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Delicious Canned Sardine Recipes

Updated on September 11, 2014
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Easy, cheap meal ideas with canned sardines

Keeping a can of sardines in the pantry is a great way to make sure you always have a quick and nutritious meal option.Cheap, delicious and very good for you, you can have a meal ready in minutes. From sauces to salads, there are dozens of great canned sardine dishes just waiting to be discovered.

Frugal, easy-to-find, super healthy and sustainable, I want to make it my mission to get more people eating delicious canned sardines.On this page, we'll look at ways to make this little guy a big fish in your kitchen.

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What are canned sardines?

These tiny fish were named after the island of Sardinia, where they used to be found in abundance. Due to their oiliness and therefore high perish-ability, they are most often found canned. Belonging to the Clupeidae family of fish, there are 6 different species of sardines, and from these species over 20 different varieties sold worldwide are labelled with the same name.

The cans sold in the US usually contain small herrings, which are called pilchards when fully mature. The main sardine processing countries are Spain, Portugal, France, Morocco and Norway.The first fish ever to be canned, they were popularised in France by Napoleon, who needed a non-perishable item that would nourish his citizens and prepare them for war. They were common in medieval French, Spanish and Italian cooking and are still popular today in the entire Mediterranean region.

Choosing sardines

When choosing canned sardines, go with the best quality sardines in olive oil you can afford. If you've had a bad sardine experience before, chances are you've had a cheap can, full of rancid vegetable oil and bad quality fish.

The best canned sardines should be mild tasting rather than overly strong and fishy.

Which sardines to choose?

I personally love Portuguese & Spanish sardines such as the Matiz Gallego shown further down.Everyone has their own preference, whether it's French sardines, or those from Norway.The best way to find the best canned sardines is to try several different brands and see which country, type of oil and flavourings suit you best.

I like my sardines with the skin and bones still intact, packed in extra virgin olive oil. You can also buy sardines without the skin, bones and scales, packed in different types of oil, water, lemon juice or flavoured sauces.

Crown Prince Natural Two Layer Brisling Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3.75-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)
Crown Prince Natural Two Layer Brisling Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3.75-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)

Caught off the coast of Scotland, these brisling sardines have been smoked to give them a special flavour. They are great on buttered toast or with a bit of Dijon mustard.

 
Crown Prince Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil, 3.75-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)
Crown Prince Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil, 3.75-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)

Produced in Morocco, these sardines are skinless and boneless making them suitable for spreading on bread or adding to a salad.

 

Sardine salade nicoise recipe

This is my adaptation of the famous French salade nicoise, using sardines in place of tuna. It's wonderful with a crunchy baguette. Just make sure you use good quality canned sardine fillets, or sardines with no bones packed in olive oil.

Prep time: 10 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 1

Ingredients

  • half head of lettuce
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber
  • small bunch spring onions
  • 2 Tbsp black olives
  • 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp torn basil
  • half cup peeled fava beans (optional)
  • 1 can drained sardine fillets
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • pinch cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. - Rub the clove of garlic on the inside of a salad bowl- Assemble lettuce, tomatoes cut in wedges, sliced cucumber, thinly sliced spring onions, black olives, fresh parsley and basil and the optional fava beans. - Add the can of drained sardine fillets- Dress with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and the lemon juice, then gently toss together.
2.9 stars from 7 ratings of Mediterranean salad with sardines

Reasons to eat sardines

  • For your health

High in Omega 3 fatty acids, this fish can play a role in reducing triglyceride levels and inflammation, as well as strengthening the immune system. Due to its small size, the sardine is far less likely to carry accumulated toxins such as dioxane, PCB and mercury.They are also one of the few foods to contain vitamin D, which plays an important role in regulating calcium in the body and preventing diseases. As most of us don't have year-round access to adequate sunshine (another source of vitamin D), sardines and other oily fish are a useful tool.Because most canned sardines contain bones that are soft enough to eat, we also ingest calcium which binds to the vitamin D for better absorption.Finally, containing 37g of protein and zero carbohydrates, a can of sardines fits well into any low-carb lifestyle.

  • For your tastebuds

A good quality canned sardine shouldn't be overly fishy, with a rich savoury taste similar to tuna. I prefer Portuguese sardines in olive oil, and always with skin and bones rather than fillet only. Experimenting is the best way to find out which country and brand you prefer your sardines from.

  • For your wallet

Canned sardines are cheap, and fresh is even cheaper. Even the fanciest, imported fish in extra virgin oil are a steal compared to equivalent amounts of protein. What are you waiting for?For the planetSeafood sustainability is a hot topic and many of us face a conflict between taste and ethics. Sardines are gaining popularity as the sustainable choice in seafood due to their natural abundance and fishing methods. In fact, the Seafood Watch program, which normally divides seafood into Green, Red and Yellow according to risk of overfishing have recently created a new category - Super Green - which is headed by the sardine.

  • For your busy schedule

You have a full-time job, a house to look after, children, pets, a social life...and no time to prepare healthy meals. Sardines are the perfect secret-weapon to keep stashed in the pantry for weeknight meals. I hope you'll try the more complicated ideas listed in this article, but when you get home late and you're starving, mashed sardines on toast with a bit of mustard cannot be beat for a quick, nourishing meal.

Sardine and potato cakes

Served with rice and a green salad, these make a nice and healthy lunch.

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 25 min
Yields: 2

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 can sardines in olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg

Instructions

  1. - Peel and chop the potatoes, then boil until just tender. Drain, mash until smooth then let cool.- In a bowl, mix mashed potatoes with drained sardines that have been lightly crushed and broken up. Add egg, starch and breadcrumbs until the mixture is so thick a spoon can stand up in it.- Shape into balls, then flatten and either bake or shallow fry.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 15 min
Yields: 2

Spaghetti with sardine & tomatoes

  • 1 can sardines in olive oil
  • 3 fresh tomatoes or equivalent canned
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon (to serve)
  • spaghetti (enough for 2 people)

Instructions

  1. - Heat up a small pot and pour the olive oil from the can into it along with chopped tomatoes.- Once the tomatoes 'melt' into sauce, add sliced onions, oregano and parsley, then cook for about 10 minutes until the sardines are nicely softened.- Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste before tossing with spaghetti.- Squeeze lemon over the top before eating.

Sicilian pasta with sardines

Out of tomatoes? Here's another pasta dish with sardines, that uses crunchy breadcrumbs, sweet onions and lots of parsley.

Canned sardines poll

How do you feel about sardines?

See results

Sardine and potato bake

Adapted from a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cans sardines in olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. - Cut the potatoes into matchsticks, and slice the onions.- Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F.- In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, melt the butter and fry onions until softened. Add potatoes and continue frying gently for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.- Butter a gratin dish then pour in half of the potato and onion mixture. - Top with sardines, then tip over remaining potato mixture. - Add the milk to the dish, then cover with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes.- Uncover and bake for a further 5 minutes, until golden on top.

Reunion Island style sardines

This is a common dish in Reunion Island, as nearly everyone has a can of sardines in their pantry. It's served with steamed white rice, and a hot sauce made with green chillies.

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cans sardines in olive oil
  • 3 fresh chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tsp rock sea salt
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • 1 sprig or 1 tsp dried thyme

Instructions

  1. - In a mortar and pestle, crush cloves of garlic with rock salt and peppercorns to make a paste.- In a heavy bottomed pan, fry sliced onion until soft, then add the garlic paste, turmeric and diced tomatoes.- When the tomatoes have softened, add the drained sardines and thyme.- Cook, covered for about 10 minutes then serve with rice and crushed green chillies.

Sardines cooked in tomato sauce

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Bones - yay or nay?

While you can find boneless canned sardines, I prefer to buy sardines with the bones intact.Canned sardines' bones are nearly always soft enough to eat as is, or become so after a few minutes of cooking.Why eat the bones? They're toothsome, tasty and full of calcium and other nutrients.

Sardine dip

I make this as an appetiser for guests and it's always a hit. Use the best quality sardines you can find and afford (bone in is fine as it will all get blended up), and serve on mini toasts.The recipe is very simple but the results are surprisingly good.

Prep time: 5 min
Ready in: 5 min
Yields: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cans sardines in olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp crme frache OR sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • fresh herbs (optional)

Instructions

  1. - Combine sardines, cream and water in a blender and blend until completely smooth.- Add fresh herbs - chives, parsley and basil are all good - if you wish. - Let chill in the fridge for 2 hours, but take out 20 minutes before serving with bread or crackers.

Caribbean canned sardines recipe

Greens and sardines in broth

This is a really economical meal to make on a night where you want something quick, nourishing and not too heavy.

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 can sardines in olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 Tbsp rock sea salt
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch greens (watercress or chard work well)

Instructions

  1. - In a mortar and pestle, crush the cloves of garlic with rock salt and peppercorns to make a paste.- In a pan, fry sliced onions until soft, then add the garlic paste, cleaned, chopped up greens and enough water to cover it all.- When the greens are cooked after about 5mins, add a can of drained sardines and let cook a further 5 mins before serving.

More fantastic canned sardine recipes

I've barely scratched the surface with canned sardine recipes on this page. Here are some more delicious sounding sardine meals that you should try soon.

When's the last time you ate sardines?

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    • profile image

      VeronicaHaynes 

      5 years ago

      I enjoyed all sorts of dishes in Spain with sardines. They are wonderful! Great lens.

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 

      5 years ago

      I love em! i would eat sardine ice cream.

    • loveanime22 profile image

      loveanime22 

      5 years ago

      yesterday i ate sardine

    • amitsarkar lm profile image

      amitsarkar lm 

      5 years ago

      Never in my life as this not available here...

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      about a weeks ago, it's really delicious to me.....

    • MatijaB LM profile image

      MatijaB LM 

      6 years ago

      I love sardines .. njammi:)

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 

      6 years ago

      A few days ago with my lunch!

    • lynnegirl1 profile image

      lynnegirl1 

      6 years ago

      I just had some canned sardines for lunch. Can't beat the convenience, cost, and nutritional benefits.

    • profile image

      ratetea 

      6 years ago

      I love sardines and often eat them multiple times a week. They're cheap, quick and easy to prepare, nutritious, sustainable, and delicious. I find it strange how so many people complain they taste "fishy" when people widely eat tuna. I like the taste of sardines much more than tuna. I especially like buying sardines packed in olive oil and chili peppers...I find these are hard to beat. I buy them at middle-eastern stores, and they're my favorite kind, but I also like the kinds packed in water.

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 

      6 years ago

      Around a month ago. Sardines are good!

    • nicewriter lm profile image

      nicewriter lm 

      6 years ago

      sometime i eat sardine,its cheap and easy to cook :)

    • Rosetta Slone profile imageAUTHOR

      Rosetta Slone 

      6 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      @sybil watson: They don't have the best reputation but I'm hoping more people will try them out. Such a versatile, tasty fish!

    • profile image

      olmpal 

      6 years ago

      In my country sardines are a common type of fish so we can find fresh ones easily. Very informative lens!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 

      6 years ago

      What a great idea for a lens - I think those of us in the States overlook sardines, which is unfortunate since they have so many incredible health benefits. I've only had fresh sardines once and they were fantastic.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I also eat them in sandwiches or just out of the can. Your recipes look interesting, I will come back and try them.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I love sardines and have been eating them as snacks for all my life. I usually just make sandwiches with them, though -- never tried any of these recipes!

    • Millionairemomma profile image

      Millionairemomma 

      6 years ago

      I didn't know they were that yummy. Good to know!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 

      6 years ago

      I love sardines I grew up with them I have had them in many ways but when I was young I loved them dried all I did was peel a piece and it was heaven while I ate it.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      6 years ago from Royalton

      Squid Angel Blessed! :)

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      6 years ago from Royalton

      I love sardines but rarely eat them because I don't know what to do with them. Thank you for so many delicious ideas. I especially like the idea of sardines with spaghetti.

    • profile image

      glutenallergy 

      6 years ago

      The Sardine pat sounds pretty tasty, and easy to make. Sardines are going on my next grocery shopping list. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Whitwillow LM profile image

      Whitwillow LM 

      6 years ago

      Excellent. I eat a tin of sardines every day and had no idea they were good for me.

    • domjohnson lm profile image

      domjohnson lm 

      6 years ago

      I love sardines, nice to see a lens about them. :)

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