What Are Anchovies?

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Everything you Need to Know About Anchovy Fillets

what are anchovies

Almost everyone loves the small forage fish, anchovy, but very few know how to cook with anchovy fillets.

If you talk to any experienced home cook or chef, they will tell you anchovies are their secret weapons when it comes to enhancing the flavor. The anchovies are the rich source of inosinic acid and glutamic acid that can trigger the sensation of savoriness.

They are rare for adding meaty backbone and flavor to anything. Let’s find out together what are anchovies and how do you cook with them.

What are Anchovies?

Anchovy is an oily fish with many health benefits. Rich in protein, it is a good source of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Anchovy Fillets also offer excellent levels of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Anchovies provides proteins of high value. Its lipids contain a majority of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids favorable to the cardiovascular system.

This fish provides good amounts of vitamin A, pro-vitamin A, vitamin D, and group B vitamins. Its flesh or anchovy fillet offers interesting concentrations of minerals and trace elements, particularly iodine, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.

Anchovies are fish from the Engraulidae family. A flat, small fish with cylindrical body shape, large eyes turned towards the end of the head, and an excessively largemouth are frequent guests on our tables.

The characteristics of the structure are clearly visible on the anchovy photo below. These Silver-white fish are sometimes decorated with a stripe on the midline of the body.

anchovy fillets

Types of Anchovies

Anchovy is a small fish with an elongated, cylindrical body that lives in coastal waters. The term “anchovy,” in fact, designates several species belonging to the same family. 

There are mainly two kinds of anchovies depending on their location i.e., coastline and offshore anchovies. They are found along the southwest of England, some parts of the North Sea, and in the English Channel.

The favorable seasons for anchovy are spring and autumn, particularly the months of April, May, and June, and September.

How to Use Anchovies in the Kitchen?

Canned anchovies are often prepared in salt (they must then be rinsed under water before incorporating them into a preparation) or in oil.

They can also be eaten grilled, anchovy fillets, fried, in escabeche (garlic, onions, and tomatoes) or as a seasoning for quiches, pies, and meat sauces.

How can Anchovies be Cooked?

Anchovy fillets are very popular not only in Mediterranean cuisine but in various corners of the globe; it is often added to several original dishes or even serves as a main.

Anchovies can be cooked in the following ways:

  • Fried
  • Simmered
  • Roasted
  • Salted
  • Boiled

Canned anchovies are usually used as an aromatic and exotic condiment for various dishes, especially vegetables.

wrapped anchovy fillets

Tomato, Eggplant & Anchovy Pie

Tomato Eggplant Anchovy Pie

Serves: 2

Total Time: 40 Minutes


  • 1 ready-to-use puff pastry
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 marinated anchovies
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of 15% fat cream
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce
  • Tomato coulis or concentrated tomato
  • Oregano (mixed herbs, flat parsley or coriander)
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


  1. Wash and cut the eggplant into slices, then brown it in a pan in olive oil.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into small slices
  3. Cut the onions into rings.
  4. Line the pie plate with puff pastry.
  5. Spread the mustard, cream, and tomato sauce successively—season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover with onions.
  7. Place the slices of golden eggplant and tomatoes. Place the anchovy fillets in a star shape.
  8. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with oregano.
  9. Bake it for 20 minutes in a hot oven until the pastry is golden.

How to Choose Good Quality Anchovies?

When you are going to buy good quality anchovies, no need to ask whether they are wild-caught or formed because usually they are caught wild-caught, the good quality anchovies are harvested in the fisheries using the sustainable methods.

You can choose the canned anchovies if they are hand packed into the cans or jars that come with BPA-free linings.

The canned varieties contain the small anchovy fillets that are packed with water, oil, and salt. The salt content can be varied from one brand to another before packaging.

You can choose the oil-water, and unsalted packed can ensure low sodium content. They are lightly salted and smoked. If you want umami bomb flavor, choose the best quality salt-cured whole anchovy fillets.

what are anchovies

How to Use Anchovies

Fresh Anchovies

Fresh anchovies are the best choice when you decide between canned and fresh anchovies unless you live in an urban area. In the city area, it is hard to track down the good fish market where you can buy fresh anchovies.

If you manage to find fresh anchovies, it will be a great delight for you to cook this fresh small forage fish. Their tastes are milder than the canned anchovies, and it is a treat to eat them when you cook them through high heat cooking methods with intense flavors.

You can even grill them beautifully. They are usually served as grilled in the Mediterranean countries. Spanish people cook them in olive oil; Greek people marinated them while Italians baked them. You can choose any Mediterranean cooking style, or you can get help from the cookbooks and Mediterranean countries’ website to get the idea of the recipe.

Preserved Anchovies

Canned anchovy fillets are used all over the globe as they are usually preserved in the jar. The oil and salt are used in the can or jar to preserve them.

You can reduce the sodium content by draining them and replacing the oil with olive oil after opening the can.

The curing process distillates their flavor enormously, and it turns the anchovy fillets into an umami bomb. When you add it into any dish, it will bring an intense savory flavor, just like a small amount of Parmesan packs a deep cheesy flavor in a carbonara.

Anchovies Paste

Anchovy paste is an easy way of enhancing the flavor of soups, stews, braises, and meat rubs. It has a great smell and taste, and it should be used in small doses.

It is a salty paste that is made from olive oil, vinegar, anchovy fillets, sugar, and water. You can add umami and savory quality to your dishes with a touch of this paste.

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!