Many of you know I am an unofficial spokesperson for..
I truly believe they are one of the world’s healthiest foods because they contain three of the nutrients Americans are often deficient in: omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D.
Sardines (and herring) are great because they are:
- Inexpensive ($1 a tin for sardines packed in water, $4 or so for fancier kinds)
- Shelf stable (keep them in your pantry at all times for a quick meal)
- Already cooked – no dishes to wash
- Full of high quality protein and good fats
- A sustainable fish low in mercury (USA sardines are a best choice for Seafood Watch)
- Versatile (mash them on crackers, make a salad, turn them into a sandwich spread, cook into sauces)
I first started eating sardines when I kept reading about them in health magazines as an underappreciated superfood. “If they are that nutritious I should be eating them!” I thought. I was on a tuna/salmon salad kick, so learning to like sardines was an easy crossover. I actually first tried sardines when I was in high school from a tin my dad had in our pantry. I liked them OK, but not knowing they were so healthy or creative ways to make a sardine salad, I didn’t really make them a regular staple in my diet. I believe this was my first time trying them on KERF!
Eating A Sardine
I tell people: if you like tuna salad and you like fish, you’ll like sardines. If you aren’t so hot on fish, however, you probably won’t like them. I prefer mine to be smoked (extra flavor) and I don’t eat them from the tin directly (although you certainly could). I tend to mash them up into salads, spreads and things.
Sardines are a member of the herring family so I often use sardines and herring interchangeably. Herring are a little bigger, but I can’t really tell much of a difference between them in taste. Perhaps I need to do a side-by-side taste test…
Here are what they look like when you open the tin and drain them:
You can easily flake the fish to look like chunk light tuna. I think what scares people so much about “fish in a tin” is the thought of bones. The bones of sardines are so soft and mashable they really shouldn’t even be called bones. People think of bones as pointy, stiff and dangerous to eat, but these bones are soft cartilage that gets mashed with the filets. They are where all the nutrients are! You can’t even really see them:
Don’t be scared – just watch this video for a live demo of how to make a sardine salad:
As I mentioned before, sardines range in price from $1 (or less!) a tin up to $4-5 for fancier brands.
The brand I’ve gotten most in the past is Trader Joe’s because I love the smoky flavor. HOWEVER, Seafood Watch discourages the consumption of wild caught sardines from the Mediterranean and a few of the brands I’ve enjoyed are from Europe. While I was researching this post I realized TJs sardines are from Portugal. The fish themselves are safe to eat, but the concern is the way they are caught, which leads to overfishing and putting the population at risk, so you have an environmental decision to make.
So like most other fish these days:
Pacific/USA = good
Atlantic/European = discouraged for overfishing reasons
Look at your can – the origin is required to be on there.
Trader Joe’s sardines in water are from Canada, which should be considered Pacific/USA and OK.
Wild Planet is always an easy choice for seafood, as all of their products are sustainably caught. The company send me a few coupons to try their flavors, and the olive oil flavor was great! I haven’t tried the marinara (I think I might cook them into pasta?) but I’ll let you know when I do.
This brand from Maine is fantastic!
The maple flavor is subtle (think slightly sweet & smoky bbq sauce) and the fish is flakier and less fishy than other brands I’ve tried.
I like to chop in all kinds of veggies – carrots, celery, peppers – plus add some binders in the form of mustard, mayo, Greek yogurt and then spice things up with salt, pepper, curry powder, smoked paprika, dill, lemon juice, capers and more.
For a basic salad:
- Drain your sardines and mash them with a fork until you reach a uniform consistency.
- Add a quarter cup to half cup of chopped veggies
- Add 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Add 1 tablespoon mayo or Greek yogurt
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of seasonings to taste
- Serve over greens, with chips, on a sandwich, with crackers, or simply eat with a fork.
Here is a massive list of just some of the ways I’ve enjoyed sardines and herring over the years:
Don’t forget there’s always sardine oatmeal if you’re in the mood