Silvery sardines make a beautiful first course or a light lunch. Photo by Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.




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EMILY CHANG is an editorial intern.


September 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Fish, Seafood & Caviar

BELA-Olhão Gourmet Canned Sardines

Page 2: Sardine Flavors


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BELA-Olhão sardines are big and meaty. They also offer up a buffet of flavors: plain in extra-virgin olive oil (available with bones or boneless), and three flavored siblings. All varieties are “smoked” with natural smoke flavor; all other ingredients (e.g. lemon flavor) are natural as well. Depending on their size, three or four whole (headless) sardines are packed into a tin.

Plain Sardines

Sardines In Olive Oil

The sardines are so tender and tasty, it’s hard not to finish the whole tin in one sitting. Though it says the sardines are “lightly smoked,” we think the smoke flavor is potent. Although all varieties of BELA-Olhão sardines are smoked, the sardines packed in regular olive oil taste most strongly of smoke, as if they’re coming fresh from the smokehouse. This is our personal favorite and a wonderful introduction to the BELA-Olhão line of sardines.

Bela Olhao Sardines
Colorful cans are easy to carry to work, and make cute gifts, stacked and tied with a ribbon.

Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil

These have the same smokiness and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of the regular Olive Oil flavor, but none of the bones or the pretty silver skin. Those wary of sardines with bones should find this variety an easy fish to swallow. However, the skin and bones of the other varieties have been smoked until they’re tender enough to consume without noticing that they have bones—honest!

Flavored Sardines

Sardines In Cayenne Pepper-Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We expected something spicy, but this flavor is actually quite mild. The cayenne-flavored oil won’t do the trick for those who like it hot. While the sardine base is just as tasty here as in the other flavors, if you want your sardines spicy, you’re better off adding hot sauce yourself.

Sardines In Lemon-Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This is the mildest of the bunch, less smoky than the original Olive Oil flavor, and delicious, especially if you add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to perk up the lemon flavor. If you are not a fan of smoky flavor, this is the best showcase of the flavored sardines—you’ll find just a hint of lemon.

Sardines In Tomato Sauce
This is the only variety not packed in olive oil. The smoky flavor of the sardines is almost overpowered by the tangy tomato sauce they rest in. It’s our least favorite flavor, because the tangy sauce overpowers the excellent sardines (it could be used to smother inferior sardines). This variety is the only one that is difficult to consume by itself from the tin, because the sauce is too tangy. You’ll need to eat it with pasta, rice or bread.

Whatever flavor you choose, BELA-Olhão smoked sardines will erase all those memories of boring canned fish. The authentic smokiness (even though it comes from liquid smoke) and tenderness of the sardines make them one of our favorite canned foods. Try them soon.

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