How to Make Sardines Taste Good

How to Make Sardines Taste Good

Sardines pack all your protein in one salty bite. The only drawback of these little guys is the taste. Some find them a bit salty or oily. The trick is knowing how to make sardines taste good!

From choosing the right sardines at the store to cooking to adding some much-needed flair, this guide will give you all you need to know to make these fish taste anything but canned!


What are Sardines?

This small schooling variety of fish belongs to the herring family. “Sardine” is sort of a blanket term for any small, oily herring. These little fish were once abundant near the Italian island of Sardinia, and that is where their name derives its origin.

These mighty little fish have a ton of calcium and vitamin D but are also very high in fats. They are known for their briny flavor, and much less fishy flavor than other canned fish, like anchovies.


What Kinds of Sardines are Available?

canned sardines

Sardines come in both fresh and canned varieties; however, fresh sardines can be very difficult to find. If available, fresh is always the best option, but that may not always be a choice. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of each kind of commercially available sardine.



Sardines in cans or jars are available at most grocery stores worldwide and online. They come in many brands and a wide range of prices. Canned sardines are fully cooked or smoked; then they are packed in salt and/or oil, which can be far less healthy than fresh fish. To find a healthier package, seek out sardines that have been packed in water.



Frozen sardines are available from some wholesalers online or even in select grocery stores. These fish are flash frozen within a very short time of being caught to ensure the freshest product. This variety is more widely available than fresh sardines and is the closest comparison in flavor and health value.



In some areas with access to good fishing, fresh sardines may be an option. This is the best choice for chefs, but because of its extremely limited availability, it is okay to use a high-quality frozen or water-canned sardine.


How to Cook Fresh or Frozen Sardines

Fresh and frozen sardines will have a much purer fish flavor and are great to use these tips with. Unlike canned sardines, fresh and frozen sardines need to be cooked before use. Here are a few tips on how to cook a basic sardine.

  • Thaw frozen sardines in the refrigerator overnight to prepare for use.
  • Clean, scale, and gut the fish.


To Pan Fry

Heat a medium-sized pan with a heavy drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Roll the cleaned fish in flour, then quickly pan-fry.


To Grill

Preheat a grill. Marinate the fish in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill on a top rack for 1 to 3 minutes until nicely grilled.


How to Prepare Canned Sardines for Use

Canned sardines are packaged in a wide array of oils and spices. These can add or take away from the flavor of the fish. If you wish to have a healthier and more pure-tasting sardine, seek out fish canned in water and rinse excess salt before using the fish.


How to Make Sardines Taste Better

Sardines are the perfect small bite for a party or a rich personal snack. After taking care to prep the sardines, using these tips will ensure that you eat the best sardine you have ever tasted!


Add to Sauces

Fully cooked sardines add a lot of flavor to homemade sauces. There is nothing as satisfying as making your own pizza fully from scratch, and nothing takes a pizza sauce to the next level like sardines. Steeping some of these little fish in your sauces will add flavor, depth, and smokiness. You can even make and bottle your own fish sauce featuring sardines!


Make a Sardine Salad

Tuna salad gets all the attention, but sardine salad really makes a sandwich! Try making whatever tuna salad recipe you love; only swap the tuna for sardines. The result will be a rich, briny, smoky, and delicious sardine salad, perfect for sandwiches or crackers.

Make Sardines Part of Your Morning

Bagels and lox? Never heard of them! That will be what you say after trying bagels and sardines. The sardines offer a rich, unctuous flavor that will start your day on a decadent note. If bagels aren’t your thing, try a trendy avocado toast with sardines! The sardines add a salty flavor that compliments the avocado beautifully. Start your day the sardine way!


Punch up a Pizza

Lovers of anchovy pizza, this tip is for you! Add a few sardines to your favorite takeout pizza, or make your own pizza and top it with plenty of cheese and sardines! The salty, smoky flavor of sardines compliments the tomato and cheese so well that you will be shocked you’ve never tried it before!



How Many Sardines Make Up a Serving?

About 3oz of sardines is a serving, that is about 5 fish. Everything in moderation! These fish are high in cholesterol, fat, and salt so enjoy them mindfully!


Is it Okay to Eat Sardine Bones?

Yes! Many canned varieties still have bones and sometimes skin; both are totally edible. In fact, the fish’s high calcium content is largely attributed to its skeleton. The bones are actually pretty soft, and most people don’t notice them, but deboned, canned sardines are also available if preferred.


How Long Do Canned Sardines Last?

According to the FDA, canned sardines can last up to five years if stored properly. However, the flavor and quality may degrade over time. Once opened, sardines should be refrigerated and tightly covered and can last for 3-4 days (source: StillTasty).


Final Thoughts

Sardines get a bad reputation, but with proper preparation, they can be a headliner! Use these tips and tricks to turn your sardines into something special!


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.