What Does Sardine Taste Like? A Detailed Answer

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If you are not a fan of the fishy-fish taste, chances are high that you have never tried sardines. You must have heard people talk ill about sardines. But regardless of all this hatred, sardines remain a favorite cuisine for people worldwide! Nothing but its taste makes sardines people’s favorite. Are you wondering what sardines taste like?


Sardine has a unique flavor. Its meat is a little sweet and has a very strong fishy taste. It also has a strong fishy aroma to it. To an extent, we can say that sardine taste like herring fish.

Sardines do have skin and bones and are a little fishy in nature. Is that what stops you from trying sardine? Despite these disadvantages, sardines are one of the healthiest seafood options available today.

Sardines, in short, are a must-try fish. If you are unwilling to try it, give this article a read. In this article, let’s take a closer look at sardines. Is sardine just a stinky fish, or is there something more to it that makes you love it?

What Are Sardines?

If you are someone who is new to the world of fish cuisine, you must have no idea about sardines. If that’s the case, let’s get to know the sardine a little better before talking about its taste.

Sardines are small fish that belong to the Clupeidae family of fish. They survive on small plankton and crustaceans and are widely available worldwide.

Sardines actually got their name from the Italian island of Sardinia, where they were once caught in abundance. Sardines are available as fresh fish as well as in canned form.

Sardine lives in a school and keeps moving from one ocean to another. Even though sardines aren’t the most loved fish across the world, it is one of those fish that has a special recipe in each country. 

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What Does Sardines Taste Like?


Sardines are one of the least expensive seafood items we could find on a seafood menu. Even though sometimes we want to try it, we stop ourselves from having it as we are unaware of its taste. Let’s see what sardine tastes like in this section!

Sardines have a very strong flavor profile. They have a very fishy, oceanic taste to them. It is a little salty and has a sweet undertone to it. Sardines have an extremely fishy aroma to them. However, when cooked, both the fishy taste and smell cool down.

Sardines are also available in canned form. Canned sardines are less fishy than fresh ones. Moreover, canned sardines might have a smoky flavor as they are often smoked before canning.

Do Sardines Taste Fishy?

Yes, if there’s something people remember about sardines other than their taste, it should be their fishiness. Sardines do have an oceanic fishy taste to them. But once you cook the fish, the smell and taste settle down.

Sardines’ fishiness is bearable for people who have grown up eating them. However, if you are new to the fish, its taste and smell may bother you. In that case, choose the canned version.

The canned version of sardines has the least fishy smell and can be cooked in all ways like fresh sardines. Hence, if fresh sardines are too much for you, start with the canned version first.

Why Are Sardines So Tasty?


There are two kinds of people—the one who loves sardines and the one who hates sardines with all their heart. If you ever get to meet someone who loves sardines, that person should be praising sardines all the time.

We all know people who despise sardines and their fishy flavor. But what about the other half who just love sardines? What could be the reason they adore this fish despite its fishy odor and bones?

Sardines are so tasty because of their high fish oil content. The oiliness of sardines gives its flesh a slight sweetness along with the fishy taste. Moreover, they have firm flesh, which adds up to the overall taste of the sardines.

Do Sardines Taste Like Anchovies?

Sardines and anchovies are two similar-looking fish that belong to the same fish family. But does that mean that they taste similar? If you have ever had both of these at least once, you might agree with my answer.

Anchovies and sardines do not taste the same. Anchovies are more fishy and salty than sardines. Anchovies have a very pungent flavor to them, and they are dried in salt before canning.

Not only in taste, but anchovies and sardines are also different in texture. While sardines have white flesh, anchovies have reddish-gray flesh. Anchovies are also small in size when compared to sardines.

Now that we have seen the similarities and differences between these two, it is clear that anchovies are different from sardines in every aspect. However, if you are out of sardines, you can always rely on a can of anchovies. If you are doing that, be prepared to welcome its fishy umami flavor to your dish.

Do Sardines Taste Like Tuna?


If you are in a supermarket to buy tinned sardine, you will come across another tanned variety of tuna. Both tuna and sardines are widely available in canned form, making us ask ourselves whether they taste similar or not.

Sardine does not taste like tuna and vice versa. Sardine has an entirely different flavor profile than tuna. Sardine, as we have already discussed, has a very fishy, oily, meaty taste. 

On the other hand, tuna is not fishy at all. They have a very creamy and meaty texture and taste. People who do not even like fish, in general, may love tuna for its less fishy taste.

However, in most recipes, tuna can be replaced by sardines. But if you are doing so, make sure to add some lemon or vinegar to cut down on its fishy taste. But if you are wondering whether to take canned tuna or sardine, I have the answer.

If you are someone who is worried about your health, choose sardine over tuna, as tuna has a high mercury content. But if you are someone who cannot stand the fishy taste, go for the canned tuna fish.

What Fish Do Sardines Taste Like?


Sardines are usually widely available in nature. However, it is sometimes hard to find good sardines in the market. If you are a lover of sardines or your recipe demands sardines, you might want an alternative in such situations.

There are very few fish that taste like sardines. Sardines are one of those fish that taste similar to sardines. Herring has a very similar flavor profile to that of sardines.

Herring’s flesh, like sardines, has a high oil content, making them taste oily, fishy, and juicy. Both canned and fresh versions of herring taste similar to those of sardines.

Not just in taste, herring is similar to sardines even in its physical appearance. When we buy canned sardine, we often get canned herring. Their taste and appearance are so similar that we often fail to notice their differences.

What Do Smoked Sardines Taste Like?

Sardines can be cooked in various ways, but if you have to choose one way to cook this fish to eat it at its full taste, try smoking them. Smoked sardines are definitely a must-try food item. 

Smoked sardine has a smoky flavor to it. It becomes extremely flavorful as the fish contains oil in it. While getting smoked, you could enjoy the fish’s most juicy texture with a hint of smoky flavor.

While smoking sardines, make sure to add subtly flavored ingredients to them to enjoy the full taste. Some canned versions of sardines already have a subtle smoky flavor.

Therefore, if you like its taste, make sure to cook some smoked sardines next time you have fresh sardines. If you like a burst of spices, marinate it in the paprika powder before smoking it.

What Do Grilled Sardines Taste Like?


Grilling anything makes it taste better. The same goes for sardines. Grilled sardines are extremely tasty. Many people who don’t like sardines love the grilled version of it.

Grilled sardines are extremely tender and juicy in nature. They are often grilled with a little olive oil or vegetable oil on top of them. They are less fishy than those of the smoked version.

While grilling, the sardine meat gets softer. However, always make sure that it’s not overcooked. Otherwise, the meat turns dry. You can enjoy the grilled fish either on its own or by removing its skin.

What Do Fried Sardines Taste Like?

If you ever get bored of eating sardines, do try frying them. I feel fried sardines should be treated like any other snack, as we never get tired of eating them.

Fried sardines are spicy and crunchy in texture. Before frying, they are often marinated in spices like chili powder, pepper powder, and salt. Since they are deeply fried, they will have the least fishiness among the other two variants.

However, deep-fried sardines aren’t as healthy as the smoked and grilled ones. Many nutrients are lost in this process. However, if you ever want to try something different from the mundane sardine recipe, go ahead and fry them.

What Do Raw Sardines Taste Like?


Before commencing this section about what raw sardine tastes like, let’s address the elephant in the room. Can we eat raw sardines? Well, the answer is no. But then what do people mean when they say they enjoy raw sardine more than the cooked one?

Raw sardines aren’t something humans enjoy in general. But many people refer to canned sardines as being of the raw sardine variety. Canned sardines are partially cooked and come with mustard, tomato, and salt as seasoning.

Sardine Vs. Salmon | Which Tastes Better?

Sardine and salmon have a very distinct flavor profile of their own. However, the fish do not have a similar taste and are very different from each other. So which one tastes better than the other is a very personal choice.

Salmon is a very mild-tasting fish with a creamy taste. They, like salmon, are easily available and are loved by people all over the world. It has a pinkish flesh color and soft flesh.

On the other hand, salmon, as we know, has a very fishy flavor profile. Salmon doesn’t smell as strongly as that sardines. But when it comes to nutrition, sardines are better than salmon.

Both salmon and sardine are very tasty fish. However, salmon is much loved for its mild taste and soft, creamy flesh; therefore, I feel salmon tastes better than the sardine.

Sardine Vs. Anchovies | Which Tastes Better?


Many people get confused between sardines and anchovies when they go shopping. It is a common mistake we all make! But is there any issue with swapping between these two?

Sardines taste better than that anchovies. Sardine has a mild flavor to it when compared to anchovies. Sardines are less fishy and have a light sweetness to them. However, anchovies are very different from sardines when it comes to flavor.

Anchovies have a very strong flavor profile. Moreover, anchovies have a very salty and savory taste to them. Once cooked, it gives an umami flavor along with a fishy taste.

Hence, if you are new to anchovies and sardines, choose sardine over anchovy.

Tips To Make Sardine Taste Good?

Sardines are good on their own. If you get fresh sardines, simply grill them with minimal ingredients to enjoy their best flavor. However, if you want to make your sardines stand out from the rest, here are some tips you can employ.

  1. Marinate it with salt: Many people hate sardines because of their fishy taste. But marinating sardines with salt will help to remove the fishy taste and smell from sardines to an extent. Hence, try this trick if you hate fishy flavors but love sardines.
  2. Use good seasoning: We all use salt, but are those extra ingredients that need to be added while cooking sardines? Try adding garlic, pepper powder, and vinegar along with salt. This mix helps settle the sardine’s smell and makes its flesh much softer.
  3. Use different sauces: Like in all other foods, sauces have a huge role in cooking the best sardine dishes. You can use soya sauce or Thai red curry sauce to marinate sardines.

Types Of Sardines | Fresh Vs. Canned


Like all other fish, depending on the place it is caught, the taste of sardines changes. However, these changes are so minuscule that it is hard to differentiate.

Let us stick to the basics and categorize them as fresh or canned. Both of these are available on the market in abundance. But when given an opportunity to choose both, which one should you choose?

As you all know, fresh sardines are the ones we get on the open market. They are fresh and have a piquant flavor profile. They have a light, sweet taste and the sardines’ fishy flavor.

Canned sardines, on the other hand, come in the tin form. They are already cooked and are mixed with water, oil, tomato sauce, mustard sauce, and other ingredients. They have a very balanced flavor compared to fresh sardine fish.

Fresh Sardines Canned Sardines
Have a fishy taste and aromaThe fishy flavor and aroma are less.
Little sweet and fishy flavorSharp, salty flavor
Uncooked Cooked 
Highly NutritiousLess nutritious
Less available Easily available

How To Choose The Best Tasting Sardine

Fresh Sardines

There is no taste parallel to that of fresh sardines. They are small and easy to cook and hence allow you to explore the taste they have to offer. However, look for these tips while selecting fresh sardines.

  1. Look at the eye color: Fresh sardines will have a glazing eye. If the eyes are cloudy or red, the fish has been frozen for too long and must have lost all its goodness.
  2. Check the skin texture: Fresh sardines will have a firm skin texture. If you poke it slightly, the skin will bounce back rather than tear away. Hence, if you are not concerned about getting your hand smelly, poke it.
  3. Go for red gills: most fresh fish will have red gills. If your sardines have brown or blackish gills, keep them there and leave them for some cats!

Canned Sardines

Not all of us are going to buy fresh sardines. Some of us rely on canned ones because they are the most easily available, and there is no headache in cleaning them. Above all, they aren’t as smelly as the fresh ones.

But what if I told you that you must exercise caution when it comes to canned sardines? As we all know, sardines are a widely available fish, and many companies are making them, but when choosing one, put your health over taste.

Below are some tips you should follow when selecting canned sardines. We all care about how sardine tastes and its health benefits, so when selecting canned sardines, consider taste and health.

  1. Spring water over oil: When choosing the canned one, select the one that uses spring water as one of its ingredients. This will limit the oil content of the fish.
  2. Avoid added salt: canned sardines have salt as one of their ingredients. When it is added, it becomes saltier. This is unhealthy for us, so we should avoid the one with added salt.
  3. Wash off the added salt: If you have already bought one with added salt, always make sure to give it a good cleaning before cooking it.
  4. Pick a BPA-free can: BPA is a coating given to food product cans. This prevents the food from coming into contact with that cane material. However, most of the time, the BPA reacts with our food material. BPA is extremely harmful to us and can even lead to hormonal imbalance.

How To Store Sardines Properly


Getting your hands on sardines will not be a big deal. Sardines, on the other hand, require special handling when storing. Sardines contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, making them spoil easily.

If you get yourself some fresh sardines, take them home, clean them, and cook them immediately. Fresh sardines taste the best! You can always freeze the sardines, but I strongly feel that sardines lose their true taste when frozen.

So, once you get your hands on fresh sardines, ensure they are in your stomach rather than in the fridge as soon as possible. Grill them, fry them, or bake them to enjoy their best taste.

Even though fresh sardines are easy to get, most of us often get canned sardines. Canned sardines have many benefits of their own. It is well cleaned and comes ready to eat. But does that mean we don’t have to store it properly?

Canned sardines have enough preservatives to keep them fresh even when stored outside. However, once the can is opened, always make sure to save them in the refrigerator rather than on the shelf.

This will ensure that sardines are kept fresh and safe to eat. Always ensure the fish are submerged in the oil when using canned sardines. You must practice this when they are kept outside and in the fridge.

Even after doing all these, if you feel your sardine doesn’t taste like it is supposed to, make sure to throw it out immediately!

How To Cook Sardines

Sardines, as we have discussed, can be cooked in multiple ways. Its tender flesh and light, fishy taste allow it to be cooked in various ways. Given below are some of the common methods adopted for cooking sardines.

  1. Grilling: Grilling is the best option if you get fresh sardines. Wrap it in fig or banana leaves and grill it over charcoal. You can use olive oil, cooking oil, and some spices to flavor it.
  2. Baking: Sardines can also be baked. At least two hours before baking, add your favorite marinade to the fish. Baked sardines can be enjoyed with pepper, lime, or tomato ketchup.
  3. Pizza Toppings: Sardines can also be used as a pizza topping like much other expensive fish. Just make sure to remove the bones before adding the fish to the topping.
  4. Fry It: Fried sardine is delicious in any sardine recipe. If you either pan or deep fry them, make sure to add some red chili powder and other spices to make your fry tastier.
  5. Eat it raw: Sardines, as we have seen, can be eaten as is. For the best taste, marinate it in the Mediterranean style before having it for the best taste.

Health Benefits Of Sardines


Many times in the article, we have talked about the taste of sardine. Sardines are tasty fish with a fishy taste. Most people hate the fishy taste but eat sardines. Why is it?

If not for the taste, people tolerate sardines for their health benefits. So in this section, we will look at the health benefits offered by sardines.

  1. Promotes heart’s health: Sardine is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. It also lowers blood sugar and prevents clots. Hence, overall, they help our hearts be healthy.
  2. Great source of multiple vitamins: Sardines are a great source of many vitamins. It contains vitamin B12 and vitamin D. There are only a couple of foods that give vitamin D, and sardines are one of them.
  3. Aids in bone health: Sardine is a great source of calcium. Hence, they help to keep our bones as well as our dental health strong. If you are lactose intolerant and want to supplement your calcium intake, include sardines in your daily diet.
  4. Nutritional Content Of Sardines
  5. Now that we have seen sardines’ health benefits let’s look at their nutritional content. Knowing the nutritional value of sardine will assist you in including the appropriate amount in your daily diet.

Nutritional Content Of Sardines

Now that we have seen sardines’ health benefits let’s look at their nutritional content. Knowing the nutritional value of sardine will assist you in including the appropriate amount in your daily diet.

Nutritional ContentAmount (4 ounces)
Calorie210 kcal
Fat12 g
Cholesterol70 mg
Protein24 g
Omega 31.7 g
Iron2.5 mg
Calcium280 mg


Sardines might be small, but their taste and health benefits are no less than any other fish. In short, I feel that sardines are the true gifts of nature. They are nutrient-rich and inexpensive and are widely available in nature.

If you have never tried sardine, take this as a cue and try it at least once. The experience of having sardines is one of its own, and maybe who knows, you too might fall in love with this small fish just like millions of us.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you eat sardines out of the can?

Yes, canned sardines are often half cooked and come along with good marination. Hence it is safe to consume them straight out of the can.

How do you eat sardines if you don’t like them?

If you do not like sardine, you can try eating it with other food like pasta or as a pizza topping. Marinating them with salt and lemon will help to reduce their fishy taste.

Are sardines healthier than tuna?

Yes. Sardine is more nutritionally dense than that tuna as it has high vitamin E content in them. Hence sardine is healthier than that of tuna.

Can I eat canned sardines every day?

Canned sardines come with a lot of oil and salt in them. Hence it is not advisable to eat them every day.

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