The Queen’s Sardines

God save the Queen because, in some ways, we have her to thank for Coronation Sardines, a five-minute lunch snack that will take your sardines to new places.

In 1953, two brilliant British cooks invented a classic sandwich to celebrate the coronation of their new monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The dish is Coronation Chicken–a type of bright yellow, curry-flavored chicken salad. The dish became an instant classic and is still a regular offering at lunch places that are striving for that aristocratic vibe (or watching too much of The Crown).

If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for me–but what Sardine Freak readers really want to know is, is it good enough for sardines? So I tried it. Below a simple recipe for Coronation Chicken can be easily adapted in just a few minutes to make one of the most delicious sardine lunches I know.

The royal pantry

Sardine royalty

As usual, it starts with a can of your favored lunchtime sardines. For this recipe I recommend boneless and skinless on the first try, because the sardines will be taking a back seat to the forward flavors of the curry and other spices and seasonings. The can in the picture above is not boneless and skinless, but I just thought King Oscar would add a regal touch to this post, even though he wasn’t ever a King of England. Pop open that tin and drain. Admire the fish that are about to be anointed.

Some coronation chicken recipes involve an elaborate process of roasting the chicken and building the sauce from a complex assortment of fresh ingredients. But Sardine Freak has no time for that. We can also make a respectable and delicious Coronation sandwich in under five minutes with just a few key ingredients.

First comes the base. Classically, the sandwich takes a mayonnaise base, but there is a healthy alternative that I think compliments the taste of sardines even better: low or nonfat Greek yogurt. Yogurt works especially well for this curry-flavored dish.

Again, it’s possible to use all manner of subtle spice brands to get that colorful, lively flavor, but you can also get away with just a few. Because we Sardine Freaks are so dynamic and exciting without even adding spices, and we are so pressed for time, we will limit ourselves to just two: curry powder and cinnamon.

But that isn’t all. Frequently coronation recipes include some mix of sultanas (golden raisins), almonds, celery, and chutney to create a more varied texture and add sweetness. So again in the interest of keeping things simple for the sardine folks, we have some easy solutions that can fulfill these roles. If you have sultanas, great, but don’t beat yourself up if you want to just substitute ordinary raisins. And a mango chutney is delicious and ideal, but in a pinch you can substitute apricot jam or even cut-up dried apricots or mangos. Let your conscience be your guide. I happened to have chutney and raisins lying around the palace so that’s what I used.

Pro tip: Get your chutney in a jar at the store. Don’t waste time making it from raw ingredients on a slice of tree with a mortar and pestle like this. I’m not waiting for you. I’m moving on.

You don't need to make chutney this way.

Finally, set aside some ordinary salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper for the big moment.

The royal assembly

Bring the foregoing ingredients to your throne room on the day of your coronation.

First, raise the yogurt with both of your hands, bow, and place 2-3 tablespoons in a small, white bowl.

Then, measure approximately 3/4 teaspoon of curry powder into the same bowl, kneel, and swear an oath.

Add a pinch of cinnamon while you contemplate the responsibilities of the sovereign.

Then a small handful of raisins and a good spoon of chutney will complete the offering. You may now rise.

Let the sardine ceremony begin

Stir the ingredients together into a miraculous paste and season with a decent dose of salt a dash of pepper, and a pinch of cayenne if you are feeling the Great Fire of London. Add your can of sardines and stir. This version of the Coronation does not share the neon yellow color of some of its cousins. If you ever feel like going in that direction you can get there by adding turmeric. It will turn your food and everything else it touches in your kitchen a fascinating shade of yellow. But back here in practical lunchland we just muddle through. Keep calm and carry on.

Complete the solemn sardine ritual

The Coronation Sardines are complete; whether to enjoy them straight up or in a sandwich is really up to you, but if you go the sandwich route, this filling will live up to some excellent bread. I will say no more. Mere words could only detract from the majesty you are about to experience.

Coronation Sardines

Recipe by Sardine FreakCourse: LunchCuisine: Sustainable, BritishDifficulty: Easy


Prep time






  • 1 can boneless and skinless sardines

  • non-fat Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise)

  • 3/4 – 1 tsp curry powder

  • 1T mango chutney (or substitute apricot jam)

  • 1T sultanas or raisins

  • pinch of cinnamon

  • 2 slices of bread

  • salt and pepper

  • cayenne pepper (optional)

  • noblesse oblige


  • Place the yogurt in a bowl.
  • Place the curry powder in the bowl.
  • Place the cinnamon in the bowl.
  • Place the chutney in the bowl.
  • Place the raisins in the bowl.
  • Stir with a fork to combine, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne (if desired).
  • Place the sardines in the bowl and combine well.
  • Spread mixture onto sandwich bread and assemble, or enjoy on its own.


  • Inspired by this Coronation Chicken recipe at BBC Good Food:

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