Canned fish is making a comeback – and not just in your lunchbox as a tuna sandwich. This nutrient-dense and economical pantry staple is enjoying a new state of fandom, due to tightening food budgets as well as a viral Tiktok recipe trend (search for #tinnedfishdatenight and you’ll see what we mean).
In 2022, tinned fish sales climbed by 10% in the United States alone – and experts anticipate the global canned fish market will reach a staggering $50.4 billion by 2030.
If you’ve long been a tinned fish fan and are looking for novel ways to enjoy it, we have loads of ideas for you. Or, maybe you have some sour childhood memories of funky fish lunches and need us to convince you of more delicious ways to eat canned fish. Either way, we hope we can inspire you to grab a tin or two during your next shopping trip!
Culinary Nutrition Benefits of Canned Fish
Fish canning is a preservation method that’s been used since the 1800s to store and maintain the nutrients and flavour of seafood.
Fish are incredibly nutritious, and generally speaking, are rich in:
- Protein, a nutrient that is essential for healing and repair
- Vitamin D, required for bone health, hormones and immunity
- Vitamin B12, a helper for healthy red blood cells
- Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, as well as the specific fats EPA and DHA that support brain health and the nervous system
- Evidence indicates that fish consumption can benefit the cardiovascular system, our mood and the brain, postpartum health, hormone balance, and overall reduce our risk of many chronic diseases.
Aside from their nutrients, many varieties of canned fish are extremely budget-friendly and last for a while in your pantry – and that means less food (and money) will go to waste. Tinned fish is also portable, so you can take it with you to work, on a camping trip, or on your travels.
Downsides of Tinned Fish
There are a few warning signs to be mindful of with tinned fish, such as:
Bisphenol A (BPA). Frequently found in the linings of cans, plastics and other food products, this compound is linked to endocrine disruption, hormone-related cancers, and can impact the immune system and reproductive health.
Heavy Metal Exposure. Certain types of fish, particularly canned tuna, can have high levels of mercury in them. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can negatively affect the nervous system as well as important organs like the digestive tract and kidneys. (Learn more about the amounts of mercury in fish here.) Other heavy metals that could end up in seafood are arsenic, lead and cadmium.
Types of Canned Fish
Some of the most common, and readily available, types of canned fish include:
You can also find plenty of fancier items like lobster, caviar, oysters and mussels (as well as smoked versions).
How to Choose Tinned Fish
With their benefits and downsides, these are some of the primary qualities we look for when choosing fish:
- Wild Fish: When compared to farmed, wild fish has a better nutrient profile and is lower in contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins.
- BPA-Free: Look for BPA-free canned fish or options packaged in jars.
- Sustainability: We aim to purchase tinned fish that was caught sustainably to protect the health of the oceans, environment and marine life. Look at sustainable seafood certifications, or consult with Ocean Wise or Seafood Watch for more information on sustainable types of seafood.
- Cost: Find a canned fish that works with your budget.
- Skin and Bones: When available, tinned fish that includes the skin and bones is a great option for extra nutritious fats and calcium.
- Personal Preference: What canned fish do you truly love, and can fold into your routine in a delicious way? We adore using salmon and sardines in all kinds of ways and reserve tuna for a more occasional treat due to its mercury levels.
What To Do With Canned Fish: Ideas and Canned Fish Recipes
Canned and tinned fish is incredibly versatile in your everyday cooking. Try one of these healthy canned fish recipes and ideas for tasty, easeful meals.
Patties or Burgers
A few cans of fish, your favourite herbs and spices, a little almond flour and an egg (or egg replacer) to bring it all together and you have delicious salmon burgers ready. You can also make smaller fish cakes for a bite-sized appie or snack.
Smash on Gluten-Free Toast
Move over, avocado toast. Smash sardines with some olive oil, lemon, mint and parsley and spread onto your gluten-free toast. Or mash canned salmon with minced ginger, sesame oil and green onion. Or combine mackerel with your favourite dairy-free yogurt, lime and chili flakes. You get the idea!
And if you don’t want to use bread, try lettuce wraps or one of these bread alternatives.
Incorporate Into Dips and Spreads
There’s more to tinned fish spreads than tuna and mayo! Fold canned smoked salmon into cashew cream, add anchovies to your favourite tapenade recipe or blend sardines with sundried tomatoes to make a pate.
Fold Into an Omelette or Quiche
Canned fish melds beautifully with eggs of any style, or when folded into an omelette or quiche recipe.
Canned fish pairs nicely with tomato-based or pesto sauces, or keep it simple with garlic, lemon and olive oil.
Mix tinned fish into your potato salad for a side dish or main meal.
Add to A Charcuterie Board
Use your favourite canned fish to make charcuterie boards. Have it on its own, or mash it as a dip or spread.
Recipe To Try: How to Make a Healthy Charcuterie Board
Cheese and pepperoni? Nah. Use canned fish as a pizza topping! As with pasta dishes, many tinned fish varieties will work – or you can blend them into the pizza sauce.
Recipe To Try: 20 Best Gluten-Free Pizza Recipes
We have a rule about salads: they need at least seven toppings to be delicious. Make canned fish one of those toppings!
Tuna casseroles became popular in the 1950s – and people have strong feelings about them. Update your casserole with your canned fish of choice, and swap in your favourite gluten-free noodle.
‘Cause we believe you can pickle anything.