What are Sprats

As the first light of dawn gently caresses the Baltic Sea, a fleet of small boats laden with nets sets forth from the quaint harbors of Latvia and Sweden. Their target? A small fish that has shaped the culinary traditions and economies of coastal communities for generations—sprats. Known for their delicate flavor and rich nutritional profile, sprats have remained a staple in European diets, particularly in the form of smoked or canned delicacies. This article embarks on a journey to explore the world of sprats, inviting enthusiasts of canned fish to delve deeper into the history, seasonality, and culinary versatility of these tiny titans.


Sprats (Sprattus sprattus) are small, oily fish belonging to the herring family, Clupeidae. Typically measuring between 9 to 14 centimeters in length, sprats are prized for their silver-blue sheen and slender bodies. Their diet consists mainly of plankton, which contributes to their rich, oily texture and distinctive taste, making them a favored choice for smoking and canning. 

Are Sprats Sardines?

Sprats are not sardines. While sprats and sardines are both members of the herring family, they're not the same. For more information take a look at our sardines vs sprats blog.

Origins and Habitat

Sprats are predominantly found in the Northeast Atlantic, Baltic Sea, and Black Sea, thriving in the cool, brackish waters of these regions. They form large schools, making them an ideal catch for commercial fisheries. The Baltic Sea, in particular, is renowned for its sprat fisheries, which have been a cornerstone of the local economy for centuries (Source: FAO).

Seasonality of Sprats

The seasonality of sprats is a fascinating aspect of their lifecycle. They are generally considered to be in peak season during the colder months, from late autumn through early spring. This is when sprats accumulate higher fat content, making them especially flavorful and nutritious. It is also the time when traditional sprat fisheries are most active, harvesting sprats for smoking, canning, and exporting across Europe and beyond.

Nutritional Profile

Sprats are celebrated not only for their taste but also for their impressive nutritional benefits. A 100-gram serving of canned sprats can provide a substantial amount of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for heart health and cognitive function. Sprats are also a good source of protein, vitamins D and B12, and minerals such as selenium and calcium, making them a powerhouse of nutrition (Source: USDA FoodData Central).

Culinary Uses

While sprats can be enjoyed fresh, they are most commonly found smoked or canned, often preserved in oil, tomato sauce, or mustard. Canned sprats have become a beloved pantry staple in many parts of the world, appreciated for their versatility in recipes. From being the star ingredient in traditional Baltic dishes to adding a savory umami kick to salads and pasta, sprats offer a world of culinary possibilities.


Sprats may be small in size, but their impact on culinary traditions, local economies, and nutritional diets is immense. As we uncover the secrets of these tiny titans, it becomes clear that sprats are more than just a canned delicacy—they are a testament to the rich tapestry of marine life and the bounty it offers. Whether you're a seasoned aficionado of canned fish or curious to explore new flavors, sprats provide a delightful window into the world of sustainable and nutritious seafood. So next time you spot a can of sprats on the shelf, remember the journey of these remarkable fish from the cool waters of the Baltic to your plate, and savor the taste of tradition and nutrition in every bite.