Trending: Tinned Fish and How to Use It


What Is Tinned Fish

Tinned fish, or tinned seafood, is fresh seafood that is cooked and preserved in brine or sauce and sealed in tins or cans. While some people skip past preserved seafood in traditional grocery stores, it is a worldwide pantry staple that has been gaining fast popularity in recent years – for good reason.

Both economical and convenient, preserved seafood offers a variety of benefits for our health and the planet. It is also a classic element that masquerades as a secret ingredient in some of our most iconic dishes (think Caesar salad). So, set aside that can of tuna, and let’s get to know the full array of tinned fish.



Rising Popularity: Trend or Staple?

In recent years, preserved seafood has become a trend, popping up in the trendiest wineries and gastro pubs. Take one look at the colorful labels on premium brands at high-end markets and you’ll know that tinned fish is having a moment in New York City and beyond. But is it really just a new thing?

In most parts of the world, canned seafood is anything but new. As a traditional way of preserving fresh seafood, it has been enjoyed by cultures around the world for several centuries, as a way of preserving fresh seafood and as a convenient way to enjoy it throughout the year in even the most remote locations. Tinned fish is so popular among hikers and campers that there is even a full line of canned seafood from a well-known outdoor lifestyle brand. 

The origins of canned seafood can be traced to the late 18th century when it was given to the French military as rations. But, with abundant access to fresh seafood, Spain and Portugal are often the most recognized regions for preserved seafood. Known as Conservas, canned seafood is an economical and popular food staple on the Iberian peninsula served in several dishes.

However, the popularity of preserved seafood spans the globe and is common in many countries and cultures – from the South Pacific to Europe. While the average neighborhood grocery store carries only a handful of brands, gourmet and specialty markets will introduce you to various international options, each with unique sauces or marinades traditional to its region of origin. For example, extra virgin olive oil is common to European varieties, while soy and spices are common to Japanese varieties.



Benefits of Using Tinned Fish 

There’s much to love about tinned fish, but we’ll start with the obvious. Preserved seafood is both convenient and economical. Available at a fraction of the cost of fresh seafood, canned seafood is shelf-stable with an exceptionally long shelf life. Most commercially canned seafood can be stored for five years, making it a great item to store for emergencies and a favorite among outdoors enthusiasts.

Like most seafood, canned fish is loaded with nutritional value. It is protein-dense and provides hard-to-find beneficial fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6. Canned fatty fish, like tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines also offer vitamin D, vitamin B12, choline, iron, and iodine. Additionally, as two of the lowest fish on the natural food chain, mackerel and sardines are a highly valued source of fatty acids due to their low contamination of mercury.

Wild tinned fish is also gaining popularity due to its low carbon footprint, thanks to its long shelf life and low waste. In fact, according to a study in 2018, wild fishing in general accounts for 4% of the overall global impact of agriculture and livestock production, and only 2% of that is attributed to canned fish.



Common Types of Tinned Fish

While tuna takes up most of the real estate on the grocery store aisle, several canned seafood options are available at neighborhood markets. This includes many types of fish and shellfish that can be enjoyed alone or in sauces and dishes.

Common Grocery Store Varieties

·     Tuna (commonly albacore tuna, yellowfin tuna, or skipjack) – the most well-known canned fish in America

·     Salmon – perfect for salmon patties or as a protein topping on a salad

·     Sardines – wonderful sauteed into a sauce

·     Anchovies – the not-so-secret ingredient to classic Caesar dressing

·     Mackerel – an easy swap for tuna

·     Mussels – great on a salad or in a pasta sauce

·     Clams – a great addition to seafood pasta


Specialty Market Varieties

·     Smoked Oysters – often served on crackers with hot sauce, but also great in a sauce

·     Tuna Belly – the prime cut of the fish and often a delicacy

·     Rainbow Trout – perfect addition to a homemade fish dip

·     Squid – unique addition to pasta dishes or Spanish rice



How to Incorporate Tinned Fish

If you’re unfamiliar with tinned fish anything but canned tuna can sound intimidating. But it is easy to use canned seafood in a wide array of dishes – and most use the fish or seafood as a basic ingredient so it’s fully incorporated into the meal. In other words, there are many ways to enjoy the convenience of canned seafood without it looking like canned seafood on your finished plate.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to use canned seafood:


Pasta Sauce

Preserved seafood adds depth and flavor to both tomato sauce and cream-based pasta sauces. Along with added nutrition, it also brings a unique umami taste that you won’t find with other ingredients.

Mixing into pasta sauce is quite simple. We find it most helpful to mince the seafood and grind it into a paste with the garlic before browning it in your pot or skillet with the other ingredients.

If you’re ready to try tinned fish in pasta and don’t know where to start, try this Caesar Pasta for a new twist on one of the world’s most beloved salads.


Charcuterie Board

Perhaps the most traditional way to enjoy tinned fish or seafood is by making it the star of the plate – think savory charcuterie board where it shines as the hero. It’s common to pair several varieties of preserved seafood with crusty sourdough bread and crackers, pickled vegetables (cucumbers, olives, radishes), pungent salty cheese (feta, blue cheese), and fresh lemon.


Protein Rich Toast

If you’re looking for an easy snack that is rich in protein and minerals, Sardine Toast makes is a great, fuss-free snack. While traditional options use sardines, you can pair any type of canned seafood with cheese and pickled vegetables and finish it off with a drizzle of the oil from the can for more flavor. Or take your classic avocado toast up a notch by adding tinned fish for a more rounded meal.


Seafood Patties

If you’re not quite ready to try canned seafood at the center of the table, seafood patties are a very enjoyable way to dip your toes into the world of preserved seafood. This super-economical showstopper is easy to make – using just canned seafood with breadcrumbs, eggs, spices, and fresh herbs. While salmon patties are most common, you can unleash your creativity to use a variety of seafood and ingredients for a customized meal to suit your tastes.

We hope this latest article has opened the door to new possibilities with tinned fish!  Experiment with different types and test out the waters (pun intended) to see which you like! 

Try our latest Caesar Pasta (Anchovy Pasta)