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Anchovies / Sardines .. how to love them (or at least tolerate em ;))

Okay, can we agree that anchovies and sardines (canned) are an acquired taste?

Now since these are healthy, how do you make recipes that will make them tolerable (then maybe love) for the younger ones?


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  1. my favorite way i have ever eaten them is as part of a spectacular beef carpaccio served at a nearby restaurant. paper-thin raw beef topped with wafers of raw radish, radish sprouts, and sardines, drizzled with the oil from the fish, sprinkled with sea salt, and i think just a hint of lemon. it's a thing of beauty. a more kid-friendly approach might be something using pancetta or salami, maybe as a flatbread or pita filling?

    you can always try hiding them in a salad/dressing, or in a tomato sauce/pasta dish.

    when i taught, one of my students' favorite lunch items was stewed sardines - the fish were stewed in a dashi broth with sugar and soy, served with rice. sweet and salty seemed to appeal to the kids. this used fresh sardines, though, not canned.

    1. As a kid, I really liked sardines on toast. As a grown-up I adore the larger sardines that Portuguese and Italian restaurants do on the grill. But for anchovies, surely the answer is Caesar Salad?..not too garlicky for little guys, but with lots of parmigiano-reggiano to balance out anchovy flavour.

      1. When I was a kid my dad would let me have a sip of beer with anchovies.

        1. I don't think of canned anchovies as something to use on their own. They go into salads and are used in sauces and sometimes on pizzas, but I think of them more as an ingredient. Try using them next time you are making a sauce. Fry them in oil and they will break up and disintegrate and add flavor, but not a fishy taste.

          Sardines on the other hand can go into sandwiches as noted. I like to toast some good bread, slather on a spiced mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and it's quite tasty.

          A spin on an italian dish is to use the sardines in pasta. Saute up some garlic and oinions with anchovies in olive oil. Add some red pepper flakes. Splash of white wine. Add the sardines which will break up some. Toss with you favored pasta. Top with cheese (if you can stand the horror of cheese and seafood) or toasted bread crumbs. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top. Dinner in 20 minutes from your pantry..

          1. "can we agree that anchovies and sardines (canned) are an acquired taste?"

            In so far, as every foodstuff is an acquired taste. And it will be acquired differently in different cultures. I doubt whether many Spanish children would find a need to make them "tolerable".

            Sardines (tinned) have been a regular part of my diet since childhood - usually in sandwiches or simply floured and fried.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              I still buy some of the rolled anchovies in a can every once in a while, when I was a kid they were a common snack.

              1. re: Harters

                I will have to try the fried sardines. I have never heard of that. Presumably the ones in water work the best?

                For younger folks, the sardines in hot pepper or oil might be a tough sell in the US. I loved them even as a kid, though. If they like mustard, you might try those. I started eating sardines on crackers when I was very young. We just had the kind in oil. I added a drop of Tabasco sauce after spreading them on a soda cracker.

                If you make the anchovies into a salad dressing, mash them up well and mix with the ingredients when introducing them -- don't serve whole filets to the uninitiated... If you look around there are sandwich spreads that use mashed anchovies. Depending on what they already like, these spreads can really kick it up a notch.

                I need to eat some sardines on crackers for lunch tomorrow. Thanks for the idea!

              2. I have tried for many decades to love sardines/anchovies. "Melted" into pasta sauces etc. The only way I can stomach it is anchovies mashed up in a strong Caesar dressing. As a kid, I would have spit them out...the closest I would come to eating real fish was canned tuna and fish sticks.

                1. Lately, I've been getting not exactly canned, not exactly fresh anchovies at my local Whole Foods. They're refrigerated, and vacuum packed in oil and vinegar. They're a lot like Spanish boquerones-- fresher, bigger, and less salty than canned anchovies. We all like them, even the four-year-old. My favorite way with them is a sort of simplified Salade Nicoise-- greens, olives, HB eggs, haricots verts (from frozen!), etc.

                  The kid eats them plain or with crackers as a snack. The secrets for getting there were two: first, she loves anything salty. Second, I shot menacing glances at any adult in her vicinity who launched into, "what the hell are you eating? You LIKE those weird things?"

                  1. I'm very surprised to hear sardines referred to as an "acquired taste." (Anchovies, maybe.) Can't even remember when canned sardines became a staple for me, but it was definitely no later than adolescence, and no learning curve was necessary. I love them on toast, in salads, on pasta, and even all by themselves, straight out of the can. I prefer them in olive oil, with the skin on and the bones in, but I'll take them skinless, boneless, in water, soybean oil, mustard sauce, or tomato sauce. Sorry, but to me they don't seem to need any help to be not just tolerable, but delicious.

                    1. my parents introduced sardines to us very early on - i even remember bring them to school for lunch! (i admit, they weren't popular with the other kids.)

                      when living in Italy, a friend made a snacky dish for me where he took fresh sardines, de-spined them, and then served them over arugula with lots of lemon juice... but i think he chopped them up.. and maybe there was something else mixed into them... he used one of those mezzaluna knives - maybe to cut up parsley? i can't remember, but it was astoundingly good and fresh tasting. anyone heard of something similar to this?

                      i have a can of salted anchovies at home leftover from a batch of bagna cauda - which is another WONDERFUL use of anchovies.

                      1. Stupid question - have you tried feeding them dishes that contain those? Maybe, there is no problem:)