Chefs sing the praises of the tiny, tasty anchovy.

By Oset Babür
September 03, 2020
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It's official: 2020 is the year of the anchovy. These tiny fish have been showing up in all of the usual places, like Caesar dressing and tapenade, while also adding depth in less expected ways, in desserts and frying batters. Their versatility is key to their appeal: “Anchovies contain richness, sweetness, and saltiness,” says chef Kyo Pang of Kopitiam in New York City. “If you fry them, they give off more texture. If you boil them, you get a different flavor. We use anchovies in the broth for our pan mee as well as in our nasi lemak, deep-fried anchovies mixed with homemade sambal sauce and served on coconut rice.”

Victor Protasio

In San Francisco, chef Stuart Brioza is soon opening The Anchovy Bar, a restaurant celebrating the complexity of anchovies. “Our goal is to be a revolving door for very beautiful anchovy producers with dishes like avocado smashes and anchovy toasts,” he says. “We’re not reinventing the wheel but blowing your mind with this underdog fish.”

Want to start harnessing the anchovy’s power at home? Start with boquerones, or white anchovy fillets packed in vinegar. The vinegar mellows the fish’s pungency, making them a great topping for toast. Use oil-packed anchovies for blending into salad dressings and bold pasta dishes, and try delicate salt-packed anchovies to bring briny, savory depth to herby sauces and lightly dressed pastas.

A+ Anchovies

Agostino Recca

Open this tin to find over a pound of salted anchovies, destined for mashing into salsa verde or melting into pasta sauce. The pure ocean flavor—never fishy—will convert any anchovy skeptic.

Agostino Recca Salted Whole Anchovies, $33 at amazon.com

Don Bocarte

These anchovies are packed in a high-quality olive oil, making for a nutty flavor that impresses chef Stuart Brioza. “This is an anchovy you absolutely put on pizza,” he says.

Don Bocarte Cantabrian Anchovies in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $30 at amazon.com

Martel

Only need a couple anchovies for a recipe? These meaty, oil-packed Chilean fillets come with a plastic lid for easy resealing.

Martel Anchovies in Olive Oil, $2 at caputos.com

Matiz

Chefs swear by this accessible alternative to tougher-to-find Benfumat boquerones; packaged with vinegar and olive oil, they’re an excellent pantry standby, especially for adding pickly punch atop Caesar salads.

Matiz Boquerones - White Anchovies in Vinegar, $21 at amazon.com

Delfino

Brioza calls this jar of anchovies imported from the Amalfi Coast and preserved in sunflower seed oil his ultimate pantry workhorse for everything from toasts to bagna cauda.

Delfino Battista Anchovies Fillet in Sunflower Oil, $29 at amazon.com