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What To Do With Tinned Fish

White background with various tin fish packages lined up

Tinned fish: It’s not a trend—it’s a lifestyle.

Welcome to Tinned Fish 101

Opening your pantry doors to reveal stacks and stacks of brightly-boxed tinned fish may be the foodie flex move of the moment, but in Spain, tinned fish (or conservas, as they’re called across the pond) has been a snacking staple for ages. Forget about the blah, water-packed tuna of your childhood and imagine instead absolutely perfect fish, preserved at its freshest in olive oil and (often) a handful of complementary spices or herbs, ready to be the crowning glory of your next appetizer spread or photo-worthy lunch.

Various tin fish packages shown on a white surface.

The Best Canned Fish Brands and How To Find Them

It’s honestly hard to say what’s more fun—buying the box after box of gorgeously packaged tinned fish, or eating it. Well, OK, it’s slightly more fun to eat it, but shopping for tinned fish is at least 30% of the fun. You don’t really need to have particular brand loyalty here, but if you’re shopping online, here’s where we’d start:

  • Fishwife
    We have a big time crush on Fishwife. Why? Well, in their own words; “We currently work with small boat fisherfolk, sustainable aquaculture farms, and micro-canneries on the Pacific coast and in Idaho to bring the vibrance of conservas culture to the American table.”

  • Tin Can Fish
    We’re not telling you that you should sign up for a monthly subscription box, but actually yes—we are telling you to sign up for a monthly tinned fish subscription box. BEST MAIL DAY, EVER.

  • Minnow

Or, if you just can’t wait for an online order, go shop for some conservas in person! If you’re new to the game, you can ease your way in with a few cans—grab oil-packed salmon, maybe some fancy sardines, and a can of smoked trout. Or, you can go all-in! Canned mussels You can usually find the best canned fish at:

  • The fanciest gourmet market you know of. You’ll likely see a lot of Spanish brands, but tinned fish from Nordic countries is wonderful, too!

  • A market with good European imports, particularly from Spain and / or Portugal.

  • Good old Trader Joe’s. If you follow us on Instagram you probably know that Natalie is particularly crazy about their smoked trout. Buy it, stock up on it, love it forever.

Lastly, here's a non-comprehensive, ever-growing list of a few of our favorite tinned fish brands to watch for when you’re out shopping:
smoked trout on a piece of toast topped  and cottage cheese with fresh dill and cracked pepper

No-Cook Tinned Fish Recipes & Serving Ideas

You can literally open a can of tinned fish—open a can, any can!—and make it a meal by just adding some crackers. Tortilla chips + good oil-packed tuna and some cornichons? Yeah, that’s our kind of lunch. Got anchovies? Great! Pizza night just got way better. Truly, conservas are so, so, so versatile. The more you get into the habit of having them on-hand, the more you’ll have a knack for exactly how you personally love to use or enjoy them. There are whole books devoted to how to use tinned fish, and they’re probably not even exhaustive. Below are just a few of our favorite ways to snack on tinned fish, to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Smoked Trout on Toast
    Cottage cheese + smoked trout + fresh herbs if you’ve got ‘em!

  • Quickie Brunch on Toast (or Not)
    Pickled veg + soft boiled eggs + tinned fish of any kind.

  • The Ultimate Cocktail Snack
    Seedy crackers + softened, salted butter + anchovies or sardines or clams.

  • The Gabrielle Hamilton
    Oil-packed sardines + Triscuits + Dijon mustard + cornichons.

  • Snacky Spread on a Plate
    Hummus + shaved raw carrots + smoked trout, oil-packed tuna or oil-packed smoked salmon (like this one).

salmon nicoise on a large platter with eggs, green beans, tomatoes, olives and capers

How To Use Tinned Fish in Recipes

From mussels in escabeche to wild cockles preserved in salt brine to classic salt-packed anchovies, the category of “tinned fish” is so broad that we’re tempted to say that if you have a beloved recipe, there is surely a tinned fish that could be added to it.

  • Stovetop mac and cheese
    Take our ultra-easy 4-ingredient mac and cheese recipe, and beef it up with frozen peas & tinned tuna stirred in right before serving.

  • Cold noodle salad
    Swap out the pork for tinned salmon.

  • Salmon Niçoise salad
    Use super high quality oil-packed canned tuna, salmon, smoked trout or mackerel in place of the salmon.

  • Kale Caesar
    Skip the bacon and use a good tinned fish instead. Anchovies are a classic Caesar topper, but we love most any flakey tinned fish, like salmon, trout or tuna. Honestly, tinned fish is a beautiful addition to any salad! Add something flaky and meat-y and oil-packed to this simple green salad and call it dinner.

  • Shrimp melt
    Leave out the shrimp and instead try smoked mussels or clams and you’ve got yourself a gorgeous, out-of-the-box weeknight winner.

  • A scramble
    We aren’t bodybuilders, but extra protein is always welcome, right? So how about adding a little fish to your eggs? For this, we love using sardines, smoked trout or salmon. If you’re feeling adventurous, try topping the finished scramble with Calabrian chilies.

Bowl filled with udon noodles topped with green onions, smoked salmon and chili crisp
Plate of white beans topped with fresh dill and smoked trout

Three 5-Ingredient Recipes That Make Tinned Fish the Star

You’re still hungry for more tinned fish goodness, aren’t you? Welcome to the club, friend. Never enough! Never, ever, ever enough.

  1. Garlicky Beans with Lemon, Dill and Trout
    The name says it all. Our beloved Trader Joe’s smoked trout (no, seriously, it’s so good) makes white beans into the easiest dinner ever.

  2. Creamy Feta with Tinned Fish
    This is basically a really beautiful way to showcase your latest tinned seafood obsession, whatever it may be. Honestly we have never met a tinned fish that didn’t work with this simple preparation.

  3. Spicy Noodles with Salmon
    Jarred chili crisp (speaking of food trends, that’s another killer one!) plus udon and good, oil-packed smoked salmon make an absolutely addictive noodle dish that comes together in under five minutes. UNDER FIVE MINUTES, folks.

What To Do With Tinned Fish

Questions & Reviews

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  • Leigh

    Wondering what your favorite brands of non-smoked fish-sardines and salmon or tuna? No longer have a taste for smoked but you’ve inspired me (I’m a huge oil packed tuna fan but want to broaden my tastes). Thanks!

    Fishwife, Matiz and Minnow are all great sardines! Ortiz tuna, minnow salmon. If you look at the photos it has all of the brands we love. Hope you find something you enjoy, Leigh!

  • Jenn

    So many amazing ideas, thank you!

    Thanks Jenn, glad you loved it!