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These little fishes are delicious. Here’s how to eat them in brand new ways.

canned sardine on toastShare on Pinterest
Product Review, Clothing, Gym, Apparel, Clothing, Footwear, Shoe Nadezhda_Nesterova/GettyImages

If you’re unsure how to eat canned sardines, we have some intriguing ideas for you. Usually tinned sardines are thought of as a last resort for when you can’t be bothered to cook, if not relegated to apocalypse food, but we urge you to reconsider. The small, oily, silvery fish are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and loaded with things that are good for you, like omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. They’re also delicious!

Here are 15 creative serving suggestions for what to do with canned sardines:

This recipe from chef George Mendes of Michelin-starred Aldea in New York, is a great fresh and healthy option that combines multiple textures and flavors (sweet, smoky, salty, tangy, herbaceous, and a little funky) for a perfectly balanced lunch. Check out the chef’s book, “My Portugal,” for more of his recipes.


  • 2-4 red bell peppers, washed and thoroughly dried
  • romaine lettuce hearts, washed and thoroughly dried
  • fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, washed and thoroughly dried
  • extra-virgin olive oil (chef Mendes likes Casa Migmag)
  • sherry vinegar
  • smoked paprika (chef Mendes likes La Dalia)
  • 1 can Portuguese sardines (chef Mendes likes the Porthos brand; Bela is another good Portuguese brand)
  • salt
  • freshly ground white pepper


1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Toss the whole peppers with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt, then roast on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes, or until charred, turning about every 5 minutes. (Alternatively, blister the peppers over hot coals or an open flame.)

3. Place peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 15 minutes to further soften them and loosen their skins.

4. Use a spoon or the back of a knife to scrape most of the blackened skin off the peppers, but leave a few specks on for a smoky flavor. Cut off the stem end of the peppers and slice them in half lengthwise, then remove the veins and seeds. Cut the flesh into strips, mimicking the shape of the sardine filets.

5. Place the strips of pepper in a bowl and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 2-3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Sprinkle in some smoked paprika to taste, mix well, and reserve. The chef recommends making these 1 to 2 days in advance, but if you’re short on time, as little as 5-10 minutes will do.

6. When ready to assemble the salad, slice the romaine into bite-size pieces and mix with whole parsley leaves to taste (as many or as few as you like).

7. Drain sardines and cut in half lengthwise, then remove and discard the bones and excess skin if you prefer (leave them be if you like a more rustic preparation). Roughly cut sardines into small pieces and mix with the lettuce and parsley. Add some of the juice from the pickled roasted peppers and mix again to coat.

8. On a plate, make a base layer of pickled roasted peppers, layer the lettuce-herb-sardine mixture on top, and finish with another drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of sherry vinegar, sea salt, and freshly ground white pepper, plus a few more pepper strips for a pop of color.

Try this easy and very tasty idea, adapted from “The Silver Spoon,” for breakfast, or pair it with a leafy salad for a quick supper.


  • 1 can sardines
  • 1 small shallot, slices
  • few sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 4 eggs
  • toast and hot sauce, to serve


1. Heat the oven to 500°F and preheat an ovenproof serving dish for five minutes.

2. Place the sardines, sliced shallot, chopped parsley, and chopped garlic in the warm dish. Add some black pepper and put the dish back in the oven for six minutes.

3. Remove the dish from the oven, break four eggs into a bowl, and pour them gently on top of the sardine mixture. Season with salt and pepper and put the dish back in the oven for seven minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but still jiggly.

4. Remove the dish and let it sit for five minutes (the eggs keep on cooking even out of the oven). Set out with toast and hot sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Cottage cheese and yogurt give this healthy spread a tangy flavor that complements the sardines’ smoky essence. Spread it on brown bread with pickles and watercress for a quick lunch.


  • 2 cans smoked sardines
  • 7 ounces cottage cheese
  • 7 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • juice from half a lemon
  • cayenne pepper
  • bread or crackers to serve


1. In a food processor, combine the smoked sardines, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and lemon juice.

2. Blend until just smooth and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve on bread or crackers dusted with cayenne pepper. Makes enough for 6.

These sardine fritters are perfect for a dinner with friends. Serve them with a Sriracha-soy sauce (inspired by chef Stuart Brioza).


  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • butter lettuce
  • 2 cans sardines
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • vegetable oil for frying

1. To make the sauce, whisk the Sriracha, soy sauce, and fresh lime juice together in a small bowl.

2. Select a handful of leaves from a head of butter lettuce; wash and dry them and set aside.

3. To make the fritters, mix together the sardines, eggs, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese in a large bowl.

4. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a large saucepan till it spits when you put a test crumb in. Make small balls (approximately 1 inch in diameter) of the sardine mixture and fry for three to four minutes until golden brown, turning them occasionally with tongs.

5. Place the fritters on a plate with a kitchen towel underneath to absorb the oil. To serve, place in the lettuce leaves with the Sriracha-soy sauce drizzled on top and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serves 4.

This pizza, from food photographer Chris Rochelle, isn’t just delicious any time of the day; it’s healthy, too.


  • 1 ball pizza dough (store-bought, or make our Basic Pizza Dough recipe)
  • pizza sauce (like our Basic Pizza Sauce recipe)
  • handful arugula
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, hopped
  • 1 can sardines, drained and halved lengthwise
  • crushed red pepper, to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 500°F.

2. Roll out the pizza dough on a flour-dusted baking tray and brush on a thin layer of sauce. On top, place a large handful of arugula, the sliced onions and peppers, the garlic, and the halved sardines.

3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and liberally apply crushed red pepper flakes. Serves 4.

These “seanuts” were inspired by our Oaxacan Chile-Lime Peanuts recipe. Put them out for your next cocktail party.


  • 2 cans sardines, drained and chopped
  • 2 pounds peanuts
  • 10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 6 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 arbol chiles, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar


1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

2. Toss together the chopped sardines, peanuts, unpeeled garlic cloves, peanut oil, and crushed arbol chiles until nuts are evenly coated. Spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast, shaking and stirring the pan halfway through, until the nuts are toasted and beginning to crack open, about 25 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large, heatproof bowl. Toss with the lime zest, kosher salt, and sugar and serve. Makes 10 to 15 servings as a snack.

Yet another reason to keep puff pastry around: so that you can throw together Chris Rochelle’s sardine flatbreads in under 30 minutes. Serve them with aperitifs or cocktails.


  • 1 (8-ounce) sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 3 anchovies
  • 2 sardines, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • black olives, cut into quarters


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat for five minutes, stirring until softened. Stir in three tablespoons of tomato purée, cook for a few minutes more, then remove from heat. Stir in the capers, anchovies, and sardines.

3. Roll out the thawed puff pastry and cut it into 16 little squares. Brush egg wash on each square and place a tablespoon of the sardine mixture in the middle of each square.

4. Bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with quartered black olives. Makes 16 squares.

These budget-friendly fish cakes stand in nicely as a light lunch or dinner when served with a salad.


  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 cans sardines, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup spring onions, chopped
  • 1/4 bunch fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, plus more for coating cakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • olive oil


1. Coarsely chop and boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and mash.

2. Add the sardines, spring onions, dill, flour, garlic, lemon peel, and 1 cup panko. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in the egg. Shape the mixture into six 3-inch cakes. Coat with panko breadcrumbs.

3. In a nonstick frying pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the fish cakes about three at a time, turning them over until they’re golden brown and crispy. Makes 6 cakes.

Stuff sardines into a po’ boy-style sandwich.


  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 can sardines in tomato sauce
  • capers, to taste
  • Sriracha mayonnaise (mixed to taste)
  • crusty French bread
  • garnishes of your choice (cilantro, parsley, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, etc.)


1. Sauté the onion until soft, then add the sardines in their tomato sauce and some capers to taste. Stir until heated through.

2. Cool slightly, then stir in the eggs. Spread the Sriracha mayonnaise onto the bread, then spoon the sardine mixture on top, and add whatever garnishes you like. Makes 1 sandwich, which goes great with a beer.


  • 1 can sardines in tomato sauce
  • 1 medium-large russet potato
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Mix onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Boil potato until tender, then slice almost in half horizontally.

3. Fill with sardines in their tomato sauce and the onion relish. Serves 1.

Here’s a simple open-faced sandwich idea.


  • 1 can sardines in extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • minced red bell pepper
  • black olives, sliced
  • English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • whole wheat toast


1. In a small bowl, mix the sardines and their oil with the herbes de Provence, bell pepper, and olives. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

2. Top a slice of whole-wheat toast with the marinated sardines and vegetables with some of the herbed oil.

3. Let the oil soak into the toast for a few minutes, then top with thin-sliced English cucumbers. Drizzle with a little additional oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste. Makes 1.


  • 1 can sardines in olive oil
  • herbs, spices, and aromatics of your choice (think: rosemary sprigs and capers; lemons slices with garlic; sliced jalapeños; chile flakes; whatever you like!)
  • crackers for serving


1. Remove the lid from the can of sardines and insert the herbs, spices, and aromatics of your choice. (You’ll probably need to drain some of the oil so it’s not too full, but make sure the flavoring elements are completely submerged.)

2. Broil for a few minutes in the can before serving with crackers. Serves 1.

Avocado toast pales in comparison to our version, inspired by Alton Brown.


  • 1 can of sardines, drained
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • sliced jalapeño (fresh or pickled)
  • dark rye bread
  • fresh lime wedges


1. Arrange avocado slices, canned sardines, and sliced jalapeño on a piece of dark rye bread. Squeeze lime on top. Serves 1.


  • 2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced, fronds reserved and chopped for garnish
  • 2 cans sardines, drained
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • chile flakes to taste
  • 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • 1 box pasta like bucatini


1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, sauté fennel in olive oil with garlic, black pepper, and chile flakes until tender.

3. Add sardines and stir them in, breaking up roughly with the spoon. Stir in the toasted breadcrumbs.

4. Drain cooked pasta and stir in the sauce. Portion into bowls and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.

This recipe, developed by Sarah Karnasiewicz, is a surprisingly balanced take on a classic club sandwich combines the bold flavors of sardines with bacon, arugula, and sun-dried tomato butter. The recipe makes 4 sandwiches, each stacked tall on three pieces of toasty bread.

Ingredients (10)

  • 14 sun-dried tomato slices packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 6 dashes Tabasco Sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 slices thin white sandwich bread, toasted
  • 8 slices cooked bacon
  • 2 cups arugula (about 1 1/2 ounces), washed and dried
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans sardines packed in olive oil, drained


  1. Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, butter, and Tabasco in a medium bowl and mix into a uniform paste. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  2. Place 8 slices of the toasted bread on a work surface. Spread an even amount of the tomato butter on each slice, using it all up. Set the remaining 4 unbuttered bread slices aside.
  3. Place 2 pieces of bacon each on the buttered sides of 4 of the bread slices. Top the bacon with 1/4 cup of the arugula per sandwich. Top the arugula with a slice of the unbuttered bread. Place a quarter of the sardines on top of each unbuttered piece of bread and season with pepper. Top the sardines with another 1/4 cup of the arugula per sandwich, and finish with a slice of buttered bread, buttered-side down. Slice each sandwich in half and serve.

Sustainability Note: Historically, sardines have been one of the most sustainable fish around; for years, The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program listed Pacific sardines as a “best choice” due to their abundance and high production rate, but sardine numbers have been alarmingly low in more recent years. For that reason, you may want to try substituting mackerel until sardine stocks start to rise again; luckily, they’re similar in health benefits, cost, and taste, and their populations are doing well right now.