canned fish

Make eating fish easy!

I am the first one to raise my hand for a tuna melt, but canned fish in the U.S. is often considered not quite junk food, but definitely déclassé. Chefs have known for a while some very high quality  seafood comes in cans.  In addition, delicious canned fish is a wonderful pantry staple for when you have an unexpected meal sprung on you. Italy and Spain have products that go way beyond StarKist tuna, and small U.S. producers are importing fish from those regions as well.  If you can get your hands on the wild caught, artisanal ‘preserved’ (canned) fish products those countries are producing and exporting, definitely give them a try.  Think of the omega-3 fatty acids you’ll be adding to your diet! One note – seafood packed in water might sound healthier than seafood packed in oil, but oil preserves the fish much better. Avoid seafood packed in water.

If you know what and where to buy artisanal canned fish products you will find fully cooked, shelf stable, small servings of delectable taste treats – often in convenient single servings.  You will also wow any guests you choose to share them with.

From Spain come tiny cockles, squid, razor clams, octopus, mussels, and highly sought-after percebes (aka barnacles). They are canned in small batches and remain briny and delicate.  They can be served right from the can as hors d’oeuvres or tossed with pasta. Because these are rare and unusual, they are expensive.  Four ounces of octopus are $12.95 and four ounces of cockles are $33.00.


Spanish sardines, wild, fat and caught off the coast of Galicia are packed in olive oil.  They can be mashed, with a little lemon juice or mayonnaise added and put atop a cracker for a wonderful snack.  4.2 oz. for $4.95.


This is not your Bumble Bee tuna fish.  From Sicily comes ventresca (also known as toto – Bluefin tuna belly). It has been canned by hand, never frozen, in small batches. This has a deliciously rich, creamy, buttery texture that can be eaten as is or tossed with parsley and white beans.  $68.00 for 11.6 oz.


From the U.S. comes Chicken of the Sea pouches of Wild-Caught Pacific Smoked Salmon.  It is delicious in a pasta salad or made into salmon burger patties. It is also delicious mixed with cream cheese and spread on a toasted bagel.  It should be a pantry staple. $38.41 for  12 pouches.


Cole’s supports sustainable fishing practices and produces excellent canned smoked wild mackerel, Portuguese sardines and apple-smoked rainbow trout.  The tins of each are $3.75 – $6.50 each.


Trader Joe’s has a great selection of unusual canned fish.  The Smoked Trout gets rave reviews.  It comes in 4 oz. tins packed in oil.  Put a piece on a cracker with some dill on top for a delicious hors d’oeuvre or mix it with mayonnaise for many uses.  A pack of three is $19.25.


Trader Joe’s also has wild caught sardines in Harissa (see our article about harissa).  They are harvested in the Mediterranean and packed in soy oil and harissa.  Sardines are not only sustainable; they are really good for you!  They are extremely low in mercury and very high in calcium and Omega 3s.   A 4-pack is $18.90.


Trader Joe’s has Wild Caught Boneless Mackeral.  Mackeral is a mild tasting, firm fish and a great source of Omega 3. This mackerel is packed in sunflower oil.   Each tin is 6.25 oz.  A pack of three is $22.50.


Ginny comes from the Pacific Northwest and Barlean’s, a family company in Bellingham, Washington, takes prides in the freshness of its fish and the sustainablity of it fishing practices (based on small batch native American reef netting practices). Here is their description of their canned salmon,

“Our canned wild pink salmon was harvested using our own Reef Net boat! Thanks to the ability to selectively harvest the best fish, we have the tastiest wild pink salmon you can find! Hand filleted, sliced and packed into a 5.5oz can, our wild pink salmon is all natural with no dyes or chemicals added.”

$4.50 for 5.5 ounces of Wild Pink Salmon.  $4.99 for 5.5 ounces of Wild Coho Salmon.

Note: Ginny also orders frozen salmon from Barlean’s.


Still thinking about tuna melts?  Try this all natural smoked Albacore Tuna from the Pacific Northwest.  $5 for 7.5 ounces.




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