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Boquerones en Escabeche

Origin: Andalusia

Boquerones en escabeche

Anyone who has ever been to a Spanish tapas bar will have most certainly have tried one of these super salty, pickled fish. In fact, a tapas bar which doesn't serve boquerones en escabeche is like an Italian restaurant that doesn't serve pasta.

Boquerones en escabeche can be found in bars, restaurants and pubs across Spain but it is most commonly found in Andalusia, in the South of the country. This is largely due to the fact that these pickled Spanish fish actually derive from Moorish cuisine. Their large presence in the Southern parts of Spain near the end of the Reconquista means that the best pickled anchovies can be found there. This technique of pickling fish is therefore extremely old and has been perfected in the area for centuries.

Furthermore, the South coast of Spain is famous for its ample fish including anchovies and sardines, something which you will definitely notice if you visit Cadiz or Malaga. In particular, the town of Nerja is well known for its large schools of anchovies.

Boquerones en escabeche or boquerones en vinagre as it is sometimes called, is usually made with anchovies but you could also use some another type of small salty fish such as sardines or smelts, depending on whichever you find in the supermarket or at the fishmongers. The great thing about these fish is that they are small but have a lot of flavour. They are also very easy to find and tend to be quite cheap making this Spanish recipe a great option for those of you on a budget.

There are a number of ways that these anchovies in vinegar can be served. In the bars of Spain, they are usually served as a tapa and are often placed on top of slices of baguette topped with some olive oil, garlic and chopped parsley, and they are extremely tasty with salted crisps too. If you want to get a bit fancy, you could always copy the chefs from Malaga who make the fish into a fan shape by pressing together the tails of four fish before frying them.

The one thing to remember though when serving these fish is which drinks compliment the strong flavour well and which do not. Boquerones en escabeche are great when enjoying a cold glass of beer or soft drink. However, they are normally never served with wine as the mixture between the wine and the vinegar is extremely bad and is one of the big no's in the world of wine.

Boquerones en Escabeche | Moorish Pickled Anchovies


Boquerones en escabeche
  • 2 lbs fresh anchovies / sardines / smelts
  • 6-8 tbsps Olive oil
  • 2 oz. plain flour
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 small pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsps ground ginger
  • 9 fl. oz. red wine vinegar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • Serves 8


  • Cut off the heads of the fish you are using and pull out their guts. Slice the fish down the belly, up to the tail, and then wash out their insides by running them under the tap.
  • Put each fish down on a chopping board, spine upwards, and then press down firmly on it so as to make it open like a book - this will make it easier to remove the backbone and tail.
  • Boquerones en escabeche
  • Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Dust the fish with a mix of flour and salt and pepper and then fry immediately, around 2 minutes on each side. You should get about 4 trays full of fish so add more oil to the pan if you start to run dry between frying batches. Drain the fish of the oil with kitchen paper.
  • Fry the garlic in the last of the olive oil and then transfer it to a mortar. Grind into a paste along with a pinch of salt, saffron, cumin seed and the ginger. Then add the vinegar to this paste.
  • Arrange the fried fish in an earthenware dish with the skin side up.
  • Mix the water into the spicy paste and then pour this mixture over the fish. Add a little more vinegar and water to make sure that the fish are covered - they should be completely covered if you want to keep the fish for the following day.
  • Lay the bay leaves and lemon slices on the top of the fish. Keep the dish in the fridge for half a day before eating them.
  • The fish can be served straight out of the dish and should be eaten within a week of making them.