Can you eat sardine bones?

When next you chew on the crispy tail-bone of sardines, don’t forget to work your way up to the forepart. It’s too precious to ignore. A Japanese recipe explains better!

(how good was that for a catchphrase?)


Sardine bones are pretty safe to consume without the risk of any health effects, following proper ingestion.

As a matter of fact, the tender bones of many fish species including sardines are a popular staple in the diet of many people living in the eastern regions of Asia, particularly the Japanese population.

Fillets are extracted as normal and the bones turned into tasty crackers, as opposed to tossing them into soups or dumping in bins.

What are the benefits of eating sardine bones?

Like other poultry bones, sardines bones constitute a good source of micronutrients, especially the mineral, calcium, which we know through studies is critical for improving bone health, nerve and muscle functioning and also attainment of hormonal balance, among other things.

In fact, sardines deliver more calcium for every serving in comparison to any other food out there, all thanks to their soft edible bones.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3 ounce serving of oil-packed Atlantic sardines provides about 32 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium at 320 milligrams, and roughly about 175 calories. Pacific varieties of sardines offer lesser than their Atlantic counterparts, but not by a significant margin.

This means that eating sardine bones can be beneficial for your health (if no other options exist to get you the daily value calcium and phosphorus), and you may want to start taking them seriously now.

How to eat sardine bones

Japanese Style

I mentioned that sardine bones are eaten across many regions in eastern Asia, but the method of consumption is quite captivating. The bones are treated as a whole category of meal themselves.

For the vast minority of people that adopt such practice, they focus more on the backbone than the scattered pieces of sharp bones spread across cut fillets. I mean, i would too.

The extracted backbones (with some flesh purposely left on them), are made into a snack, one website called it “Fish bone crackers (hone-senbei)”.

The bones are prepared by washing thoroughly in clean water, drying on a plate, coating lightly with flour or cornstarch, and then frying in a high heat oil (about 355F) until crispy and golden brown. They are then served with potato wedges, fries or some slightly sour beverage.

Chew them

Not everyone is thoughtful to give sardine bones the treatments they deserve, and if you fall easily into this cargo, you might as well just polish them off from their serving surface.

This way of eating sardine bones is strongly advocated because it presents the better nutritional advantage.

Remember sardine bones are a healthy source of calcium, well surprise, surprise — you need Vitamin D to actually absorb and use calcium, and the bone only constitute little percentage of that. So you want to pair up eating bones together with the flesh in order to reap the maximum benefit.

When it comes to eating bones, unless you’re dealing with a really matured sardine, chances are, the heat has done most of the break down work for you, so the bones are at least cartilage level soft.

The only thing you need to ensure you do is to chew properly, otherwise, you could run into serious trouble.

How not to eat sardine bones

  1. Never rush sardine bones no matter how tiny they are. In my opinion, stir clear of the little spines if possible, and go after the main bone, the back bone. It’s more enjoyable and has little chances of choking you, because you’ll most likely take your time to properly chew it.
  2. Chew sardine bones properly before swallowing. Failure to do so, can lead to a stuck piece in any of the ingestion plus digestion pipes, aka, esophagus or the intestines. Sharp bones can pierce or cause scratch in there, and there would be pain to be felt. Sometimes, the bone can actually get stuck in the throat, and you’ll need a few maneuvering techniques like the one found in this guide to get it out. Other times, it can scratch the back of the throat and then move on to be digested, and the scratched area keeps giving the sensation of a stuck in bone whereas it’s just a wound.

The best sardine bones to eat

When it comes to the best sardine bones to eat, it’s probably the canned version since it has a much lowered chances of causing you to choke due to how thoroughly cooked (pressured cooked) the bones are, (some spines actually dissolve and some, you wouldn’t even notice when you eat them).

I personally hate the grittiness of the backbone in canned sardines, but nevertheless, they’re still cooked to perfection and tenderness, and anyone who enjoys the fresh version should definitely enjoy the canned version.

Another culinary use for sardine bones

Purpose them into soups for that extra fishy flavor. Like bone-in meats, sardines cooked with their bones on taste the most delicious and are without doubt the more nutritional.

That’s because the bone, naturally full of micronutrients and other delicious constituents, releases these compositions into the meat during cooking and adds a whole depth of flavor.

Already cut your sardines and took out the bones? Don’t worry, just as the contents of the bone leak out into the meat during cooking, the same thing would happen when you toss the extracted bones into your soup or stew. So go ahead and do that with the sardine bones you thought were useless because you just couldn’t eat them.

Final thoughts

Sardine bone are perfectly safe to eat so long they are thoroughly cooked and best practices are employed when eating them. Enjoy sardine bones the Japanese style by coating them in flour and frying until crispy and golden brown. And you if you think that’s inessential, you can always turn to the book of basics. Eat your sardine fillet first, then turn to the bones and make your own cud!