You probably pass by tins of these fish in the grocery store all the time. They’re tiny, often canned, slicked in oil, and sit side-by-side on supermarket shelves. But as similar as they may seem, sardines and anchovies are actually two distinctly different fish. Allow us to give you the breakdown on these slimy species.
Let’s start with sardines. They’re a group of oily fish native to the Mediterranean, once commonly found near the Italian island of Sardinia (hence their similar sounding name). There are at least 18 species of the fish, which is a member of the Clupeidae family, which also includes their larger cousin, herrings.
Anchovies are also small and oily, but that’s basically where the similarities end. While they’re also Mediterranean natives, they can also be found in northern waters close to Scandinavia. There are also more than 140 species of anchovies and they belong to the Engraulidae family of fish.
In terms of appearance, there are also some stark differences. Sardines are an average of two inches longer, have a protruding lower jaw, and white flesh. Meanwhile, anchovies are shorter and darker, marked by red and gray colors that are often effects of the curing process.
That brings us to the most pivotal difference: taste. Because they’re dried in salt during the aforementioned curing process, anchovies have a far more intense flavor—one that’s resulted in their notoriously polarizing reputation, especially when it comes to pizza toppings. Sardines, however are known to be a mellower choice when it comes to tinned fish options.
Now that we’ve established the basic similarities and differences, it’s time to try these great recipes with the frequently mixed-up fishes. Dive in!
Kalamata olives, garlic, and lemon are simple yet perfect seasonings that elevate any sardine dinner. Serve with a side of smashed potatoes to complete your meal. Get our Roasted Sardines with Smashed Potatoes recipe.
BLTs get a major upgrade and an extra fishy kick with the addition of sardines. It might not sound like the most intuitive fit, but trust us: Everything goes better with bacon. Get out Sardine, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Bacon Club Sandwich recipe.
Bouquerones are a species of anchovy known for their tender white meat. The Spanish fish pairs particularly well with olive relish and a crusty baguette. Get our Montaditos with Boquerones and Olive Relish recipe.
Pungent broccoli rabe and pasta are a perfect combination. Throw in a few anchovies and red pepper flakes and you have a one-pot meal for the ages. Get our Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Red Pepper Flakes, and Anchovies recipe.
Anchovies are a perfect seasoning for kale. This recipe will teach you how to blanche the leafy green just right so you can make the ultimate side dish. Get our Braised Lacinato Kale with Tomato and Anchovy Soffritto recipe.
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