Sardines for breakfast

CC photo by stijnnieuwendijk

by Emily Thorson

I’ve long been a halfhearted consumer of tinned sardines, although largely in times of poverty (just after college) or desperation (stuck at work at 11:30pm). Despite my relative unenthusiasm for the little fishes, I completely believe all the hype about them: they are ridiculously good for you (omega-threes!), cheap, and sustainable. Plus, they’re probably the only fish that will be left to eat in twenty years, so we may as well get used to them now.

And thus, I am resolved: eat more sardines. The problem is that I eat lunch and dinner in the office, and I’d rather not be the jerk who opens up a can of sardines and then dumps the spines into the garbage can (you can eat the spines–in fact, they’re a great source of calcium–but I prefer not to). So this leaves sardines for breakfast.

Searching for sardine breakfast recipes didn’t get me very far. Some people suggested putting an egg on them, but eggs AND sardines sounded too heavy. Straight from the can? Maybe if I was buying higher-quality sardines. On toast? Eh, I prefer not eating processed carbs first thing in the morning. Obviously, the internet could not help. I would have to figure this out on my own.

Whatever I did had to be fairly fast, so I decided on the following preparation:

The night before, I cooked up a big batch of quinoa (plus some bulghar I needed to use up). At breakfast, I opened up a can of diced tomatoes with chiles and threw that into a pan. I added the can of sardines (bones removed). While those heated up, I microwaved a half cup of quinoa. Took out the quinoa, added the tomato-sardine mixture, and topped with a whole lot of hot sauce.


  • Half cup quinoa, cooked the night before
  • Half cup diced tomatoes & chiles (from a can)
  • Can of sardines
  • Hot sauce

Verdict? I wouldn’t say it was *spectacular,* but I would certainly eat it again. I also might try to buy some better sardines–these were just the crappy Brunswick variety. Check out this sardine ranking on Chowhound!

Any other sardine-for-breakfast ideas? I have an avocado ripening on my table as we speak in preparation for making Alton Brown’s sardine-avocado sandwiches. But what else? Sardines and yogurt? Sardines and polenta? SARDINE SMOOTHIES???


17 responses to “Sardines for breakfast

  1. The sardine-avocado combination is fantastic. Inspired by Alton Brown’s sandwich recipe, I made it more of a breakfast bowl by subbing out the bread and using potatoes or sweet potatoes instead (see photo here). So, sort of a hash browns with avocado and sardines kind of thing. I eat it all the time now. Yah, it’s kind of fatty, but it’s mostly good fat.

  2. How ’bout just plain sardines in olive oil? I have a can or two a week for when I am not having dinner with folks. Its a great light dinner.

    Curious – how does one actually remove the spin from a sardine? Sure its visible but its not like you can rip it right out without tearing it or the fish apart. So go through the effort for something you can’t really taste?

  3. What an odd coincidence–I basically never eat sardines, but just yesterday I resolved to start eating more of them, and made a not-entirely-satisfying sardine sandwich for dinner. Adding avocados sounds like a great idea, and I can add that I found pickles to really improve the situation, as is generally the case.

  4. One thing about sardines is that the difference between the cheap ones and the not-quite-as-cheap ones can be huge. Matiz imports some Spanish sardines that are very good, and my local supermarket stocks some Portuguese sardines that are pretty great as well.

  5. (And if I actually had some reading comprehension, I’d have seen the link to the Chowhound page before posting the above. But it supports my point, so there it is…)

  6. Uh oh, I’m a jerk who eats sardines for lunch in the office (over greens with avocado and lemon juice), but I buy the skinless/boneless kind so no spines in the trash here.

    Thinking of what you could do for breakfast without toast…a plate of sardines drizzled with olive oil and some slices of manchego cheese on the side, perhaps? umami!

  7. Sardine omelet? Maybe even a sardine and avocado omelet? Probably not any less heavy than the idea of putting an egg on them, but I like omelets for breakfast, so I may give this a try.

  8. These are AWESOME ideas and I am so glad to hear that the avocado/sardine pairing deliciousness is not just an Alton Brown myth.

    @tim: I remove the spine just by grabbing it and pulling it out. It’s not a taste issue–you’re right that I can’t taste it at all–it’s totally a texture thing.

    @me2i81: I’ll start looking for better sardines. Glad to hear there really is a difference–my instinct is always to buy the cheapest ones and assume they’re all the same.

    @Gabriela: to tell you the truth, the other reason I don’t eat sardines in the office is because even when I mean to do it, when I’m sitting there and the can is in front of me, half the time I think “oh good lord, I’m just going to buy a sandwich.” So basically you are a far better person than me.

  9. We are basically, food wise, a very cautious culture – are we not? Almost the rest of the entire world eats fish for breakfast – but Americans …! It’s just part of the same reluctance we share about not wanting to take a leadership role in breaking the “sardines for lunch in the office” barrier!

    Do it girl.

  10. Dino, a great restaurant in the DC area, has some fantastic sardines on the menu.

  11. Don’t entirely get the avoiding-the-processed-carbs-in-the-morning thing (probably the best time to eat them, if burning them off is your concern), but for breakfast I love a crusty piece of bread, good quality sardines topped with flaky salt, and nice strong coffee. Nothing beats it.

  12. Pingback: Relishments » Highlights: Breakfast

  13. Pingback: Matthew Yglesias » The End of the American Sardine

  14. very informative post to read.

  15. Sardines ar good, but tuna is better :)

  16. I like to eat a can of Trader Joe’s boneless + skinless sardines in Olive Oil for mid-work snack along with a pack of Costco’s whole nutes and fruits.

    I can see the problem with sardines – some of them are horrible, some of them are delicious. The ones from Trader Joe’s and Bar Harbor are delicious. Reese’s sardines are fishy and weird tasting. I wouldn’t buy from them.

  17. sadines in the breakfast… is very delicious and very good nutrition.. thanks !!

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