Sardine Sandwich, Anyone? Anyone???

by Roz Cummins

I don’t know why, but the phrase “sardine sandwich” conjures up images of the Depression for me. Maybe I grew up watching too many cartoons from that era featuring hobos eating tins of sardines as they rode the rails, or maybe it’s because I have childhood memories of my dad – who grew up during the Depression and spoke of it often – showing me how to use the special “key” that came with the sardine tin to open it. (We often had sardines on toast for lunch on Saturdays.) Once I left home, though, I rarely had occasion to eat sardines.

Now, however, they are reentering my dining rotation for three reasons: they are an excellent choice from an environmental perspective, they are extremely nutritious, and they are cheap source of protein – a culinary hat trick!

Sardines, along with anchovies and herring, are abundant. They are small fish and low on the food chain (they feed solely on plankton) which means that don’t eat other fish containing mercury or PCB’s, so they are not bio-accumulating these toxins. Nutritionally speaking, they are high in vitamins B and D, selenium, Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, phosphorus, and calcium. Some people really, really love canned sardines, but for others, it’s a hard sell – my office mates, for example.

When I announced that I would be doing a blog post on sardine sandwiches – and making one at the office for everyone to taste – suddenly I was the only one who would be in the office that day. Coincidence??? Well, yes, actually, it was a coincidence, but when I emailed everyone and asked if they wanted me to make one on another day, the answers I got ranged from a polite “No, thank you,” to a more pointed “Negative.” As I said, sardines can be a hard sell.

Fortunately, my friend Susan Russo just published The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, which includes a nice recipe for zesty sardine sandwiches. Her recipe, though easy and straightforward, raises the sardine sandwich to an art through the addition of a little bit of spicy mustard, lemon juice, chopped onion, hard boiled eggs, and a touch of mayo (and, of course, a bit of salt and pepper.)

Susan herself cautions, “Be aware that briny sardines and raw onions are a robust combination; even its most ardent admirers will tell you that the smell is as powerful as the flavor. If you’re indulging in this sandwich for lunch, you may want to keep a tin of breath mints nearby.” Okay, so it’s not the perfect thing to eat before, say, a first date. It is, however, very tasty and good for you, and it has a light environmental footprint.


Sardine Sandwich

from Susan Russo’s Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Makes one sandwich

2 ounces oil-packed boneless, skinless, sardines, drained and chopped

1 teaspoon spicy mustard

¼ teaspoon lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 thin slices rye bread

2 teaspoons mayonnaise, optional

1 tablespoon finely chopped red or white onion

2 slices hard-boiled egg, optional

1. In a small bowl, mix chopped sardines, spicy mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until combined. Spread on 1 slice of bread (with or without mayo.)

2. Top with chopped onions and, if using, egg slices. Close sandwich.

18 Comments on “Sardine Sandwich, Anyone? Anyone???

  1. I could eat this without the onions – never thought about sardines and mayo before, I’ll let you know what I think after I try it! I am one who does like sardines!

    • Julia, I think it’s good with or without the mayo. I had never had sardines with mustard before, and that was a great addition.

  2. You make the sardine sandwich sound very appealing, Roz! Nostalgia, environmental friendliness, and zesty breath, all in one!

    • Elizabeth, they should make ads for breath mints or chewing gum featuring people eating sardine sandwiches!

  3. Hey, I like sardines too! and i often make a sandwich with toast and a little mayo and red onion, if i have it. Will try your recipe (Tom will not join me in this repast, he will stick his nose up at sardines and have to make his own pb and j!) very soon.

    • Sandy, we will have to have a “festival of toast” one day soon and serve all the foods that are so good on toast: sauteed mushrooms, sauteed tomatoes, and sardines.

  4. You own a great talent of writing.Best of luck and get going.And yes i have bookmarked your site .

  5. Im reading the April issue of Eating Well with the avocado on the cover and Im reminded once again how economical and healthy as well as sustainably fished sardines are.I cant stand canned anchovies…how can I like sardines?

  6. Roz, Thanks, great to see your promotion of The Sardine Sandwich. My favorite breakfast long living in Japan. Tasty variations I get by mixing the sardines (canned, or grilled from fresh catch) with parsley, rosemary–any minced herbs. Scallions (good with or without–ditto onions). Minced veggies whatever. Mix all with a little plain yogurt. Thin-spread inner sides wholewheat bread with yogurt (no need mayo). Heat fry pan with olive oil. Add first bread slice, top with sardine mix (+ rich lettuce leaf). Top with second slice, press small lid to hold it all snug. Thus brown bottom side, then reverse side. Done! = Toasted Sardine Sandwich.

  7. OR, for those who back away from sardines, plus anyone else, try this: Toss Sardine Sandwich ingredients into an electric mixer, substituting cooked rice for the bread. Add your favorite sauce to flavor up, plus enough liquid–water will do–to produce a thick delicious nourishing meal, dished up cold or hot. Note: run mixer enough to grind everything as close to smooth as you please. You don’t believe me? Try it (on your friends!) Hi, Roz!

  8. Haopy I found your page.One change,borrowed an ingredient from my wife’s tuna salad,chopped pickled jalepeno.worked well with the recipe.great sandwich.

  9. This is hilarious, and extrememly informative! I grew up eating “light” summer lunches consisting of cut fresh vegetables, fresh bread and canned sardines—Delicious! Even now, I frequently – At least once a week – crave and eat a mash-up of sardines (canned in H20), yellow mustard and 1 chopped raw sweet onion. Robust is a nice word; this combo is HIGHLY pungnant! I don’t know but it is more appealing to me than any sweet food in the world– I don’t like sweets and baked goods much. Also, I’ll eat raw onions with/on anything. I eat them like apples 🙂

  10. Sourdough bread toasted, mayo on both halves, pepper, freshl whole onion in slices, large sardines. It’s simply one of the more interesting and healthy sandwiches out there!!

  11. My dad used to make a sardine sandwich on toasted rye with spicy mustard and lots of sliced onion. Then he would add whatever was on hand…pickles, tomatoes, cheese, bacon, you name it, it went on it. He’d wash it down with a nice cold beer then chase my mom around the house with “ripe” onion, sardine, and beer breath saying, “Honey, how about a kiss?” It was hilarious! LOL

    For me, no onions or bacon.

  12. Sardine sandwiches are delicious, but they make your breath stink. And good luck eating in peace if you have a cat!

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