Difference Between Anchovies and Sardines

Sardines and anchovies are tiny fishes with delicious tastes. Even though they are claimed to be related, they are very distinct in many respects, including physical features. Chefs love to laud canned fish’s virtues. They’re cheap, shelf-stable, and a fantastic way to give nearly any food a greater taste. They can be a little unnerving to the uninitiated.

Both of these fish are delicious when cooked, but they have a lot of distinctions. It can be tough to distinguish between the two, therefore this article will explain the distinctions between anchovies and sardines, as well as which would be a good treat for your tummy.

Anchovies vs Sardines

The main difference between anchovies and sardines is that anchovies are physically smaller and more oily when compared to the Mediterranean sardines. Also, sardines are endemic to the Mediterranean’s southern reaches and bigger as well as darker in texture when compared to anchovies.

Anchovies vs Sardines

Anchovies are tiny feeding fishes belonging to the Engraulidae group. The majority of species could well be found in aquatic marine environments, although some can also be found in ‘brackish’ waters, while certain South American breeds are only found in clean and fresh water. In the Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, there are about 140 of these species evolved and categorized in more than 17 genera.

Anchovies move in flocks and are occasionally observed mixing with several other smaller fishes. It features a wide gaped mouth, a snout that is peaked, and bluish-green bodies. They eat phytoplankton and become food for larger fish. Anchovies are salty and sour naturally in taste and have an oiled texture.

‘Sardine’ is a common term used for a range of fish, including sprat, mackerel, and pilchards. They are popular names for a variety of slender, greasy feed fish belonging to the Clupeidae genus of herring.

Sardines may be found in both northern and southern seas, as well as estuarine and shoreline zones. Sardines, unlike anchovies, have a wide and pointed mouth and a projecting snout. Sardines, like anchovies, feed on zooplanktons and phytoplanktons and are eaten by bigger fishes. Sardines have a silver-black body with greasy flesh.

Comparison Table Between Anchovies and Sardines

Parameters of ComparisonAnchoviesSardines
Found InThey live in the Mediterranean, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Black and Middle east Seas.These fishes are caught off the coasts of southwestern North and South America, Japan, Australia, and South Africa in the Pacific and Indian seas.
AppearanceThey’re slim and sleek, and they look a lot like trouts. Broad lips are usually used to classify them. Their upper jaws protrude above their eyes, and a pig-like snout protrudes further than lower jaw.Sardines are slim, lustrous and silvery fishes with a single isolated dorsal side-fin, no lateral line of division on their body and absence of head scales is significantly visible.
Scientific NameEngraulidaeSardinella longiceps
DimensionsCommon Length ranges from 13.5 – 15 cms.Comparatively longer than anchovies and ranges from 15 – 30 cms in length.
Dishes1.Tuna Caesar with anchovies & cavolo nero.
2. Courgette & anchovy salad.
3. Anchovy palmiers.
1. BBQ sardines with chermoula sauce.
2. Sardine pasta with crunchy parsley crumbs.
3. Sardines with Sicilian fennel salad.

What is Anchovies?

Anchovies are slender, greenish-blue fishes with azure flashes due to a chrome-like fine longitudinal stripe stretching from the posterior fin’s base. Adult lengths range from 13.5 to 40 cm, and anatomical forms vary, with more thin fish seen in northern parts.

The snout is narrow, and both jaws have small, sharp teeth. The rostral organ in the snout is a one-of-a-kind organ that is thought to be electrical sensing in nature, however, its essential role is unclear. The mouth of anchovy is bigger than that of sardines and silversides, two fish that are similar in other ways. Algae, planktons, and newly born fish are eaten by anchovies.

This little marine (some species are freshwater too) forage fishes under the Engraulidae genus that are utilized for human consumption and as fish baits.   Anchovies are considered to be oily fishes because of their smooth texture and delicate taste. Many chefs across different countries prefer anchovies instead of sardines because of their finer taste and cheaper cost. 

Some famous dishes across various cuisines that portray anchovies as the delicacy include; tuna caesar with anchovies & cavolo nero, courgette & anchovy salad, anchovy palmiers, Spaghetti with smoked anchovies, chili breadcrumbs & fried egg, etc. 

Anchovies are enriched with Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA, making them one of the most desirable seafood. Anchovies are migratory and are regarded as good value in the markets.

What is Sardines?

Sardines are little darting fishes that feed on phytoplankton and small crustaceans and may be found in open waters from South Asian territories to Chile and South American seas. Sardines, in turn, are consumed by just about everyone, including humans. Sardines are enjoyed by many people all around the world, and many traditional recipes use this fish.

Sprat, salmon, and pilchards are just a few of the fish that go by this name. Sardines may be found in both north and central seas, as well as estuaries and coastal zones. Any type of sardine is economically fished for several purposes, including bait hooks, raw fish marketplaces, curing, seasoning, or smoking, and distillation into fish products or liver oil.

An enveloping ‘encircle’ net, notably the gill nets kind, is the most significant capturing device for foals of sardines. Traps or spillways, which are permanent enclosures made of poles into which swarms of sardines are steered as they migrate along the coastline, are among the many variations of encircling nets employed.

Sardines range from 15 – 30 cm in length and are silvery-dark in appearance. Sardines are mostly consumed by humans, although fish meals prepared from sardines are used as livestock feed, and sardine oil is used in the production of pigment, lacquer, parquet, and, in Europe, margarine. The most commonly canned fish are Continental sardines, juvenile herring, and Sardinops.

Main Differences Between Anchovies and Sardines

  1. Anchovies are smaller in size and length when compared to sardines.
  2. Anchovies are found in Mediterranean seas and Pacific stretches, they are also found in fresh waters whereas sardines are found in Western Asia and northern American seas.
  3. Many species of anchovies are found in freshwater but sardines are strictly marine fishes.
  4. Anchovies are bluish-green and sleek fishes whereas sardines are darker and lustrous with a more oily texture.
  5. Anchovies range from 13.5 – 15 cms in length with a broad mouth whereas sardines range from 15 – 30 cms and have a protruding snout.


Substituting anchovies for sardines or changing the dishes interchangeably can cause a mishap, or conversely, is not a smart idea. When cooked, these two fish act quite drastically. Anchovies start to melt away, imparting a delicious salinity to the whole meal. Sardines are more meaty and subtle. A sardine’s thick meat won’t dissolve as easily as an anchovy’s fillet. Attempting to incorporate a sardine in a Caesar vinaigrette would be disastrous.

So, both the fishes are great in their domains and they taste distinct. Also, the costs of both the fishes are affordable and the longevity of canned sardines and anchovies is impressive as well.


  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/all-about-cooking-with-fresh-sardines-1300644
  2. https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-are-anchovies-1806993
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