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Easy Sardine Spread

I have to give it to the French, they really know how to make something as simple as bread and butter taste so chic.

This sardine spread, oh excuse me, rillettes de sardines can be prepared in less than 10 minutes and it’s less than 10 ingredients in total. I used to think of sardines as the poor man’s steak but now I’m convinced they’re actually quite fancy – and also high in vitamin D.

The ingredients compliment each other so well and the result is a rich, creamy, salty spread that melts in your mouth. It’s a great idea for a lovely afternoon tea with friends, a little party snack, or a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, of course. Magnifique!

I got the recipe from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen and he explains in the book, “Traditionally, spreads like this in France are made with butter. But I was having dinner at West Country Girl crêperie, and the owner brought out a ramekin of house-made sardine rillettes. I smeared a bit on the end of a baguette, and it tasted different from others, yet there was something familiar in it. She was surprised I detected her secret, which was cream cheese. I liked it so much that in this spread I now use both butter and la fromage à tartiner—or as they say in French, le Philadelphia.”

Easy Sardine Spread

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • ¼ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 (3¾-ounce/115g) cans sardines
  • 2 scallions, white and tender green parts, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, squeezed dry, and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Crackers, baguette, thin-sliced toasted country or rye bread, to serve


  1. Mash together the cream cheese and butter with a fork until smooth. Drain the sardines. Run your thumb lengthwise down the bottom of each and pluck out the bones. Add the filleted sardines to the cream cheese mixture, mashing them to combine.
  2. Add the scallions to the sardine mixture along with the capers, lime juice, salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the cayenne pepper. Taste and add more salt or citrus juice, if desired.
  3. The rillettes can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Let come to room temperature before serving with crackers, a baguette, or thin slices of toasted country bread.

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