Posted in Freedom Friday

Mystery of the Sardines

For the life of me, I can’t seem to find a recipe that features sardines as its main ingredient. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried. I’ve scoured the internet from Food Network to individual cooking sites in an effort to prove that sardines can be a main ingredient to a dish. Alas, I’ve come up empty. To me, the results make for good fodder for today’s Freedom Friday post.


One afternoon last fall, I was hungry. The family was away and I was looking to make something that would tie me over until dinner. I didn’t feel like a full lunch, but at the same time, my hunger was strong enough to warrant a hot meal. First thing I did was head to the pantry. I could have gone into the freezer and thawed one of those ready-made burritos, but like I said, I was looking for something light. Besides, a burrito does all sorts of funky things to my stomach that I didn’t want to experience.

Anyway, I came across a package of spaghetti and a jar of marinara sauce. I thought, “great, it would be the perfect meal.” A small bowl of pasta with some sauce would be enough to keep me active for a couple of hours. Then, with the package and jar in my hands, I eyed the shelves for some protein. I could have gone for the nuts, but I wasn’t in the mood to sit at the table and supplement my meal with another course. That was when I saw the can of sardines.

Can of sardines
Can of sardines

For those unfamiliar with the taste of sardines, let me tell you. The texture is mushy. The flavor is strong. They’re a great source of Omega-3’s, fatty acids and protein, but they do nothing to stem the flow of a good appetite. That’s my opinion.

I thought, “Hey, why not try it out.”

The pasta went into the water, the sauce went into the pan and the can opener hit the sardines next to the stove. Twenty minutes later, while mixing the sauce into the pasta, I added half a can of sardines.

My nose should have warned me. I didn’t take a hint very well. It was awful, just awful. I had all I could do from tossing my innards.

From that moment on, it’s been my quest to find the ultimate sardine recipe. And honestly, the only one that comes to mind, other than eating out of a can, is sardines on a bed of salad topped with a butter sauce. Unbelievably, that’s all I could find. There was no epiphany to stir my culinary creativity, no magic bullet to hit me with the idea of the century, and no wonderful mix of vegetables and starches to compliment the marine treat.

I just couldn’t find anything.

So now, I ask you all. Do you have a sardine recipe that will surprise and equally shock me into believing in miracles?


What have you done with sardines lately to make them special? Is it possible to have sardines as a main ingredient in a dish?


Jack Flacco is an author and the founder of Looking to God Ministries, an organization dedicated to spreading the Word of God through outreach programs, literature and preaching.

22 thoughts on “Mystery of the Sardines

  1. I used to just toss them on white rice and eat them. My parents do something with raw onions and some pepper sauce. We all eat it on roti (Indian bread).

      1. The wonderful green paste RULES, even though I got some with enough spice to make a solar flare seem like polar ice. 🙂

  2. I was thinking of something similar to the comment above about sardines on toast, but my idea was like Chinese sesame prawns on toast. Mushy sardines spread on like a thick paste, seeds and a nutty Chinese oil and deep fried.

    Or you could try Chris’s Special Autumn Sardine recipe: put the sardines in a pan, add a dash of white wine, a dram of single malt whisky, a shot of vodka, a generous glass of sherry, a tot of rum, throw the sardines away and drink the sauce.

  3. Sardines are much better uncooked as a side dish or a kind of topping. Don’t cook the little buggers. Better raw.

  4. i don’t have any sardine suggestions, Jack, but I sure enjoyed reading your story about the spaghetti meal to never be repeated. You wouldn’t be a good cook if you weren’t learning something new…. ;D

  5. What a delight to read! I’m sorry for laughing at your sardine pasta fiasco….well maybe not too sorry since you wrote about it so very well. I can’t help you out here. Fish….YUCK!

  6. growing up I had a sardine sandwich just about every week. nothing else on it, sardines, bread, and spread a bit of the oil they come in to keep it all moist. Anchovies.. well that’s another story, only on my Ceasar Salad please!

  7. On pizza they are grand. By the slice and dripping with goo on your hand. Free from the package that had them cramped in a can, now in your stomach swimming towards your other can.

  8. Jack, you have to use fresh sardines for gravy, not canned. My grandmother would buy fresh sardines, dip in eggs and breadcrumbs, then fried. They were served on the side. I’ll see if I can find the recipe for sardines in gravy

  9. I’m a huge fan of sardines on toast. I read about the concept in a book and gave it a shot. Toast the bread, butter it, put on sardines–voila! The crisp bread does a decent job off-setting the mushy fish. Not sure how to help the fishy taste though.

    Oh and I don’t recommend them on salads. They fall to pieces. Although you can soaked them in a vinaigrette then.

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