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Mar 21, 2006 11:16 PM

The Great Sardine Taste-off – best canned sardines – Next 7

  • r

After trying 30 types of canned sardines here are my thoughts:

- Sardines caught near Portugal or Spain are the best with a meaty tuna flavor
- Italian grocery stores carry the best brands of Portuguese sardines (in my area anyway)
- Olive oil is the best medium for sardines
- Really skip those flavored with tomato sauce or mustard
- Read that ingredient list there is no reason for anything but fish, oil/water or salt

Here are the next 7 canned sardines, in order of preference:


1. Matiz Gallego sardines in olive oil - Spain - $2. 99
2. Idamar Portuguese Sardines in olive oil - Portugal - $2. 25
3. Gonsalves Sardines in olive oil – Portugal - $1.99
4. Da Morgada Sardines in Pure Olive Oil - Portugal - $3. 99
5. BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in cayenne pepper-flavored extra virgin olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
6. Crown Prince One Layer Sardines in soy bean oil no Salt - Scotland - $1. 85
7. Brand: BUMBLE BEE Sardines in Water – Poland - $.89

The top four sardines were almost equally delicious. Appearance or price was the deciding factor. If a $4 and a $2 can tastes similar, the less expensive option was ranked higher.

After thirty cans of sardines, Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi all’olio di olivo, still is the clear winner. My can of French sardine is in the mail.

Full ranking and link to previous post at end.


Size – my casual grading:
Large = length of can
Small = ½ length of can or smaller
Medium = anything in between

Brand: BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in cayenne pepper-flavored extra virgin olive oil.
Calories per can: 260
Ingredients: Sardines, extra virgin olive oil, cayenne pepper-flavor, salt, natural smoke flavor
Taste: Nice meaty texture and held their shape nicely. Did not have the more assertive tuna flavor of other Portuguese sardines but were less fishy. Caynenne was barely noticeable, a little after tingle. Flavor is in the oil. Not like some spicy sardines where the spice takes over. You taste the sardine first, then the oil. Neutral olive oil. While these were good, they didn’t have the flavor punch of some of the other sardines or an olive oil that had any special deliciousness. I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek these out.

Brand: BUMBLE BEE Sardines in Water – Poland - $.89
Calories per can: 120
Country of origin: Poland
Taste: 5 large uniform size sardines that held their shape with not too much spine. They were a mild sardine with a touch of bitterness. Would not buy again.

Brand: Crown Prince One Layer Sardines in soy bean oil no Salt
Calories per can: 230
Ingredients: Brisling sardines, soy bean oil
Taste: Eight medium sardines that looked really nice in the can – very silvery skin with few nicks. Fell apart easily. Very nice delicate texture. Classic sardine taste (not the tuna taste of Portuguese sardines). Lovely smoke flavor that was prominent but not overwhelming. A little bit of bitterness. Naturally wood-smoked. Probably wouldn’t seek them out, but might try other Crown Prince varieties.

Brand: Da Morgada Sardines in Pure Olive Oil
Calories per can: some sort of European measurement I couldn’t figure out.
Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt
Taste: four large sardines, skin intact. Saltier than most. Excellent tuna flavor without being too fishy. Nice mild olive oil. Fresh taste.

The website says these are “ Pilchardus Walbaum are collected from the waters just off the shore of Portugal. They are caught between May and November, when sardines are at their best. Only fresh fish is allowed. The process involves manual cleaning and very careful handling, followed by the traditional cooking in a grill oven before being canned”

Might buy again. For the price they were not significantly better and I would have to make special trip to buy them. Do like the attention to quality.

Brand: Gonsalves Sardines in olive oil
Calories per can: 260
Ingredients: sardines, olive oil, salt
Taste: Three large sardines which held their shape nicely and had a ‘tuna’ taste to them. Mild olive oil, A few points off for shabbiness of skin. Not overly spiny. Would buy again.

Brand: Idamar Portuguese Sardines in olive oil
Calories per can: 235
Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt
Taste: Three fat sardines. Presented in can with the black backs, so it was alarming to see the dark fish in the can instead of the silvery skin that sardines have on the side and belly.
Tuna flavor, not as assertive as most. Good balance of oil and sardines. Nice rich olive oil. Would buy again.

Brand: Matiz Gallego sardines in olive oil
Calories per can: 228
Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt
Taste: Three VERY plump sardines. Medium fish smell. Italian tuna taste.& mild olive oil. Nice balance. Would buy again


1. Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi all’olio di olivo – Portugal/Italy - $1.99
2. Gallego sardines in olive oil - Spain - $2. 99
3. Idamar Portuguese Sardines in olive oil - Portugal - $2. 25
4. Gonsalves Sardines in olive oil – Portugal - $1.99
5. Da Morgada Sardines in Pure Olive Oil - Portugal - $3. 99
6. Albo Sardines in Olive oil – Spain - $4.99
7. King Oscar Sardines Mediterranean style – Norway, packed in Poland - $2.99
8. Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in soybean oil – Morocco - $2.49
9. King Oscar Extra Small Sardines in fish oil 2 layers – Norway - $2.99
10. Brand: BELA-Olhão lightly smoked sardines in cayenne pepper-flavored extra virgin olive oil. - Portugal - $1. 75
11. Beach Cliff Sardines in soybean oil – USA / Canada - $.69
12. Brunswick Sardines in Spring Water No Salt Added – Canada - $1.19
13. Madrigal spiced sardines in vegetable oil – Morocco - $1.59
14. Brunswick Sardines in Olive Oil – Canada - $1.19
15. King Oscar Extra Small Brisling Sardines in purest virgin olive oil – Norway - $2.99
16. King Oscar tiny tots Sardines in olive oil two layers – Norway - $2.99
17. Crown Prince One Layer Sardines in soy bean oil no Salt - Scotland - $1. 85
18. Palacio Real Small Sardines in Olive oil (slightly smoked) – Spain - $2.99
19. King Oscar Sardines in pure spring water – Norway - $2.99
20. BUMBLE BEE Sardines in Water – Poland - $.89
21. Mega Sardines in tomato sauce with chili – The Philippines - $.79
22. Brunswick Sardines in Mustard Sauce – Canada - $1.19
23. Bumble Bee Sardines in Mustard – Poland - $.89
24. Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in tomato sauce – Morocco - $2.49
25. Yankee Clipper lightly smoked sardines in mustard sauce – Morocco - $2.49
26. King Oscar Sardines in tomato – Norway - $2.99
27. Brunswick Sardines in Mustard and Dill Sauce – Canada - $1.19
28. King Oscar Skinless & boneless Sardines in olive oil – Morocco - $2.99
29. Gourmet Award lightly smoked sardines in tomato sauce – Morocco - $1.89
30. Brunswick Sardines in tomato & basil Sauce – Canada - $1.19


Brand: BELA-Olhão
Manufacturer: Blue Galleon, Inc.

Brand: Crown Prince
Manufacturer: Crown Prince, Inc

Brand: Da Morgada
Manufacturer: Tradifoods

Brand: Gonsalves
Manufacturer: The Henry Gonsalves Co

Brand: Idamar
Manufacturer: Idama

Brand: Matiz Gallego
Manufacturer: Matiz Gallego


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  1. This and previous post---so welcome. My favorite is the mighty, meaty As Do Mar in the yellow box.

    1. Your brilliant piece impelled me to go downstairs and open a can of some sardines I'd bought from Trader Joe's and hadn't tried yet: the brand name is "Nuri" (in quotes like that), they're spiced Portuguese sardines in olive oil with piri-piri peppers, carrot, cucumber, laurel, clove, peppercorn and salt. Two great big meaty guys, nice firm texture, and WOWSIE! good. The spice flavors have a definite effect on the fish, but the overall result pleases me very much. I even ate up the vegetables (one tiny slice each of carrot and cucumber - NOT the pepper).

      Imported by Food International Supply Corp. (FISCO) of Fremont, CA. Packed by Pinhais & Co. Lda., Matosinmos, Portugal. As I said, I got'em at TJ's some time ago and don't remember the price, but I'll definitely be going back for more!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Wow, those sound great. My local TJ's just sells King Oscar. Maybe it is not in the sardine section. I'll keep my eyes open.

        1. re: Will Owen

          I know this is several years later, but I just discovered the Nuri brand at a local Korean market (H Mart). Absolutely delicious on a slice of multigrain toast; currently $3.99.

        2. Ahh, yes, THIS is the Chowhound post I've been waiting for...since I've been known to slide down a few cans (or a dozen fresh-charcoal-grilleds) now and again!

          The reality is this: My personal collection of Sardine cans and labels and openers and paraphernalia and some ephemera goes back to the '70s - way before King Oscar was Bumbled by the Bee and the packing was done on-site at the shores of Norway (Stavanger, Bergen, etc.). Many great sardine memories.

          Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing more - and, in a much more recent (not seen since 2004) phenomenon, King Oscar had a standout product: NORWEGIAN SARDINES IN PESTO SAUCE.

          Keep the a-fishy-anados informed!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Mike R.

            WHOA - Missed the boat at first but I just read your K.O. "Pesto" review on the "Original-23"...are you absolutely, positively sure about that?

            1. re: Mike R.

              You know, I may have unjustly dumped on King Oscar sardines in pesto sauce. I had some brand in pesto sauce that was awful. I saw some King Oscar's when I wrote that first report and guessed that was the brand in pesto. However, I saw something like Bumblebee or that type of brand in pesto, so I'll have to revisit this. King Oscar has usually been reliably good.

              1. re: rworange

                I'm not certain the pesto K.O.'s are being sold any longer...shame. Anyway, look closely at the various styles under the King Oscar brand...not all the brisling are packed in Poland.

                To be sure, there's been a migration of the catch (for packing purposes) from the ports of Olhao, Matosinhos, Portimao and other Portuguese sardine centers of excellence over to the Moroccan coast.

                Furthermore, brands that were formerly Norwegian and Danish product have shifted to Scotland.

                The perfect example of a "lost sardine" is the fabled, beloved MOOSEABEC SARDINES, original lightly-spiced Norwegian in a moose-adorned red box - in its last days they were Port Clyde's fish from Maine and were a shadow of their former selves. I never fully understood this move or the ultimate brand demise.

                You just can't DINE without a SAR-DINE.

          2. Outstanding job.

            Now, do you have any pull with Fairway? Apart from their gourmet French sardines, which are wonderful and expensive, the rest of their range is at the bottom of your list.


            - Sean

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sean Dell

              I wish. They don't sell them in the SF Bay area. I had to order a fancy can through the mail from Fresno, Ca.

              Once I went through the supermarket brands (bottom of the list), I started looking for them in ethic and fancy food stores. I'm looking at the Eastern European sardines with trepidation ... you just don't think Poland and sardines, although that's where Bumblebee is from ... one of the lower rated brands.

            2. Am I too late? Just got back from france today. Ducked into the discount hypermarche in Carcassonne to pick up some French sardines for you to try. The shelf space devoted to sardines was a wonder to behold---so stunning that I forgot to shop for foie gras. I didn't have time to look at every sardine brand and just scanned the shelves to find the most expensive ones and picked from those. One can is marked "preparation a l'ancienne" with an expiration date of 01/2011 and the other one is filets but I picked it because it's labelled with the fishing date, name of the boat and the expiration date is 23/08/2009. I suspect it may be infanticide to taste them so young.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                So cool ... it is never too late ... I suspect this will be some sort of lifetime pursuit ... there's always a new can on some grocery shelf.

                I haven't got my can yet, but the only French sardine I could find locally was one brand from a place in Fresno. I'll know I've gone over the top in this little crawl when I buy a ticket to Paris for sardines ... with a stop in New York to check out Fairway.

                1. re: rworange

                  A quick drop-in to DEAN & DELUCA (Broadway & Prince Street - SOHO) might also be helpful...they've been known to carry a healthy selection of French.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Here's the info on the filets. The other, sardines de Bretagne a l'huile d'olive are the same brand, but I don't see the exact packaging and contents on the website. Maybe it's a special pack for Leclerc.



                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      You are just so great.

                      I mail-ordered the red can of Connetable from the Modesto place. That was the only one they had. I bought 2 cans ... one to eat and one to age ... heh. Maybe if they are any good I'll buy a bunch and open them periodically.

                      For anyone in the Bay Area, here's where I bought my sardines


                      1. re: rworange

                        The Connetable sardines you covet are part of certain menus of French Army field rations -- almost worth joining the Foreign Legion:


                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    I believe that France has six or seven brands of exceptional sardines: Rodel, the Saint Georges brand of La Belle Illoise, Albert Menes, Les Dieux from ST Gilles Croix de Vie, Les Mouettes d'Arvor (not my favourites), La Quiberonnaise (not my favourite).
                    I prefer the St Georges brand and the Rodel brand.
                    Plrase note that sardines prepared with an other oil than olive oil are definitely not as good as the ones prepared with a good quality olive oil.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      should not use the word "infanticide" to describe your sardine tasting ventures. but if you must "infanticidal" is a better choice.

                      Help. Is the date on the can the expiration date or the packing date? I bought an Imported by Food International Supply Corp. (FISCO) of Fremont, CA. Packed by Pinhais & Co. Lda., Matosinmos, Portugal sardines but don't know if it's still good.

                      1. re: twolips

                        Somewhere in all of this is the fact that people, especially the French, age sardines for years like fine wine. So they should not only be good, they should be better.