Best Canned Sardines: 7 Best Canned Sardines

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 my professional opinion, they just haven’t had the right brand. Canned 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 test.

This test straight up made the conference room stink, and I loved every second of it. Here’s what we looked for in a good can of sardines: First and foremost, they should be packed in olive oil not water, and the olive oil should be good. It should be rich, fatty, and piquant. The fish should shimmer with good oil, 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 canned sardines to feel fancy, but not cost an arm and a leg. Food is best when it’s accessible but makes you feel like a nobility. That’s the gift of canned sardines.

Here’s our list. Meow and so forth.

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Best of the Best

Nuri Sardines in Pure Olive Oil

These savory Portuguese sardines are nestled tightly in a tin of delicious, pungent olive oil, which magically permeates every nook and cranny of 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 or slice of toasted bread. Sporked‘s social media manager, Mark Catangui, reluctantly joined this taste test. A normally soft spoken and understated individual when it comes to taste testing, Mark showed more emotion than I’ve ever seen when he ate Nuri sardines. His face showed utter delight and surprise, and “mmms” and “ahhhs” followed. “These remind me of the Philippines,” he exclaimed. “When I was little my dad used to eat these with crackers.”

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Best 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 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 a great protein on a salad, which hey, I do all the time.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

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 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, you’ll love Angelo Parodi. 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

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. This isn’t drenching subpar sardines in hot sauce to mask the offputting flavor, the pepper accentuates the fish, bringing with it a newfound tastiness. How good are Matiz sardines with Piri Piri Pepper? It won a SOFI silver award in 2020.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

Best Restaurant Quality

Ortiz Sardines

Ortiz sardines are salty, meaty, and fresh. Unlike Angelo Parodi, which others have deemed a bit too salty, these sardines are the perfect level of salty. And Ortiz sardines glisten and sparkle. Put these on a warm baguette with butter and just go to town. There’s something about these sardines that feels 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.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best Lemon Flavor

Matiz Lemon Essence Sardines

Lemon and fish are a classical 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. 

Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best Value

Great Value Sardines in Louisiana Hot Sauce

Look, these aren’t great sardines. 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. 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.

Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

Rating:

4/10

Sporks

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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

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

    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
  • 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
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    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