Convenient Nutrition: 7 Quick, Easy and Delicious Meals Ready in Minutes Using Tinned Sardines

Sardines need more love. Not only are they tasty, they’re amazingly chocked full of nutrients and easy to put in almost anything – or just eat on their own as a snack. Better, they’re pretty cheap at around $1 a tin. Most people might not know how easy it is to cook with these little guys or even how to eat them. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Here are 7 ways to make tinned sardines into quick, nutritious meals you’ll find irresistibly delicious. But first, are you wondering why you should be eating sardines at all?

The Napoleon of Fish

Don’t let their tiny size fool you. Sardines are flush with nutrients. In fact, they’re pretty much a complete food. Sardines come packed with vitamins and minerals and are high in:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamins B12 & D
  • Calcium
  • Minerals such as:
    • niacin
    • iron
    • potassium
    • magnesium
    • zinc
    • phosphorus
  • Protein

Sardines have an environmental benefit in that they are one of the most sustainable fishes along with anchovies. Plus, since they feed only on plankton, they are at very low risk for mercury contamination, something more common among bigger fish.

Caveats. Sardines come with very few health risks. Just watch for sodium levels on the tin. Some manufacturers add more than others to preserve these highly perishable fish, though they typically contain less salt than what you’ll find in most canned soups. Even so, it’s a good idea to drain the can rather than cook with the included broth or water.

Additionally, stick with sardines canned in water with salt. Don’t buy the flavored ones like those in lemon or with spice, etc. Usually these all come with additives and nuisance chemicals rather than any real flavorings. Those packed in oil also often use unhealthy, processed oils like vegetable oil (soybeans) or safflower oil. Rarely will you find them packed in olive oil. As with most food, read your labels.

How to Eat Them

You can eat sardines whole from the can since they’re pre-cooked and ready to serve. They’ve had their heads, tails, scales and innards removed so you don’t even have to prep them. Don’t worry about bones either. Unlike larger fish, these bones are edible. Indeed, they’re pretty tender and a wonderful source of calcium.. While you can open a can and eat them, sardines also taste great heated and mixed with other ingredients or in various dishes.

On to the recipe ideas!

#1 – Fish Tacos

From Chicken of the Sea

This is, no joke, a 5 minute meal to make. Pop a tin, heat the sardines in a pan. You don’t need oil or anything. Just drain the tin, plop the sardines in the pan, heat on medium heat while covered and they’re ready in minutes. Put them on a taco, add toppings like greens and mayo, a dash of pepper and eat them whole. One tin will make at least 2 tacos. I love these for a 5 minute healthy meal when I’m hungry but don’t want to cook.

Check out this mini sardine taco recipe.

#2 – As a Spread

From Chicken of the Sea

You can mix together drained sardines with mayo like you would canned tuna to make a salad, cracker, veggie dipper or sandwich spread. You can also mix sardines with soft cheeses like goat cheese to make a really tasty spread, especially when combined with pine nuts or sunflower seeds. Get the recipe here.

#3 – On Salads

From Reader’s Choice

Sardines are more versatile than most fish, especially with how convenient the tinned versions are. Put them on all types of salad, either straight from the tin or warmed with lemon and spices.

Try out this sardine salad with almonds recipe from Reader’s Choice. High in omega-3 oils from the sardines, this salad is also rich in anti-oxidants, thanks to the orange, almonds and salad greens.

#4 – As a Marinara for Noodles & Zoodles

From Viet World Kitchen

You can buy sardines in tomato sauce, so long as you pay close attention to the ingredients. Each manufacturer is different. Spanish companies tend to use tomatoes, oil, chili, salt and sardines but American companies like Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee will often include all sorts of additives and preservatives in their flavored tins. Their unflavored tins are fine thankfully. The better way is to make your own marinara with the plain sardines.

Here’s a great homemade sardines in spicy tomato sauce recipe from Viet World Kitchen.

You can also make a nice marinara by simply simmering a drained can of sardines with half a cup of canned crushed tomatoes, two tablespoons of oil and sauteed onions. Add in cracked pepper to taste. Eat the dish as a main or add it over noodles and zoodles – or even rice.

#5 – Served with Sauce

From SBS Food

Sardines are great served all by themselves with pesto, marinara or a garlicky aioli. Make them a main dish or a side.

Here’s SBS Food’s recipe for chargrilled sardines with green sauce. You can substitute fresh fish for canned.

#6 – As a Rice Bowl

From Sora News 24

Here is a Japanese take on canned sardines and so very simple to make:

1. Empty a can of sardines into a frying pan and turn on the heat.
2. While the sardines are frying, chop up some green onion.
3. Add a tablespoon each of soy sauce and cooking sake (substitute rice or white wine) when the sardines are heated through. Optional: add minced garlic and ginger
4. Finally, put some steaming rice into a bowl and top it off with three sardines and green onion.

That’s it. Super easy and delicious.

There are also numerous other sardine rice bowl recipes out there, including fried rice bowls. You can really have a lot of fun with this style of dish.

#7 – In Soups & Stews

When it comes to cooking with sardines, you can easily add them into soup and stew recipes. They cook down a great deal to make a rich broth. Left chunked, they are great for stews and soups that call for fish and won’t break the bank.

Tiny, Healthy Wonders

Sardines get a lot of love in Southern Europe and Asia but not so much in the US, which is a shame. They are flavorful, savory, and come packed with health benefits that help our bone health, cardiovascular systems and more. Eating them straight out of the can might not be appetizing for those new to sardines but follow these cooking and recipe ideas and you’ll soon discover why so many people around the world are in love with this little fish.

Like this article? Share it so that others can learn these cooking secrets and start living their best lives now.


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