sprats in a can

What Are Sprats And How To Eat Them

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sprats in a can

What are the sprats? Sprats are a kind of fish.  The sprats are tiny, and are normally sold canned – just like sardines.  Sprats are very popular in Russia where I’m originally from, and they are sold in European ethnic supermarkets in the US.  On this picture you can see a can of smoked sprats in oil.

opened can of smoked sprats in oil

Above is the view of the contents of the can of sprats from the top.  In this particular can, the sprats’ heads are removed.  However, I have seen the sprats canned with their heads included :)

You are supposed to eat the whole sprat.  The canned sprats are very very soft, so even the heads, tails and fins taste the same as the rest of the sprat – you can’t tell what part of the sprat you are eating.

sprats on a plate

On this picture the sprats are on a tiny plate.  Now you can see that the tails are included.  But you can’t really taste the tails – the whole sprat tastes the same :)

So how do you eat sprats? Straight out of a can! :)  Here are 3 different ways to eat sprats:

1) Sprats are great on top of the black rye bread

2) Sprats go really well with the side dish of mashed potatoes

3) You can mash the sprats with the fork and mix them with hot cooked pasta

If you are an adventurous eater, try the sprats!  They might become your new pantry staple!

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54 replies
  1. Dan
    Dan says:

    I eat these all the time. Fortunately, I don’t need to go to a speciality store. Sprats are available at the regular grocery stores in Toronto. I’m very fortunate that Toronto’s grocery stores are so diverse. You can find just about anything.

    • Peter Young
      Peter Young says:

      Riga is the most common brand and the best available locally. Already smoked, they have a finer texture than sardines, normally just eaten from a toothpick or on a dry toast over cucumber Russian style with a small sprig of fresh dill. Aroung $2-3 per tin.

      • Ramona Browne
        Ramona Browne says:

        I just bought some from Aldi this week, canned in the fish section where tuna and sardines and salmon is found. Quite tasty, much like sardines.

    • Wilhelm F O Vonostrowo
      Wilhelm F O Vonostrowo says:

      Similar but they are smoked and smaller and I have only seen them smoked although my European relations say that they are also sometimes packed in tomato sauce etc. like sardines. They are very, very delicious! But then my dad was a Pomeranian when there was such a thing so we knew of them.

    • Vic
      Vic says:

      Yes you can .. You can get them in Sydney … There is a Russion Shop that sell them .. They are in Bondi Road Bondi … The shop is called—- Russkis Deli … I brought them from there …. They are fantastic with Litewski Bread ..

    • Ally
      Ally says:

      You can buy sprats at any Aldi store in Australia. The smoked sprats are particularly good. Taste very similar to smoked oysters. Plain sprats taste like a mild sardine.

    • Obi
      Obi says:

      Yes Aldi stores have sprats I had them on toast last night. Not a strong flavour like sardines and not as cheap, so if you’re a sardine fan you will find these a little mild. Cheers

  2. joey
    joey says:

    They look very much like the sardines (canned and bottled) they sell here (in Manila) and we also have smoked versions…I am sure they are delicious! :)

  3. Casey
    Casey says:

    Sprats are new to my foodie mind. I am not sure, I would like them. To be fair, I should get them and taste them. Thanks for teaching me something new.

    • bill
      bill says:

      I like to eat sprats like whitebait. Covered in flour or doe and fried -delicious. I eat the whole fish head and all, just like whitebait.

  4. Gina
    Gina says:

    I haven’t had a sprat, but it’s fun to learn about them. My husband would like them I’m sure. I just think that picture of you holding the pizza is the cutest.

  5. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Recently discovered Sprats at an ethnic market. They are delightful. Tinier than sardines, usually smoked and tastier than sardines. So, I am a big fan of these tiny adorable herrings.

  6. john
    john says:

    I have eaten sprats for years. I remove the head, cover in flour and shallow fry for three minutes each side, serve with mashed potatos and peas.

  7. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    Really enjoyed this article. Thank you. Another way of enjoying fresh sprats (or any whitebait fish) is to simply pan fry in a small amount of butter then squeeze lemo.n juice and a sprinkling of malt vinegar and season with a little black pepper. Yum :)

  8. David
    David says:

    We just bought some smoked Sprads, in our new European style supermarket. I love fishing and seafood and to me there look like white bite, pilchard or blue bite how we call those in Australia. All of those taste great if pickeld, smoked, fryed or preserved in olive oil with a touch of fresh garlic, chilli and dill.
    With a slice of fresh baked sourdough bread and a glass of white wine, preferable from New Zealand it’s all perfect.

  9. Kenneth
    Kenneth says:

    Here in Plano Texas USA, we have a store called CCCP (soviet union), I just bought a can of Sprat, it’s made in Latvia, have not tried it yet, they also have Cod Liver, that may be my next thing to try.

  10. Uncle Bea
    Uncle Bea says:

    I love the smoked Sprats canned from Poland. So lucky to have many international markets within ten minuets of our home…The wife and I are very adventures eaters. Life is too short to miss out on smoked Sprats !!!!!!

  11. Ken
    Ken says:

    Our local supermarket was converted to FoodBasics (Hamilton, Ontario) and I noticed these in their “foods of the world” section, so I bought a can (on sale).

  12. Matthew Sutton
    Matthew Sutton says:

    We have just had sprats for the first time with a set meal (in UK.) They were shallow fried, but as we were unsure on the heads and tails, we cut them off!
    Oh how much easier would it have been if we had seen this first!
    They were very nice though, in their light batter. Haven’t been a big fish eater, beyond Cod, Salmon, Haddock, and Tuna. I think I shall be more adventurous now though!

  13. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    I found a can of Smoked Sprats Pate- same Russian brand as in your photo – at a middle Eastern market in San Diego that also carries Eastern European products. It’s very tasty. They are milder than sardines, and smoked. I love all smoked stuff, from paprika to Jewish Smoked whitefish “salad ” at Costco. I have been spreading the pate on toast in the morning and topping it with slices of marinated jalapeño I get as a condiment in Mexican fast food restaurants. The little spice & vinegar compliments it well. Would make a nice little hors d’oeuvre on a cracker.

  14. Mark
    Mark says:

    Sorry, but smoked sprats are more like German heritage in Northern part of Europe. The name is coming from German sprotte – it is actually small herring living in Baltic sea. Kiel sprats are pretty known. Baltic Germans started to produce sprats for the Russian (Czar) Court and upper class in Latvia, Riga. Quality smoked sprats must be soft inside and same time skin must be dark golden and strong enough to keep the fish whole if you pick it up with the fork. There are lot of products all around the world claiming to be smoked sprats, they are not. They are smoked sprats like products.

  15. Chris
    Chris says:

    I just finished a can of smoked sprat pate I bought at Target. They taste great. I get smoked fish whenever I am traveling along Lake Michigan and have tried smoked salmon spreads there. I was pretty sure I would like the sprats pate and I thought it was great. It only cost $1.09. It was great on crackers. They came from Latvia.

  16. Cristian Boerean
    Cristian Boerean says:

    I know the Riga smoked winter sprats since childhood.
    They can be easily found in grocery stores and supermarkets in Romania. The choise is really great but Riga winter sprats are the best – have always been !
    I love them with some lemon juice, mashed potatos and a nice slice of feta cheese .

  17. Andrew Wilson
    Andrew Wilson says:

    These are awesome. I’ve always loved smoked mussels, but these are ways nicer and a lot cheaper!

  18. Mark
    Mark says:

    Had the canned smoked Riga brand. Very yummy. Next I’m going to try them with pasta.

    Thanks for bringing unfamiliar foods to the world. :)

  19. Donna Smythe
    Donna Smythe says:

    Just purchased a can of Riga Gold Sprats. Never heard of them and wanted to know what they are. Interested to try them and will try them fried though they don’t look very appetizing in the picture, will see. Going to try as a new adventure.

  20. MaryLS
    MaryLS says:

    I recently attended an Estonian reception and one of the appetizers served included sprats. The sprats were served on top of rye and a thin slice of hard boiled egg. I cannot remember if there was mayo or anything else in the concoction, but I think there may have been. I purchased some sprats in a deli and the guy at the counter said they are delicious with a bit of avocado — I imagine you could mash the avocado, spread on the rye and top with sprats.

  21. Cville
    Cville says:

    I love smoked trout, smoked salmon, smoked mussels, and sardines. Saw these at the World Market and picked up a bottle. Can’t wait to try one of the recipes!

  22. Vik
    Vik says:

    Hi Melanie, I just bought a bottle of Riga Gold smoked sprats in oil.They taste yummy!
    Should I refrigerate the bottle after opening? And how long can it stay refrigerated?
    I was of the opinion refrigeration will solidify the oil.

  23. Laurie Nitschke
    Laurie Nitschke says:

    I just bought my first can at Ocean State Job Lot in NH. They are wild caught from Latvia. I bought them for their nutritional benefits. Served them with capers, garlic stuffed olives, dill pickle and stone ground mustard mixed with mayonnaise. Delicious!

  24. Violet
    Violet says:

    Appreciate the post and comments. Would be nice to show date of original post and timestamp for comments over time for context. Sprats are better than sardines, more complex yet delicate flavor. Add an acid like a few drops of fresh lemon. Eat straight from the can or however you prefer to eat canned fish. On crackers or toast, etc.

  25. Toru
    Toru says:

    My son bought me a canned sprats in oil from Russia. Can I eat them raw? Don’t I have to cook them?This my first time to eat Russian canned food. I am excited to eat here in Japan.

  26. Jacob
    Jacob says:

    There is a rumor that many people of Soviet or Russian descent can’t live without eating a can of these at least once a year. Sprats are delicious. They go very well with mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, or with rye bread. It’s a good snack for a camping trip or picnic. No holiday table goes without these in Russia.

    PS: however, I disagree with the statement that the texture and taste of the tail is the same as the rest of fish. It’s not. Try to cut the tail fin only, and eat it. But it’s so small, nobody notices anyways. In Russian grocery stores you can also find a similar can of fish called “Kilka”. It’s the same fish in tomato sauce. ALSO very delicious.


    I love the Riga sprats in oil, on a saltine cracker with a beer during the spring or summer, or with a glass of Ararat 5 Star brandy during the fall and winter. Much, much tastier than sardines.

  28. Henry
    Henry says:

    I live in Montreal and they are widely available in the supermarkets. Sometimes they are sold as “brisling sardines” and I have heard them referred to as “Swedish anchovies”. They’re delicious, whatever they’re called.


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