5 Tinned Fish Options for Easy, Everyday Meals with a Touch of Luxury

published Aug 12, 2022
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Credit: Lauren Volo

When Erin Keene opened Second Bottle in Richmond, Virginia, in 2021, the former private event manager at Le Bernardin knew she wanted to highlight not just exciting and mostly natural wines, but also the snacks that go best with them — particularly tinned fish. “I’ve always been attracted to conservas culture in general, that [Spanish and Portuguese] style of snacking and drinking and visiting over the course of many hours,” Keene explains.

She swears by conservas-style tinned fish for quick, filling, affordable meals that still feel luxurious. A conservas purist at heart, Keene could be satisfied eating fish straight from the tin, but here she shares some ideas for taking those tins to the next level — pastas, toasts, and salads that capture the essence of freshly caught seafood at a fraction of the price.

A simple formula for taking your tins from the pantry to the dinner table is this: one tin, one carb-y vessel, a bit of sauce, and fresh herbs. Whether your carb of choice is pasta, focaccia, or a sleeve of Saltines, it should provide the perfect blank canvas for enjoying your tinned catch of the day.

Credit: Amazon

1. Jose Gourmet Sardines in Lemon and Olive Oil 

“As the name suggests, these are some of the most gourmet conservas on the market,” explains Keene. “Based in Portugal, Jose Gourmet offers a wide variety of sardines, all of which are worth trying, but I find myself reaching for the ones with lemon and olive oil most. They are my favorite base for sandwiches. “

“One tin makes two sandwiches on fresh focaccia with aioli and all the fixings: pickled red onion, capers, celery leaves, parsley, and hard-boiled egg,” Keene continues. “To the park!” Sardines are also magical in a zero-plan pasta, luring in this seafood salad, and a fun addition to any plain pizza.

Buy: Jose Gourmet Sardines in Lemon and Olive Oil, $9.99 for 125 grams at Amazon

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

2. Fishwife Smoked Salmon

“This may have quickly become my favorite tin of all time,” Keene muses. “I’m not sure if it’s the brine or the packaging or just how adaptable the final product is, but a tin of salmon mixed into rice or quinoa with some herbs is something I eat weekly.”

Keene and I bonded in a big way over our mutual love of Fishwife’s fair-trade smoked salmon, with its kiss of sweetness from brown sugar and maplewood smoke. It’s perfect with a squeeze of lemon on a Wasa Light Rye Crispbread or matzo with a little cream cheese, and would be delicious in salmon cake form.

Buy: Fishwife Smoked Salmon, $32.99 for 3 (3.5-ounce) tins at Fish Wife

Credit: Hive Brands

3. Scout Ontario Trout with Dill

I was going to add dill to my tinned trout anyway, but Scout went ahead and saved me a step, and that’s just good ol’ efficiency. This trout, says Keene, “sits in a bed of dilly oil that requires nothing more than a hunk of fresh baguette.”

If you want to push things further, try this trout in a fritter, mixed with a little mayo and boiled Yukon gold potatoes for a quick potato salad, or in deviled eggs. Although two of these recipes are for smoked trout, this dilly trout will work just as well.

Buy: Scout Ontario Trout with Dill, $5.03 for 3.1 ounces at Hive Brands

Credit: Courtesy of Donostia Foods

4. Donostia Clams in Brine

Obviously, using a high-quality canned clam will send your linguini with clam sauce to a higher plane. But there are even more reasons to tuck a tin of these away in your pantry.

You can also call on them whenever a chowder hankering strikes. Donostia recommends mixing them with brunoise celery and red onion with a little garlic, parsley, and lemon juice, for a quick, zippy salad that you can serve over a bed of lettuce or scoop up with endive. And let’s not forget clam dip: Serve it as a fast appetizer for unexpected company or for an indulgent, fun dinner for one.

Buy: Donostia Clams in Brine $6.99 for 4 oz from Donostia Foods

Credit: Amazon

5. Olasagasti Anchoas a la Donostiarra

Basque-based company Olasagasti prefers to put the anchovies in a larger tin to let them breathe and really soak in all the marinade,” Keene explains. Fried and then preserved in olive oil, garlic, cayenne, wine vinegar, and salt, she likes to “fry them a second time to get them crispy or just put the tin directly on the grill and cook them right in their oil.”

One of my favorite ways to use anchovies is a recipe that Keene shared with me for anchovy breadcrumbs. Served over the pasta of your choice, they deliver crunch and umami in every bite. And while adding them to Caesar dressing is practically requisite, you’ll find they lend zip to almost any salad dressing you can imagine, like shallot vinaigrette and green goddess.

Buy: Olasagasti Anchoas a la Donostiarra, $11.99 for 190 grams at Amazon

What tinned seafood are you buying on repeat? Tell us in the comments.