Even the oil from canned sardines can be used to flavor dishes.

How to Cook Sardines for Canning & Pickling

by Samantha Lowe

Sardines are often relegated to the back of the pantry, rarely pulled out for the occasional salad or for the select few who enjoy them on pizza. However, sardines are chock full of rich and salty flavors, making them a valuable addition to a variety of recipes. Preparing your own at home is a way of choosing your ingredients, including high-quality fish, and adding your own flavors or tastes, such as rosemary, during the process. The sardines are cooked using a pressure cooker.

Cut the heads off of the sardines and rinse them, removing the scales with a small knife. Cut open the fish from head to tail and remove the backbone. Tweeze out any remaining large bones.

Rinse the fish under running cold water to remove any small bone and blood. Pat dry with the clean paper towel.

Mix a dry rub of 1 part salt and 1 part sugar and sprinkle evenly over the fish. This helps to preserve the fish and toughen it for the cooking process.

Coat the frying pan with a thin layer of oil. Fry the sardines for 3 to 5 minutes at medium-high heat on the stove until lightly browned.

Remove the sardines and pack them, tail down, in the prepared jars. Fill the remaining space in the jars with oil, leaving 1/4 inch at the top. Screw on the lids and process according to your pressure canner's instructions.

Items you will need

  • Fresh sardines, gutted
  • Cutting board
  • Pairing knife
  • Tweezers
  • Clean paper towel
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • Frying pan
  • Clean jars and canning lids
  • Pressure canner


  • Add spices and herbs to the brine if desiring extra flavor in the sardines.


  • Sardines must be canned or pickled using a pressure canner due to their low acidity. Do not use any other method, as it can increase the chances of botulism poisoning.


About the Author

Based in Kingston, Canada, Samantha Lowe has been writing for publication since 2006. She has written articles for the "Mars' Hill" newspaper and copy for various design projects. Her design and copy for the "Mars' Hill" won the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker award in 2008. Lowe holds an Honors BA from Trinity Western University, and a MSc in Occupational Therapy from Queen's University where she is currently doing her PhD.

Photo Credits

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