The Canned Sardine Showdown

Sardines are a great inexpensive way to add some protein during hard times. In this post, Matt and I will be comparing seven different types of sardine so you can decide which to put back in your food stash for a long emergency or even for impromptu picnics and quick lunches.

The cost of sardines doesn’t always reflect the quality but I do have to say that the best ones are in the $1.50 per can and up price range.

Season Sardines In Water

Cost: $1.50 per can when bought in a 12 pack with no other discounts applied.

Country Of Origin: Morocco

Container Size: 4.375 oz

Servings Per Can: 1

Calories Per Serving: 170

Calories Per Can: 170

Protein Per Serving: 22 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  9 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 340 mg or 14% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, water, salt

This is the brand of sardine Matt, and I buy for my Dad because he is on a restricted sodium diet. We all really love these sardines because they taste good, are easy to find, and the price makes them easy on the budget and suitable for stashing back for emergencies. There is no hint of bitterness or any of the off flavor that some sardines suffer from.

For cooking fish dishes where you want to be in charge of seasoning 100%, these are a good choice since they are just sardines, water, and salt.  The texture is excellent, and the water makes a great topper for dog food when you are done. We baby our dogs a bit in case you haven’t noticed. During a SHTF situation, the fish water could also be used to add flavor to soups or rice dishes.

Season Sardines In 100% Olive Oil

Cost: $1.84 per can when bought in a 12 pack with no other discounts applied

Country Of Origin: Morocco

Container Size: 4.375 oz

Servings Per Can: 2

Calories Per Serving: 110

Calories Per Can: 220

Protein Per Serving: 13 grams

Total Fat Per Serving: 6.6  grams

Salt Content Per Serving:  130 mg or 5% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, olive oil, salt

While these have some salt, they are still low enough in sodium for those that have to watch it. Typically this is the sardine Matt, and I buy for our pantry and food storage. I did not realize that the salt content was so low in this version and will be buying these for my Dad instead of the version that is canned in water. The calorie count is a lot higher than the water version without tasting too oily. These fish are firm and large. Season did a good job getting the salt level just right. The fish flavor is enhanced but not overwhelmed.

The calorie content and nutritional info are based on drained sardines. It always makes me wonder how many calories are in the oil that they are not accounting for? During a SHTF situation, you would not want to waste any calories so if you are getting more than the can says, that is a good thing.

These little fish are a staple when we go out to the vineyard for a picnic. Matt and I can agree that these are the best sardines for us on this list.

Crown Prince Sardines In Tomato Sauce

 

Cost: $2.65 per 15 0z can if bought in a 12 pack with no other discounts applied. If you want the smaller 7.5 oz size, you can get them for $1.48 per can if bought in a 12 pack.

Country Of Origin: Morocco

Container Size: 15 oz! Note: This is a really big can on sardines and actually requires a can opener. You can also get these in a more reasonable 7.5 oz container size by following this link.

Servings Per Can: About 8

Calories Per Serving: 90

Calories Per Can: 720

Protein Per Serving: 8 grams

Total Fat Per Serving: 5 grams

Salt Content Per Serving:  240 mg or 10 % based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, tomato paste, water, salt

These were very interesting. At first, the thought of sardines in tomato sauce sounded a little weird, but we were pleasantly surprised at the quality and flavor of these sardines. What is even more impressive is that these are not all expensive.  While these appear a little oily when you first look at them, they don’t taste too oily when you bite into them.

This particular brand got me to consider how to cook with sardines. I imagine these would be good in fish tacos with lots of spinach or lettuce, cheese, etc.

There is an egg plant appetizer in a can that I used to buy occasionally that seems like it might go good with these and some crusty bread or crackers.

Chicken Of The Sea Sardines In Oil Lightly Smoked

Cost: $1.70 per can when bought in a pack of 18 with no other discounts applied.

Country Of Origin: Poland

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1

Calories Per Serving: 150

Calories Per Can: 150

Protein Per Serving: 16 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  10 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 370 mg or 15% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, soybean oil, salt, smoke flavor

It states on the label that the smoke flavor is artificial, but not in the ingredients list. There is no nutritional info on the can. In very fine print there is a number you can call for nutritional info. This seems silly. Who calls for info like that? The internet address where it could be found would be much better.

Matt and I both had too high of expectations when we opened this can. Smoke flavor at least sometimes covers up poor fish flavor or quality, but in this case, it did not. These actually had very little smoke flavor to them. On top of this, the sardines were mushy and very bony which was not all appetizing. The fish were all just so soft that it was too much. Our giant Great Pyrenees, Sadie Grove, got to enjoy the rest of these.

I have to add that we are not big fans of soybean oil and really try to avoid products that are literally swimming in it, so these are not going into our preps even if they are practically giving them away in a sale.

Chicken Of The Sea Sardines In Louisiana Hot Sauce

Cost: $1.70 per can when bought in a pack of 18 with no other discounts applied.

Country Of Origin: Poland

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1

Calories Per Serving: 120

Calories Per Can: 120

Protein Per Serving: 19 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  3 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 430 mg or about 18 % based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, water, spirit vinegar, maltodextrin, salt, paprika, modified corn starch, xanthan gum, Polysorbate 80, caramel color, guar gum

The ingredients list for this can of sardines was by far the worst of all reviewed in this post. A can of sardines should not have a list of ingredients that long and hard to pronounce.

There is no nutritional info on the can. In very fine print there is a number you can call for nutritional info. This seems silly. Who calls for info like that? The internet address where it could be found would be much better. Here is the link I found to it.

I would rather add my own hot sauce to sardines if it means avoiding some of the extra ingredients and preservatives in this flavor of Chicken of the Sea Sardines.

Oh wow, these are off the charts hot. I used to be able to eat some very hot foods, but my stomach cannot take it now. That being said, even when I could eat a lot of hot peppers, these sardines would have still been way too hot for me.  I had a medium sized bite to start with, and it lit me up. When Matt saw my reaction to these sardines he barely took a bite because why suffer?

One person eating a can of these to themselves would be very difficult. I guess if you are the type that likes haberneros or ghost peppers, this could be the sardine for you.

If you like a fishy taste in your sardine, then this one will disappoint because you just taste heat and pepper.

These sardines would be too hot for the devil! I wish I had taken an even tinier bite for this test.

 

Northern Catch Sardines In Soybean Oil

Note: This is a store brand from a smaller grocery store chain called Aldi. Sometimes you can find these online through a reseller, but they are going to be a lot more than you should pay.

Cost: $0.88 per can

Country Of Origin: Poland

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1

Calories Per Serving: 130

Calories Per Can: 130

Protein Per Serving: 13 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  9 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 200 mg or 8% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, soybean oil, natural smoke flavoring

Aldi is another company that does not put the nutritional info on the can. In this case, they actually tell you to write to Aldi via postal mail to get the nutritional info. No one is going to do that. Again, why not a simple web address to the info? I found info listed at a nutritional site.

These were awful. There is a ton of soybean oil in the can, and there doesn’t seem to be any hint of salt even though they claim there is 200 mg of it in a can. The fish themselves are large but very tough for a canned sardine. Aldi is a great store for some things, but so far we are yet to be impressed by any of their canned fish projects. On the other hand, it is hard to find cheaper canned fish, and during a survival situation, you are not going to be that picky.

Wild Planet Wild Sardines In Extra Virgin Olive Oil Lightly Smoked

Cost: $2.43 per can when bought in a 12 pack. You can save 15% off that if you use Amazon subscribe and save.

Country Of Origin: Processed In Thailand and labeled sustainably harvested in the North Pacific

Container Size: 4.4 oz

Servings Per Can: 1

Calories Per Serving: 170

Calories Per Can: 170

Protein Per Serving: 18 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  11  grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 260  mg or 11% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Sardines, organic extra virgin olive oil, water, sea salt, aqueous natural smoke

On first inspection one notices that these are firm and big sardines. While the can says that they have added a considerable amount of salt, I did not taste enough salt. This surprised me because 11% of your daily salt is not nothing. I thought the liquid smoke they used for flavor lent a certain bitter aftertaste that I was not a fan of.

These were just okay overall, and the quality seems good, but they cost a lot more than we feel they are worth. Both of us felt that Season Sardines in Olive Oil or Water were much better and cost considerably less. This was the only sardine that we tested that said it was processed in Thailand. With so many sardines being produced in Poland, it seemed odd to see Thailand on the label.

Store Brands

As always, I recommend checking out your local store brands. It is amazing how good some can be. I did not make it to Wal-Mart for this one, so I did not get a chance to try the Great Value version. As I have said before, the nearest Wal-Mart is a good drive away, and there are no Costco stores so if you have tried their version of sardines, please share in the comments below.

Packaging matters

The shelf life of the Season Sardines In Water is a full year less than the Season Sardines in Oil. While oil does help explain the longer shelf life, I expect that the packaging has something to do with it as well. The Seasons In Water come in a box, but the can inside has a foil seal at the top instead of solid metal. During a long term emergency, without the box, it would be really easy for these to get a hole in them and spoil. I really wish that sardine companies would stick to the old design. So far Season is the only brand we have noticed doing this, and it is only on the Sardines In Water.

Conclusion

Matt and I don’t like most of the sardines out there, but that doesn’t mean you should not try a few. We actually regularly buy the Season brand and will definitely continue to do so after testing the competition. Since we have been buying the Season brand for so long, we had high hopes for at least a few of the other brands.

Matt noticed that the less expensive brands did not have the fins removed so if you don’t like a lot of bony bits, this is something to consider.

This taste test proved that it is important to try a few brands out before getting a lot unless you really don’t care about quality and are just looking for the cheapest source of calories and protein.

Thanks to Sadie Grove for all her clean up help! She likes food test days.

What brands of sardines do you like?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

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6 Responses to “The Canned Sardine Showdown”

  1. What about King Oscar sardines?

    Reply
  2. You guys are pretty amazing (I’m including Sadie Grove, too!)! Thanks for your willingness to do food tests and share the results with the herd. Already, I’ve bought and tried the Bristol smoke-flavored hams, and the Hormel smoked ham due to your recommendations in a recent article. I was pleasantly surprised how well they tasted. Now, I’m stocking these meats.

    Now, I just placed an order (through your link so I hope you get a “cut” since you’re so generous with your expert knowledge) for the Season sardines in the olive oil and look forward to trying them! I’m certain my wife will let me try them on my own! 😉

    Thank you for your work and willingness to share the good information you provide for us who are prepping!

    Reply
  3. I buy the Season brand in olive oil. They are the best.

    Reply
  4. The wild planet brand is more expensive because it’s one of the few brands that don’t use BPA lining in the can.

    From a health stand point this is important if you are going to consuming lots of can products. I have tried this brand and I love it.

    Reply
  5. King Oscar Tiny Tot sardines are the best. They are in olive oil and are small fish.Very tasty.

    Reply
  6. Good article… and humorous as well. I do have one question not covered in your article: does shelf life vary based on what the sardines are packed in (oil, water, sauce. etc)?

    Reply

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