15 Canned Goods Celebrity Chefs Love

No one should feel guilty about the foods they choose, but canned goods always seem to bring out people's snobbery. Mention in a cooking group that you've served canned vegetables, and you'll discover the wrath of home cooks who say they would never dream of using anything other than fresh ingredients for their laboriously-made dishes. Their disdain for the can opener almost borders on superstition. There are plenty of valid reasons to cook with canned goods, including budget, physical limitations, and food availability. Familiarity and taste matter, too. 

If you're a fan of the can, plenty of famous chefs are on your side. They may not turn to canned goods for all of their dishes, but they know which recipes can benefit from them. Don't confuse these recommendations with shortcut hacks! Some TV cooks will suggest canned options when fresh food isn't available or as a quick-and-easy version of a better dish. The canned foods listed here, though, are items that some of the best celebrity chefs not only praise but often prefer. Get out your can opener and prepare to elevate your cooking with these canned choices.

Ina Garten opts for San Marzano tomatoes

Cookbook author and television personality Ina Garten is popularly known as the Barefoot Contessa for good reason. The nickname perfectly describes her cooking vibe, with Garten creating dishes that are always elegant, yet never seem too overly fussy. A case in point: her use of canned tomatoes. While it may seem surprising to learn that she uses canned tomatoes in her tomato sauce, Garten doesn't just use any tomatoes. Garten is partial to the San Marzano canned tomatoes, a thick and meaty Roma-like tomato. Sharp-eyed viewers have noted that the tomato brand Garten is partial to is Simpson Imports, which uses U.S.-grown San Marzano tomatoes.

Canned San Marzano tomatoes are the basis for Garten's famous penne arrabbiata, which she makes by blitzing canned tomatoes in a blender, then draining them in a colander to keep the sauce from being too watery. Canned tomatoes are also key ingredients in several of Garten's celebrated recipes, such as her Bolognese sauce, tomato and eggplant soup, and pastitsio. With tomatoes being such an essential part of Italian dishes, it would serve home cooks well to keep a few cans of San Marzano tomatoes on hand at all times.

Mary Berry uses tinned custard

Baking legend Mary Berry is probably the last person you'd expect to use canned ingredients in dessert making, but there's one item she can't do without for holiday baking, and that's canned custard (or "tinned," as Brits would say). Berry uses canned custard in her Christmas trifle, and she has admitted that its use is no mere holiday shortcut. She told breakingnews.ie that it's "the best type of custard for trifle making." Berry increases the richness of the custard by stirring in some whipped cream—no doubt homemade.

Canned custard will be a less-familiar product for most Americans, but it can be found in food specialty shops or on the imported food aisle of many major grocery stores. If it's not on the shelves in your area, canned custard is readily available online for your own holiday trifle making. You can use it as a pie or pastry filling, or serve it as a simple dessert by itself, garnished with some fresh berries. 

Julia Child loved canned tuna

If there's any doubt that Julia Child was one of the most significant American chefs of all time, consider the fact that her influence is still relevant almost 20 years after her death. Her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" is still a bestselling cookbook today, remaining in print since its publication in 1961. Child's French way of cooking is still known for its richness and copious amounts of cream and butter, which may be why she opted for something lighter when it came to her own lunch. Child's go-to lunchtime favorite was tuna salad, made from canned tuna.

Child always insisted on oil-packed tuna, and her mayo of choice was Hellmann's. She kept her tuna salad light and bright with the addition of lemon, capers, and French cornichons. Tuna salad wasn't the only dish for which the chef insisted on canned tuna. Many modern versions of the classic Niçoise salad make use of seared fresh tuna, but Child's classic recipe calls for canned tuna (oil-packed, of course), along with canned anchovies. Her recommendation was to serve the salad with French bread and soft cheese as a complete luncheon dish.

Katie Lee gets protein from canned beans

You won't find any food snobbery in the recipes of cookbook author and TV host Katie Lee. As a wife and mom, Lee has always leaned toward comforting, family-style dishes. Plenty of those dishes make use of canned beans, which feature in her recipes for everything from white bean dip to savory baked beans. Lee admits that she doesn't use them just as the basis for bean dishes. She also loves to keep them on hand to add protein when in a hurry.

You can take a cue from Katie Lee and boost up your own salads with canned chickpeas, black beans, or kidney beans. Almost any type of bean can add nutrition to soups and stews while stretching the meal further. Canned pintos or black beans are a super (and family-friendly) addition to cheese quesadillas. For the record, Lee's love of canned goods also extends to canned tomatoes, canned chipotles, and Thai red curry paste, all of which can be used to add flavor to simple meals.

Martha Stewart advocates for anchovies

Canned anchovies have a huge fan base among both home cooks and trained professionals. Among those fans is cooking and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. Many of her recipes over the years have incorporated salty, umami-packed fish. Stewart suggests going beyond using just the fish themselves, recommending the use of the oil left in the anchovy can, to make dishes even more flavorful. Anchovy oil adds a savory flavor to all manner of dishes, and it tastes especially sensational in salad dressings and pasta sauces.

Anchovies have found their way into plenty of Martha Stewart's recipes where their use seems more traditional, such as spaghetti with anchovy sauce or anchovy-layered garlic linguine, but she's also used them in more unconventional ways. Stewart has even used anchovies to jazz up dishes like potato salad and deviled eggs. Almost any savory dish can benefit from being even more savory, so don't be afraid to experiment with anchovies — as well as the oil in which they're packed.

Aarón Sánchez appreciates canned hominy

You don't see much hominy outside of Mexico and the U.S. South, but Aarón Sánchez is working to change that. The Mexican-American TV chef and cookbook author incorporates dried maize kernels into many of his Latin-inspired recipes. For his sauteed hominy dish, Sánchez recommends using canned hominy for its big, fluffy kernels. Canned hominy is pre-cooked and has been rehydrated. Dry hominy, according to Sánchez, doesn't result in the same pleasant texture.

Sánchez taught Drew Barrymore to make his one-skillet hominy and pico de gallo dish remotely during the early days of the pandemic, showing off the simplicity of the dish (which can be made with leftover pico de gallo to make it even more simple). Canned hominy also plays a role in the Sánchez's super-flavorful pumpkin chili recipe. If you'd like to try cooking with hominy at home, Sánchez suggests draining and rinsing canned hominy well before use. You can usually find it with canned vegetables at the grocery store.

Alton Brown is a fan of sardines

"Good Eats" honcho Alton Brown is famous for his analytical approach to cooking, often breaking down the science behind what makes food taste good. What does a food mastermind like Brown keep stocked in his kitchen pantry? The answer, according to Brown, is sardines. While he admits to being a fan of canned seafood in general, sardines are what he consumes the most. Brown says he eats "massive amounts of sardines," both smoked and marinated. His top recommendation for choosing sardines is to opt for the oil-packed version.

Brown puts sardines to use in his own recipes for dips and spreads and as a topper for his famous sherried sardine toast. If you're new to sardines and a bit skeptical, you can ease into them by using them in ways that seem familiar, like substituting them for the tuna in your favorite tuna recipe. If you're already a canned seafood fan, try one on a cracker, and before you know it, you may end up consuming them in quantities as massive as Alton Brown.

Chris Oh raves about Spam

Almost everyone can name a dish or ingredient that they consider a pure comfort food, one that conjures up pleasant memories of their childhood. For Michelin-rated chef Chris Oh, that ingredient is Spam. In a Mashed interview, Oh called Spam "one of those perfect ingredients." He says that the canned meat product was a staple food while he was growing up in San Francisco, one that he's always loved it. He compares it to flavorful cuts of meat or types of fish that are good enough to stand on their own.

Of course, Spam doesn't have to stand on its own. As a chef, Oh appreciates the versatility of Spam, which can be fried, steamed, or prepared in many other ways before being stuffed into sandwiches or used to fill tacos. He also points out that Spam is a popular product in a multitude of different cultures, inspiring dishes in Korea, Japan, Mexico, and Hawaii. You can try Spam in the form many Hawaiians enjoy most with a Spam Musubi recipe, and see just what has Chris Oh so excited.

Giada De Laurentiis recommends canned cherry tomatoes

If there's anyone you can trust regarding Italian food, it's Giada De Laurentiis. The Rome-born author of Everyday Italian has taught a generation of home cooks how to prepare homestyle Italian favorites using simple, fresh ingredients. Like many pro chefs, De Laurentiis knows canned tomatoes often have more flavor than fresh ones, depending on the season. While Ina Garten may prefer San Marzanos, DeLaurentiis prefers canned cherry tomatoes, which she says are sweeter and less acidic than other varieties.

De Laurentiis praises the tiny flavor bombs for their flavor, but also loves how simple it is to make a quick sauce using canned cherry tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. She's fond of using them in any dish where tomato flavor would be welcome. Pasta is the obvious choice, but they pair well with roast chicken, grilled fish, or rice-based dishes.  While she's been spotted using a number of brands over the years, the cherry tomatoes she sells via her own shop is I Sapori Di Corbara.

Richard Blais cooks with canned soups

As one of the judges on "Next Level Chef," Richard Blais knows that quality dishes can be made with even the most humble of ingredients. As part of his partnership with Campbell's soup, Blais created several dishes using the iconic soup brand. While there's nothing wrong with cracking open a can of soup for a meal on its own, Blais uses the soups as a starting point, adding them to homemade dishes in order to boost flavor — braising pork loin in French onion soup, for example.

Blais recommends using soup as a way to teach your family about different cuisines and cultures through dishes you make at home. A few spoonfuls of cream of chicken soup can take the place of a roux without taking so much time, he says. He has also used canned tomato soup as the base for a vodka sauce and cheese soup as a nacho topping. The most discriminating palates might be skeptical, but with some creativity and the right ingredients, soup can be totally transformed.

David Chang praises Dongwon spicy tuna

Momofuku founder and renowned chef David Chang thinks it's a tragedy that America hasn't embraced the goodness of canned foods like perilla leaves and kimchi. He's particularly a fan of canned seafood such as mussels, clams, and octopus. In a Facebook post and an accompanying video, Chang raved about one type of canned seafood in particular: Dongwon tuna with hot pepper sauce. The French Culinary Institute graduate says that it's no ordinary can of tuna — in fact, he claims it's the best that's available.

In the video, Chang shows off the ingredient list on the back of the can, including a gochujang-based hot pepper sauce, garlic, and onions. He then opens the can and reveals the saucy tuna within. If Dongwon isn't available in your area, you can find alternate brands of spicy tuna at any food Asian market. Though they lack the depth of flavor and heat, spicy tuna flavors from American brands like Starkist can provide a gateway to appreciating canned spicy tuna. It makes a great topper for sushi rice at home, or you can make it into a super-flavorful tuna salad.

Tim Hollingsworth prefers canned pumpkin

He may be a recipient of the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef award, but chef Tim Hollingsworth thinks it's fine to use at least one canned ingredient, and it's one that should help a lot of people out near holiday cooking time. The owner of Otium restaurant told Insider that canned pumpkin is the ingredient of choice when it comes to making a pumpkin pie. Anyone who has baked a pumpkin to make their own puree knows how time-consuming it can be, but that's not the only reason he prefers canned.

Chef Hollingsworth says that it can be challenging to get good puree from fresh pumpkins. With canned pumpkin, you get the creamy consistency you need. Hollingsworth says that canned is particularly essential if you're making a pie. Many home cooks experience stress during the holidays, feeling as if they must make every item from scratch — but if a famous chef says canned is good enough for him, it should be good enough for you, too.

Rocco DiSpirito digs canned clams

Restaurateur Rocco DiSpirito, perhaps best known for appearing in the 2003 reality show "The Restaurant," is a big believer in canned seafood. The Italian-American chef explained the appeal of canned clams, especially when it's "tinned right next to the source." Canned seafood from European countries is of especially high quality, according to DiSpirito, yet it is relatively low in cost. Canned clams are a particular favorite of DiSpirito and he knows exactly how best to put them to use.

DiSpirito recommends using canned clams to make classic Italian linguine alla vongole (linguine with clams) with a lot less hassle. Linguine alla vongole is made with a buttery, garlicky white wine sauce, though the clams are meant to be the star. "Most people don't want to mess with clams when they make linguine vongole," says DiSpirito, but because canned clams are already seasoned with salt, they can simply be added at the end of the cooking process for a standout dish.

Theo Michaels enjoys canned fruit

Celebrity chef endorsements for canned goods tend to cluster around seafood, tomatoes, and other savory items. British chef and cookbook author Theo Michaels may be one of the few celebrated chefs to make a case for canned fruits. His 2021 cookbook "Canned" sings the praises of all kinds of canned goods in general, but the fruit dishes are among the recipe collection's most unique. Michaels likes to keep canned fruit of almost every kind on hand (except for mixed fruit salads, which he thinks are weird).

Michaels recommends stocking up on various kinds of canned fruit to make quick fruit crumbles for everyday dessert, but he also uses canned fruit to elevate more elegant dessert dishes, like a cherry and balsamic tarte tatin. He also uses canned cherries to make a version of the classic British dessert known as Eton mess. The great thing about canned cherries, according to Michaels, is that you can make cherry desserts even during times when the fruit is not in season. Be wary, though, of fruit packed in syrup. The chef recommends only those in their own juice.

Bobby Flay swears by chipotles in adobo

You'd be hard-pressed to find a current American TV chef that's better liked than multi-time "Iron Chef" winner Bobby Flay. Flay is known for his grilling skill and his use of bold Southwestern flavors. One of his trusty tricks for achieving heat and depth of flavor in a dish is with canned chipotle peppers in adobo, particularly the ones made by San Marcos. Flay has praised their taste as well as the smoky flavor they impart to things like collard greens without needing to add pork.

Flay purees the contents of the can in their entirety, using the whole peppers and every bit of the smoky sauce, to make his red chile sauce (one of the two essential sauces he always keeps on hand). He also purees chipotles in adobo to add to mayonnaise for a spicy version of aioli that makes the perfect topping for sliders and burgers. There's no limit to how they can be used, and leave it to Flay to also add pureed chipotles to his potato salad.