What's the Difference Between Sardines and Anchovies?

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Maybe it’s because they’re both small or maybe it’s because they both come in tins—no matter what the reason, people mix up anchovies and sardines all the time. But here’s the thing: They’re completely different and they’re absolutely not interchangeable. 

Sardines vs. Anchovies

Just how different are sardines and anchovies? Let us count the ways: 

1. They’re different types of fish. 

Sardines, which are also called pilchards, are in the family Clupeidae. The word “sardine” wasn’t used until the 15th century. Some experts believe it comes from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where the fish was plentiful. 

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

2. They taste different. 

Sardines are fishy tasting, but quite a bit less pungent than anchovies. Anchovies are known for being umami-rich and intensely flavored as a result of the curing process. 

3. They look different. 

Sardines, which can measure almost 8 inches in length, are larger than anchovies. They have white flesh and a slightly protruding lower jaw. 

Anchovies, on the other hand, are usually less than 6 inches long. They have dark, reddish-gray flesh.

4. They’re used differently. 

Anchovies pack a powerful, salty punch, so they’re a great addition to pizza and other savory dishes that are in need of some intense flavor. 

Sardines complement dishes that require a less intense taste.

However, both anchovies and sardines can be prepared through grilling, frying, fileting, or virtually any other fish cooking method. 

Anchovy Recipes

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  • Anchovy Sticks
  • Spanish Tortilla with Serrano Ham and Anchovy Salad
  • Pasta with Browned Butter, Anchovy, and Kale

Read more: How to Use That Opened Can of Anchovies

Sardine Recipes

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  • Sardine Toast
  • Beer-Battered Sardines with Wasabi Mayonnaise
  • Fennel Sardine Spaghetti

Read more: 6 Delicious Ways to Cook With Sardines

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