13 Things to Do With Canned Sardines

Pictured: Sardine and Fennel Pasta recipe from Chowhound foodieseattlelady, photo by CHOW

Usually canned sardines are thought of as a last resort for when you can’t be bothered to cook, but reconsider. Not only is the small, oily, silvery fish inexpensive, easy to prepare, and loaded with things that are good for you, like omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, it’s also one of the most sustainable fish around: The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program lists Pacific sardines as a “best choice” due to their abundance and high production rate. Here are 13 creative serving suggestions.

1. Fisherman’s Eggs


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:

Heat the oven to 500°F and preheat an ovenproof serving dish for five minutes. Place a can of sardines, a small sliced shallot, a few sprigs of chopped parsley, and two cloves of finely chopped garlic in the warm dish. Add some black pepper and put the dish back in the oven for six minutes. 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. 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.

2. Smoked Sardine Pâté


Cottage cheese and yogurt give this healthy spread a tangy flavor that complements the sardines’ smoky essence. Spread it on brown bread, like CHOW’s Chris Rochelle and his wife Rachel do, with pickles and watercress for a quick lunch:

In a food processor, combine two cans of smoked sardines, seven ounces of cottage cheese, seven ounces of Greek yogurt, and the juice of half a lemon. Blend until just smooth; serve on bread or crackers dusted with cayenne pepper. Makes enough for 6.

3. Sardine Fritters in Lettuce Leaves with Sriracha-Soy Sauce


These sardine fritters are based on a Mario Batali recipe; they’re perfect for a dinner with friends. Serve them with a sriracha-soy sauce (inspired by chef Stuart Brioza):

To make the sauce, whisk two tablespoons of sriracha sauce, two tablespoons of soy sauce, and two tablespoons of fresh lime juice together in a small bowl. Select a handful of leaves from a head of butter lettuce; wash and dry them. To make the fritters, mix together two tins of sardines, two eggs, two cloves of finely chopped garlic, a chopped quarter-bunch of parsley, three-quarters of a cup of breadcrumbs, and two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. 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. Place the fritters on a plate with a kitchen towel underneath to absorb the oil. Place in the lettuce leaves with the Sriracha-soy sauce drizzled on top and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serves 4.

4. Sardine-Arugula Pizza


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

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Roll out a disk of premade dough or our Basic Pizza Dough recipe on a flour-dusted baking tray and brush on a thin layer of our Basic Pizza Sauce recipe. On top place a large handful of arugula, half of a thinly sliced onion, two thinly sliced sweet peppers, two cloves of chopped garlic, and one drained can of sardines halved lengthwise. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and liberally apply crushed red pepper flakes. Serves 4.

5. Seanuts


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

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Toss together two cans of drained and chopped sardines, two pounds of peanuts, 20 unpeeled garlic cloves, six tablespoons of peanut oil, and four crushed arbol chiles until evenly coated. Spread the ingredients out on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast, shaking and stirring halfway through, until the nuts are toasted and beginning to crack open, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large, heatproof bowl. Toss with three tablespoons of finely grated lime zest, four teaspoons of kosher salt, and four teaspoons of sugar and serve. Makes 10 to 15 servings as a snack.

6. Sardine Squares


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:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw one eight-ounce sheet of puff pastry. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add half a finely diced onion and a crushed garlic clove 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 one tablespoon of capers, three anchovies, and two chopped sardines. Roll out the thawed puff pastry and cut it into 16 little squares. Brush egg wash on each square. Place a tablespoon of the sardine mixture in the middle of each square and bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with quartered black olives. Makes 16 squares.

7. Sardine-Dill Fish Cakes


These budget-friendly fish cakes, developed by CHOW’s Chris Rochelle, stand in nicely as a light lunch or dinner when served with a salad:

Coarsely chop and boil two medium Yukon Gold potatoes until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes. Add two cans of drained and chopped sardines, one cup of chopped spring onions, a quarter-bunch of chopped fresh dill, two tablespoons of flour, two crushed garlic cloves, two tablespoons of grated lemon peel, and one cup of panko breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in one beaten egg. Shape the mixture into 6 (3-inch) cakes. Coat with panko breadcrumbs. 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.

8. Sardine Po’boy


Chowhound citycupcake loves to stuff sardines into a po’boy-style sandwich:

Hard-boil two eggs, peel, and set aside. Sauté a sliced onion until soft, then add a can of sardines in tomato sauce and some capers and heat. Cool slightly, then stir in the eggs, roughly chopped. Meanwhile, stir sriracha sauce into mayonnaise to taste, and spread this onto crusty French bread slices. Spoon the sardine mixture on top, and add cilantro sprigs, parsley, tomato slices, cucumbers, lettuce—anything you like. Makes 1 sandwich, which goes great with a beer.

9. Ecuadoran-Style Sardines


Chowhound qtprof loves to do with sardines as they do in Ecuador:

Combine canned sardines in tomato sauce with a sliced boiled potato and some red onion relish: diced red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 1.

10. Sardine Toasts


Here’s a simple open-faced sandwich idea from Chowhound eloflin:

Top a slice of whole-wheat toast with sardines marinated in extra-virgin olive oil, herbes de Provence, minced red bell pepper, and black olives. 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. Makes 1.

11. Broiled Sardines with Infused Oil


A simple serving idea, from CHOW’s Chris Rochelle:

Take a can of sardines in olive oil and remove the lid. Insert herbs, spices, and aromatics—rosemary sprigs with capers, lemon slices with garlic, sliced jalapeños, chile flakes, whatever you like. (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.) Broil for a few minutes in the can before serving. Serves 1.

12. The Brown Sardine


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

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

13. Sardine, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Bacon Club Sandwich


Our surprisingly balanced take on a classic club sandwich combines the bold flavors of sardines with bacon, arugula, and sun-dried tomato butter:

This recipe, developed by Sarah Karnasiewicz, makes 4 sandwiches, each stacked tall on three pieces of toasty bread. Get our Sardine, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Bacon Club Sandwich recipe.

Original story by Chris Rochelle, updated by Susannah Chen