. Emily April 24, 2014 at 2:37 am Reply

    PS- I can’t believe no one else is freaked out by a huge bunny with huge teeth that sneaks into your room….. I’m sorry but that bunny eats more than veg to be that big. Just saying.

    • Beth April 24, 2014 at 7:59 am Reply

      But an old man – who asked you to sit on his lap at the mall – breaks into your house via the chimney to ply you with toys and candy… well that’s not sketchy at all.

  4. Hanin April 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm Reply

    The pictures are stunning. Makes me want to go to Brittany to… I have never been there.
    It looks like you guys had a lot of fun!
    I love your ideas for Rillettes, indeed looks like a super easy delicious recipe that can be made really quickly and that will be a treat for guests. I love it!
    Thank you for your creativity 🙂

    Emi: what if the bunny holds a banana?

    Missing you all and can’t wait to meet in Milos! definitely looking forward to spending time together… and also to enjoy a Mythos on the beach and eat some dakos and greek yogurt with honey!

    • Beth April 25, 2014 at 10:04 am Reply

      Brittany is gorgeous – I’m sure you’d love it! Plus the food is so good – fresh fish, seafood, crêpes, cidre…

  5. Hanin May 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm Reply

    We are having our friends over tonight and I am making your sardine rillettes! I am sure they will be a success 😉 thanks for the recipe

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