4+ Interesting Things to Know About What Sardines Taste Like

Sardines have a strong, meaty taste with a salty and oily flavor profile. Fresh sardines are less salty than canned ones, and packaging affects taste.


You must have come across a pizza with anchovies and thought, wow, that must be awful! They are small sardines and, although slightly saltier, are delicious! Sardines are very popular in many foods, but how do they taste? 

Sardines have a strong fish taste but are not pungent. Sardine meat is salty, oily, and meaty to taste and has a great texture when chewing. Different oceanic regions can influence the meat’s taste and sardine’s diet. Fresh-caught sardines taste less salty than canned sardines. 

Because sardines are part of the Mediterranean diet, they are highly sought-after fish. Sometimes fish may smell stronger than they taste, which is the case with sardines. 

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How Would You Describe The Taste Of Sardines?

Sardines have a fishy taste but are not too fishy. The taste of sardines changes based on how they are packaged, where they are caught, etc. They are a lot less salty than anchovies. Fresh sardines and canned sardines will have different tastes.

Since the canned sardines will be packaged with different flavors such as oils, water, and tomato sauce, fresh sardines will taste more fishy since they weren’t packaged in taste. Still, with fresh sardines, you can add anything you’d like for extra flavor.

Sardines Have A Strong Taste And Smell

Sardines have a strong taste and smell. They have a salty, oily, and rich flavor. The way sardines are packaged can also affect their taste since they come in canned and fresh. Since canned sardines come in different flavors, it affects how they taste. 

Sardines Taste Oily

Freshly grilled sardines on silver plate

Sardines, also known as pilchards, are small oily fish that come from the family Clupeidae. The sardine is named after an island in Italy (Sardinia) in the Mediterranean Sea, where many sardines live.

Sardines Taste Salty 

Sardines do taste salty, but it’s a very natural flavor. Marine fish will always have a natural salted flavor, which adds to sardine’s appeal. You can add more salt when cooking, which will significantly enhance the flavor and taste. 

Sardines Taste Meaty

Sardines have a tremendous textured and chewable meat for fish. The meat is dark and dense, not white as you might expect. Sardine meat has a distinct taste when you eat it and doesn’t disappear in your mouth like many white-meat fish species. 

Should You Eat Canned Sardines?

Chicken of the Sea Sardines in Water, Wild Caught, 3.75 oz. Can (Pack of 18)

Besides getting fresh sardines, you can also find canned sardines at almost any grocery store. They are budget-friendly and have a fast little meal. After the sardines are cooked, they are packed in a tin can with water, oil, chili, mustard, or tomato sauce for flavor enhancement. 

The flavor of canned sardines is sharper and saltier when comparing fresh sardines to canned sardines. Canned sardines are loved worldwide and are affordable.

The spices they put in with the canned sardines make the fish full of flavors and take away from the fishy taste. Canned sardines come smoked, so you don’t have to worry about a raw fishy taste.

You can also choose from various flavors, such as sardines in water, tomato sauce, and oil.

Do Fresh Sardines Taste Similar To Canned?

When it comes to fresh sardines, they will be sold mainly in fish markets than in supermarkets. Even though fresh sardines are sometimes hard to find, you can still find them at big fish markets. You may even find a dish made of fresh sardines coated in a lot of salt called Slane Srdele.

You can find this dish between May and August. It may sound simple, but the taste is fantastic.

Sardines are much more delicious than lean fish when it comes to flavor. 

When it comes to their taste, they have a fishy taste that’s moderate. When you eat fresh sardines, you will barely taste the fishy flavor, especially after it is marinated in vinegar, lemon, salt, and pepper.

Large fish like tuna, mackerel, or swordfish have a much stronger mercury flavor than sardines do, so in addition, you may find some saltiness, but that’s obvious since it is a sea creature.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can You Eat Sardines Straight Out Of The Can?

Sardines, sprats canned in a tin

Sardines from the can taste great and can be eaten with toppings like peppers, onions, or any condiments like hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, or any of your choice. The heads of the sardines are usually removed before being canned.

You can eat the bones and skin of canned sardines, which carry some health benefits. Sardines are a great source of:

  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Omegs-3 fatty acids

Sardines are low in calories, rich in nutrients, and used as a part of a healthy and balanced diet can help improve blood vessel function, help inflammation, and much more. There have been several potential health benefits shown by eating sardines. Such as:

  • Healthy Fetal Development
  • Lowered Chances of Heart Disease
  • Stronger Bones
  • Better Brain Health
  • Increased Nerve Function

Do You Eat The Bones Of Sardines?

The bones of sardines are entirely edible and soft enough, so most people don’t even notice when eating them. 

But if you don’t want to eat the bones, you can buy canned sardines that don’t have skin or bones, even though the skin and bones are entirely edible.

Can You Eat Sardines With Anything?

Sardine bones supply an incredible amount of calcium content. There are many ways you can eat canned sardines. Here are a few examples:

  • In a salad: If you are making a salad and love sardines taste, you can add them. You can add the sardines to the salad with some hard-boiled eggs, olives, and anything you enjoy in your salad. 
  • In pasta: If you love pasta and sardines, why not mix them together. Add some tomato sauce and spices, and enjoy. 
  • Serve them on toast: The salty flavor of the sardines and the crunch of the toast goes perfectly together. You can even add some avocado to it if you like. 
  • Eat it as a snack: You can eat sardines on a cracker of your choice or just as is.

Final Thoughts

Although Sardines have a strong flavor and taste, it remains one of the most popular marine fish for eating. 

They are versatile, high in nutrients and minerals, and can suit various foods’ tastes.

More FAQs

What do sardines taste similar to?

Sardines taste similar to herring, as both fish belong to the Clupeidae family, resulting in certain similarities in taste and texture. Herring can be a great substitute for sardines in a variety of recipes.

Will I like sardines if I like tuna?

If you enjoy tuna, you will likely enjoy sardines as well. However, if you are not particularly fond of fish, sardines may not be to your liking. Personally, I prefer smoked sardines for an added burst of flavor, and I typically incorporate them into salads, spreads, and various dishes instead of consuming them directly from the tin, although that is also an option.

Are sardines a fishy fish?

Sardines are considered a fishy fish, especially when it comes to the good-quality ones. Their meaty, dense, and oily texture is exactly what you would expect from them.

Are sardines very fishy?

Sardines have a relatively mild, slightly fishy flavor and a meaty texture, making them less divisive compared to salty tinned anchovies. Moreover, they offer more excitement than the common tuna found in sandwiches. As a result, sardines have gained significant popularity in the recent resurgence of tinned fish.

Do sardines taste like tuna?

Sardines do not taste like tuna. They have a mild, slightly fishy flavor and a meaty texture that is less divisive than salty tinned anchovies. However, sardines are more interesting than the common tuna found in sandwiches, which is why they have gained popularity in the recent resurgence of tinned fish.

Do all sardines taste fishy?

All sardines do not taste fishy. The taste of fresh sardines is still somewhat fishy and tender, although not as much as canned sardines. Canned sardines often have higher sodium levels due to the use of salt for preservation purposes.

Do canned sardines taste like tuna?

Canned sardines do not taste like tuna. Sardines have a mild, slightly fishy flavor and a meaty texture that is less divisive compared to the salty tinned anchovy. However, they are also more interesting than the common tuna found in sandwiches.

How do you reduce the fishy taste in sardines?

To reduce the fishy taste in sardines, you can sprinkle them with salt, freshly ground pepper, and lemon or vinegar. If you still find fresh sardines too fishy, you can try a basic marinade. A combination of ginger, wine, soy sauce, and a pinch of salt and sugar can help counteract the strong fishiness.

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