11 Best Canned Sardines for Expert Fish Fiends and Beginners

The best sardines (aka the best canned sardines) are not mild. They are fishy. They are salty. They are oily (even if they’re sardines in water). And they are absolutely delicious. Sardines are the original tinned fish and if you think you’re leaving them off of your tinned seafood boards, then your board is incomplete. Whether you’re looking for some fancy Portuguese sardines to impress guests or some sardines in tomato sauce to eat on saltines, we found the best sardine brands after two extremely stinky taste tests. 

A can of sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil is both humble and majestic. It’s seemingly utilitarian fisherman food, but boy, are sardines rich in flavor. There’s an opulence to this European delicacy that the U.S. has only just started to truly embrace. Buzzy food personalities and chefs now tout their love of canned sardines on the internet. And canned fish in general has earned the moniker of “hot girl food.” But, trendy as sardines and their canned brethren may be, many people still don’t care for them. In our professional opinion, they just haven’t found the best sardine brand for them. 

Sardines are not a bland, flavorless, tuna-in-water scenario. This isn’t fodder for casserole. No, canned sardines are wonderfully delicious, fatty, meaty, and fresh. They’re also stupendously healthy (hello, omega-3s). Canned fish is en vogue for a reason. We even changed a few minds on the Sporked team during our sardine taste tests.

Here’s what we looked for in the best sardines in a can: The fish should shimmer with good oil (if they’re packed in oil, which most of the best sardines are), and the sardines themselves should look like high quality sardines. They should be fleshy, firm, and have some skin on them. Sardines should not be pale or fishy—no cat food vibes. More than anything, we want our sardines to taste fancy, but not cost an arm and a leg. You won’t find any $20-a-can sardines on this list. Food is best when it’s accessible but makes you feel like nobility. That’s the gift of canned sardines.

Here’s our list of the best canned sardines, now updated with sardines in water, sardines in tomato sauce, mini sardines, and a few new Portuguese sardines.  


great value sardines in hot sauce

Best Value

Great Value Sardines in Louisiana Hot Sauce

Look, these aren’t the bestsardines. But I’m including them here because cheap sardines and hot sauce are a damn institution and we need to respect it. Have you fallen upon hard times? Are you trying to tighten the purse strings this month? Are you going through a divorce and you want to get dirt nasty with some sardines and hot sauce? Pick up these Great Value brand sardines (aka Walmart brand sardines). They are pungent and fishy, but hey, guess what? They cost a dollar and provide a lot of great sustenance. There’s value in that. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

Rating:

4/10

Sporks

Henry & Lisa’s Wild Sardines in Spring Water

Best in Water

Henry & Lisa’s Wild Sardines in Spring Water

The best canned sardines come in olive oil. End of story. But if, for whatever reason, you insist on buying your sardines in water, then this is the best sardine brand for you. The fish are firm, fresh, and not too fishy. They’re not too salty, but they do have a lot of iron-rich flavor. They’re not as decadent or silky as sardines in olive oil, but they still have a fatty quality. You won’t swoon over these canned sardines, but you will enjoy them. — Justine Sterling

Credit: Liv Averett / Instacart

Rating:

6.5/10

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Bar Harbor Wild Petite Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Best Mini Sardines

Bar Harbor Wild Petite Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First of all, let’s talk about the packaging. I love it. These tiny canned sardines come in a big, round can topped with a clear lid so you can see their silvery, overlapping fish bodies. It’s like a school of sardines, packed into a can. Luckily, these are some of the best sardines when it comes to flavor, too. They’re smoky and savory and they finish with the clean taste of olive oil. Plus, they’re just plain adorable. If you’re intimidated by the size of sardines, these are the best canned sardines to buy. You can fit a whole petite sardine on a cracker and eat it in one bite. Cute! — Justine Sterling 

Credit: Liv Averett / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Matiz Lemon Essence Sardines

Best Lemon Flavor

Matiz Lemon Essence Sardines

Lemon and fish are a classic pairing. The brightness of the citrus cuts the oiliness of the  sardines, and it provides a much needed tangy, brilliant flavor. Matiz lemon essence tastes like just that—it’s the essence of lemon, not the juice of a lemon. They come packed with some lemon rind, and so you get that nice, floral, lemon zest flavor with every bite. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Rich, meaty, tangy, and earthy—Matiz lemon essence sardines are a damn delight and the best canned sardines with lemon that we tasted, even after trying a few more brands in our most recent taste test. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Fishwife Sardines with Hot Pepper

Best Pepper Flavor

Fishwife Sardines with Hot Pepper

Fishwife makes cool kid canned fish. Their products come in beautifully designed boxes and are sold at trendy specialty grocery stores. They partner with other cool kid brands like Fly By Jing (maker of some of the best chili crisp). And they live up to their reputation. They make some of the best smoked trout and I couldn’t get enough of their new pepper-packed sardines. While they’re not particularly spicy, these canned sardines do have a really nice hot pepper flavor. It comes through as a subtle smokiness that creeps under the oil and the fish, and then there’s the slightest hint of tongue-tingling heat. These are some of the best canned sardines to add to a tinned fish board if you’re looking to shake things up. — Justine Sterling 

Credit: Liv Averett / Fishwife

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

ortiz canned sardines

Best Restaurant Quality

Ortiz Sardines

Ortiz sardines are salty, meaty, and fresh. They are the perfect level of salty and they glisten and sparkle. They’re some of the best sardines to enjoy on a warm baguette with butter. There’s something about these Spanish sardines that makes it seem like they belong in a nice restaurant. That doesn’t mean they’re fancy, it just means they are well-seasoned and great quality. The branding on the can is spectacular, too. Seeing the hand-drawn sailboat is a comfort. I might get a tattoo of this boat, actually. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Ati Manel Sardinhas em Tomate

Best in Tomato Sauce

Ati Manel Sardinhas em Tomate

I tried a few sardines in tomato sauce in our most recent taste test, and this was by far the best sardine brand making them. Packed in a really oily tomato sauce, these Portuguese sardines are so salty and savory and firm, too. As I wrote in my notes, these would add a “KAPOW” of flavor to anything. You can and should eat them on their own, but you could also just dump the can onto some pasta for an instant sauce. — Justine Sterling 

Credit: Liv Averett / Luisa Paixo

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Matiz with Piri Piri Pepper in Olive Oil

Best Spicy

Matiz with Piri Piri Pepper in Olive Oil

These are wild caught sardines from the waters of Spain, Italy, and Croatia that come packed in Spanish olive oil. Matiz offers a bunch of different flavors, but the piri piri pepper flavor is exceptional. The pepper provides a tangy, fruity, salty flavor to the tinned fish that doesn’t outshine the meat itself. And, unlike the Fishwife Sardines with Hot Pepper, these pepper-packed sardines are actually spicy. The pepper accentuates the fish, bringing with it a newfound tastiness and making these some of the best canned sardines around. How good are Matiz sardines with piri piri pepper? They won a SOFI silver award in 2020. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

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Angelo Parodi

Best for Cooking

Angelo Parodi

I’m a big fan of these salty filets of fish. That said, Angelo Parodi was a bit too salty for some of the other tasters. Editor-in-chief Justine Sterling said, “I wouldn’t eat a can of these on their own.” Here’s the thing: I would. Damn, I would, I would, I would. The saltiness is a nice little pick me up, although it might need to be tempered a bit. That means Angelo Parodi is the best sardine brand to use in your cooking. Throw these in a pasta dish like a pasta con le sarde or make a sardine sandwich with some arugula and mayo to tame the saltiness. Or, if you’re a freak like me, just eat the whole damn tin like a cartoon cat. If you crave salt, Angelo Parodi makes the best canned sardines around. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

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 Bela Lightly Smoked Sardines in Olive Oil

Best Tasting Olive Oil

 Bela Lightly Smoked Sardines in Olive Oil

I spent a week in the olive oil region of Portugal and learned that Portuguese olive oil contains a high acidity level, and therefore more kick than other olive oils. Portuguese olive oil is slightly more fruity and bitey. It has a sharp, piquancy to it that’s noticeable in this can of Bela Portuguese sardines. The lightly smoked sardines bathe in the richly tangy Portuguese olive oil. Also, the fish themselves are of the highest quality. They’re meaty, tender, and not too flaky. These would be the best canned sardines to put on a salad. Don’t forget to use the olive oil in the can to make a dressing. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Nuri Sardines in Pure Olive Oil

Best of the Best

Nuri Sardines in Pure Olive Oil

Nuri sardines are so rich they feel like some sort of imperial delicacy. These savory Portuguese sardines are nestled tightly in a tin of delicious, pungent olive oil, which magically infuses the small fish. Every bite is a fatty, oleaginous, meaty, protein-rich morsel. The sardine itself is firm, yet it has a splendidly creamy texture, making it a no-brainer to put on a cracker, Triscuit, or slice of toasted bread. 
These sardines even convinced some sardine skeptics of how delicious sardines can be. That’s why Nuri is the winner and the best sardines brand. You have to try these sardines. — Danny Palumbo

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Other canned sardines we tried: Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Water with Sea Salt, Wild Planet No Salt Added Wild Sardines in Water, California Girl Sardines in Tomato Sauce, Goya Sardines in Tomato Sauce, Cantrara Sardinha em Tomate, “Tiny Tots” Finest Brisling sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pescarias do Algarve Sardines in Olive Oil, Ati Manel Sardines in Olive Oil, Cantara Sardines in Olive Oil, Jose Gourmet Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cantara Sardines in Olive Oil with Lemon, Fishwife Sardines with Preserved Lemon, Trader Joe’s Wild Caught Sardines in Olive Oil with Smoke Flavor 

Read Sporked’s list of what groceries you should buy if you love tinned fish


About the Author

Sporked Staff

The Sporked Staff tastes everything and anything. They are obsessive about groceries and finding the best of any type of food or drink, from frozen fried shrimp to Dijon mustard to gummy candy. And they're always on a hunt for the best new products. When they aren't eating professionally, they're eating recreationally. And often they're browsing grocery store aisles, just for fun.

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  • You really should give Polar smoked brisling sardines a try. Extremely flavorful, great texture, lots of sardines per can, and you know the quality you are getting because the top is clear plastic so you see the sardines in the can.

    Reply
  • We here by like to request for bulk purchase of the following sardine brand LISTED below if you can source anyone of these products below and availability of them.

    1. Gold seal Wild Sardines: (Pack of 12) _____________________ 1,000 CASES

    2. Canned Sardine – Whole, Titus Brand, In Soybean Oil :(Pack of 12)____________________ 1,000 CASES.

    Note: Payment terms are Net 15 or 30 days terms. After supply with the supplier’s invoice.
    Send price quote and credit application form through this email below.

    Yours Sincerely
    Trevor Baker
    Purchasing Manager, Hall Telecommunications Supply Ltd
    Email: purchasing@halltell.com
    Phone: 519 962 8876 Fax: 519 966 8872
    Address:5477 RR.5 Hwy #6 North Guelph, Ontario N1H 6J2.

    Reply
  • Thank you for giving Nuri a chance, it is probably the best tasting and most quality canned sardine out there! 😁 There is an online shop now for them too: https://nuriartisanalsardine.com/?lang=en

    Reply
  • Outstanding article, first one I’ve read on Sporked! As a long time sardine lover, I mostly agree with everything that was stated (personally, Bela’s lemon flavored sardines are cleaner tasting and brighter to my palate) but a great starter course for those who may be apprehensive about tiny tinned fish.

    Reply
  • What if sardines and tunas were switched then what do you do?

    Reply
  • Love this article! The US has been sleeping on canned sardines. They’re so good for you! And tasty too!

    Reply