How Much Anchovy Paste Should You Really Be Using?

Sometimes, the art of cooking involves creative substitutions. If your recipe calls for minced anchovies, anchovy paste works in a pinch, but you may need to adapt the amount of paste unless you love that pungent fishy flavor.

Anchovy paste can be a worthy substitute depending on the recipe. One anchovy filet is equivalent to a half teaspoon of anchovy paste. The paste can be a good substitute for dishes where a little anchovy adds a savory element, but not where the anchovy is the main attraction. For example, substituting paste may work well in a stew but not as well in a caesar salad where the anchovy is front and center.

Anchovy paste is made from pureed, cured anchovy fish. Often additional ingredients like olives, olive oil, and salt are added to the paste resulting in a flavor that is more concentrated and saltier than anchovy filets. When using it as a substitute for anchovies, you may need to experiment with quantities since some people find the paste tastes more "fishy" and salty. So a like-for-like substitution may not work for all dishes if the strong fishy taste overwhelms the dish. In that case, you can try mixing anchovy paste with other ingredients with similar qualities.

Other alternatives when anchovy paste won't work

When looking for an anchovy substitute, it may help to consider what it adds to the dish. Often a little anchovy and anchovy paste are used to add a touch of umami and salt. Several other ingredients can accomplish something similar. For example, America's Test Kitchen recommends making a miso and nori paste as a vegan-friendly alternative to anchovy paste.

The New York Times suggests another vegetarian substitution that you may already have on hand. Chopped olives or capers are a non-fishy-tasting substitute. This brings us back to the anchovy paste. If you want to use a like-for-like substitution with a little less fishiness, you could try a blend of capers or olives along with less anchovy paste. If your recipe calls for two minced anchovy filets, the teaspoon of substitute could contain a half teaspoon of anchovy paste with the other half being chopped olives or capers. In addition, other anchovy substitutes include fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce. At the end of the day, how much anchovy paste you use while substituting anchovies depends on your flavor preferences and the role it plays in the dish.