How I Learned to Love Sardines

Sardine picnic you say? Count me in!
Sardine picnic you say? Count me in!

I didn?t always enjoy eating canned fish. When I first heard talk of the benefits I basically covered my ears and tried to block everything out. But it made a lot of sense, and I can?t really ignore the logic. So after some experimentation I am officially a convert.

My Sardine Experiment
Round One
I woke up really hungry one morning. I had eaten all my salmon burgers and pre-cooked meat. And a spoonful of coconut oil just wasn?t going to cut it. Peeking out at me from my pantry was a can of sardines I bought earlier in the week. Since I first started reading the Cavegirl Eats blog (now Real Food Liz), I have become intent on using sardines to naturally increase my Omega-3 intake and eat more sustainable seafood. I figured that if I bought a can I would have to eat them at some point. But I?d?been afraid to try the canned fishies. I don?t like things that are too fishy-tasting and I can?t use most of the eating substrates that the online world suggests to make them more appealing (saltines, toast, hot sauce, etc.).

But I was determined, so I just sucked it up and went for it. Straight out of the can. For those that are curious, I bought the Wild Planet brand. They?re in a BPA-free can and sustainably sourced. I also had some lemon water on hand to chase down the taste if needed.

My favorite brand at the moment. They're stocked at Whole Foods, which is nice when I run out and forget to order more.
My favorite brand at the moment. They’re sold at Whole Foods, which is nice when I run out and forget to order more.

They smelled really fishy, so decided to chop up some raw garlic in hopes that it would overpower the flavor. I then wrapped it all up in some lettuce. Honestly, I?m not sure why I do this to myself. I?m sure I could have cooked up some good recipe, but I sometimes feel the need to be as ?hardcore? as possible. It?s really pretty stupid. And obnoxious. In any case, I pretty much just choked them down and told myself to think of them like a really gigantic vitamin.

Consensus: I smelled terrible. My husband could smell me across the room and wouldn?t let me near him for at least an hour – even after a shower, some green tea, and brushing my teeth.

They actually didn?t taste nearly as bad as I thought they would. I did have pretty low expectations, but still. Delicious? Not even remotely. But palatable enough to try to improve upon.

Round Two
In an attempt to get myself to eat sardines more regularly, I wanted to find a way to make them a bit more palatable. I figured condiments were my best bet. Since I am a bit of an avocado addict, I made some guacamole with a ton of cilantro. This, with some sauerkraut made the sardines totally palatable. Almost good even. Almost. I still had to force myself to eat sardine-centered lunches.

Pretty good on a coconut wrap, but a little too pricey for me for frequent consumption.
Pretty good on a coconut wrap, but a little too pricey for me for frequent consumption.

Round Three
I finally discovered the secret: cumin. Fortunately, I was able to reintroduce seed-based spices back into my diet pretty quickly after starting the autoimmune protocol. Slowly, my once or twice weekly sardine meals started to taste better. Enjoyable even. Now I actually look forward to lunch . The other day, only a few months after round one of my sardine experiment, I even ate them without guacamole or sauerkraut. This is actually a really big deal for me. And really handy for when I don?t have anything to make for dinner and am out of avocados. I now have probably the best convenience food of all time at my disposal.


So was it just the cumin?
I don?t think so. It helped for sure, but I?m fairly certain that the real secret here was just continuing to eat something until it became more and more familiar. To the point where I actually liked the taste.

And that?s what I have to keep reminding myself. There are plenty of foods I used to hate that I now truly enjoy. Broccoli probably being the most notable. I need to apply that knowledge to the nutritious foods I?m still not so fond of. It?s easy to forget when I?m trying really hard to eat liver, but conveniently avoid it most of the time. The more I eat it, the more I?ll like it.

Right, brain? Right? Well, at least I?m working on it…


3 thoughts on “How I Learned to Love Sardines”

  • Nice information. I’ve been struggling with the thought of eating canned sardines/anchovies. Like you, I want to eat them for the health benefits but can’t get past the “yuck factor.”

    Are canned sardines/anchovies filets? Would help my brain get past the general stigma of them if I at least knew there were no heads or skin on them. I think my resolve would crumble if I opened a can and had some fishy eyes staring at me. Lol.

    • Totally agree, the head thing can make it way worse! The Wild Planet sardines I get don’t have heads or scales. There is occasionally a tiny fin or something, but nothing too gross. They do still have the bones and whatnot, but I’ve found that mashing them up makes a huge difference. The mashed sardines end up resembling tuna, which makes the whole thing a lot easier for me. The picture at the top of this post is pretty small but if you look closely you might be able to get an idea of what they look like still in the can.

      Overall, I found the wild planet brand to be great, and definitely no fishy eyes 🙂

      • Thanks for the information. I recently found a tuna chili recipe that is pretty good. Might be worth looking into adding some mashed up sardines into the chili where all the other items can mask the sardines.

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