Tinned Fish Tips You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

It may have started during the pandemic when stay-at-home cooking saw everyone turn to resourceful recipes. But make no mistake, tinned fish has become a huge culinary trend that continues to generate new ideas, creating fintastic dishes along the way. Adding to this hype is the growing interest in sustainability, nutrition, and fish-focused diets — not to mention the endless supply of inspiration on social media that is constantly baiting new interest among followers (pun intended). Bottom line — canned fish is cool.

Caroline Goldfarb, founder of the stunningly designed, upmarket tinned fish brand, Fishwife, called these fishy tins "hot girl food" because of their protein-packed nutritional values (via Nylon). And not only are there are so many canned fish options to choose from, each with their own distinct flavors, but the ways you can use this powerhouse ingredient to elevate your meals is virtually endless. So if you've had a tin of mackerel fillets languishing at the back of your cupboard for a while, or never quite know what to do with tinned sardines, then it's time to get creative and try something different. From cooking a fishy crumble in a can to making the ultimate edible campfire, here's some tinned fish tips you'll wish you'd known sooner. 

Make a sardine crumble in the can

To really make the most of the tinned fish trend, you can add some French culinary-inspired flavors with a quick and easy recipe from TV host and food columnist Laurent Mariotte. Get ready to make sardine crumble in a can. On top of being simple and straightforward, what makes this terrific tip even more fun and interesting is that it takes a classic dessert concept and gives it a fishy, savory taste. Not only do you use tinned sardines for this recipe, but you actually cook them in the can, too. 

Use a can of sardines per person, so you can bake and serve individual portions. Take the sardines out of the can and drain them, but make sure to catch all the oil and liquid in the can to use for later. Mash the sardines up into small pieces and put the fish back in the tin. Mix together cubes of butter, flour, and almond powder with fresh thyme, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt to create your topping. When you get a crumble consistency, sprinkle the batter over the top of the fish in the can. Pop this in the oven at 170 C (or about 340 F) for 15 minutes. Complete the meal by tossing together a salad with tomatoes, red onion, and torn fresh basil along with salt, pepper, vinegar and the oil from the sardines. 

Build a tinned fish grazing board

You've heard of a charcuterie board, of course. Chances are you've even enjoyed one a time or two. In your mind, you're might be imagining high-end cold cuts, olives, and fancy cheeses. What you're probably not thinking of is tinned fish. But believe it or not, tinned fish is making its way onto grazing boards. 

Move over charcuterie, and make way for a tinned fish board. The Briny Babe, sourcing products from Island Creek Oysters, suggests pairing the salty flavor of tinned fish with tangy bites such as cornichons, pickled onions, pickled artichokes, and capers. Olives also make a great accompaniment to any board, while a few freshly shucked oysters can enhance your efforts as well. Crunchy crostini is the perfect vessel for it all, so you can mix and match ingredients such as smoked mussels, avocado, and cilantro in one glorious bite. Food writer Yasmin Fahr, author of "Boards & Spreads," also suggests going beyond tradition, pairing tinned fish with pickled shallots and crackers. Outside of the ingredients, Fahr also encourages culinary artists to think about the architectural design of their presentation too, with stacked produce and a variety of layers, shapes, and dimensions used to build a beautiful sharing board (via Yahoo!). 

Make sustainable tinned tuna pasta

Not only can you make some delicious recipes using tinned fish, but you can also do your part to be more sustainable in the kitchen. When you're buying tuna, or any other fish in a can, make sure that it comes from a sustainable fishery. One label to look out for is from the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), a nonprofit that recognizes and certifies fisheries that use humane practices and help contribute to the health of the ocean. Eating responsibly can make you feel good, and it can also taste delicious. 

Once you've got your can of tuna, try this simple yet nutritious pasta recipe from TikTok, perfect for any night of the week. Start by making an olive pesto by blending pitted olives from a can or jar, sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil. Fry some additional garlic in a pan and then add the olive pesto along with a can of drained and mashed tuna. Add halved cherry tomatoes and some cooked fusilli pasta. Saute until the tomatoes start to burst open. If your pasta is looking a little dry, you can add some of the juice from the tinned tuna

Cut down the saltiness of canned anchovies

If you love anchovies, it's probably because you adore the saltiness of these little fish. They pair amazingly well with lamb, make for a perfect pizza topping, while they can also give pasta dishes an extra flavor boost, too (via Love Food). They're also responsible for the signature umami flavor of Caesar salad dressing. However, you might find tinned anchovies to be a little too salty for your taste, either on their own or when added to a recipe. They're saltier than fresh anchovies which are often pickled or marinated. Therefore, it's useful to know that you can take some of the salt out of tinned anchovies, so you can use them in many different ways (via LEAFtv).

The salty taste of tinned anchovies comes from the brine that they're preserved in. To take the saltiness down a notch or two, all you need to do is soak the anchovies. Remove the fish from the tin full of liquid, lay out on a dish and press on them a little to flatten. Pour milk or water over the fish and leave for 10 minutes. Drain the anchovies and gently pat dry, and then repeat the process, leaving them for 20 minutes this time. Rinse the fish under your tap and once again pat dry, and then your fillets should be recipe to use or enjoy. 

Turn tinned fish into a gift

When you're thinking of Christmas gifts or birthday presents, tinned fish might not be the first idea that comes to mind. However, tinned fish is not only a very trendy snack right now, but the tins have become fashionable, too. Once seen as a cheap product, and perhaps more the type of food that people who are a bit older might have in their cupboards, tinned fish has gone upmarket and gourmet today. It's no longer out of place in a luxury basket or just as a quirky gift for a gourmet food appreciator. Plus, the vintage designs that are displayed on some tinned fish products are cool and artistic (via The Guardian). 

If you're looking for some tinned gift inspiration then you may want to start with the beautifully designed Instagram account of The Tinned Fish Gazette, which displays a colorful assortment of modern and retro tinned artwork. Even Martha Stewart is calling it the "golden age for canned fish," with a suggestion to try adding a splash of white wine to a tin of canned shellfish before heating. Of course, the contents count too, and many of these trendy tins contain luxurious fishy delights. Some brands that stand out include Jose Gourmet and Fishwife.

Make cheesy pilchard pancakes

There's something remarkably old-fashioned about a tin of pilchards. If you have one lurking in the back of your cupboard, chances are it may have been there for a while. After all, for the modern cook there aren't too many recipes that you come across that list tinned pilchards as an ingredient. But before you ignore the can for another year or resign yourself to serving it as it is out of the tin, you might want to fish the depths of Pinterest for a an idea, such as this recipe for a cheesy pilchard pancake bake. 

Make a batter by mixing flour, milk, and eggs. Fry in batches to make a stack of pancakes. Next, open a can of pilchards in tomato sauce, take out the fish and remove the bones if you want. In a pan, saute a chopped onion, crushed garlic, and diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the tomato sauce from the can of pilchards along with some fresh basil. Finish by adding the fish to the pan. Scoop the filling into the pancakes and roll them up, putting them in an ovenproof dish over a layer of tomato paste. Top with homemade cheese sauce (butter, flour, milk, and shredded cheddar) plus more shredded cheese and bake until golden and bubbling on top. Serve with fresh basil leaves on top and a side salad. 

Or bake a tinned pilchard pie

Even those who swear off seafood most of the time often can't resist a fish pie. Sometimes it's made with chunks of salmon and haddock, or perhaps with some prawns and other marine delights in a rich and creamy white sauce. Depending on the recipe, it's usually served with a mashed potato top or a pastry crust. A fish pie can be an expensive, gourmet treat, served as a restaurant-level dinner party dish. But the great news is that it can also be a budget-friendly weekday winner, especially if you make it using a tin of pilchards as suggested on a forum on Money Saving Expert.

This four-ingredient dish shows just what you can do with kitchen staples and a simple recipe. Whether you buy ready-made pastry or make your own, roll it out and line a pie dish. Drain, debone, and halve a large can of pilchards and add these on top of the pastry. Slice four hard boiled eggs and add these on top of the fish. Cut four tomatoes into slices and add these next. Top with another sheet of pastry, creating a slit in the top so the steam can escape, and seal the pie crust by pinching together at the seams. Bake until the pastry is cooked through, and serve the pie either hot or cold. 

Try out Jamaican specialty solomon-a-gundy

If you're not sure what solomon-a-gundy is, it's a spicy, pickled fish spread made from smoked red herring, with a Jamaican culinary heritage (via Jamaicans.com). It's generally served as an appetizer and best enjoyed with some crackers. It's not completely clear where the name came from, but it's thought that it is derived from the British word salmagundi, which refers to a mixed salad. Great to serve at a party or on a buffet table, solomon-a-gundy is pretty simple to make, as demonstrated on TikTok. You can use tinned salmon or sardines for this recipe, or if you follow a plant-based diet you can also use vegan tuna.

What's blissful about this recipe is that it packs a punch, yet there's no cooking needed at all. Add your fish to a bowl and mix in chopped bell pepper with green and red onion, garlic, and salt. Spice it up with Jamaican allspice and pimento, customizing this fishy paste to make it as hot or mild as you like. Balance the acidity and consistency with a splash of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. You can make this flavorful dish spicier by serving with a drizzle of Scotch bonnet hot sauce on top after spreading on crackers. Throw a few chopped green onions on top too, and dig in. 

Bake a canned clam dip

A more classic tinned fish recipe to try is baked clam dip. It's a wonderful way to celebrate canned clams and create a deliciously creamy, fabulously fishy dish with a Parmesan top. And our recipe is too good not to share. What's so impressive is that you don't need any fancy ingredients to make a dish that tastes luxurious and velvety. Mix a couple of 6.5-ounce cans of clams with 8 ounces of softened and mashed cream cheese and half a cup of sour cream. Add a teaspoon of hot sauce, a quarter cup of grated sweet onion, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Season with sea salt and pepper, and use some of the clam juice from the can to thin out the dip as needed. Add the mixture to a baking dish, top with grated Parmesan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. The hot, cheesy dip is wonderful served with crusty bread. 

You can also try a less creamy version with this baked clam dip recipe from TikTok. Melt a stick of butter in a pan, add a teaspoon of garlic powder and dried oregano, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, and add two cans of clams (chopped), along with their juice. Toss in a cup of breadcrumbs, mix it all together, and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with paprika and Parmesan before baking until golden brown. 

Make easy fishcakes with tinned mackerel

Fishcakes are sublimely home-style comfort food. They're also delicious, light, and good for you, especially if you pair them with a crisp salad. They can range from frozen budget varieties bought in bulk, to carefully crafted upmarket fish cakes served at posh restaurants. You can also make your own soft on the inside, crisp on the outside fishcakes. And according to one easy recipe shared on TikTok, all you need is some tinned mackerel and a selection of Indian-inspired ingredients to create some serious flavor.

Start by mixing a tin of mackerel fillets with some mashed potato. Add a teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, chili flakes, and coriander. You can also add a hefty teaspoon of lime pickle as well. Once your mash is a lovely yellow color and everything is combined, simply shape the mix into balls, flatten into patties, and fry, flipping to cook both sides. If your mash is a little soft, then add a beaten egg and a little flour to make consistency of the fishcakes a little firmer. Once the fish cakes are cooked through, crisped up, and brown on the outside, serve with a salad and some type of creamy dip that complements the spiciness of the dish.

Top your tinned sardines to load up on flavor

You're going to love the creative, interesting, and tasty process of baking sardines in the tin with a variety of different toppings. There's really no rules when it comes to using your imagination to create your own version, but if you're looking for some inspiration then you may want to try some tried and tested flavor combinations courtesy of Umami Inspiration. Who would have thought you could transform tinned fish into so many exciting dishes in a matter of minutes. Get yourself some tins of sardines, open them up, and open up your mind to the possibilities of tinned fish.

Try one yourself. Add a teaspoon of marmalade as well as some soy sauce to your fish tin. Next, add a tablespoon of Sriracha, some chopped green onions, and a couple teaspoons of slivered almonds. Place under your broiler for a few minutes and then dig in. You can make another tin with shallots, capers, ham, and mayonnaise. Or maybe try mushrooms and kale with garlic and chili, plus a splash of Teriyaki sauce. A fourth option looks pretty with shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and basil leaves You can also get creative your own tinned sardine surprise. 

Make southern tinned oyster Thanksgiving dressing

A classic twist on a Thanksgiving dressing recipe, originating from the South, involves using oysters for a fun flavor spin. With so much to do over the holidays, using tinned oysters certainly makes the holiday feast easier to cook, saving you the energy of shucking fresh oysters, or the cash for buying them fresh. 

Southern Living suggests making a flavorful dressing using chopped smoked oysters from the can along with a mix of sourdough bread and cornbread, plus bold and spicy andouille sausage and Creole seasoning. Fry the sausage, mix everything together along with some chicken stock and eggs. Bake for 45 minutes, and the result should be a texture that's crunchy on top  and soft in the middle. 

There are plenty of oyster stuffing recipes to explore as this is one of those holiday sides that's part of tradition, with family recipes no doubt passed down over the years. Oyster dressing has been around for hundreds of years, and it seems that it may have come about because of the abundance of oysters on the New England coast. 

Torch your tinned tuna over a campfire

This has to be one of the best tinned fish tricks as well as coolest camping hack ever. Did you know that you can turn tinned tuna into a torch? And yes, you can eat the fish afterward, too! It's such a canny way to use tins and tinned fish when you're roughing it in the great outdoors. Next time you're enjoying a night under the stars, try this Bushcraft Baking tip and enjoy a night light followed by a tinned fish snack in the open air.  

You need a can of tuna that's packed in oil, not water. Finely chop some red bell pepper and onion, using a clean can as a chopping board if you like. Add to a bag with some seasoning to mix it up. Add the tuna and the oil to the bag, keeping the lid attached to the can, and mix until everything is combined. Put the fish mix back into the can by cutting off a corner of the bag and press down with the back of a spoon so it's level. Press a few sheets of toilet paper that've been folded up down into the can. Turn over and press down again so it soaks up the oil. Light the paper and let it burn. Remove the singed paper once it's finished burning and enjoy the warm tuna straight from the can or spread on crackers.