Beyond Tuna Salad, Canned Fish Is a Dinnertime Savior

Cooking with canned seafood isn't a compromise—it's a shortcut to flavor.

Tuna Banh Mi
Photo: © Eva Kolenko

When pickings at the fishmonger are looking sparse, you're looking for a more sustainable seafood alternative, or you're leaning on your pantry staples and canned goods a little heavier these days, canned seafood can be a tasty, simple, and flavor-packed ingredient to turn to. From subtly dialing up umami flavors in effortless pasta dishes, to being the star of the show in recipes like Crispy Octopus with Potatoes and Smoked Oyster Empanadas, both high-quality oil-packed specialty seafood and humble supermarket shelf staples are reliable, versatile, and delicious.

The best places to stock up: If your local supermarket doesn't have the selection you're searching for, online stores are a reliable source to turn to. La Tienda has a large selection of specialty canned seafood. Caputo's and Tin Can Fish also have a wide array of quality canned seafood that ships nationwide. And if you've cooked through these recipes and are still hungry for more canned seafood cooking inspiration, Tin Can Magic by Jessica Dennison and The Tinned Fish Cookbook by Bart van Olphen have simple, tasty recipes that celebrate and elevate the humble canned fish from an overlooked back-of-the-pantry ingredient to one that deserves center stage.

Rye Crisps with Tomatoes and Sardines
© Con Poulos

An Upgrade on Avo Toast

While you may be reluctant to make canned sardines take center stage on your lunch plate, an herby mayonnaise spread, zingy capers, and bright tomato salad topping mellow out the fish and let it shine without becoming overpowering. The key is quality oil-packed sardines and juicy tomatoes that soften the rye crisps up just a bit.

Crispy Octopus and Potatoes
Abby Hocking

A Shortcut to a Spanish-Style Dinner

While octopus may be an intimidating ingredient, using high-quality canned octopus makes it simple and approachable. You can skip the braising and get straight to perfectly tender (not rubbery!) octopus for this quick, delicious dish. Simple ingredients—just a spritz of lemon juice, parsley, and paprika—let canned octopus shine. We recommend Ramon Pena brand canned octopus.

Spicy Chipotle Salmon Cakes with Lemon Mayonnaise
Abby Hocking

The Crunchiest Salmon Cakes

Perfect to meal-prep for lunch through the week, or a quick weeknight dinner, these salmon cakes get beautifully crisp in the pan. Using pantry staples and some fresh lemon, the cakes come together quickly and get some bold spice from the chipotle in adobo. Don't skip that spritz of citrus—it adds brightness and zest to the cakes.

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