Find Out Why Tinned Fish Is The Best Secret Weapon to Better Health, Increased Joy and Sustainability

Many Americans grow up eating tuna fish sandwiches, while in Spain, tinned fish and shellfish are cherished as tapas or snacks. In Italy, anchovies are enjoyed as part of antipasti, while in France you might find a local lunching on sardines along with a crusty, buttered baguette. What tinned fish have in common around the world are that they are shelf-stable, convenient, nutritious, and can be economical as well as sustainable. If you have never thought much about tinned fish, we are about to open your eyes.

Variety of Flavor

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

The first thing we want to address is flavor. There is a huge variety of flavor, and texture, to enjoy when it comes to tinned fish. With tuna alone you have choices of oil packed, water packed, low sodium, as well as tuna that comes in cans, pouches, and more expensive tuna fillets packed in glass jars that can make a meal, such as an elegant salade Nicoise or pan bagnat (what we call the best tuna sandwich in the world, and pictured above).

One Can Does Not Equal Another

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

The type of tuna (or sardines or anchovies, etc.) that you buy will greatly affect your experience. Even two cans of water packed tuna are not the same. We have found that some brands are nothing more than thin shreds, and that the can is mostly liquid, while other brands give you meaty chunks, and much more fish for your buck. Look at the image above of two water-packed tunas. The Bumblebee on the left contains much more water weight and the tuna itself is flimsy shreds. The Whole Foods 365 brand on the right contains much less liquid and as you can see, the tuna itself is much more substantial. These are cans of identical size and weight. Consider this when you are comparing prices.

Sardines: Oil-Packed, Water-Packed, Skinless, Boneless – Pick Your Fish!

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

I grew up eating oil-packed skinless, boneless sardines. My Mom used to make us lunch with sardines, cottage cheese, and a few dashes of Tabasco. Now that cottage cheese is “new” again, I highly suggest you give the combo a try.

Brands of sardines, such as Season, can even be found at Costco. One whole can is a serving, which is quite generous, and provides 22 g of protein! We were surprised that the calorie counts between the oil-packed (200 calories) and the water-packed (170 calories) are not that different. The no salt added version halves the sodium count. Your choice!

We had written extensively about canned tuna before, but Season sent us some sardines, which inspired us to take a look at those, as well.

Nutritional Powerhouses

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

These little cans (or glass jars or pouches) of fish are nutritional powerhouses. Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, and protein. They provide a boost to heart health, bone strength, and overall well-being. Their bones, softened during the canning process, are an excellent source of easily absorbable calcium, promoting strong bones and teeth. You eat the whole fish, bones included! You can also find skinless, boneless versions, if you like.

Tuna is a pure protein as well, and packed with essential nutrients like selenium, vitamin D, and B vitamins. Opting for sustainably caught tuna ensures not only the preservation of marine ecosystems but also, often the quality of the fish on your plate.

Anchovies are small, flavorful fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron, contributing to heart health, bone density, and energy levels. Incorporating anchovies into salads, pasta sauces, or spreads introduces a depth of flavor and a boost of nutrition. We happen to love anchovies on pizza (and yes, we know there are you detractors out there).

Sustainability of Canned Fish

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

Tinned fish often come with a sustainability story worth acknowledging. Sustainable fishing practices, such as pole and line caught, and troll caught, minimize bycatch and environmental impact, ensuring the long-term health of marine ecosystems.

Additionally, some companies prioritize traceability, providing consumers with information about where and how the fish was caught, empowering them to make informed choices that support responsible fishing practices. Some tuna brands offer the tracing information right on the can or label, such as the brand Pole & Line.

Environmental Benefits

Assorted tinned fish.
Image credit Dulce Rubia via Shutterstock.

Opting for tinned fish over fresh varieties can also have environmental benefits. Canning fish reduces food waste by extending the shelf life of the catch, minimizing spoilage and the associated carbon footprint. Additionally, tinned fish require less energy for transportation and refrigeration compared to fresh fish, further reducing their environmental impact.

Convenience and Versatility

Seafood tapas.
Seafood tapas. Image credit Gulcin Ragiboglu via Shutterstock.

The convenience of tinned fish cannot be overstated. Ready to eat straight from the can, these protein-packed treasures are perfect for quick meals, snacks, or additions to recipes. Whether tossed into salads, sandwiches, or pasta dishes, tinned fish elevate the flavor profile while adding a nutritional boost. Their long shelf life makes them pantry staples, ready to rescue meals when fresh options are scarce.

We’ve even taken them on hiking trips! They don’t spoil and the cans don’t require a can opener. (Make sure to carry your garbage out with you; fish in pouches are the lightest option).

How About Sardine Avocado Toast?

Photo credit: Season Sardines.

We have been known to open a can of sardines and eat them straight out of the can when a protein craving strikes, but with a little more effort you can be dining on something a bit more interesting, yet still ridiculously simple. Take a look at the image above.

Spread mashed avocado onto toasted bread slices. Top with sardines, very thinly sliced fennel and red onion, fresh dill and chives. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon on top and serve.


Costco storefront.
Image credit Jonathan Weiss via Shutterstock.

We are always looking for budget-minded ideas in the kitchen and at the grocery store; tinned fish offer an affordable source of high-quality protein and essential nutrients for an economic price. Their shelf-stable nature means they can be purchased in bulk without fear of spoilage, making them a cost-effective choice for individuals and families looking to stretch their grocery budgets without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. Six-packs of Season sardines at Costco make each can about $2.30.

Easy Dinner Recipes

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

With tinned fish in the pantry, you can even whip of a quick dinner. We have a recipe we call Pantry Pasta with Tuna, Lemon & Olives. Less than 15-minutes prep, and dinner is on the table in 30 minutes or less. If you can boil water, you can make this dish.

Pantry Perfect

 Photo Credit: Dédé Wilson.

This recipe features sun-dried tomatoes, which you can keep in the cupboard if dried, or we also like those packed in olive oil (refrigerated after opening). Try our Pasta with Tuna & Sun Dried Tomatoes.

The Takeaway

woman buying canned fish.
Image credit BearFotos via Shutterstock.

Tinned fish may not always steal the spotlight away from the fresh fish counter, but their virtues are undeniable. From their nutritional content to their sustainability and cultural significance, sardines, tuna, and anchovies offer loads of benefits – including flavor and versatility, all while being budget-minded, too. If you keep some tins in the cupboard, we know you will get creative.

This article was sponsored in part by Seasons.

Have A Can Of Tomatoes In Your Pantry? You Can Make These 18 Delicious Meals!

Photo credit: Dédé Wilson.

With cans of tomatoes in the pantry, dinner is mere minutes away. Canned tomatoes are economical, versatile and the basis for many of our most favorite dishes; and we bet they are faves with your family, too. Here are 18 tomato-based recipes to inspire, from creamy tomato soup (with grilled cheese croutons) to pasta (like a quick weeknight Skillet Lasagna), casseroles, sauces, stuffed zucchini, a hearty eggplant Parmesan, and more. The Roast Clams & Spicy Sausages is amazing. Trust us. READ: Have A Can Of Tomatoes In Your Pantry? You Can Make These 18 Delicious Meals!

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  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

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