Forshmak (Deconstructed Sardine Salad)


I know a lot of you find paleo lunches a little challenging. You want something fast, easy, inexpensive and nutritious but there aren’t always many options around. I want to share this meal idea because it’s one of my frequent paleo lunches and it ticks a lot of those boxes. I also I hope that this way of eating canned sardines will inspire you to give them another go, even if you’ve been a non-sardine eater your whole life.

Let me introduce to my 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 once 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 the 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 have a stronger ‘fishier’ smell and flavour, and are often dismissed by fish snobs.

But, there is a way to enjoy canned sardines. You can 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), or you can 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 – they are very high in Vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium; one of the highest source of calcium outside of dairy; very high in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and low to none mercury levels. Plus, 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 also very tasty.

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Forshmak Deconstructed Sardines Salad

  • Author: Irena Macri
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 1 1x


  • 100 g canned sardines (look for a brand with extra virgin olive oil)
  • 56 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (look for olive oil based or make your own of macadamia oil)
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

For the salad

  • 1/4 red pepper/capsicum, diced
  • 1/2 celery stick, sliced
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Pinch of sea salt, chili flakes
  • Drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil
  • Fresh parsley or other herbs


  1. Drain the 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 the mashed sardines with the onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mayonnaise, some lemon juice and black pepper. You can arrange everything around the sardines mixture on a plate or mix the salad in a bowl and serve the sardine forshmak mixture on top.


Make your own mayonnaise

Calcium-rich paleo foods


About the author: I share tasty recipes, tips, and meal plans to help you get healthier and lose weight. I am a qualified nutrition coach with an Advanced Diploma in Nutrition & Weight Management. More about me here.

PS. Some posts contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.


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  1. 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….

  2. 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! =)

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  4. 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!

    1. 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. 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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