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What Is The Difference Between An Anchovy And A Sardine? The Ultimate Guide

Many people find themselves getting both sardines and anchovies mixed up. After all, they are quite remarkably similar.

Both are incredibly small fish that have small profiles and are also known for their very intense and rather salty flavors that have made them the subject of controversy. Some love the flavor of both fish, while others despise them.

However, many people do often find themselves confusing the two types of fish, thanks to how similar they actually are. But are there actually some hidden differences between the two types of fish?

What Is The Difference Between An Anchovy And A Sardine? The Ultimate Guide

They are often sold nearby in stores, so you’re likely wondering this yourself.

If you are, then make sure to read on down below, because we are going to take a look at some of the main differences between the two types of fish, and find out exactly what makes them unique from one another.

What Is The Difference Between Sardines And Anchovies? – Quick Answer

The areas where both fish differ most are in their flavor and texture. Though those that hate the taste of both fish may get the two confused easily, a fan of either fish would be able to tell you the difference right away.

Sardines tend to be much more flakey and have a very low oil content. They also tend to grow to around 8 inches in length, making them slightly longer. Anchovies, on the other hand, are much saltier and are slightly more oily.

They also tend to be much fishier, in terms of flavor, which is why so many people have trouble enjoying them. They are also only around 6 inches in length, making them the shorter of the two.

But that isn’t all! There are plenty of other ways in which the two fish differ, so you are definitely going to want to keep reading to find out what they are!

How Do Sardines And Anchovies Differ In Terms Of Looks?

At a glance, you may initially have trouble determining the difference between sardines and anchovies, but there are a few key differences that you can make a point of looking out for to help you to differentiate between the two. 

First, you should note that sardines are slightly longer, with the average sardine measuring just under 8 inches. Anchovies, on the other hand, tend to be much smaller, at around 6 inches in average height. 

You can also identify the two fish by noting some of the differences within the flesh. You can easily identify anchovies by looking out for their unique grayish-red flesh that contrasts against the more white appearance of sardine flesh. 

When you spot a sardine in the wild, you will be able to tell it apart from an anchovy by looking out for its unique jaw. The bottom jaw of a sardine protrudes slightly, giving it a unique look that makes them very easy to identify when you look out for it!

How Do Sardines And Anchovies Differ In Their Usage?

Sardines and anchovies, though they may taste slightly similar, can actually be used for very different dishes. 

Sardines are used far more commonly in a range of dishes, and can often be found served as appetizers.

Sardines can often be purchased at restaurants with a lemon dressing, as the strong acidic citrus taste of the lemon helps to eliminate some of the overbearing ‘fishiness’, to make the fish taste even better.

Anchovies are not often served as an appetizer, as they are simply too strong in flavor. However, they are commonly used as a topping on pizza, and many people love the unique taste that salty anchovies can add to the complex flavor palette of pizza. 

Anchovies are also often added to all manner of sauces within Italian cuisine, as they can imbue the sauces with a salty flavor, and can also act as a source of umami taste.

Both anchovies and sardines are also incredibly easy to cook, and can be eaten through a number of popular methods, including frying, grilling, and steaming.

This makes them both incredibly versatile and helps to explain why they are still so popular despite being so controversial for so many people. 

How Do Sardines And Anchovies Differ In Terms Of Nutrition?

The nutritional values of both fish are also where they can differ quite a bit. In terms of similarities, both fish share high levels of omega-3 acids, and plenty of iron and protein.

Iron is great for promoting healthy blood and oxygen flow throughout the body. Protein, on the other hand, is needed for helping to increase muscle strength and helping you to lose weight.

Both fish are considered to be very healthy and are often recommended to be added to numerous dishes for their health benefits alone.

However, if you want to enjoy the health benefits of both fish without having to put up with extreme sodium content, then you may want to opt for sardines.

Sardines are naturally much lower in sodium content than anchovies, which makes them slightly healthier. The average sardine contains only around 505 mg of sodium, whereas the average anchovy very often has sodium content well over 3668mg! 

Anchovies also have much more potassium, protein, and saturated fats, which can make them slightly less healthy than sardines, however, the high iron and protein content still makes them highly beneficial.

Sardines do, however, have more cholesterol, and a tiny amount more total fat. This means that both fish should be eaten in moderation, and also as part of a balanced and varied diet!

How Do Sardines And Anchovies Differ In The Wild?

How Do Sardines And Anchovies Differ In The Wild?

There are also a number of ways that both fish can be differentiated when they are still in the open waters. Sardines are part of the Clupeidae family, which directly sets them apart from anchovies.

Anchovies, on the other hand, are part of the Engraulidae family. 

The name ‘Sardine’ is believed to be derived from the word ‘Sardinia’, where the fish were frequently found in high volumes.

Anchovies are most often found around Greece, Italy, Turkey, Portugal, and Spain, just to name a few places where they tend to propagate massively!

To Wrap Up

As you can now see, sardines and anchovies are in fact very different, thanks to a number of interesting factors. Though they may taste incredibly similar, there are small ways in which the flavors differ.

Sardines tend to be a little flakier, and also tend to be a bit drier, because they have a lower oil content. Anchovies, on the other hand, are much fishier, and thus they have gained themselves the solid reputation that they are known for.

The two fish also differ in other ways, such as where they are commonly caught, how they look, and what size they are, as well as how they are used. 

Though it can initially be hard to tell the difference between these two tiny little salty fish, looking a bit closer reveals a number of interesting differences that are difficult to deny!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Substitute Sardines For Anchovies?

Though it would be easy to assume, thanks to their similarities, that you can swap anchovies and sardines, it would actually be advised against. This is because the small ways in which they differ can really impact a dish that either fish is included in.

For instance, if you were making a traditional Italian sauce, and you needed some anchovies for the sauce, it would be pointless to use a sardine, as it does not taste anywhere near as strong, making it a much duller experience.

Similarly, you may not want to substitute anchovies for sardines when making an appetizer, as the fishy taste of anchovy is much more overpowering than that of a sardine! 

Do You Eat Canned Sardines Whole?

You definitely can. What makes sardines great is that they are versatile. If you wish to eat them directly out of the can, you definitely can, but you can also use them in other ways to create other dishes. They can also be cooked after being removed from the can!

What Happens If You Eat Sardines Every Day?

If you eat sardines every day, you may find that their high protein and iron content will help to make your muscles and bones much stronger, while also helping you to lose much more weight. 

However, you should make a point of eating sardines in moderation, as they are very high in sodium.

Jess Smith