This Underrated Canned Fish Is the Little Luxury I Need Right Now

updated Apr 27, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Sardine Sandwich with Crunchy Fennel Slaw

Crunchy veggies, canned sardines, and a spicy mayo combine to create a cheap, fast, and protein-packed lunch that takes just 10 minutes to make.

Makes1 sandwich

Prep10 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
open can of sardines
Credit: Amelia Rampe

As is the case with many under-appreciated ingredients, I have found that many people who say they don’t like sardines simply have not tasted a good sardine. And since we’re all currently leaning on pantry staples to nourish us and making do with what we have and what we can find, I say it’s time to give canned sardines a try.

For me, right now, the humble sardine feels like a little luxury. The Mediterranean varieties have the most adorable packaging and are packed within hours of being caught, so they sustain the fresh brininess of the sea. When I eat them, I envision myself basking in the sun at an outdoor cafe on the coast of Portugal.

In addition to being delicious, sardines are really good for you, too: They’re packed with calcium, protein, B-12, and omega-3 fatty acids. And although good cans of wild caught and fresh-packaged sardines are more expensive than tuna, they’re still very reasonably priced, especially compared to fresh fish. The Portugal-based Bela brand runs around $3.50 per tin, and the Italian Pollastrini brand for around $6. I recommend buying several tins and keeping them in your pantry, so that you can grab them anytime you need a quick snack — or just want to live that Mediterranean good life. 

Credit: Amelia Rampe

My Favorite Ways to Enjoy Sardines

Sardines come in many different flavors — plain with olive oil, olive oil with lemon, olive oil with piri-piri chili, and, my personal favorite, spicy tomato sauce — and can be enjoyed in so many ways. I love them on top of a Wasa cracker with a healthy shmear of mayo, some dill, and often a sliced Persian cucumber or hard boiled egg (and always a hit of flaky salt). They’re also great piled onto grilled bread with lots of olive oil, or tossed into a pasta dish.

I even love them straight out of the can: Sardines have come to my rescue several times over the past few weeks, especially when I’ve pushed off lunch to the last possible minute. They are the thing I run to when I’m hungry (well, hangry) and need a snack or right now.

Here, I’m sharing my current favorite iteration — a super-quick sammie made with sardines, spicy mayo, and crunchy fennel slaw. Make the slaw with whatever crunchy veggies you have on hand, and any kind of bread will work. Just promise me you’ll give sardines a try.

Sardine Sandwich with Crunchy Fennel Slaw

Crunchy veggies, canned sardines, and a spicy mayo combine to create a cheap, fast, and protein-packed lunch that takes just 10 minutes to make.

Prep time 10 minutes

Makes 1 sandwich

Nutritional Info


  • 1/4

    medium fennel bulb

  • 1

    medium stalk celery

  • 2

    medium radishes

  • 1 tablespoon

    preserved lemon (optional)

  • 1/2

    medium lemon

  • Kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons


  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

    hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Calabrian chile paste

  • 1 (about 4 ounce) can


  • 1

    brioche bun

  • Pinch

    flaky salt (optional)


  1. Prepare the following, placing them all in a medium bowl: Thinly slice 1/4 medium fennel bulb (about 1 cup), 1 medium celery stalk (about 1/2 cup), and 2 medium radishes (about 1/4 cup). Finely chop 1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind. Juice 1/2 medium lemon, and add the lemon rind and 1 tablespoon of the juice to the vegetables. Toss to combine, taste, and season with more lemon juice and kosher salt as needed.

  2. Place 3 tablespoons mayonnaise and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot sauce in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Drain 1 can sardines. If desired, pick through the sardines and remove any bones. Spread the chile mayonnaise on both sides of 1 brioche bun. Pile the vegetable slaw on the bottom bun, then top with the sardines and a pinch of flaky salt if desired. Close the sandwich with the top bun.