The olive oil from canned sardine is delicious to eat with the sardines themselves on toast.

However the olive oil doesn't seem to pair with any other food. In the past I tried to use the oil with lemon juice/parsley/garlic/green beans, the food turned out to have a very potent unpleasant fishy smell.

Why is it that olive oil from canned sardine does not go with any other food?

Is this oil useful for cooking?

  • 2
    The sardines are swimming in the oil and the high temperatures during canning release the "fishiness" into the oil. You won't get that away. It's "fishy oil".
    – Johannes_B
    Feb 11, 2022 at 16:26
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    Hey, "What dish can you make" is considered a recipe request, which is off-limits for SA. If you change the question to "is this oil useful for cooking?", which seems to be what you want to know, then it would be allowable. Otherwise your question is likely to be closed. cooking.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic
    – FuzzyChef
    Feb 11, 2022 at 16:47
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    @FuzzyChef: there’s actually an exception for items that would otherwise be considered food waste, which I think this would qualify as.
    – Joe
    Feb 11, 2022 at 18:14
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    My cat and dog would both be quite offended to hear one of their all-time favorite treats was characterized as "food waste" Feb 13, 2022 at 4:52
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    @bakingfanatic it does...and I don't even like raw tomatoes ;o)
    – Steve
    Feb 14, 2022 at 3:07

5 Answers 5


Fish spread would be an example where you can reuse the oil, since you aim for the fishy taste anyway.

My basic approach is to mash the sardines (or any other kind of canned fish in oil) with a fork, and mix them with some cream cheese. The oil not only adds flavour, but also some additional creamyness (and I would add a dash of oil for these kinds of spreads anyway).

Then maybe add one or two diced boiled eggs (the yolk is a good emulsifyier), and season as you like (I really like tandoori masala here).

  • Yeah I do something similar. I use sour cream instead of cream cheese. Fish spread is the only application that I can find for the left over oil by far where it works well. Maybe its the dairy that neutralizes unpleasant fishy smell. Feb 14, 2022 at 15:47

Yes, you can use the oil for other purposes, although due to the strong fish aroma and taste it would probably best be used only in a fish dish. I frequently use the oil from anchovies to fry onions to add to a Bolognese sauce to add a depth of flavour, a few anchovies being frequently added to this dish as "Italian MSG". It also works well added to tomato sauce for pizza toppings.

I would use the oil to fry onions and garlic for say, a fish casserole or stew. I would add some additional olive oil as well though, as the smoke point may be affected by the soluble fish oil already in the product.

Fish is a very strong aroma as you say, so you have to be careful what you use it in as it will overpower and dominate. Although I have not tried it, it may also work well as a replacement for fish sauce in some Thai dishes.

  • I haven't tried frying with the leftover olive oil from the can yet, I suspected the oil might turn bitter and oxidize just like regular olive oil when used for drying. But yeah it sounds safer to put the leftover oil in fishy dishes Feb 13, 2022 at 21:31
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    @bakingfanatic you didn't mean to write drying, did you? (Actually a technical term for oils like linseed, but olive oil certainly doesn't do that!) — Olive oil is perfectly suitable for frying as long as you don't overdo it with the temperature. Great for gently sautéing soffritto, garlic etc.. Feb 13, 2022 at 23:58
  • @leftaroundabout, sorry about the typo, I meant "frying". good to know that olive oil can also be used for frying, thanks! Feb 14, 2022 at 1:52
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    I do often use for frying when I cook with the sardines anyway; the real problem is not heating the oil (I think it's often sunflower oil where I live), but the residue of watery stuff and pieces of the fish, which I never can perfectly decant. This causes quite some splashing in a frying pan. Feb 14, 2022 at 8:16
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    Well said, also works well in Thai, Singaporean, Malaysian, and other highly spiced flavorful cuisines. Love it in Thai Currys. Feb 15, 2022 at 18:10

That sardine oil is going to be primarily useful for dishes that already have a strong fish flavor -- such as from the sardines themselves. For example, multiple recipes for Pasta con le Sarde include using some of the oil to cook the pasta sauce, which also includes the fish.

It's notable, though, that many recipes do not use the oil from the can. Even in a dish that includes the sardines, that oil can be just too fishy (that's my own experience).

It would also be interesting to try using the sardine oil as a replacement for olive oil + anchovy in other recipes. However, that's not a swap I can find much support for online; Serious Eats even goes so far as to insist on anchovies in Pasta con le Sarde itself.

To sum up: feel free to experiment a little, but that oil is not particularly useful, and you're more likely to just throw it out.

  • There is a chance that the fishy sardine oil does not go with onion, garlic and parsley. I am also in favor of anchovy for the pasta dish. Feb 13, 2022 at 21:41
  • Or feed it to your cat they go mad for the fish oil. Even just the fish flavour brine from a can of tuna mixed with dry cat food makes my kitty very happy.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 17, 2022 at 18:48

I like to mix sardine oil with milk and serve it with granola. The milk neutralizes the fish flavor and it adds an interesting color to the milk. You may want to chop in fruit or add a pinch of sugar to set the flavor of the milk also.

  • Using milk is interesting, I want to give it a try. Feb 13, 2022 at 21:42
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    @bakingfanatic Please report back if you do, I can't imagine this being anything other than vile but I'd be interested to hear otherwise.
    – dbmag9
    Feb 13, 2022 at 22:46

I don't see why this cannot be used in a similar way to fish sauce. If a recipe requires a blast of concentrated fishyness go for it. The texture may be slightly different but unlikely to be of much notice. I like your frugality. I had a similar culinary upbringing.

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