Enjoy all the benefits of heart-healthy, omega-3 packed wild sardines in this simple sardine salad.
With mustard, capers, lemon and lots of fresh crunchy vegetables, you’ll love the flavor and texture of this sardine salad.
It’s perfect for enjoying with crackers, on top of salad greens or, in a sandwich!
Two words that as recently as a year ago probably would’ve made me declare “yuck.”
But at 38 years old, I decided it was time to put on my big girl pants and learn to like sardines.
It all stemmed from a personal health experiment.
I was curious about my omega-3 vs. omega-6 fatty acid ratio and decided to see if it was possible to get into the “good” range by just eating fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies 3-4 times per week.
So that’s exactly what I did.
Turns out, diet alone was unable to get me to where I wanted to be in that index. So in the end I did decide to add in high quality fish oil supplements to my routine.
However, the experiment wasn’t a total failure because during the process I proudly went from “eww!” to “yum!” when it came to sardines.
This sardine salad recipe is the result of a lot experimentation to get the best tasting omega-3 rich lunch possible.
It’s the perfect balance of tangy, bright flavors and lots of texture to distract you from the fact that it’s, well…sardines.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEST SARDINE SALAD
- canned wild sardines packed in 100% olive oil
- red onion
- dijon mustard
- avocado mayo (or regular mayo)
- lemon juice
- lemon zest
- salt and pepper
WHAT KIND OF CANNED SARDINES SHOULD I USE?
When choosing canned sardines (or tinned sardines as our friends across the ocean call them), it’s important to select wild caught and sustainable brands.
They should be packed in 100% olive oil as well. Extra virgin olive oil is even better if you can find it.
You’ll drain most of this off before mashing the sardines to make the salad but the polyphenol rich olive oil is just another health boost in this recipe.
BONELESS SKINLESS VS. BONE IN SARDINES
Some people prefer their sardines to be boned and skinless. The brand I used for this recipe, however, had bones intact and the skin on.
You can choose whichever you prefer but the bones are so tiny in sardines they’re actually edible and a great source of calcium!
In fact, bone-in sardines have up to four times the amount of calcium as boneless, skinless varieties.
They mash up easily with a fork when you prepare the salad so it’s not like there’s sardine bones poking you in the mouth while eating. Bone-in and skin on sardines are completely edible.
HOW TO MAKE SARDINE SALAD
First, drain most of the olive oil off the canned sardines and place them in a large bowl.
Mash with a fork until the consistency shown above.
Add the remaining ingredients for the sardine salad and mix until well combined.
Season to taste with salt and pepper then serve as desired.
HOW TO SERVE SARDINE SALAD
Just like tuna salad or salmon salad, you can choose a variety of serving options for the sardine salad.
Enjoy it alongside some crackers (either your favorite store-bought brand or some homemade almond pulp crackers), in fresh Bibb lettuce leaves for a lettuce wrap or, on your favorite toasted bread to make a sardine salad sandwich instead.
It’s also great on top of a bowl of salad greens with your favorite dressing. My creamy garlic herb tahini dressing is a favorite pairing.
ARE CANNED SARDINES GOOD FOR YOU?
Sardines, both fresh and canned are loaded with nutrients.
Besides their famed hearty healthy omega-3 fat content (they provide a whopping 2 grams of omega-3s per 3 ounce serving!), sardines are also high in many vitamins, calcium and protein.
They’re also one of the very few foods to contain a natural source of vitamin D. This combined with the high calcium level makes sardines great in supporting bone health.
One can of sardines usually contains 20-22 grams of healthy protein.
Furthermore, sardines are rich in iron, zinc, niacin, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. (source)
One other reason SMASH fish (wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) are so wildly recommended by health professionals is for their low mercury content.
Mercury toxicity is a real concern with larger fish like swordfish and tuna (one reason I’ve severely cut back on my favorite healthy tuna waldorf salad consumption) but not nearly as much of an issue in the SMASH fish group.
This is because sardines and the others feed on plankton instead of other fish.
It’s virtually impossible to go wrong with sardines, they’re basically a canned superfood!
WHAT DOES SARDINE SALAD TASTE LIKE?
Ok, I know you might still be squeamish about eating sardines. Especially canned sardines.
I get it. I had to look away and hold my nose the first time I decided to make sardine salad and started smashing them up in the bowl.
The good news is I’ve perfected (if I do say so myself) the ingredients in this salad to perfectly balance the sometimes overtly fishy sardine flavor.
Firstly, there are lots of finely minced vegetables for texture.
I find the crunch of the veggies to be hugely important to distracting myself from the mushy texture of the sardines.
Then, there’s also all the tangy, bright flavor components.
The brine of the capers and tart, sour lemon juice pull your tastebuds in one direction while the lemon zest and fresh parsley brighten things up.
The avocado mayo and mustard give the sardine salad that “deli-counter” like consistency but with much more flavor than just using traditional mayonnaise.
The end result is a bright, tangy and crunchy sardine salad that does a pretty good job distracting any skeptics from the fact that they’re eating mashed sardines!
CAN I USE ANOTHER CANNED FISH INSTEAD?
This sardine salad recipe can easily be made with canned mackerel, canned wild salmon or even herring if you prefer.
When it comes to mackerel, source Atlantic or Atka varieties from Alaska versus King or Spanish mackerel.
The latter two tend to be high in mercury content which is important to avoid for health purposes.
HOW DOES SARDINE SALAD STORE?
This is a great recipe to prepare ahead and store for another meal.
While this recipe uses just one can of sardines, it can easily be split into two servings given all the other ingredients in the salad.
Or, double the recipe for a larger batch to create two or more meals for later.
If you choose to make a sardine salad sandwich, it’s best to keep the bread and sardine salad separate until eating so the bread doesn’t get soggy.
When I take this recipe on the go, I prefer to eat it with crackers as they’re the easiest for transporting.
To store any additional or leftover sardine salad, simply place in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. The salad will keep for about 3 days under refrigeration.
SWAPPING OUT SALAD INGREDIENTS
Feel free to play around with ingredients based on what you have on hand.
For example, instead of carrots and celery, use bell peppers or cucumbers.
Basically anything with crunch to it is game – try jicama or apples as substitutions too.
Parsley can be swapped for any other fresh herb of choice like cilantro, dill, tarragon, sage or mint.
If you don’t love raw onion (I get it, I don’t usually either but can tolerate the small amount in this recipe), leave it out or try thinly sliced scallions/green onions instead for a bit milder flavor.
Basically, any of the vegetables are fair game to play around with in this sardine salad recipe.
You can even add in some raisins or dried cranberries or tart cherries for a small sweet component. I often times do this myself.
Just keep the flavor enhancers such as a the capers, mustard, mayo and lemon in place and you’ll do fine!
Cheers to being big kids and learning to love sardines!
MORE SEAFOOD RECIPES TO TRY
- 1 can wild sardines in extra virgin olive oil, drained
- 1 small carrot, minced
- 2 small ribs of celery, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon avocado mayonnaise (*see notes for substitutions)
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toasted bread
- Bibb lettuce
- Mixed salad greens
- Place drained sardines in a large bowl and mash with a fork.
- Add remaining ingredients to the bowl, stir until well combined.
- Serve sardine salad with crackers, on bread as a sandwich, in Bibb lettuce as a wrap or on top of salad greens.
*I prefer avocado mayonnaise made without egg. Substitute regular mayo or any mayo of choice. Alternatively, you can also use plain Greek yogurt if preferred.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 396Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 787mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 21g
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.