Food ingredients

Why Are Sardines So Salty?

Sardines are tiny oily fish. They are named after Sardinia Island, an island in the Mediterranean where their population was high.

You can either buy fresh or canned sardines. Manufacturers package canned sardines with water, oil, or tomato sauce.

Canned sardines are so salty because they have a high sodium content. Manufacturers use salt to preserve canned sardines hence the salty flavor.

I love cooking fresh sardines because I get to enjoy the authentic sardine flavor, but since it is difficult to get fresh sardines in the United States, I opt for canned sardines.


They are a bit salty, and the flavor is somewhat altered, but they still taste amazing.

This article will discuss all you need to know about sardines including their flavor, where to buy them, shelf life, how to eat them, and their mercury levels.

We will also discuss the differences and similarities between canned sardines and fresh sardines.

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Sardines flavor


Sardines are fishy. Some people avoid them because they claim they are too fishy for their liking. However, when prepared properly, they have an amazing flavor.

Generally, sardines are meaty with an oily texture. Canned sardines are usually salty and their flavors vary depending on how the manufacturer prepared and packaged.

Most sardines have bones, but the bones are soft and you can chew them comfortably. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about them choking you.

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Canned sardines vs fresh sardines


Canned sardines and fresh sardines slightly differ in terms of flavor.

Like most canned products, canned sardines have a higher sodium content since manufacturers use salt to preserve them. Therefore, you may notice canned sardines are salty compared to fresh sardines.

Despite their sodium content, you can easily incorporate them into your diet in a way that ensures your sodium intake is well-balanced.

Canned sardines and fresh sardines have similar nutritional benefits. So the ones you choose significantly depend on your personal preference.

Where to buy sardines


Regardless of where you live, you can buy canned sardines at any grocery store near you. On the other hand, fresh sardines are a little difficult to find.

You are more likely to get them in markets in New York. If you are lucky, you may find fresh sardines in your local grocery store or your local fishmonger. You can also buy fresh (frozen) sardines from online vendors.

Fresh sardines are also readily available in regions and countries where they are fished. These include Mediterranean countries and Spain.

The United States mostly imports sardines from Mediterranean countries.

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Sardines shelf life


Canned sardines have a very long shelf-life. When you store the unopened cans properly, they will retain their good quality for up to five years. Once you open the can, they will only last for four days in the refrigerator.

On the other hand, fresh sardines have a relatively short shelf life. If you store them in the refrigerator, they will stay fresh for two days. After that, they will start going bad and you may notice a foul smell emanating from them.

If you freeze sardines, they will stay fresh for approximately three months. After three months, their quality starts to deteriorate.

Ways to eat sardines

Sardines have a distinct sea flavor. However, the flavor is not unpleasant.

If you generally don’t like the sea flavor, all you need to do is mix the sardines with other strong-flavored ingredients. The ingredients will somewhat mask the fishy flavor.

Sardines are quite versatile, and you can enjoy them in various ways. Here are a few ways.

Grill them


The best way to enjoy fresh sardines is to grill them. Grill fresh sardines the same way you grill any other fish variety. You can grill them on a pan, in the oven, or over the barbecue.

I particularly love grilling fresh sardines because I get to enjoy the authentic sardine flavor.

I highly recommend using fresh herbs, lemon, and spices to enhance the flavor further.

Eat canned sardines as they are

You can eat canned sardines as they are since they are usually pre-cooked. 

However, it would be best if you drained the liquid and added a little bit of seasoning before eating the sardines.


Add them to salads

You can add canned sardines to any salad recipe that requires protein. 

They go well with most salad ingredients including sun-dried tomatoes and red peppers.

In fishcakes

Like most fish, sardines make tasty fish cakes. Simply use a fork to mash your sardines then add them to cooked and mashed Irish or sweet potatoes.

Use your seasoning of choice on the mixture, add egg or flour, and shape the mixture into cakes. Fry the cakes on a pan until they are crispy and serve.

You can serve fishcakes with chutney, aioli, or a salad.

On toast


Next time you are making avocado toast, swap the eggs with sardines. I like making mine with fresh dill and spring onion. Sprinkle some chili flakes and salt to taste and enjoy.

The sardines also go unbelievably well with boiled eggs, pickled onions, olives, and roasted tomatoes.

Add them to other dishes

Sardines are a great addition to several dishes including; rice, quinoa, and pasta. They enhance their flavors significantly.

How much mercury do sardines have?


You may be aware that all fish contain mercury. The levels of mercury differ significantly depending on the fish’s diet.

Most of the sardines’ diet comprises plankton. Therefore, they have very little mercury compared to other fish varieties.

Note that the bigger the fish is, the more mercury it is likely to contain. Since sardines are small in size, they have little mercury compared to other fish.



Sardines are a sea superfood. If you haven’t tried them yet, you are missing out. They are not only delicious but also super nutritious. They contain several vitamins are nutrients that are essential for our bodies.

My favorite thing about sardines is that they last for a very long time. They are also quite affordable, so you won’t spend a fortune to get them.

Let me know your experience with sardines in the comments below.

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