Sardines Vs. Anchovies – The Differences Between School of Fish

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Whether it is because of the size or the fact that they are both saltwater fish, most people cannot really tell the difference between sardines vs. anchovies. They are often confused for one another and used interchangeably in many kitchens. However, if you go into small details, you will be surprised by the actual differences.

Sardines Vs. Anchovies

sardines vs anchovies

So, what should you know about sardines and anchovies to learn how to make the difference?

Different Fish

Sardines are small oily fish. They were originally found in the Mediterranean, mostly around Sardinia – hence the names. There are 18 species of sardines and they all share the same family with the herring.

Anchovies are small too, but also oily. They are often found in the Mediterranean too, but they also spread near Scandinavia. Unlike sardines, they are more diversified – over 140 different species out there.

Most species of sardines are yielded with commercial purposes. Anchovies are different – only a few species are actually commercialized.

Different Looks

While both fish are small, it is worth noting that sardines are larger when comparing sardines vs. anchovies. Sardines can grow up to 8 inches in length. Also, their flesh is white, while the head makes all the difference because of a protruding lower jaw.

Anchovies have a dark red flesh with gray nuances. They undergo a curing process while being cooked, hence the flesh color. Most commonly, anchovies measure less than 6 inches in length.

Different Taste

Sardines and anchovies are similar in taste. When mixed with various ingredients and dishes, it might be hard to tell the difference. But then, anchovies have an aggressive flavor. It is rich and distinct when eaten with no sides.

The flavor is given by the curing process. This process implies drying the fish in salt, then mixing them with olive oil before being packaged. Sardines are light and less intense, so they are easier to blend into a series of dishes.

Different Dishes

When you think about pizza, there is one major difference – it is exclusively reserved for anchovies. Every chef can agree that anchovies were originally used on pizza marinara. While you can also find specific recipes that involve sardines, you will never achieve the same result.

Apart from pizza, both sardines and anchovies can be used in a plethora of recipes. Just like any other fish, they work with all kinds of sides and dishes. Given the strong flavor of anchovies, you might want to be extremely careful regarding recipes and cooking proportions.

Use too many anchovies and the whole dish will taste like anchovies – nothing else can be tasted.


As you compare sardines vs. anchovies, knowing all these differences will add to your cooking skills. You no longer have to use them interchangeably, but respect the recipe instructions. Knowing why one type of fish is better than another in a recipe will add value and recognition to the final result.

On another note, both fish are rich in protein and nutrients. From a healthy point of view, their nutritional value is relatively similar.​

See also: Snow Crab vs King Crab