9 Canned Fish Options You Should Add To Your Grocery List

Canned fish has been overlooked as a pantry staple for far too long. Aside from ubiquitous tuna, canned fish seems to be widely looked down upon by foodies and gourmets everywhere. This has got to stop. 

When prepared with quality ingredients and stored properly, tinned fish can be a delicious ingredient and meal unto itself. Just ask acclaimed chef José Andrés, who sells a whole line of canned fish through his New York City shop and food hall, Mercado Little Spain. You can even find entire cookbooks dedicated to making gourmet-level dishes with tinned fish, from shiitake mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat to quinoa tabbouleh with sardines. 

Home cooks will discover a wide variety of uses for tinned fish. The convenience and affordability of this preserved seafood makes it a handy ingredient to have for whipping up a quick appetizer or for adding protein to an otherwise lackluster weeknight salad, sandwich, or pasta dish. Canned tuna, for instance, can be effortlessly mixed with mayonnaise and celery for a classic tuna salad, while canned salmon can effortlessly elevate a simple pasta dish into an elevated meal. Additionally, canned fish can be incorporated into more elaborate recipes — like fish cakes or casseroles — without having to shell out for expensive fresh fish. But these are just the obvious choices. We have a whole list of canned fish you should be keeping in your pantry for your next culinary experiment. 


Canned anchovies are a veritable culinary panacea. You can put them into practically any savory dish, either as the star of the show or as a way to add saltiness and flavor in a surreptitious way. There are recipes that call for anchovies where the fish can barely even be detected in the final results. Puttanesca sauce, for instance, calls for sautéed anchovies, which promptly disintegrate during the heating process so they can flavor the sauce more evenly. And then there's pan con tomate, a delicious Spanish staple with anchovies laid whole on top of bread with tomatoes.

Whatever your preference, you should always have canned anchovies on your grocery list. Because anchovies come from salty ocean or sea waters, and are then preserved in salt to boot, they can give any dish a boost of saltiness and umami, all in one go. So whether you want to switch out the meaty pancetta or guanciale for an easy weeknight carbonara with canned anchovies, or you just wish to give your everyday tomato sauce some extra pizzazz, anchovies will come in handy. 


We all know how convenient canned tuna can be in the kitchen. Any home chef who is not vegetarian or vegan has probably purchased a can or two over the course of their lifetime. Which is also why tuna can sometimes feel old or unexciting. That's when we should consider canned mackerel. This tinned fish isn't as prevalent as tuna, but its flavor is just as versatile, and it can be the perfect stand-in for tuna whenever you're in the mood for something new. 

You can easily take any recipe that calls for canned tuna and switch in some canned mackerel without ruining your dish. In fact, you might even make it better: mackerel is slightly fattier than tuna, and fat usually imparts more depth of flavor.

Try using tinned mackerel as a substitute in a spruced up tuna salad recipe, or for a more elevated Niçoise salad. In either case, some flaky tinned mackerel will go nicely with the rest of the ingredients in those recipes. Or you can try different varieties of canned mackerel — which is often preserved with tomato sauce or lemon — and play around with them in recipes for pasta, fish cakes, or even nachos.


We hardly need to tell you about the existence of canned tuna. Unless you've been living under a rock, it's pretty hard to miss those grocery aisles lined with tuna in all varieties, flavors, and brands. There is albacore and yellowfin; it's packed in olive oil, spring water, or brine. But what does it all mean? 

It means that not all canned tuna is created equal, and if you want to get away from the flavorless, boring tuna chunks of your youth, consider branching out and trying the good stuff. For instance, if you're looking for more depth of flavor, you'll want to choose tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil rather than water, as the oil flavorfully seals nutrients within the fish. 

You can also shake things up by trying one of the many ways to transform canned tuna into gourmet meals. For instance, you can mix it with eggs, anchovies, and lemon to whip up a gourmet sauce to spoon over a fine cut of veal. Or you could combine it with some hot sauce and scallions and stuff it into an onigiri. The key to keeping tuna interesting is to change up how you use it. 


If you don't know how to cook with canned trout, don't worry — because you won't need to do any cooking at all, if you don't want to. In fact, trout is an ideal and underrated canned fish for your charcuterie board, especially if you choose a variety that has been smoked or packed in extra virgin olive oil. Other flavorings might include aromatic herbs or tomato sauce, and all options are worth a try, especially if you go for a good-quality brand.

With these ingredient additions, canned trout is so flavorful — with a subtly sweet taste and flaky texture — that you won't need to do much to it. This is also a great introduction to trout if you worry about fish bones. Fresh trout will have plenty of those to grapple with, but in the canned version those are removed, so you won't have to worry about deboning anything.


People don't seem to use herring enough in their cooking. It seems that tuna, salmon, and even trout abound on restaurant menus and in recipes for home chefs, but there are a lot more fish in the sea than those big three, and it would be a shame to go through life having tried only a very small percentage of what's available. Herring, for one, is available and delicious — it's easy to find, especially in canned form, and it can provide a nutritious and flavorful addition to any fish-based recipe.

Canned smoked herring fish tacos don't have to try very hard to prove our point. Aside from the convenience of using a canned fish that doesn't require any preparation or cooking, the smokiness of the herring provides an added layer of flavor to the fresh lime and spicy salsa that are already characteristic of this dish. But if you don't like smoked foods, don't worry, because you can also find pickled herring, a fish dish beloved by Swedish chefs.


With its coral-pink color and unique, buttery flavor, salmon is one of the most popular fish varieties out there. It could contend for the title of chicken of the sea ... or river. 

Even so, when we think of stocking up on canned fish, the first thought that comes to mind is still typically tuna. Yet you should always have canned salmon in your pantry to provide a versatile option. It can be used in many of the same ways as canned tuna, and it's often more affordable than fresh or frozen salmon. Plus, with the long shelf life conferred to it by the preservation process, canned salmon can sit in your pantry for months, waiting for the perfect opportunity to grace a hastily arranged but flavorful weeknight dinner.

Examples include a pan-fried salmon croquettes recipe that relies heavily on other pantry ingredients like garlic powder and panko, providing an excellent appetizer to whip up out of the blue. Or you can try making salmon salad rolls with a base of canned salmon, skipping the lengthy process of cooking fresh fish and waiting for it to chill. 


Canned sardines are so popular that many people hardly know what to do with the fresh variety. There's nothing wrong with purchasing and preparing fresh sardines, but canned sardines are packed with all of the same flavor and nutrients, while boasting the convenience of having a ready-to-eat protein with a long shelf life on hand at all times. However, if you're just going to pull the sardines out with a toothpick and put them on crackers, you'll be missing out on so much that tinned sardines can offer.

With a few simple ingredient additions, there are numerous ways to elevate canned sardines. For instance, you could take the easy route — almost as easy as simply topping crackers — and place some sardine filets on top of your avocado toast, creating a whole new dish. If that misses the mark, you can always go with a surefire way to spruce up ingredients, which is to fry them. You can then add fried sardines to tacos for an extra crunch, or eat them on their own with a tasty dip.


Cod may be fairly easy to purchase fresh, but that doesn't mean you have to pass up the canned version, which can come in handy as a pantry item for one of those busy nights when you don't feel like going to the store. In particular, you might want to look for codfish in olive oil and garlic, which gives this otherwise extremely mild fish a nice flavor boost.

Once you've got that, you can do any number of things with it. You could use it as a stuffing for tomatoes or peppers, or toss it in a salad — or create any dish you might make with tuna. Or you could make a creamy pasta sauce with butter, heavy cream, vegetable broth, grated Parmesan, parsley, lemon juice, and seasoning. Add some extra garlic to really bring out the flavor and pair it with a long pasta, such as linguine. 


If you've decided to add more fish to your diet as a substitute for red meat, after a while it might get tiring to constantly be dealing with the same old tuna or salmon. The best way to adopt this new lifestyle would be to branch out and try as many different types of fish as possible. Alas, not all fish can be found in canned form, at least not easily. Halibut, for one, might be easier to get fresh, but if you do want to give the canned version a try — for convenience or for the sake of always having it available in your pantry — know that it is possible to purchase canned halibut.

Not only that, but canned halibut comes pre-cooked, so if you don't know what to do with a fresh halibut, either because it's a new fish for you or you're not much of a home chef, go for the canned fish and use it in sandwiches, salads, and even pasta dishes. 

For instance, a delicious canned halibut salad can be made by combining the fish with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, olive oil, and lemon juice. This bright and easy salad is packed with fishy flavor without a tuna in sight.