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Sardines vs Anchovies (Complete Comparison)

When you think of small fish, two names that might come to mind are sardines and anchovies. Although these two kinds of fish get confused with each other, sardines and anchovies are two very different fish. I will be doing a comprehensive face-off between these two fish so you will be able to decide which one is right for you.

A bowl of Sardines and a bowl of Anchovies

Sardines are larger in size than anchovies and prefer the cooler temperature of saltwater while anchovies like warmer, brackish freshwater. They also taste different. Because sardines are often packed in oil, they have less of a fishy taste than anchovies, which are often salt-cured, giving them a more pungent taste.

Both sardines and anchovies are packed with nutritional benefits ranging from heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to calcium and potassium and healthy doses of vitamins B and D. But this is just the start of comparing these two fish.

Ingredient Comparison

When comparing sardines and anchovies as ingredients, you’ll notice several differences in their taste, texture, and nutritional profiles.

Taste and Texture: Sardines have a milder, rounded flavor as they are typically preserved in olive oil. They are meatier fish, making them suitable for dishes that require the fish to hold up well. On the other hand, anchovies have a pungent, fishier taste due to their salt-curing process. Their subtle texture allows them to melt away in recipes, adding a rich, savory accent.

Size and Appearance: Sardines are larger fish, measuring between 12 to 20 centimeters in length, and have a protruding jaw. They possess a true silver color. In contrast, anchovies are smaller – usually not exceeding 5 centimeters – and feature large eyes with a protruding snout. They have a silvery color with a bluish-green tinge.

Nutritional Differences:





Good source

Slightly less than sardines


Rich in vitamins B12 and D

Higher in niacin


High in calcium and selenium

Higher in iron and magnesium


Naturally low, increases with canning

Naturally low, increases with canning

Both fish are healthy options, but they offer slightly different nutritional benefits. Sardines provide more vitamins B12 and D, while anchovies are higher in iron, zinc, and niacin. Regardless of your choice, bear in mind that canning can increase the sodium content in both fish.

Remember to consider these differences when choosing between sardines and anchovies for your recipes. The taste, texture, and nutritional profiles can significantly impact your dish, making it essential to select the ingredient that best meets your preferences and requirements.

Nutritional Comparison

When comparing the nutritional values of sardines and anchovies, you’ll find that both fish are highly nutritious and offer several health benefits.

Sardines are an excellent source of vitamins B12 and D, while anchovies contain slightly higher amounts of iron, zinc, niacin, and protein. Both fish are naturally low in sodium, but it’s essential to consider that canning may increase the sodium content significantly.

Here’s a breakdown of some key nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of sardines and anchovies canned in oil:







Omega-3 fatty acids












Vitamin B12



Vitamin D



In terms of vitamins and minerals, both sardines and anchovies are rich in selenium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins B12, K, A, and E. They also contain folate, choline, and other essential nutrients, with zero carbohydrates.

It’s also worth noting the differences in vitamin B3 content. Anchovies contain about three times more vitamin B3 than sardines, which can be an essential factor for those looking to boost their niacin intake.

When choosing between sardines and anchovies, keep in mind that sardines tend to be slightly larger and have a milder, rounded flavor when preserved in oil. Anchovies, on the other hand, may have a stronger taste.

In conclusion, both sardines and anchovies are nutritionally dense and can be incorporated into a healthy diet. The choice between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference in flavor and specific nutrient requirements.

Best for Specific Nutrient Contents

Sardines being grilled

In this section, you will find a comparison between sardines and anchovies based on their nutrient content.

Calorie Content

When comparing sardines and anchovies, their calorie content is as follows:

  • Sardines: 208 kcal per 100 grams
  • Anchovies: 131 kcal per 100 grams

If you’re looking to consume fewer calories, anchovies come out ahead.

Carbs and Sugar Content

Both sardines and anchovies have zero carbs and sugar, making them suitable for low-carb diets. Here’s their content per 100 grams:

  • Sardines: 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar
  • Anchovies: 0 g carbs, 0 g sugar

Protein Content

Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. Here’s the protein content for each fish per 100 grams:

  • Sardines: 24.6 g
  • Anchovies: 20.4 g

Sardines are the better option if you’re focused on consuming more protein.

Fat Content

Both fish contain healthy fats, particularly omega-3s. Here’s the fat content per 100 grams:

  • Sardines: 11.4 g
  • Anchovies: 4.84 g

While both have beneficial fats, sardines are higher in omega-3s, which are good for heart health.

Fiber Content

Fiber is essential for digestive health. While both fish don’t contain significant amounts of fiber, you can improve your fiber intake by incorporating other foods into your diet.

Sodium and Salt Content

Canned sardines and anchovies can have high amounts of sodium, which can affect heart health. Here’s the sodium content per 100 grams:

  • Sardines: 307 mg
  • Anchovies: 104 mg

Sardines have a lower sodium content in comparison to anchovies. Any added ingredients, such as capers, will increase the sodium content of either sardines or anchovies.

Vitamins and Minerals

Sardines are rich in vitamins B12 and D, while anchovies are higher in iron, zinc, niacin, and protein. Here’s a quick comparison of their content per 100 grams:

  • Sardines: 8.9 µg Vitamin B12 and 193 IU Vitamin D
  • Anchovies: 3.2 mg Iron, 1.72 mg Zinc, 5.2 mg Niacin

You can choose the fish based on which vitamins and minerals are more important for your dietary needs.

Best for Flavor and Texture

When it comes to flavor, you’ll notice that anchovies have a more intense and slightly salty taste. This distinct flavor makes them a popular choice for adding a punch of umami to various recipes. On the other hand, sardines have a milder, more refined flavor, which makes them ideal for use as appetizers or in dishes where a subtler taste is preferred.

For texture differences, anchovies are known for their softer, melting texture due to their salt-curing process. This makes them great for incorporating into sauces, dressings, and other recipes where you want the anchovy to blend seamlessly with the other ingredients. In contrast, sardines have a firmer texture, as they are often canned and preserved without the salt curing process.

In summary, here are the key differences between the two in terms of flavor and texture:

  • Anchovies:
  • Intense, slightly salty flavor
  • Softer, melting texture
  • Ideal for recipes requiring a strong umami taste
  • Sardines:
  • Milder, more refined flavor
  • Firmer, flaky texture
  • Great for appetizers or dishes requiring a subtler taste

Health Benefits

When comparing sardines and anchovies, you’ll find that both fish offer numerous health benefits to support your overall well-being.

Sardines are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce cholesterol and promote heart health by preventing artery blockage and heart disease. They’re also high in vitamins B12, D, and protein essential for healthy nerve function and strong bones.

On the other hand, anchovies are slightly higher in iron, zinc, niacin, and niacin. Higher iron content supports red blood cell production, zinc boosts your immune system and niacin helps with digestion.

Here’s a quick comparison of essential nutrients in sardines versus anchovies:




Omega-3 Fatty Acids



Vitamin B12



Vitamin D









Niacin (Vitamin B3)






Both fish are naturally low in sodium, but it’s important to note that their sodium content increases when canned, so be mindful of that when choosing these options as part of your healthy diet.

In conclusion, sardines and anchovies each have their unique set of health benefits, and incorporating both into your diet can contribute to a well-rounded nutrient intake. So go ahead and enjoy these flavorful, nutrient-dense fish for overall health and vitality.

Allergies and Sensitivities

If you have seafood allergies, be aware that both sardines and anchovies can cause an allergic reaction. A seafood allergy is typically caused by your body reacting negatively to the proteins found in fish.

Be sure to read food labels carefully. Sardines and anchovies may be present in ingredients such as:

  • Fish sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Caesar salad dressing
  • Some pizza toppings
  • Mixed seafood dishes
  • Various condiments

Allergic reactions to fish can range from very mild to life-threatening. Be alert to symptoms such as congestion, itching or hives especially around the mouth or in the throat, dizziness, and confusion.

If you experience symptoms after consuming sardines or anchovies or any food containing these fish, consult your doctor or allergist for testing and guidance.

While not a true allergy, some people may also have sensitivities to the high salt content found in canned anchovies. This can lead to symptoms like:

  • Bloating
  • Swelling or edema
  • High blood pressure (in some cases)

To avoid these sensitivities, opt for lower sodium alternatives or consume anchovies in moderation.

Which do you prefer?

Overall Winner – Which One is Better?

When deciding whether sardines or anchovies are better, it ultimately depends on your personal preferences and health goals.

Sardines have a meatier, flaky texture that is less fishy than anchovies. Sardines also contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are beneficial to the heart and blood vessels which can help prevent heart disease and maintain the health of your arteries.

On the other hand, anchovies have a more intense flavor due to their salt-curing process. This results in a softer, melting texture, and an umami flavor that many people enjoy. If you value strong, savory flavors in your dishes, anchovies might be the better choice for you.

In terms of culinary use, sardines are often the star of a dish, while anchovies play a supporting role as a flavorful accent or garnish. Keep this in mind when considering which fish to use in your cooking endeavors.

In conclusion, you be the judge of who the winner is. The winner will depend on your taste buds and the nutritional considerations for you and your family.

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