Think You Hate Sardines? It’s Because You Haven’t Had These.

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Up until a year ago, I avoided sardines at all costs. They seemed antiquated and a bit weird — the bones, the skin, all packed in a tiny can— and my life was perfectly fine without them. Then I went to Portugal for my honeymoon, where tinned fish is king, and my newly wedded bliss gave me the courage to give them a go.

Sure enough, I became an instant fan. I loved their rich flavor and meaty texture and, as soon as I came home, I cleared room in the pantry for a few tins. They can be polarizing, no doubt about that, but I firmly believe if you’re willing to try them and you try the right kind, you might join me in my Sardines Fan Club.

The Best Sardines Are Packed in Olive Oil

There are a whole lot of options when it comes to sardines, but the best are packed in olive oil. Water-packed sardines just won’t have the same rich flavor and can taste a bit water-logged. Oil, however, locks in the fish’s flavor and keeps each sardine super-moist. Opt for olive oil, rather than other oils, as its savory characteristics really complement the sardines.

My preference is for sardines from Spain or Portugal, when available, as I find they are the meatiest of the bunch. Lately I can’t get enough of the Matiz line of sardines from Spain. Their classic variety does have bones, but they are easy to remove if you’d prefer (which I do). They also have sardinillas, or baby sardines, which are small enough that there are really no bones at all.

To enjoy sardines in olive oil, drain them from the tin (if you’re the thrifty type, try using the oil in a vinaigrette for salad). For the beginner, I think the best way to try sardines is flaked into pasta, as it adds protein and flavor to the dish without overwhelming it. From there, try breaking them up and adding to salads or grain bowls. Once you’re 100 percent pro-sardine, plop them on avocado toast, Triscuits, or Wasa crackers.

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King Oscar Sardines in Olive Oil, $32 for 12, 3.75-ounce tins

Four Other Sardines We Can Get Behind

What’s your favorite brand of sardines? How do you like to eat them?