When it comes to a convenient, delicious, affordable and nutrient-dense option, few foods can beat sardines. These tiny morsels from the sea pack a powerful protein punch because they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and other essential nutrients. And of course, they are delicious.
Sardines are highly perishable, so while you can buy them fresh from your local fishmonger, most people prefer to purchase these tasty little fish packed in tins. This way, they can be neatly stacked on a pantry shelf, ready to eat when the feeling hits.
Not all sardines taste the same, nor do they all come packaged the same way. From olive or soybean oil to water and spicy tomato sauce, there are an abundance of flavors and textures to suit all tastes and needs.
We feature six different sardine brands you can buy online. Read on to find one that suits your needs.
Top Pick Best Low Mercury: Safe Catch Wild Sardines
It’s no secret to anyone who loves to eat fish that there are dangerous levels of mercury in some species of fish and seafood. Smaller fish, like sardines, typically have low levels, making them safe to eat. Nonetheless, if you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, you know how important it is to eat the healthiest foods possible for your health and the health of the baby. Sardines, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, protein, vitamin D and vitamin B12, are almost the perfect food from a dietary perspective. If you are looking for a brand that actually checks the mercury levels of the sardines before packing them away for human consumption, then you may want to consider this product.
This brand of Safe Catch sardines is endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association because it tests every batch for mercury. The fish are sustainably wild-caught in the eastern central waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco and are packed and slow cooked in tin-free steel cans with linings that are made with without BPA or the intentional addition of BPA.
Boneless and skinless, each serving offers up more than 1,600 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, 24 grams of protein, 380 mg of salt, 15 percent of the daily vitamin D requirement, and 8 percent of the daily calcium requirement. Packed in extra virgin olive oil, these sardines are a tasty addition to a healthy diet.
- High in omega 3 fatty acids
- Tested for mercury content
- Endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association
- Non-GMO, gluten free, kosher, Keto and Paleo certified
- Has less calcium than other brands
- More expensive than other brands
- High in sodium
Top Pick Best Smoked: Wild Planet Wild Sardines
You’ve never been a fan of fish, but for health reasons, you’ve decided to try canned sardines. As an environmentalist, you’d prefer a brand that respects the planet and all creatures by using sustainable practices when gathering fresh sardines. And while you’re eager to try these small fish, you’re hesitant about the taste. If you are looking for a brand of sardines that is dedicated to maintaining the ocean’s natural ecosystem while providing sardines that have a gentle, smoky flavor, then consider these from Wild Planet Foods.
These wild-caught sardines are packed in organic olive oil and lightly smoked for a delicious, full flavor. One hundred percent sustainably caught via free school purse seine methods, they are gluten free, non-GMO, kosher and pareve. Delicious in a sandwich, in a salad or a favorite recipe, they are an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, and iron. If you’ve never tried sardines, then you’ll love the smoky goodness of these meaty, flavorful, sustainably caught fish.
- Sustainably caught in the North Pacific
- Delicious smoky flavor
- High in calcium and vitamin D
- 18 grams of protein per serving
- Packed in extra virgin organic olive oil
- High in sodium
Top Pick Best Snack Pack: King Oscar Wild Caught Brisling Sardines
You love sardines and make then a regular part of your family’s diet. Great in a salad or sandwich, it’s a quick and easy meal that is nutritious and filling. Sometimes, though, a regular tin is too large for your little one, and too often the leftovers get forgotten in the fridge until it ends up in the garbage. If you are looking for single-serving or snack-sized sardines, then consider these from King Oscar Classic.
These handy 1.58-ounce tins are filled with the finest quality, extra small brisling sardines from Norway’s pristine icy fjords and coastal waters, packed in top-grade extra virgin olive oil. The perfect size for a snack or a smaller appetite, you get 4 to 8 fish in a certified BPA-NI, recyclable aluminum can with an easy-to-open pull ring.
Authentically wood-smoked for a mild flavor and hand-packed, these convenient single-serving tins have 100 calorie, 6 grams of protein and 1,000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. Pop a few in your purse or your child’s backpack and you have a light meal on the go.
- Convenient size for an on-the-go snack
- Contains small brisling sardines
- Lightly wood smoked
- Non-GMO, gluten-free
- Snack size not for everyone
Top Pick Best Variety Pack in Oil: NURI Portuguese Sardines Variety Pack
You love sardines – plain, spicy, with tomato sauce, without – sometimes it’s hard to choose which flavor to purchase. You like to add them to salads and other dishes and prefer to have a few gourmet flavors stocked in your pantry for when the mood hits you. If you’re looking for a variety pack of Portuguese sardines, then consider these from Nuri.
The variety pack includes four, 4.4-ounce cans of wild-caught sardines: one packed in pure olive oil; one of sardines spiced in olive oil; one of sardines in tomato sauce and pure olive oil; and one of sardines in spiced tomato sauce and pure olive oil.
This artisanal, gourmet product has a limited, exclusive production each year and begins with the best fish, the selection of the freshest ingredients and continues with a unique method of vapor pre-cooking and a careful manual preparation process. This results in a handmade and intensive product, with each can wrapped by hand with the original vintage design. These delicious sardines also pack a powerful nutritional punch with 45 percent of your daily calcium requirement, 10 percent of your daily vitamin D requirement, and 26 grams of protein.
- Four flavors in the pack
- Low in fat, gluten-free, non-GMO
- More expensive than other products
- Higher in calories per serving than other products
Top Pick Best Packed in Water: Crown Prince Sardines in Water
Sardines are a healthy, nutrient-packed food, but for some people, the added oil means too many calories or an oily taste. That’s why many brands pack their sardines in water, for a low-calorie, fresh-tasting option.
These sardines in water from Crown Prince are hand-packed Pilchard and wild-caught off the coast of Morocco and have a slightly firm texture and a pleasingly mild flavor. Low in sodium, a serving contains 0.90 grams of omega 3 fatty acids, 25 percent of the daily requirement of calcium, only 110 calories per 55-gram portion and 85 mg. of sodium. Delicious in salads, casseroles or on their own with sliced tomatoes and onions.
- Low calorie
- Packed in water
- Non-GMO project verified
- Tin not BPA-free
Top Pick Best Spicy: SANTO AMARO Hot & Spicy! European Wild Sardines
You’re all about flavor and spice. You love cooking with hot peppers and adding hot sauce to most of your recipes. In fact, as far as you’re concerned, the hotter it is the better. If you’re looking for sardines that are hot and spicy, then you may want to consider this brand from Santo Amaro.
These sustainably wild caught European sardines are lightly smoked and hand-packed in pure olive oil in Portugal, with the added kick of red piri piri pepper. You’ll taste the delicious flavor of quality sardines with an extra zing that will make your mouth and taste buds sing. And they still pack a nutritional powerhouse as a good source of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin E.
- Sustainably caught wild sardines
- Gluten-free, non-GMO, BPA-free
- Lightly smoked
- Spiced with red piri piri pepper
- More expensive than plain sardines
Things to look out for:
Consider these things when looking for sardines so you will choose one that best suits your tastes:
Bone-in fish. Some brands of sardines take off the skin and bones before packing the fish into tins. While some people find this convenient, tinned sardines without skin and bones contain less calcium, since bones are the main source of calcium in this food product.
Wild-caught, sustainably harvested fish. For anyone who cares about the environment and keeping our oceans safe, choose a brand that follow sustainable practices when fishing for sardines. Sustainably sourced, wild sardines are also more nutritious than farmed fish.
BPA-free cans: For health reasons, try to find brands that come in BPA-free tins.
What are sardines and where do they come from: Sardine is a general term that applies to any small, oily fish within the herring family. The story goes that the name comes from Sardinia, a Mediterranean island that was one of the first areas to pack these fish for commercial consumption. Sardines can be found in many places in the world, but just like most things, they vary in taste and size depending on the region. For example, sardines from the Mediterranean taste different from those caught in Baltic waters. The most common kinds are brisling, sprats, sardines and pilchards, although there are other less common varieties. The Baltic, the North Atlantic, and other cold regions tend to have more sprats and brisling, while warmer waters tend to have more sardines.
Health benefits: All sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, a substance your body needs but can only get through the foods you eat. Brisling sardines have the highest concentration of omega 3s. That being said, all sardines are rich in many important nutrients, including protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. When choosing a brand, check the ingredients list and nutrients to see what the percentage of nutrients are available per serving. Also watch out for sodium, as some brands add sea salt, which can contribute to a higher sodium count.
Smoked or not smoked. Obviously there is a difference in taste between the two but with the smoked varieties, look to see if they are naturally smoked. Some canneries put liquid smoke in the tin with the oil before canning. Liquid smoke may taste fine in other products, but it is not a substitute for sardines where the smoking process changes the fish in other ways, notably its texture. If possible, choose a brand that is naturally smoked.
Oil or water. Sardines can be packed in oil, usually olive oil, but even then that can vary from brand to brand. The lighter the oil, the better the flavor, so look for extra-virgin olive oil. Some brands use soybean oil, but it is not recommended for anyone staying away from soy products. If you are looking for something lighter with the same nutritional benefits but fewer calories, choose a brand that is packed in water.