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TIP OF THE DAY: A New Look At Sardines For National Seafood Month

First, don’t turn away. You’ll find out why you should take a new look at sardines: very nutritious, very inexpensive, and in the right hands, very delicious!

We all know that seafood is part of a healthy diet. For National Seafood Month, October, think of how you can add more seafood to your diet.

If you don’t already eat seafood at least one day a week, pick a day for “seafood lunch” and “seafood dinner.” Remember that:

  • “Seafood” comprises both fish and shellfish.
  • Eating canned seafood counts.
  • Prepare it any way you like—even raw (crudo, sashimi, sushi). See our 15 serving suggestions below
    On average, Americans consumed 16.1 pounds of seafood in 2018, the last year for which numbers are available. That may sound a lot, but it isn’t great.

    You’ve heard that switching out animal protein for seafood protein is a much healthier way to eat.

    In the western world, Portugal serves up 177 pounds per capita [source]. (It’s true that the coastal country has lots of fish at its disposal.)

    U.S. consumers had a wee uptick (.1 pound) in consumption of fresh and frozen seafood in 2018, per the NOAA (
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

    A point one pound increase? Come on, folks!

    Thanks to the World Atlas for this data on U.S. seafood consumption.

    1. Shrimp: 4.0 Pounds Per Capita. Shrimp are high in calcium, protein, omega-3s, and iodine.

    2 & 3. Salmon & Tuna: 2.30 Pounds Per Capita. Salmon and tuna are tied as the second most popular seafood. Both contain high levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is fattier and has higher levels, while tuna contains more protein.

    4. Tilapia: 1.4 Pounds Per Capita.

    5. Alaska Pollock: 0.98 Pounds Per Capita

    6. Pangasius* (Basa or Swai): 0.69 Pounds Per Capita

    7. Cod: 0.65 Pounds Per Capita

    8. Catfish: 0.52 Pounds Per Capita

    9. Crab: 0.51 Pounds Per Capita

    10. Clams: 0.34 Pounds Per Capita

    Epicurious Magazine recommends these fresh fish as affordable alternatives to the pricey salmon and tuna: catfish, dorade, porgy, mackerel, red mullet, sardines and skate wing.


    If you’re on a budget—and even if you’re not—point your palate in the direction of sardines.

    Don’t turn your nose up if you’ve had a prior disappointing experience with sardines. Give them another chance.

    Sardines are a superfoods with lots of nutritional bang for the buck: packed with flavor, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and a great source of vitamin D.

    (FOOD TRIVIA: Sardines are named after the island of Sardinia. The small, oily fish were once in abundance in the seas around the island.)
    Fresh Vs. Canned Sardines

    Since fresh sardines are truly delectable. Even people who don’t like the canned variety can embrace them.

    Alas, they are highly perishable, so are mostly found canned (but keep an eye out for fresh sardines during sardine season, May through October).

    Different canned sardines are of different quality. You can find wonderful brands that are not “fishy.”

    We are huge fans of the Bela brand, and their mackerel, too.

    15 Easy Ways To Serve Sardines

    If the flavor is too strong for you, add counterpoints such as a squeeze of fresh lemon, capers, a Dijon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, olives, pesto, pickled onions or other pickled vegetables, boiled or baked potatoes (see the last bullet below).

  • Grill or fry them.
  • Make a composed salad (salade composée with a Dijon vinaigrette, or garnish a green salad.
  • Put them on a pizza.
  • Toss them in pasta.
  • Make a sandwich, either chopped like a tuna sandwich, or whole with lettuce, tomatoes and red onion (quick-pickled red onion is the bomb)—plus lemon mayonnaise†,
  • Add them to red pasta sauce or other tomato sauce.
  • Make fish tacos.
  • Substitute for salmon in croquettes and fish cakes.
  • Add to a cheese tart/quiche.
  • Serve with avocado: garnish avocado toast, or plate them with avocado slices and a mesclun salad.
  • Add to a potato casserole or sliced boiled potatoes tossed with butter and parsley.
  • Top rice and other plain grains.
  • Puree and serve as a spread on crackers or sliced baguette, like tapenade. Great with beer, wine, a Bloody Mary or Martini.
  • Flake and add to a braise of greens (broccoli rabe, cabbage, chard, collards, kale, spinach) with garlic and olive oil.
  • Make chirashi or nigiri sushi (photo #3).
  • Add to skewers with vegetables, including baby potatoes.
  • Garnish a baked potato with chopped sardines and scallions and sour cream.
    Most important, try them!

    *Other names for swai and similar species are panga, pangasius, sutchi, cream dory, striped catfish, Vietnamese catfish, tra, basa and — though it’s not a shark — iridescent shark and Siamese shark. It is typically farmed in, and imported from, Vietnam. Here’s more about it.

    †Blend some fresh lemon juice and zest into regular mayonnaise.


    Sardines Presented In Can
    [1] This is food fun: a can of sardines on a fancy plate with crostini and pickled onions. CAn idea we love from Trattoria Italienne in New York City (photo © trattoria Italienne).

    Spaghetti & Sardines
    [2] Pasta con sarde, pasta with sardines, is considered by some to be the national dish of Italy. Here’s the recipe (photo © Taste | Australia).

    Sardine Chirashi
    [3] Sardines, chirashi-style, atop rice with a fried egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or shichimi togarashi, a.k.a. Japanese 7-spice blend. You can also make sardine sushi nigiri-style, atop pads of sushi rice Here’s the recipe from Kitchen Gidget (photo © Kitchen Gidget).

    Sardines On Wilted Greens
    [4] Salad on wilted greens with a squeeze of lemon. A light lunch or first course (photo © The Nibble).

    [5] Sardines with ramps, at Abboccato Restaurant in New York City (photo © Abboccato [alas, now closed).

    Bela Olhao Sardines
    [6] Bela sardines, a great brand from Portugal. Here’s our review (photo © The Nibble).

    [8] One school a-swimming (photo of sardines © Matthew T, Rader | Unsplash).



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