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How to eat SARDINES - and love every bite!


Don’t forget the new post updates & news at the end of this entry!


Today’s topic is one near and dear to my heart.

(Today, on a very special episode of the Cave Girl Eats Newsletter...)

I want to talk about a super-food that’s so wonderful, so nutritious, and so delicious (yes - delicious!) that it’s one of my top FIVE super-foods. Ever.

Yep, it’s right up there with organ meats, fermented Cod Liver Oil, and Ace of Base’s debut album. (Okay, that’s not a super-food. But it’s still super-awesome.)

I’m talking about wild-caught SARDINES.

Sardines get a bad rep, and I’m not so sure why. Is it because they’re fishy? Possibly. (They’re not THAT fishy.)

Is it because, sometimes, they come packed right along with their fishy bones? Maybe.

Is it because I, Liz, haven’t sung their praises from the rooftops just yet?


I think that’s it. 

I want everyone to LOVE sardines as much as I do. (And as much as you do, if you're a fellow aficionado.) If you or someone you know needs a Sardine Attitude Adjustment, forward this Email their way. It's all here.

(Remember: this email is EXCLUSIVE to you, as one of my subscribers, but you CAN forward it as much as you’d like!)

First step to sardine-ship: change the mind-set.

Choose to approach this task with an open mind. Strip off all those old biases, and replace them with all the awesome stuff I’m about to say. 

Because, in reality, sardines aren’t any “fishy-er” than salmon. And everybody seems to LOVE salmon. Why? Because back in the day, somebody said they were good for your heart. Now they’re over-fished, factory (er, fishery) farmed, and more prone to mercury exposure (unlike wild-caught sardines, which have very low risk of exposure among all seafood types).

Next: think of the nutrition!

Sardines aren’t just some fishy tin o’ Cave Girl food. They’re serious nutrition powerhouses! You're not just eating a bowl of sardines. You're eating a bowl of:

Sardines are dense in...


...Taurine, which is incredibly important to overall health (for some mind-blowing Taurine science from MIT PhD Stephanie Seneff, click here).

...Omega 3, which also works in conjunction with Taurine. (Yay, whole food synergy!)

...Calcium (yep, those soft bones are totally nutritious and totally not scary).

...Coenzyme Q10, which is vital for heart health and mitochondrial function.

They’re also dense in protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, potassium, and selenium!

I’M NOT KIDDING. These babies are PHENOMENAL for overall health, but most interestingly, skin health. I CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE when I don't eat these fish-puppies regularly! That just makes me love ‘em more. Because I KNOW what I'm missing - and how to fix it.

So that's WHY you should be eatin' em. But what else do you need to know?

Check the labels. I recommend a few brands here, but always remember to check that ingredients label! Make sure there’s nothing wonky. Some are canned in yucky industrial oils, like cottonseed or soybean. Steer clear.

Always buy wild-caught. Obviously.

They're different from anchovies. But not THAT different from herring. Check out the basics. All you need to know: small, silvery, wild caught fish = good.

Yup, there are bones in there. Lots of sardines are canned WITH the bones still intact. They’re soft, chewable, nutritious, and you’ll barely notice them. (And if you’re skeeved out by it, just say to yourself what my husband says to me when I go all drama over nothing: “I love you. Get over yourself.”)

Yup, they’re cooked. Don’t worry. You won’t get raw sardines from the can. You may see some silvery skin, but no scales either.

Off with their heads. Most canned sardines do NOT come with the heads attached. And if you find some that do, post a pic to the CGE facebook page. Because that’s fun!

Be careful of “natural smoke.” I do recommend some SMOKED brands here (for the lily-livered friends who don’t want to go au-naturale) but, unless it’s a trusted brand, “natural smoke” can mean we didn’t take the time to smoke ‘em right, so we just added some flavor that makes it taste like we did.

So here's the important stuff: how to EAT them!

Open mouth, insert sardines. (Har, har.)

So now that you know how fabulous these little dudes are - and you’re beginning to fall in love - I’ll give you a few easy tactics for eatin’ em. Because that’s the real meat of this whole thing, ya’ know?

The next few suggestions are for those hard-core folks who want to try sardines in FULL EFFECT: canned in water. That’s how I eat ‘em. This will give the full manifestation of their oceanic flavor, and is for the bad-asses among us. (See smoked versions for the kind that “taste like chicken.”)


My TOP THREE easy-as-can-be ways to eat sardines


1. Covered in cumin, with guac.

Cumin really “cuts” any fishy taste, and guac adds some fiber-rich flair. You can take things one step farther and do a little lettuce boat, adding pico or salsa as desired.


2. With simple marinara sauce.


Sardines are frequently sold canned with marinara, but there’s no reason to be stuck with just one marinar-y flavor. Buying sardines canned in water means you can drain and add a more spicy homemade marinara, or a super “clean” store-bought brand (I like Dave's Gourmet). You can add Olive Oil to taste, or toss in some Italian herbs.

You could even go Caprese Salad style, if you do dairy.


3. With mustard

This is a favorite on-the-go meal: throw a can o’ sardines and some Amy’s Organic Dijon (online or in stores) in my lunch pack and enjoy.

Or, ya know, put it on an adorable teeny-tiny vintage plate and enjoy. Whatevs.



For those who want a bit more drama with their meal del mar, here are a few Paleo-friendly links to explore.

Combine with crazy-good homemade Mayo from some of my favorites:


Or try a little homemade Pesto Action:

  • Use this recipe, replacing shrimp with ‘dines. Don’t forget to add the cayenne! (Yum. Seriously.) 
  • This pesto from Against All Grain is equally yummy, and slightly more simple. Top your ‘deeners with a generous scoop.


Bela Sardines, a smoked variety (more on that in a moment), also provides recipes through their site. This month, it’s grilled monterey sardines with lemon and herbs

This brings me to a major point: You don’t HAVE to jump right in with water-packed Sardiney goodness. There are a few options that can serve as - well - Sardine Training Wheels.

There are plenty of brands out there, but a few of my favorites pack their little fish with flavored olive oil or marinara sauce. Having marinated for awhile in these flavorful sauces, sardines take on a rich flavor.

Then, there are the smoked kind. Look, y’all - as much as I LOVE to push people right into the deep end, sometimes the kiddie pool is most appropriate. Smoked sardines are truly delicious (again, watch ingredients!) and taste fish-neutral. 

You could say they “taste like (smoked) chicken.” 

Bela Sardines (online, on Amazon, and in stores) is my favorite brand of smoked sardines, packed in some yummy marinades like Olive Oil with lemon - or even Cayenne!

Check out some other brand recommendations below. In general, I buy Wild Planet (online, on Amazon, and in stores). They come packed in spring water, with EVOO, and with marinara.


I also highly recommend Vital Choice Sardines, with EVOO, marinara sauce, or simple spring water. (Online only)

What have I missed? What did you pick up from this post? Hop over to the facebook page and let me know!

With lots of love - and plenty of wild-caught sardines,

Thanks for being with me on Email Monday!

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Next week’s Email Monday: Don't get MARGARINE'D!
Questions to ask at restaurants (Again, and again, and again!)

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