Skip to Content

Sardines Vs Anchovies: Notable Differences!

This article may contain affiliate links and if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Sardines and Anchovies are fish food that shares a strange combination of intrigue, detest, ardor, and even obtuseness. Sardines and anchovies are both species of little fish, often packed and sold in oiled tins.

There are many options of tinned fish available to the everyday shopper, but the two most popular are the sardines and anchovies. But what’s the difference between sardines vs anchovies?

Despite being small and oily, these tinned fishes have distinct flavors, tastes, looks, and origins. Sardines are native to the south of the Mediterranean Sea. They are bigger than anchovies and belong in the same family as the herring, while anchovies are smaller and oilier.

Sardines and Anchovies are entirely different species of fish – and you will learn more about them in this article.

What are Sardines?

Sardines, which can also be referred to as pilchards, are in the family Clupeidae. Until the 15th century, the word “sardine” was used.

Experts believe it came from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where the fish was discovered to be plentiful.

Sardines are small; they are silver-colored, elongated fishes with a short dorsal fin, no sideline, and no scales on their heads.

They range variously in length from 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches), and they live and travel in dense schools, moving along the coast in unison and feeding on plankton that they find, which they consume in vast quantities.

Aside from being larger, sardines have a less intense flavor than anchovies; therefore, they complement dishes that require a less intense taste.

What are Anchovies?

Anchovies are small, green-colored fishes with blue reflections in the water. This is caused by a silver-colored longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of their caudal fin.

Anchovies belong to the family of Engraulidae, and they pack a very strong punch, one that is also salty. Hence, they are a great choice to add to pizza and various other savory dishes out there that require some intense flavor.

They are found literally everywhere in the world, but they’re particularly abundant along the coasts of Crete, Greece, Sicily, Italy, Turkey, Portugal, France, Spain, and Northern Africa.

In length, they range from 2 to 40 cm (1 to 151⁄2 inches), and their body shapes are changeable to look more like slender fishes in northern populations.

Anchovies are loaded to the brim with protein, a crucial building block used within your body to repair damaged tissue(s), create muscle mass, and boost overall metabolism.

In terms of taste, anchovies have a distinct and aggressive, umami-rich flavor.

Sardines Vs Anchovies: What’s the Difference?

As I stated earlier, sardines differ from anchovies in several ways, including tastes, flavors, looks, origins, and size.

But despite all that differences, anchovies and sardines can both be prepared the same way, which is through grilling, frying, filleting, or virtually any other fish cooking method.

They also add protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients to pizzas, shish kebabs, cold salads, or snack trays.

The only uniting fact is that both fish types are low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Can You Substitute Sardines For Anchovies?

Sardines Vs Anchovies

It is not a good idea to substitute anchovies for sardines or vice versa, not in the least.

These two fishes behave very differently and also taste differently when cooked. Anchovies tend to melt away in the food; they flavor the entire dish with their savory saltiness.

Sardines, on the other hand, are meatier and more mellow in taste. The thick flesh of a sardine won’t dissolve easily the way an anchovy fillet will; it’ll only cook the more.

Trying to alter a sardine into a Caesar salad dressing instead of anchovy would be nothing short of catastrophic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are anchovies similar to?

The best replacement you can think of for anchovies varies from dish to dish. Worcestershire sauce is one of the most common choices, as anchovies are on the ingredient list. Other substitutes include fish sauce, shrimp paste, sardines, soy sauce, miso, capers, kalamata olives.

What is similar to sardines?

A fatty fish that is most similar to sardines is called herring, and it is especially good when smoked. The smoked fish is packed with sodium, though, so you’ll have to consume it in moderation.

What’s better for you? Sardines or Anchovies?

Both fish types are very low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids. But then, people who are watching their sodium intake should choose sardines over anchovies. Anchovies are notoriously salty.

Do Anchovies taste like Sardines?

Their tastes are distinctly different. Sardines have a fishy taste, but they are quite less tasty than anchovies. Anchovies are popular for their umami-rich nature and are intensely flavored, resultant of the curing process.

Are Sardines and Anchovies the same fish?

Sardines and Anchovies are two completely different fish. The Sardine is a member of the Clupeidae family, while Anchovies are all members of the Engraulidae family.


Perhaps, it could be due to their small size or because they look alike, but both oily saltwater fishes are sold primarily in tins.

They are also always positioned next to each other on the same shelf of every grocery store in America, leading to them getting regularly confused for one another.

But when you look at the specific characteristics of anchovies and sardines, they are actually significantly less similar than you might think.

Related Articles: