What do sardines taste like? Well, when it comes to sardines, most people turn their back against them, while the others seem not willing to give this fish a try since they have been preconditioned on the stereotypes like “ bad fishy,” “unpleasant,” or “low-quality.”
However, are all the myths true? No. Definitely not! These small, oily, dedicated sardines are literally just a precious gift nature has bestowed on humans. No matter whether you go with the fresh or cans, it is worth trying.
And if you are curious about what sardines exactly taste like, look down for more information!
What Do Sardines Taste Like?
What do sardines taste like? In fact, sardines do have a fishy smell. Every fish has a fishy smell. However, the smell of sardines is only strong, not stinking like you (might) think.
In general, sardines have a soft and oily texture with a rich and salty flavor. But it will be hard for me to briefly tell about this fish flavor’s description since they can come in both fresh and canned versions.
Detailed information needs space. Therefore, if you want to know more about the specific taste of sardines, it will be better to discover the answer in the central part of this post below.
So, have you been ready for the findings?
Sardines – Nutritious & Budget-Friendly Delicacy
As beginners, I’m sure you will need the general information about sardines. Quickly check out this section to learn more about this sea fish!
1. What Are Sardines?
Sardines, also called pilchard, is a kind of small, oily fish from the herring family Clupeidae. This fish is named after an Italian island – Sardinia in the Mediterranean sea, formerly home to many sardines. As you might have guessed, this fish is a staple in Sardinian cuisine.
Sardines are the main food source of many marine species, including various kinds of fish, birds, and other marine mammals. They tend to live in huge schools, traveling around the world’s ocean.
Depending on the locations, various sardines coming from different oceans will have distinctive, separated features and tastes. However, you might not be able to distinguish these tiny and subtle differentiations once they are canned.
Sardines are caught in tons every year to meet human needs. Excluding fresh sardines, you also can find canned sardines. These canned versions almost make all of the world’s supermarkets their nest.
These tiny sardines are the main food source of many marine creatures! Watch this video to know:
2. Types Of Sardines: Fresh Or Canned?
As I mentioned above, sardines will own different trails depending on their living ocean.
Nevertheless, in the culinary world, they are not classified based on where they are caught. We often find two forms of sardines in the markets or supermarkets, including extra sardines and canned (tinned) sardines.
Fresh sardines will mainly be sold in open-air markets instead of in supermarkets. Although fresh sardines can be hard to find sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, you still can find them at a big and busy fish market on a Sunday weekend.
Sometimes, you might even come across Slane Srdele, a specialty from Croatian cuisine. Usually seen between May and August, this dish consists of fresh sardines coated in large volumes of salt. While this might sound simple, the exquisite taste the dish offers is stunning.
Canned (Tinned) Sardines
Aside from fresh sardines, nowadays you can find premium canned sardines even in your local grocery stores. After being cooked, sardines are packed in tin cans with oil, water, tomato sauce, chili, or mustard sauce for longer longevity and flavor enhancement.
They are budget-friendly, convenient, but nutritious enough for your busy days.
3. Popular Uses
Since sardines are oily fish rich in nutrition, no matter fresh or can, they still are the favorite fish type of many people worldwide. Every region will have its own way of enjoying these tiny fish.
Fresh sardines will be marinated and grilled to have the freshest taste. In the United Kingdom, sardines are the key ingredient of stargazy pie – a traditional cake eaten during Tom Bawcock’s Eve, in which sardines, eggs, and potatoes are baked under a pastry crust.
If you visit Japan, you can see baby sardines are made into “tatami-iwashi”, which is added to soups, served as a snack in gatherings with beer or wine. Additionally, in the exotic Portuguese cuisine, sardines are also an iconic ingredient.
It is quite interesting that sardine oil extract is also used to make paints, varnishes, and linoleum.
What Do Sardines Taste Like?
To discover more details about the taste of sardines, don’t hesitate to jump into this part. Whether you look for the taste of the fresh sardines or the canned ones, the description below will be the answers.
1. Fresh Sardines Are The Best Versions
First, I will talk about fresh sardines. These cute fish are especially delicious in their fresh form. Curious, right? Jump into this part for further details!
Flavors – Do Fresh Sardines Taste Bad?
In terms of flavor, sardines are much more delicious than other lean fish as oil content can triump other shortcomings.
Sardines do have a fishy taste but at a moderate level. Eventually, you almost won’t feel it’s fishy when you try the freshest sardines – the ones that are just caught from the ocean. Especially when they are simply marinated with salt, pepper, and lemon (or vinegar.)
The mercury flavor in sardines is lesser than other large sea fish such as swordfish, tuna, or mackerel. In addition, you can find a little bit of saltiness, but it’s obvious what a sea fish is formed in nature.
How Is Fresh Sardines’ Texture?
Because they are classified as oily fish, sardines also have a distinctive property: oily. Even in the freshest sardines, you’ll notice the oily texture from the first bite.
Accordingly, another feature also is quite prominent tender. Many people are afraid to eat fish with bones because it can easily cause choking if not careful. However, it is not the case when it comes to sardines.
Sardines’ bones are incredibly soft and brittle. If you find it hard to remove the bone, just simply chew them. Carefully fresh cooked sardines can be eaten whole without anything left.
2. Canned Sardines – It’s Never The Bad Choice
It can be said that canned sardines have become an indispensable food in this modern world as we need convenient food for busy days. So, what canned sardines actually taste like?
Canned Sardine Flavors – What You Can Expect?
Compared to fresh sardines, canned sardines’ flavor will be saltier and sharper, but it does not mean they taste bad. Rather, canned sardines are favored around the world as a savory and affordable delicacy.
The mixture of many spices also makes these fish more flavorful and less fishy. With a hint of smokiness, canned sardines do not make you feel uncomfortable. There are many flavors for you to choose, such as sardines in oil, sardines in water, sardines in tomato sauce, etc.
All you need to do is pick the taste you love the most.
Juicier Texture With Canned Sardines
Canned sardines will have a more oily, denser, and richer texture than fresh sardines since they are marinated with different condiments. However, they will be more fragile too. Most canned sardines will usually have the head removed, and the belly cleaned.
You can use canned sardines immediately after opening or if you want a warm dish, heat it in the microwave before serving. Canned sardines are often packed with sauces or extra oil to taste moister and juicier compared to the fresh ones.
Major Differences Between Sardines & Anchovies In Taste
I bet many people have mistaken sardines and anchovies when they go shopping for one in two of them. However, although they have similar size and look, their tastes are completely different.
1. Sardines Vs. Anchovies: Which Is The Better Flavor?
Sardines and anchovies both have a strong fishy smell, but once you try them, you can immediately realize the differences. Anchovies are saltier, so they are often used to make fish sauce, a common Asian sauce that can be used as a replacement for tamari sauce and other seasonings as well.
However, for some people, anchovies may be too overwhelming and make them uncomfortable. Thus, they prefer sardines more as they come with a much milder flavor.
2. Sardine & Anchovies Texture Is Also Not The Same
In the texture, anchovies are more oily than sardines. But sardines’ flesh is denser and usually flaky when compared to anchovies. If you like a softer fish flesh, anchovies will be the better choice.
|Flavor||Dense and flaked with less oily taste||More intense flavor with an umami undertone|
Sardines’ Nutrients – How Are They Beneficial To Your Health?
Bad stereotypes about sardines also partly come from their rudimentary package and low prices. However, did you know that sardines are rated as one of the most nutritious fish compared to others in the same price range?
Sardines literally offer more benefits for your health than you thought.
1. A Package Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
As categorized as an oily fish, sardines are filled with a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which is one of the essential materials in building up cell membranes.
As reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), consuming omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent cancer, and minimize other symptoms such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and macular degeneration. (1)
2. Containing Various Types Of Vitamins
Sardines contain lots of vitamins, including vitamin A, B6, B12, D, K and vitamin E. According to USDA FoodData Central’s report, 100g cooked sardines can contain up to 8.94 mcg of vitamin B12, which exceeds an adult’s RDA (2.4 mcg) almost 4 times. (2)
Vitamin B12 keeps your blood stable and benefits your cardiovascular system.
3. Protein “Manufacturer”
Consuming 100g of cooked sardines will provide your body with 24.62g of protein, which is equivalent to half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of an adult (46 – 56g). (2)
You can expect healthy bones and muscles as protein can help to build up and improve them. Moreover, this nutrition also can strengthen your immune system by creating useful antibodies. (3)
Below, I will put a clear illustration about the nutrition content in 100g of cooked sardines, based on the USDA FoodData Central’s report.
You can see this video to know more:
How To Choose And Store Fresh Sardines
If this is the first time you go shopping for fresh sardines, my tips below absolutely can help. Besides, you also may find some good tricks to probably store your fish.
Choosing The Freshest – What Make A Perfect Dish
Let’s start with the choosing part first. In this part, you need to notice two things before paying your dollar to the fish shop owner.
1. Pay Attention To The Appearance First
Appearance (also the first thing catching your eye) is what you need to observe first. Fresh sardines have a bright silver color. The skin is less prone to scratches and not flaky.
You can hold them up for a closer look. If the belly of the sardines is mushy and crushing, come to another fish counter. Besides, the fish eyes are also a sign worth noting. The eyes of the sardines should be clear, plump, instead of cloudy or sunken.
2. Bad Smell Is Never Worth Considering
Sardines have a characteristic sea fish smell. It will be quite strong but will not make you feel uncomfortable. Therefore, if they give off an unpleasant fishy smell, they don’t belong to your kitchen. Your recipes should deserve the freshest ingredients.
Storing Sardines – 4 Effective Tricks For You
While the canned sardines are easy to store, the fresh sardines need to be stored more carefully. Keep 3 tricks below to get the fine fish in the next using time.
1. Consuming Your Sardines Within Days
Due to the richness of omega-3 fatty acids, fresh sardines are more prone to rotting than other fishes. You need to eat them within a day from the time of purchase. In case you have leftover cooked sardines, store them in your fridge and use them the next day.
Similarly, your cooked sardines also don’t have a long shelf life even in the fridge. So, eat all of them as soon as possible.
2. Putting Your Sardines In The Freezer
While frozen sardines aren’t a popular option (as most of them are canned), it’s not a bad idea either. Keep your sardines in an airtight container and store them in the freezer.
Note: Cook them as soon as possible. The longer they stay in the fridge, the less fresh they are.
3. Remember To Clean Your Sardines
Cleaning here is not simply washing but also rinsing the scales, cutting off the fins and heads, and scrubbing the belly. In case you don’t like the backbones, just remove them too. It is not too hard with the fresh sardines.
4. Cover Your Sardines With Ice
After cleaning, if you are going to consume your sardines within 2 days, place them in an airtight bag. Then, put them into a bowl and cover with ice. Though this way will not help to extend your sardine longevity in the fish, it helps to keep your sardines as fresh as possible.
Top Tips On How To Make Sardines Taste Good
Sauces are the most powerful thing to make your sardines taste good. Below are some sauces that can make your sardines’ taste less fishy and more flavorful. I bet you will want sardines every week once you have tried them out.
- To remove the fishy taste from sardine, marinate them with salt, wine with some thin slices of ginger. On the other hand, remember to add some sugar for a hint of sweetness.
- Another seasoning recipe includes vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and a little pepper. The mixture of these ingredients and condiments is delightful, which can refresh your sardines’ smell in just a flash.
- Scrambled your sardines into eggs then cover the fishiness with hollandaise sauce. This cheese-based sauce is incredibly creamy and tasty.
- Additionally, you also can try to make chimichurri sauce, mirin & Thai red curry sauce or sriracha sauce and serve them with your sardines.
Try this chimichurri with your sardines. It is phenomenal! Watch this video:
Sardines Recipes: 4 Sardine-Based Delicacies
Sardines can taste especially good if you choose the right recipes. Here, I will reveal 4 must-try sardine recipes for beginners!
1. Grilled Sardines
There is no other recipe for fresh sardines better than grilled sardine! With this classic treat, the freshest and tastiest sardines will never be out of your league. After being seasoned, sardines no longer retain their fishy smell.
This recipe is a good idea for an outdoor barbecue. Don’t forget to invite some friends; it will be more fun to enjoy this dish together.
2. Sardines On Toast
If you are finding a quick and easy light lunch, this simple Spanish dish is right here for you! Sardines on toast are absolutely a flavor explosion. With just simple ingredients and a few basic spices, canned sardines can come back with a totally new appearance!!
3. Sardine Gratin
How can your dinner be completed without this creamy, hearty, and comforting sardine gartin? This dish is just one of the best versions ever. Whether you pick the fresh sardine or the canned ones, you won’t be able to resist this sweetheart.
4. Sardine Pasta
Italian-style dishes are always on-trend, including this sardine pasta. It will be a great dish you can make for your family on busy days. It doesn’t take too long to prepare. Moreover, you don’t need any side dishes either. Sardine pasta is enough to satisfy your hungry belly.
Sardine pasta will not take so much of your time! Watch this video:
This final section can be helpful for some of you. Just take a quick look to figure out whether there are the answers for your remaining questions.
Sardines do not seem to be a fancy dish, but they’re satisfying, nutritious, affordable, and delicious too. With the soft texture and rich flavor, both the fresh version and the canned ones should be on your list.
These little fish are the most valuable gift in the world. Embrace them. They deserve more of your recognition. And I hope that my post has helped to solve some of your questions.
If you have any questions related to these precious tiny fish, leave a comment below. At any time, I’m always here to help you out!
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Ods.od.nih.gov. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
- Sardines, cooked – FoodData Central Search Results. 2021. Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098981/nutrients
- Diana Wells. Are Sardines Good for You – Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/are-sardines-good-for-you
Table of Contents
- What Do Sardines Taste Like?
- Sardines – Nutritious & Budget-Friendly Delicacy
- What Do Sardines Taste Like?
- Major Differences Between Sardines & Anchovies In Taste
- Sardines’ Nutrients – How Are They Beneficial To Your Health?
- How To Choose And Store Fresh Sardines
- Top Tips On How To Make Sardines Taste Good
- Sardines Recipes: 4 Sardine-Based Delicacies
- Share Your Sardines Tasting Experience With Me!
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