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What to Do with Canned Fish

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Are you holding a can of fish you received as a gift and wondering what to do with canned fish?

Canned fish is popping up all over social media right now - it's having a moment! With newer US companies like Patagonia Provisions and Fishwife joining the ranks with the older European brands like Matiz and Ortiz, there have never been more or better options for delicious canned fish.

Canned fish has long been popular in Spain, where they are called Conservas (food preserved in cans). They are both a staple and a delicacy.

Tinned fish is a great pantry staple that can be used to elevate a dish, add a rich depth of flavor to a sauce, or be served front and center as part of a Tinned Fish Board (a charcuterie board that includes cans of delicious fish).

If you're looking for a quick and easy meal or want to know how to use that can of sardines you were gifted, I've got some great ideas for you!

Several types of canned fish on a marble background.

Types of Canned Fish + How to Use Them

Here are some of my favorite types of canned fish, including some traditional ones and some more exciting ones, and ways you can cook with them or serve them.

Tuna - Probably the most popular type of fish that we've all eaten in a sandwich, tuna is versatile and widely available. It's high in protein and has a mild flavor, making it a great option for people who like less-fishy fish.

  • Tuna Salad in Avocado - Mix a can of tuna with mayonnaise, diced celery, and spices and place it in a halved avocado. It's the perfect low carb and delicious lunch and one of our favorite tuna recipes!
  • Mediterranean Tuna Salad - A delicious way to add protein to a Greek salad for a healthy, easy, and delicious lunch. 
  • Tuna Pasta Salad - With the creaminess coming from Greek yogurt and tons of flavor from red onion, celery, and peas, this is sure to be one of your favorite pasta dishes. 
  • Tuna Patties - These tuna patties combine fresh herbs with lemon juice, lemon zest, and bread crumbs to make a delicious and easy go-to dinner. 

Salmon - Arguably the best canned fish, canned salmon is available at most grocery stores. There are many canned fish recipes for salmon, but here are some favorites you can make. 

  • Southwestern Salmon Nachos - Southwestern Salmon Nachos take traditional nachos to a new level, mixing salsa and salmon and topping that with black beans, corn, shredded cheese, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, green onion, jalapeños, red chiles, and a drizzle of sour cream. These nachos are a nice lunch for Father’s Day or football season.  
  • Pantry Sweet Potato Salmon Cakes - These super easy fish cakes use canned salmon and mashed sweet potato. They're an easy go-to recipe when the fridge is less than optimally stocked. 
  • Canned Salmon Salad, Ceviche Style - Craving a salad that's bursting with flavor? Look no further than our amazing canned salmon ceviche salad! Tangy lime juice and crisp cucumbers take it to the next level! 
  • Jerk Salmon Cakes with Coconut Rice - Jerk Salmon Cakes with Coconut Rice makes for the perfect satisfying meal if you’re looking to impress. Bright and bold Caribbean jerk flavors alongside light, creamy rice with a tropical twist, what more could you want? 

Sardines - Canned sardines get harped on a lot, but they're full of health benefits, like being high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and low in mercury (source). They're also budget-friendly and a great way to put together a healthy and delicious meal. The next time you're at the store, don't pass on those cans of sardines! Grab one or two and try one of these recipes. 

  • Sardine Pasta - This Sardine Pasta is a light and fresh, simple pasta dish that's perfect for summer. It's an easy way to include more fish in your diet. Ready in less than 15 minutes, with just a few ingredients, this is easy enough to put together on a busy weeknight but also impressive enough to serve guests.
  • Creamy Tuscan Pasta - This creamy Tuscan pasta comes together easily and is full of flavor that the whole family will love! The unsuspecting ingredient in this recipe is sardines. The amount that is present is not overwhelming and adds just enough of that umami flavor! The sour cream and tomatoes come together to make a delicious sauce that pairs perfectly with the sardines. 
  • Easy to Make Fried Sardines - These flavorful fried sardines are an easy recipe and make a delicious, protein-rich, and budget-friendly meal! Toss them on a salad or enjoy them with a side of veggies. 
  • Creamy Sardine Pâté with Smoked Salmon Tapas - This pate is an upscale recipe made with budget-friendly sardines. It's a great high-protein appetizer, snack, or simple lunch. It's a little bit salty, a little tangy, and full of flavor. 

Anchovies - Anchovies aren't just the thing you don't want on your pizza or the weird ingredient in Caesar salad dressing. The briny flavor of anchovies make a great flavor enhancer and makes some delicious recipes. Give one of these a try.

Mackerel - Mackerel is another mild-tasting fish. It's fattier and a bit creamier than tuna but can be used as a substitute for tuna or even chicken. Try it instead of tuna the next time you make a tuna melt, or try one of these wonderful recipes.   

  • Easy Pan Bagnat Sandwich - A gorgeous and sophisticated French sandwich made with rich and tasty olive oil-packed mackerel. It’s the sandwich you’ll crave all year round! 
  • Quick and Healthy Mackerel Pate - Made with just a few ingredients, you can whip up this tasty, healthy pate in just a few minutes. Makes a great appetizer or snack for game day! 
  • Sri Lankan Baked Fish Cutlets (Fish Croquettes) - These fish croquettes are baked instead of fried, making them a healthier option. With black pepper, a little salt, ginger and serrano peppers, the flavor is delicious! 

Herring- Canned herring is often referred to as kipper, which is smoked herring. Herring is high in protein, omega 3, vitamin B-12 and iron (source), making it a healthy option. 

  • Smoked Herring on Toast With Cream Cheese - cream cheese pairs perfectly with the smokiness of the canned herring. The fresh herbs, capers and sauerkraut add a delicious depth to this toast recipe. Making it a great breakfast or an appetizer. 
  • Smoked Fish Sliders - These smoked fish sliders are made with canned herring and a quick yogurt sauce made with plain yogurt and hot sauce. They're delicious and easy and would be great for a party or gathering. 
  • Kipper Salad Spread - This spread is prepared similarly to a tuna fish sandwich spread, but the smoked herring adds a unique depth of flavor. The spread can be made into a sandwich, spread on bagels or toast, or used as a dip. It's incredibly versatile. 

Trout - Most canned trout you'll find includes rainbow trout and is smoked, which gives it a mouthwatering flavor. Canned trout looks similar to canned salmon but has a slightly more mild taste. It's usually packed in oil and salt, which gives it its salty flavor. Here are some great ways to enjoy canned trout. 

  • Smoked Trout-Avocado Dip - Grab your crackers and use this recipe as a dip; add it to bread or toast, or eat it as is—the flavors of the avocado pair perfectly with the smoky trout. 
  • Smoked Trout Cakes - We can't leave out a yummy fish cake recipe, and these trout cakes will not disappoint. Made in less than 30 minutes and with sweet peppers and green onions, these are sure to be a favorite. 
  • Garlicky Beans with Lemon, Dill, and Trout - You have got to try this one! The beans and the smokiness from the trout come together with fresh dill and lemon zest to make a wonderful dish. It pairs well with a light salad. 

Mussels - Canned mussels are also often smoked. But they can also be packed with various spices, herbs, and even vinegar and peppers for flavor. They're then canned in oil and salt, which gives them a briny flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. We found three great recipes for you to try with your canned mussels.

  • Smoked Mussel Po' Boy - This sandwich is similar to an oyster po'boy but includes canned smoked mussels instead of oysters. It contains a delicious remoulade sauce that takes the sandwich to the next level.
  • Smoked Mussel Chowder - Perfect for a fall or winter day, this chowder is packed with comforting flavors. It's creamy and smoky and tastes delicious with a crusty baguette or roll.
  • Smoked Mussels Tapenade - How can you resist a dip packed with healthy ingredients? This simple tapenade includes capers, lemon juice, and Kalamata olives, along with smoked mussels for a delicious dip. It's perfect for the holidays and great with toast, crackers, or veggie slices.

Octopus - If you like octopus, you'll love the simplicity of canned octopus. You can avoid all the preparation of fresh or frozen octopus by using canned. Go straight to enjoying right out of the can or adding to recipes like these three to create a tasty meal.

  • Crispy Octopus and Potatoes - This simple recipe combines a few ingredients. The bulk of the time it takes is to boil the potatoes. The smoked paprika combines with lemon juice and parsley to make the perfect backdrop for the octopus.  
  • Octopus Salad - This fresh Mediterranean-style salad is flavorful and makes a great summer salad or an appetizer. 
  • Easy Octopus Pasta - This pasta dish is great for nights when you want seafood but also need a quick meal. The red chili flakes give it just the right amount of spiciness. And the white wine really elevates the flavor. 
A closeup shot of a tinned fish appetizer board.

Where to Buy Tinned Fish

You'll find cans of tuna and salmon in almost every grocery store, but where should you look for tastier and more unusual fish? Here are some of our favorites.

Fishwife - delicious fish in the cutest packaging you've ever seen! I love the classic smoky trio.

Patagonia Provisions - they sell anchovies, mackerel, and salmon, but the mussels are the must-buy product. The lemon and herb mussels are *chef's kiss*.

Minnow - they offer a fantastic sampler pack.

Matiz - they offer a fantastic variety of delicious fish, including mussels, octopus, cockles, etc. To buy these in the US, you'll need to find a gourmet grocery store or order them online.

Conservas Ortiz - they have some of the highest quality and best-tasting sardines and anchovies! Again, these are harder to get in the US, but you can get them at World Market or find them online.

Some grocery stores also carry great brands of canned fish - Whole Foods carries Patagonia Provisions, and Trader Joe's has their own selection of excellent options (including a delicious trout).

If you have access to a European market or a small, gourmet market you'll probably find several interesting types of fish from Spain and the Nordic countries.

Three kinds of tinned fish on a marble background.


Canned fish is delicious and more convenient than fresh fish. You can get high quality canned fish, with many nutritional benefits, at many markets. They're no longer the weird thing that comes in a gift basket, but a perfect addition to your pantry for those nights you need to get a healthy meal on the table fast.