My Typical Paleo Lunch & The Tastiest Way With Canned Sardines

canned sardines salad recipe

Recipe: Sardines Forshmak Deconstructed Salad

In this post I show you my typical paleo lunch because many ask and because lunches seem to be problematic for  some people. Most want something fast, easy, inexpensive and nutritious and I think this meal nails that criteria. Secondly,  I hope that my way of eating canned sardines will inspire you to give them another go, even if you’ve been anti-sardines your whole life. 

My typical lunch meal is a deconstructed salad (it’s always a different mix of vegetables, whatever I have on hand) with a canned sardines forshmak (I’ll explain), drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil and some sea salt.  I almost always have some avocado and something green on the plate. I have this kind of lunch at least twice a week because it’s easy, fast and involves little cleaning up. It’s also one of those meals that you can easily transport in a lunch box or make in your office kitchen.

Now let’s chat about sardines. I think they’re a bit like anchovies – you either love them or you hate them. Most people like fresh sardines, grilled and seasoned with simple spices, lemon, parsley and so on. I had the best sardines in a coastal town of Biarritz in France, where sardines were so fresh and seasoned so perfectly, I thought I was eating a small snapper. It’s a completely different story with canned sardines, which most of the time smell and taste like cat food (I assume about the taste by the way, I don’t steal food from cats…yet). But there is a way to enjoy canned sardines and it is to a) experiment and find the best brand to suit your taste (I always go for the smaller sardines in olive oil or extra virgin olive oil,  I avoid anything with soybean, canola etc) and b) disguise the otherwise fishy taste and smell with other yummy, strong flavours.

Sure, you could go for canned tuna or salmon instead but think about the nutritional value of sardines (very high in Vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, one of the highest source of calcium outside dairy, very high in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, low to none mercury levels) and the fact they are highly sustainable, easy to find and cheap. Make friends with sardines and your body will thank you for it.

Cook’s notes: Forshmak is a Jewish dish of chopped and mashed herring with onion, apple, egg, mayonnaise and other seasoning.  It’s very popular in Ukraine and Russia so I thought I’ll try to do something similar with sardines. A combination of red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon and mayo works for me but you can experiment with different ingredients like capers, fennel, cucumber or olives, until you find what works for you. You can also use lemon and olive oil as a dressing instead of mayonnaise, or add a little tomato paste. One day, I will post a recipe for the actual forshmak as that’s very tasty.

Make your own mayonnaise

Calcium rich paleo foods


  • 90-100gm canned sardines (look for a brand with extra virgin olive oil)
  • 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise (look for olive oil based or make your own of macadamia oil)
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A squeeze of lemon

For the salad

  • 1/4 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 celery stick, sliced
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado
  • A pinch of sea salt, chili flakes, lemon juice & olive oil
  • Fresh parsley


  1. Drain sardines and mash with a fork, leaving the bones in. The bones contain most of the calcium and are small enough to eat.
  2. Mix mashed sardines with onion, sun-dried tomatoes, mayonnaise, some lemon juice and black pepper.
  3. You can arrange everything around the sardines mixture on a plate or mix salad in a bowl and serve forshmak on top.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: none

Number of servings: 1



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  2. Kathy says

    This is very yummy and such a great lunch. I’ve made about 10-15 of your recipes now and have enjoyed them all. Thank you for posting them.

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  4. Lucia says

    I just had this for lunch today. Only thing different is added a couple small stalks celery and oh my what a tasty lunch it was. Thanks for giving me new ways to fix an old favorite…sardines!

    • imacri says

      Good to know that combo works for others. I know sardines is not the most popular of foods but I think mixing it up with yummy flavours makes it much more edible :)

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  6. Yuma Henry says

    I will definitely try this one later. I am planning to experiment on a TUNA instead of sardines. We’ll see how it turns out. Thanks, Irena! =)

  7. kate says

    This was absolutely delish! I am impartial to sardines, but the addition of sun-dried tomato, red onion and mayo makes them super tasty:)
    My hubby loved it too. Makes a nice change from my usual tuna salad. Loving all your recipes! Keep em coming. Thank you….


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