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The Fascinating Way Sardines Became The 'Hot Girl Dinner' Of The Year

Photo: Civil / Rosstielen / Shutterstock; Canva 
sardines, tinned fish, hot girl food

What was once considered one of the most unappetizing snacks has now become one of the most popular foods in the United States. Canned sardines are now many Americans’ go-to quick snack when they want a healthy option that will keep them satisfied from hunger throughout the day. 

However, sardines provide so much more than just nutritional benefits for your body internally. Many women claim that eating the slimy fish slivers will clear acne and blemishes, and credit the food for providing them with glowing, smooth skin. 

Tinned sardines have become so popular that anyone can now partake by visiting a new Times Square store in New York City — and they're in for a treat.

A new store opened on August 18 called the Fantastic World of the Portuguese Sardine, and features around 30 varities of canned fish, including not just sardines, but branzino, octopus, salmon, sole, mussels, and more.



Visitors can treat themselves to skinless or boneless sardines (or stick with bone-in) packaged in olive oil, and try an assortment of flavors in colorful tins from a humongous wall with thousands of options, with tins dating all the way back to 1916 and up to present day. How's that for a slice of heaven in the Big Apple?

But if you can't make it to Portuguese Sardine's flagship store just yet, you can eat sardines at home, creating your own “hot girl dinner.” 

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The tinned sardine craze began with one woman sharing her unique date nights with her husband. 

Ali Hooke, a San Francisco chef, spread the popularity of sardines after sharing her TikTok videos documenting a typical Friday night date night she has with her husband, which she dubs "tinned-fish date night." 

The at-home date set-ups consist of a board with a variety of canned fish that Hooke and her husband pick out from their pantry, along with a bowl of bread and olives to accompany the meal. 



As the views on Hooke's "tinned-fish date night" increased, so did the amount of people on the platform who began incorporating canned sardines into their diet. Like Hooke, many of them documented the different types of tinned sardines that now became a part of their daily routine. 

So, why were they overlooked for so long, even at one point being branded as a “low-end food” that was only eaten in poverty-stricken areas? To fully understand, we must delve into the background of these tiny fish that took over many people’s dinner plates over the last few months. 

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Sardines were first introduced as a canned food in Portugal in the early 19th century. 

Sardines are small, oily fish that can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean Seas. They do not represent a single fish species. Instead, the term “sardines” is used to describe a variety of small, oily fish. 

In the early 19th century, the Portuguese began catching and canning sardines, and they became a significant part of their culture, often being sold on the streets during St. Anthony’s Day. 

Soon, canned sardines made their way over to North America, with many commercial canneries appearing on the East Coast. And the Fantastic World of the Portuguese Sardine is just one of those locations.

For those who do end up visiting Portuguese Sardine's Manhattan flagship store, you'll receive your very own history lesson on the origins of the latest "hot girl dinner" — how could you not, given the large library of tinned fish displayed on two stories of shelving!

Plus, with a history lesson comes the reality many people faced for indulging in the complex, briney flavors.

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Sardines were once given a bad rep because they were cheap and many perceived them as a ‘poor man’s food.’ 

Sardines were a common food among American workers during the Great Depression since they were affordable, and provided a cheap and easy way for those who could not afford meats and vegetables to obtain nutrition. 

In fact, cans that packaged and sold sardines were labeled as “penny cans” since they were so cheap. 

tinned sardines newest tiktok food trend craze Photo: Jiri Hera / Shutterstock 

Other people were skeptical of the nutritional value of sardines, not only because of their affordability but also due to the fact that they were preserved in cans and distributed in bulk in supermarkets. They believed that freshly caught sardines were for sure a better alternative to the ones sold in tins.

However, medical and nutrition experts argue that this is not all true. 

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Canned sardines are loaded with beneficial nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, calcium, and minerals. 

According to Healthline, the specific nutrients that are found in sardines can reduce the risk of blood clots, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and protect against heart disease and certain types of cancers. Additionally, sardines are safe to consume daily since they contain low levels of mercury as opposed to other fish. 

“Just three ounces of sardines is two grams of omega-3,” says Dr. Mandell (@motivationaldoc) in a TikTok video. “Omega-3 will help your heart, prevent clogging in the arteries, it helps the bones get strong, it helps the brain, it helps your eyes, it decreases inflammation... “Eat your sardines... you will stay as healthy as you can ever imagine.” 



As more and more people on TikTok began learning about the health benefits of sardines, the popularity of tinned fish quickly surged. 

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Many social media users now claim they eat sardines daily and have labeled it the new ‘hot girl dinner.’ 

“Hot girl dinner” is a term that gained popularity on TikTok, and can best be described as a quick and easy meal one (regardless of gender) could prepare for dinner that has various nutritional benefits. 

“Tinned fish is the ultimate hot girl food,” Caroline Goldfarb, the co-founder of Fishwife, a tinned fish company that sells high-quality, sustainably sourced seafood, told Nylon in June 2021.

“There is no food that will make you hotter than tinned fish. Straight up. Do you know a hot girl who doesn’t exist on protein? I don’t,” adding that a single tin of sardines has more nutrients than a glass of milk. 

Ever since sardines were coined as the newest “hot girl dinner,” many women have taken to TikTok to share their experiences eating the salty fish. 



Some have shared that chowing down on sardines has even been beneficial for their skincare. This is because the healthy fats that are found in sardines reduce inflammation in the skin, promoting a radiant glow. Omega-3s also helps to increase healthy oil production on the skin and minimize acne breakouts. 

Still, some people may be hesitant to incorporate sardines into their diets due to their fishy taste and smell. Others may feel repulsed by their snacks looking right back at them with eyes. 

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Thankfully, there is no rule stating that you must eat sardines plain to benefit from them. Many people opt to add different ingredients, including tomato sauce and olive oil to their sardines. 



In a world where 42% of the global population cannot afford healthy foods, per the World Bank, sardines are a breath of fresh air (ironic, since they are slimy fish packed into a tiny can) and an option that most people could rely on — not just “hot girls.” 

Because no matter how you enjoy your sardines, everyone is entitled to gain from their nutritional components. And that's exactly what the Fantastic World of the Portuguese Sardine hopes to accomplish by making this fish the newest American staple.

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.