In the canned fish aisle, they’re found side by side, but anchovies and sardines are different fish, are processed differently, and are eaten in different ways. But they do have one thing in common: Neither is a particular species of fish but rather a collection of species sold under those names. Here’s a closer look at what’s in those cans.
Anchovies vs. Sardines: What’s the Difference? Ask Paul
What Are Sardines?
The FDA maintains a long list of seafood known as the Seafood List. The list includes all species of seafood that are officially approved for sale in the U.S., giving the Latin name, common name, and “acceptable market name” of each.
There are currently 16 different species listed with the acceptable market name of “sardine,” meaning that fish from any of those species may be sold as sardines. They’re all somewhat related to each other—small oily fish in the herring family—but from several different genera and very different regions of the world. A few popular species include Sardinops sagax, Sardina pilchardus, and Harengula clupeola.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
Cans labeled “brisling sardines” aren’t sardines at all. They’re sprats, a small, delicious fish of the species Sprattus sprattus.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the authority is not the Seafood List but the FAO Codex Alimentarius, which currently permits 21 sardine species.
All these sardines are commonly canned in oil or water, with their heads and occasionally their silvery skins removed. In general, they have a mild, briny flavor that’s not overly fishy.
Outside of cans, sardines can be found fresh at the fish market—and make magnificent grilling material—as well as dried, for simmering into dashi or toasting as a snack.
What Are Anchovies?
Anchovies, like sardines, are oily bait fish, eaten by other fish in large quantities, and also by us.
Twenty-six species are in the Seafood List, but there are a few that are by far the most popular: Engraulis mordax, Engraulis encrasicolus—which is the European type usually sold jarred in salt and labeled “Product of Morocco”—and Engraulis ringens, the Peruvian anchoveta, of which millions of tons are caught every year, making it the most fished fish in history.
Anchovies are typically gutted, filleted, and cured in brine before canning, which turns their flesh red-brown and velvety and gives them the particular savory, ultrasalty taste they’re famous for.
AnchoviesWe love these little flavor powerhouses. Read on to learn why we call for them in hundreds of recipes—and which anchovies you should buy.
What Are White Anchovies?
White anchovies, or boquerones, are often seen on tapas menus. They are the exact same fish species, but they’re gently pickled in vinegar or canned without brining, which keeps their meat white, hence the name. They’re not particularly salty, and their flesh is firm and toothsome, making these anchovies a dish in their own right.
Anchovies and Sardines Have Different Uses
Salty brined canned anchovies are typically eaten not as a dish but as an ingredient—sometimes a secret ingredient. They’re called for in hundreds of our recipes, giving depth and umami to all manner of otherwise non-fish-adjacent dishes. Chicken soup? Quinoa taco salad? You know it.
Canned sardines, on the other hand, are rarely a seasoning ingredient and more often a star, or at least co-star, in sardine sandwiches (an embarrassing elementary-school-lunch favorite of mine), in pasta, or straight from the can. Connoisseurs know that canned sardines improve with aging, sometimes for years. Don’t scoff till you try them.
Start Free Trial
10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients Equipment Reviews save you money and time Videos including full episodes and clips Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.
Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!
John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.