6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines

by | Apr 28, 2010

Photo by rockyeda

I’m happy to introduce my friend and fellow sardine lover, Benjy Weinberger. Neither of us were particularly happy about the recent news of the last US sardine cannery closing, so I invited Benjy here to defend the honor of one of my favorite sea creatures.

Benjy Weinberger has been eating food for over 30 years, and has held strong opinions for almost as long.

Read his personal blog: http://jamknife.blogspot.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @benjyw

Yes, We Can! Why We Should Be Eating More Sardines

The whole street rumbles and groans and screams and rattles while the silver rivers of fish pour in out of the boats and the boats rise higher and higher until they are empty. The canneries rumble and rattle and squeak until the last fish is cleaned and cut and cooked and canned.
– John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

A few days ago we were told the last sardine cannery in the US closed its doors for good. A symbol, so the story goes, of how far sardines–once a staple of working-class pantries across the nation–have fallen out of favor with the American palate.

But if you get past the bad “last sardine factory canned” puns, this narrative starts to seem, ahem, fishy. Because, in fact, the sardine is like Bad Company, alive, well and making a comeback.

Fresh sardines are showing up on menus in restaurants from San Francisco to New York. Your local supermarket still offers plenty of canned sardine choices, albeit imported. In Monterey, California, where Steinbeck romanticized the sardine industry in Cannery Row, a group of self-styled “Sardinistas” is working to return the sardine to its rightful place in the American diet. Meanwhile, nearby, small-scale gourmet canning operations have resumed. So it seems the supposed death of the sardine industry has been exaggerated.

So what are sardines, exactly? The term means slightly different things in different countries, but in the US it denotes any of several species of small, oily, silvery fish related to herring.

What all types of sardine have in common is that we should be eating a lot more of them.

6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines

1. They’re good for you.

Sardines pack an awesome nutritional punch. A single serving has around 23 grams of protein and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and potassium, and only 200 calories. And even with canned sardines, all this goodness comes with only around 400 mg of sodium, which is relatively little for a canned product. Plus, they’re often packed in olive oil, itself an important component of a healthy diet.

2. They aren’t bad for you.

Sardines are low on the oceanic food chain, and therefore contain low amounts of mercury, PCBs and the other toxins that accumulate in longer-living marine predators such as salmon and tuna. This makes them a particularly good choice for children and pregnant women.

3. They’re sustainably fished.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWATCH rates sardines as a “Best Choice”. Sardine stocks are, once again, abundant, healthy and are now well-managed.

4. They’re affordable.

Prices per oz. of canned sardines are on a par with canned tuna, poultry, ground beef and other supermarket protein sources. Prices of fresh sardines vary with availability, but they are usually among the less expensive fresh fish on display.

5. They taste like fish.

In a supermarket landscape dominated by bland, artificially dyed salmon fillets, pale tuna steaks, frozen fish sticks, artificial crab meat and other attempts to sell seafood as generic chicken-like protein slabs to people who aren’t sure if they actually like it, sardines stand out. You simply can’t ignore the fact that they are, well, fish. They look like fish, being too small to fillet or grind up. They smell like fish. They are oily. They have heads and tails, scales and bones. And they taste fishy.

This is, as most people who genuinely enjoy food know, a good thing.

6. They’re delicious.

This is ultimately the most important point in favor of consuming more sardines: they are a pleasure to eat. Simple, easy to prepare and downright delicious.

If you get your hands on some fresh sardines, they feature in fabulous recipes originating from all over the Mediterranean basin. But sardines are so simple and basic, you really don’t need a recipe to get the best out of them. Just scale and gut them, brush them lightly with olive oil and coarse sea salt, or whatever marinade you make up, grill them for around 5 minutes per side, until the skin is crispy, and serve them up with a drizzle of lemon juice and your favorite fresh herbs.

And if you can’t be fussed to cook, there are few pleasures greater than mashing canned sardines, bones and all, onto buttered toast, or perhaps over a slice of camembert.

The sardine is dead. Long live the sardine!

What are your favorite sardine recipes?

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161 Responses to “6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines”

  1. Christine says:

    Went 100% plant-based for the past 3 months and have been having skin issues Vegan protein is fine and all but when on a plant-based diet, a person has to eat a lot to get the same protein absorption rate as when they were eating meat. I for one can’t eat that much legumes/beans/grain without getting stomach upset. I decided to be 90% plant-based at this point and only eat sardines 3x a week as my only animal protein. I believe in protecting the environment and being conscious of the effects my purchasing choices might have on the world at large. I figured sardines get to live a happy life at sea before they are caught and what’s said in the article…they are sustainably sourced. Compared to eating other animal products, it’s the only option left to me so that I can be plant-based most of the time while also respecting the needs of my body. Also, this is the only fish out there that has little to no mercury!

  2. RonC says:

    have always loved sardines right out of the can since growing up on Long Island. We always had a bunch on our boat to munch on for snacks. I especially love the ones in tomato sauce. Now living in Arizona. Have started eating them again only in last few months. bought 6 cans of boneless skinless by accident. I miss the bones and heads and stuff. I must be crazy huh? I will eat them and then make sure i look for the real cans of sardines as they should be.

  3. InOhio says:

    Make sure you buy good ones—here in Ohio, the brands that sell for $1.75 or less/can are generally not good—but you can get really excellent (tasting) varieties for just a little more, like $2.25/can—

  4. Tasha says:

    You can drain most of the olive oil from canned sardines then pop them under the grill (broiler? I don’t know I’m British) they go lovely and crispy and are fab with plain crusty bread Mmmmmmmmm where’s my can opener?

  5. Aven says:

    I love Sardines they are amazing usually I get the canned variety in Virgin oil, Mediterranean oil style, or with Tomato sauce. I use the Sardines in my salads or simply snack on them out of the can or even on a slice of bread. Amazing for you one can packs a punch that any health conscious man or woman should pay attention to. Omega 3 fatty acids and the protein you get are amazing for the male or female body. We often hear of how bad fats are, not these guys, 200 calories that your body uses in every bit. Yeah its alot of calories but if you think about it whether your a man or a woman, your body will use healthy calories over empty calories any day.

  6. Lucy Platt says:

    I buy the brand Walmart has, EL MEXICANO, they are delicious. They do not have the aftertaste. Good for the brain among other properties. Easy to eat, I got the oine’s in tomatoe sauce, sooo good.

  7. Don says:

    Ate sardines in tomato sauce occasionally as a kid and have eaten them off and on (mostly off, because my dad and I were the only ones who ate them) for years. Ditto for kippered herring-my wife practically leaves home when I eat them. Bought a couple of cans on sale on a whim yesterday and ate them both for dinner tonight. Didn’t really realize how nutritious they are. I just like them and enjoy the nostalgia factor.

  8. gmf479 says:

    I hope we r the only ones that love them…Shh….dont let anyone else know or I they will become twenty bucks a can

  9. Jason says:

    Just grilled up some sardines on a charcoal bbq earlier tonight!
    Finding mixed messages on whether or not they need to be gutted before grilling whole. Mine were frozen (landlocked in Ontario Canada) so the extra work of scaling and gutting was justified in my mind. Perhaps fresh I’d reconsider.
    Definitely a staple on my grill! Fish that tastes like fish, go figure!

  10. santhosh says:

    I live in Dubai and the sardines sourced from this region is extra oily and as big as a medium sized mackerel.We cook it in a spicy curry base with lot of gambooge or Malabar Tamarind which gives it a tangy and sour taste. With the spices salt and tamarind the sardines are cooked in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes.This will make the bones to melt into the flesh with only the spine remaining which is easy to remove and makes it bone free chunks of sardine meat and so very tasty to eat.

  11. Brian says:

    Sardines are awesome…here’s the BEST way to enjoy them.

    Canned with smoked olive oil from HEB…fork them open and peel out the bones…add salt and pepper, lots of Crystal pepper sauce, and put on whole grain crackers.

    Wow. So good. Simple and healthy.

    Try it!

  12. AK says:

    I love sardines!
    At my local supermarket, the brand I buy is the FLOWER BRAND, “Moroccan spiced” sardines. They are canned in olive oil, hot chili pepper, carrot, salt and pepper corn.

    • lorraine says:

      Yes! Love this brand too! I find that moroccan brands are best, but Flower is my favorite soo good on crackers or buttered toast. Im ok with the majority of people, maybe more americans, not being into these flavorful lil guys, more for me!

  13. Christine says:

    going the boneless skinless route with sardine newbs is a good way to go. My boyfriend thought sardines were anchovies “those fish people put on pizza” which also have an unjustifiably bad reputation.

    Boneless, skinless with crackers and mustard did the trick. He’s not a convert, but he’ll eat them.

  14. Paul says:

    Im glad they’re healthy because my 2 girls (dogs) and I share a 15oz can with tomato sauce once a week or so. I got the deal at $1.20 a can during sale days.. I load up with 1/2 dozen every time

  15. Paul says:

    oh, and the clerk at the store teases me about buying so many sardines.. last time she’s drinking a diet coke and eating a twix candybar. Youv’e gotta love the brilliance of peoples’ diets in this generation. ( :

  16. pat says:

    Just had a can with olive oil on crackers with mayo and onion yummy!

  17. Jamie says:

    I ate my first canned sardines about six months ago. I had gotten two cans from somewhere – I can’t remember where – and never opened them, because other people didn’t seem to like them, and I wasn’t sure if I would. One day, while playing with canned goods, my three-year old daughter popped the top.

    Not one to waste food, I grabbed a fork and plunged into “sardines in Louisiana hot sauce.” Shortly thereafter, I started stocking these and other varieties (e.g. mustard sauce, etc.) as a very-easy-to-eat, high-protein snack for afternoons at work. They’re much less messy than popping cans of tuna in water, and (as the article points out), they are reasonably whole, making them easier to eat. I’m a total fan now. Long live sardines!

  18. Lori Loves Sardines! says:

    Sardines are so delicious! My roommates beg to differ. I would rather eat sardines than stinky chitterlings! Just saying. I will try sardines on toasted garlic french bread.

  19. Michele says:

    Trader Joe for sardines!!! They have a smoked sardine in olive oil that is delicious!!!!

  20. Mirna says:

    Love sardines. But I can’t can’t seem to find sardines with skin and bones. Where are they? They’re all boneless and skinless.

  21. Walid says:

    I’m a cave MAN, I eat them straight with only salt and black pepper. The Sardines rule.

    • DPalermo says:

      Their omega 3 content is one of the top reasons you should be eating them in the first place. VitalChoice cans probably have the most omega 3s per can than any other brand (3.3 grams+ in their tomato sauce sardine filets). I got them at their website here (24 cans for $47), plus used a 10% off coupon code (think it was awvc16). It was around $1.88/ can.

      • David Harper says:

        No, Vitalchoice does not have the most omega3.
        King Oscar sardines in tomato sauce has 4 grams and is available in most grocery stores.

    • Linda says:

      I am long time lover of Sardines and just as Cave Man, I eat them straight out of the can with salt and pepper. I also add onion and dip with crackers

    • Jan says:

      I buy the wild caught canned in EVOO with lemon. I place the drained fish in a bowl with fresh blueberries on one side and a couple of slices of avocado on the other side. A little salt and pepper, maybe a dab of spicy mustard and yum! I call it my “California black bear dinner!”

  22. Monica says:

    I would eat more fresh sardines, but their bones put me off. How can we cook sardines and make the bones edible?

    • Michael says:

      Put them on top of Triscuits, and the crunch of the Triscuts will distract you from the other things.

    • denise says:


      O k I live in the Southern Med and fresh sardines { and obviously the tinned kind} are abundant. In ten minutes on a sunday afternoon I can be down on the beach, at a beach bar with a cold glass of dry wine and have my sardines cooked on a stick over a wood fire in an upturned boat. However, Get your fishmonger to clean and gut your sardines. Then cook your sardines either under the grill {broiler?} or over hot bricks on your Barbie, with flakes of salt and a dash of olive oil until the skin is crisp. using a very sharp knife {the flesh is delicate when cooked and you don’t want to be hacking at it} cut under the head from left to right,and straight down the back bone then pull the head back and pull. pulls the skeleton completely out in one piece. You really wouldn’t want to eat those bones. The little flakey ones you find left are edible and a good source of calcium. Similarly the bones in tins of sardines arenot the main bones of the sardine. Serve with fresh lemon wedges, flakes of sea salt and a cold glass of chardonnay. fresh watercress stands up well if you feel you want a few leaves { not mache watercress s wimp of a brother} enjoy.

    • Babie says:

      Try canned sardines from the Philippines

    • Markus says:

      The bones are edible. lol I think it’s the best part, I eat the spines first. they are soft when cooked.

    • Bunnyhop47 says:

      The bones are edible already. So don’t be afraid to eat them straight from the can. And my dad makes them like this, marinate the sardines with red wine vinager. Toast sour dough bread and spread avacodo on the bread. Mash sardines with a fork then put on top of toast. Add a squeeze of lemon, kosher salt and pepper. Enjoy google alton brown sardine toast.

    • Kristen k says:

      You can buy bumble bee boneless

      • Bees knees says:

        Bumblebee sardines are quite delicious!!My favorite on a no salt added saltine.

      • Clay says:

        My fave is the Bumble Bee gourmet brisling, wild Sardines in EVOO. Headless, boneless and yummy. Sure, maybe there’s a brand slightly better in some health category, but certain these are healthy and delicious.

    • Melissa says:

      There is boneless and skinless canned versions that is what I eat mostly

    • Dave says:

      Deep fry like smelt. Then you can eat bones an all.

    • krissam says:

      The same problem with my daughter.So what i did , cooked in a pressure cooker ( when the pressure came out, count it in 45 min.)
      By the way clean the sardines let the cat happy😊😊😊

    • Robin says:

      I buy the canned sardines and then carefully open them and remove the bones. I never have liked the crunch like some people do!

  23. diannne says:

    No one would ever guess that I eat sardines! I just tried boneless skinless saltless kind from Walmart! Delicious, I wanted to keep them for my boyfriends parents to try. they didn’t make it 3 hours. nom nom nom

  24. anita says:

    I m so glad I bumped into this article.I was always a bit saddened when every one made fun of me a south indian for eating sardines.My north indian friends, my south indian relatives now settled in western countries! I know so many dishes of fresh sardines. Pickled,fried curried oh every thing.we eat fesh sardines and we knowingly eat it coz of its nutrient factor. My mom always tells me that eating raw sardines can cure even leprosy, but of course we have medicines for every thing. sardines are low cost yet healthy food …

  25. Greentree says:

    I’m originally from Brazil and my family has always bought canned sardines because they are affordable. I continue to eat them here in America, and I’m so excited now that I know of its nutritional content. I lightly cook canned sardines with a bit of coconut oil, dried herbs in a skillet and topped with lemon juice. I eat them with jasmine rice, avocado slices, cucumber, tomatoes, and some soy sauce. I love it, it reminds me of sushi that I love too.

  26. i just LOVE sardines. Mustard really makes them taste great. A slice of cheese brings a hold new flavor to it. Yummy!

    • Mike Wilde says:

      Sounds good will give it a try

    • Billywinter says:

      I’m with you about the sardines in mustard. I put them on a cracker and eat it can I don’t eat nearly as much as I should. But I’m going to start eating more of them regularly at least a can week God bless you Billy winter

      • Kelashawn says:

        I agree. I love sardines with a mustard, salt & Pepper, jalapeno on wheat crackers. I could eat this everyday.

    • April says:

      I have been eating sardines all my life and I’m happy to learn they are so good for you. I like them With mustard and hot sauce and sometimes jalapeno peppers. I’m gonna try the lemon and lime recipe. I would never eat them with cheese. That doesn’t sound like a good combination.

    • Mabel Davis says:

      Hi 🙂
      Yes! I love canned sardines but could never eat bones n skin. I had to pick all that out. Now stores liKe COSTCO, B.J’S. N WALMART have SKINLESS N BONELESS! MMM SO DELICIOUS! They are the best. My Aunt had me try Sardines, Mustard N Vinegar with a hard boiled egg sliced sprinkle some Pepper on it with any kind of Crackers you like!😋 SO DELICIOUS!😀👍😋

  27. Carri says:

    Sardines with Italian dressing is my favorite. I sometimes wrap them in lettuce leaves.

  28. Edwin Mwenja says:

    Sardines are the best! I have never had enough, they’re just awesome!

  29. Dl Miller says:

    I have found that an excellant salad is made with a tin of sardines pref in olive oil drained, cut up along with a small avocado , cold cooked potato and a drizzle of vidalia sweet onion juice as desired…great with jalapeno ranch dressing (as found here in single serve cuplets from Publix deli) or rice vinegar and/or white basalmic glaze…lots of potassium !! Another delight is Domino’s thin crust, white sauce, plain cheese pizza…unpack pizza and lay drained single layer small sardines on top of the hot pizza, eat away! Small pizza works just right but bigger appetites need Medium.
    Would be great with scantily smeared basil base as the pizza undersauce but not really a tomato base…


  30. Victoria says:

    I love them mashed over a green salad (romaine and spinach) with sliced cucumber, red bell pepper, and creamy Caesar dressing.

  31. Anno Bimeo says:

    We can buy locally harvested and canned sardines in our province on the East Coast. One variety comes in soya oil and jalapenos-very tasty. They are great with white vinegar, pepper and sliced raw onions. A great habit to get into!

  32. Mike Wilde says:

    I serve them straight from the can (in tomato sauce) with a nice dash of Worcestershire sauce, a shake of garlic powder, black pepper and some dried oregano. Soo good for a quick snack when I’m too impatient to wait for anything, devoured in seconds 😛

  33. Benny C says:

    I eat sardines straight out of the can with mustard and hot sauce. It taste awesome.

  34. Jeri Groff-Olavarria says:

    I love them in mustard sauce.And some crackers the best. Thanks

  35. Melissa says:

    I eat them on buttery crackers with jalapenos on top

  36. Nicholas Rachal says:

    I have been eating them my hole like cracker and mustard love them

  37. Jenuinearticle says:

    One interesting thing to note is that you have to feed tuna 15lbs of sardines to get 1lb of tuna. Since tuna is so overfished for sushi, I would rather eat the sardines more and the tuna, less.

    • Shareen says:

      sardines are also a great substitute for tuna
      Because tuna contain much more mercury which means you can only have tuna once a week

  38. Paul celauro says:

    I take them right out of the can ( all of oil or water ) spread some mayonnaise on a slice of bread mash them and it makes a good sandwich.

  39. Yayita says:

    My recipe for sardines, 1 can sardines with tomato sauce
    Fresh tomatoes and onions
    Cook spaguetti
    lemon or lime
    Saute tomatoes and onions in oil, add sardines with lime or lemon add spaguetti mix and then parsley, Enjoy!

  40. Gail Gross-Brown says:

    As an American, I grew up with these. I serve over pasta, I use them out of the can, breakfast on toast with avocado. Too many ways to name. My favorite: Goya, chipotle Yummy!!

  41. C says:

    I have been eating a tin of sardines three or four days a week in place of lunch. I’ve lost weight, and I have more energy for the afternoon (no carb crash). Plus, they’re easy! Throw them in my bag, off to work! I’ve been reading up on eating healthy, and sardines are at the top of the list.

    What’s not to like? Tasty, great for your health, inexpensive, quick. America has decided food must be complicated and expensive to be good. Not true! So sad that the cannery closed because we’ve become food snobs.

    I like the Sunny Seas brand from Dollar Tree, either plain or in tomato sauce.

  42. Sadi says:

    I once ate à can of sardines with peanut butter but I was pregnant and it was 3 am …
    Love the little tiny ones in à can ( bumble bee) No bones , nothing. Amazing to eat with crackers. At home in France , We grill them smothered in Dijon mustard .

  43. Joan says:

    Me and my cat eat ‘Season’ brand sardines from Costco. No BPA, Certified Gluten-Free, Wild Caught, Certified Sustainable, Non GMO. Boneless, skinless, from Morocco. Packed in olive oil.

  44. Lorie Gosnell says:

    Sardines are perfect for a low carb diet.I love the brunswick ones in olive oil and eat them straight out of the can.They need nothing,They’re fabulous just as they are.

  45. Karen Martin says:

    Love sardines. . . hadn’t had them in years until my Mom said last week–“we have to eat sardines, they’re good for you”–well we haven’t missed a day eating one or two cans. I love them straight out the can! They are great appetite suppressors and they satisfy that craving. Excellent source of protein, omega, calcium. . . . just darn good and reasonably priced!

  46. Tom from CO. says:

    I just finished a can of Chicken of the Sea in Hot Sauce. They do not seem to taste as good as Bumble Bee! I do not know they seem to be missing something. I pay $1 a can most of the time.

  47. Jana Gerst says:

    I simply love to eat sardines! My dad was from South Carolina and he ate them often, and I eat them the same way he did, straight from the can wrapped in a slice of bread! Yum yum yum! Then I dip my bread in the remaining oil and eat that!

  48. Yahart says:

    ❤️ me some hot buttered grits with sardines for breakfast!

  49. Yahart says:

    ❤️ me some hot buttered grits with sardines for breakfast! Gooood.

  50. Joemama says:

    Sardines on a ritz cracker with Kalamata olives and Jarlsberg cheese. Heaven!

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