A Healthy Guide to Sustainable Cooking Part 1 – Sensational Sardines

Created on Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Special Feature Written by FishWise Intern and Food Enthusiast, Anna Brown

Sardines are picking up the pace in popularity among gourmet restaurants and foodies alike. Known for their nutritional benefits and sustainability in the fishing industry, these little guys can also pack a punch in flavor. Most people are familiar with them in the canned varieties — squished together in a slimy aluminum bed of salty brine. While I may love sardines even when they come in this form, many people find it off-putting. Chefs who are sustainably conscious have been using fresh caught varieties — by grilling or sautéing them, to show a whole other side to the humble sardine.

Nutritionally the sardine packs a wallop of goodies, ranging from omega-3 fatty acids to vitamin D. These little fish contain more omega-3’s than salmon per serving, this may help raise “good” HDL and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. One can go on and on about the health benefits of consuming Omega-3’s regularly, but I’ll just list a few: they contribute to skin health, promote healthy joint function, accelerate metabolism, and rev up your memory, concentration and learning abilities. Do yourself a favor and eat these magnificent essential unsaturated fatty acids whenever you can, they promote good health in adults and children alike. Sardines are also known to have a strong dose of vitamin B-12 which is vital in the formation of red blood cells and neurological function. B-12is a nutrient generally found in meat so to all you pescatarians, sardines are for you! Needless to say sardines made it onto the World’s Healthiest Food List a compilation of 130 of the most nutrient dense and readily available foods. This goes to show biggest isn’t always best, these little super-fish are hard to beat on the dinner table.

Not only are they packed with vital nutrients, sardines are listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green List, meaning they’re a safe seafood choice for the ocean and they’re low in mercury and high in omega-3’s. Sounds like everything I want when I choose my seafood! When choosing your sardines at the store be sure to avoid Atlantic Sardines and go for Pacific Sardines, both reproduce quite rapidly which make them more resilient to fishing, but Atlantic Sardines are currently overfished and should be avoided.

Here are some great recipes that use sardines:

Spinach and Sardine Sandwich

New York Times – August 8, 2011

Martha Rose Shulman

Makes One Serving


  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 ounces baby spinach (2 cups tightly packed), rinsed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small (3 1/2-inch) whole-wheat English muffin, lightly toasted
  • Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 2 canned sardines, preferably lightly smoked in olive oil (about 2 ounces), filleted
  • 1 small tomato, sliced (optional)
  • Lemon juice
  • About 1 teaspoon mayonnaise



1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach. Turn up the heat, and wilt the spinach in the water left on the leaves after washing. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat. Drain and press out excess water.

2. Lightly toast the English muffin. Spread a little mustard if desired over the bottom half and top with the spinach. Lay the sardine fillets over the spinach, and douse with a little lemon juice. If you have a nice ripe in season tomato, layover the sardines. Spread the top half of the English muffin with mayonnaise, and top the sandwich. Press down and cut in half, or wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Tip: You can wrap this tightly and keep it in the refrigerator for a day.


Grilled Monterey Sardines with Lemon and Herbs

Bon App̩tit РAugust 2010

Romney Steele

Makes Six Servings


  • 18 fresh sardines, gutted, cleaned, scaled, patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted brine-cured green olives
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • Olive oil (for brushing)
  • Lemon wedges (for garnish)



1. Place sardines in 11 x 7 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle fish with 1teaspoon coarse salt. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Combine cilantro, parsley, and lemon peel in small bowl. Mix olives and onion in another small bowl. Brush sardines lightly with oil. Sprinkle half of herb mixture over sardines; turn to coat. Grill sardines until just opaque in center, 1 to 2 minutes per side, depending on size.

3. Arrange sardines on platter. Sprinkle with olive mixture, then remaining herb mixture. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with lemon wedges.


For those of you that are more traditionalist or can’t seem to find fresh sardines at the store, I can always rely on good ol’ fashioned whole-wheat toast with cream cheese (if you’re lucky some herby or garlic-flavored varieties) and a few sardines slapped on top. Word to the wise — eat this at home, you may lose friends and co-workers if you whip this out during the lunch hour.

Bon Appetit Magazine

The New York Times