Don’t Be Salty, It’s the 7 Best Anchovies

I love anchovies, but they seem misunderstood. I would never order them on an American takeout pizza, although I appreciate the Italian inspiration behind this divisive topping. For me, canned anchovies are far too overpowering and salty for pizza. Now, a nice Sicilian focaccia with olives, tomatoes, and meaty, artisanal anchovies? Beam me up to Flavortown (which, in the future, will be on the moon).

To me, canned anchovies are much more valuable as a cooking tool—they immediately add salt and umami to any dish you make. Dressings, pastas, condiments, and sauces—those are what I use anchovies for at home. In the process, I’ll always take one filet out of the can for myself as a nice oily, fishy, salty snack. I fiend for anchovies like a cartoon cat, so naturally this taste test was assigned to me.

Canned and jarred anchovies vary, but for this taste test, I looked for a strong balance of salt, oil, and fishiness. Some anchovies were far too salty, which can be valuable for cooking, but limits their usage as a topping. A good quality anchovy, to me, doesn’t have a distracting number of bones in it, either; it’s just a big, meaty filet of fish with a lot of umami, packed in high-quality olive oil. Check out the seven we liked the most.

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best anchovies

Best of the Best

Ortiz Jarred Anchovies

I love what Ortiz has done with these anchovies. First of all, there is quite obviously less sodium here (760 mg per serving, to be exact) compared to the other, saltier brands. So you don’t get as much of that aggressive hit of salinity that we’ve come to expect from canned anchovies. Secondly, these come packed in delicious olive oil, which is much more flavorful than the neutral oils some other brands of anchovies come packed in. Olive oil adds a beautiful richness to the anchovy—it doubles down on the umami and ups the flavor considerably. Overall, you get a more pure anchovy experience with Ortiz. It’s fishy, but not in a bad way. The olive oil and lower salt content help accentuate that natural anchovy flavor. These are pricey, but great for fancier meals. And hey, pal, you deserve quality!

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best anchovies

Best Spanish Style

Patagonia Provisions Roasted Garlic Spanish White Anchovies

“I can tell you right now I’m going to eat this whole can later,” is what I said after I tried these. The difference between white, Spanish anchovies and other anchovies is in the canning process: Spanish anchovies are only lightly cured with salt, then packed in a pickling solution of vinegar and oil, whereas regular tinned anchovies are salt packed. Personally, I love the addition of vinegar; the sharp acidity cuts the fishy, oily nature of the filet itself. Patagonia’s anchovies aren’t salty at all. They taste fresh, meaty, clean, and wonderfully bright due to the vinegar. The garlic is subtle, and adds a delightful pungency to the whole experience. The extra virgin olive oil tastes high quality, too. This is a departure from what you expect from canned anchovies, but it’s damn, damn good.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best anchovies

Best Salty

Polar Anchovies with Pure Olive Oil

This is the same company that delivered us a beautifully buttery and flaky tin of salmon filet, so we had high hopes for Polar anchovies. They mostly delivered, too. Polar is the darkest anchovy of the bunch; there’s almost a reddish hue to these filets. They are salty, naturally, but also have a really clean and simple fishy taste. Plus, these are deboned, so there are none of those off-putting tiny whiskers (which, fun fact, are actually fish bones) that you find in canned anchovies. The filets themselves are substantial, and come packed in olive oil, so there’s a lovely, bitter richness to help ease you into the anchovy taste. Great size, great taste, and no bones? Polar isn’t polarizing; we liked it just fine.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best anchovies

Best Non-Salty

Wild Planet Wild White Anchovies in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Wild Planet, which sounds like the name of a Jurassic Park sequel, is a really good product. These big, meaty anchovies are definitely the biggest anchovy filets on this list, and they contain far less salt than the others (370 mg per 85 grams). They look like sardines, they’re so damn big. While these are white anchovies, they don’t feel “Spanish” exactly in the way they’re prepared. You don’t get any tartness from vinegar, but you do get a wonderfully rich, luscious, decadent can of meaty anchovies packed in olive oil. They have a clean taste, and are far less salty than your average can of ‘choves. These are very much like canned sardines; the difference is almost negligible.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best anchovies

Best for Cooking

Cento Flat Fillet Anchovies

I keep these anchovies stocked in my cupboard for one reason: pasta. They come packed in olive oil, and they’re salty and meaty. They kind of dissolve in your mouth too, in a way. The texture is just wonderful. There’s a lot of salt here, but less than Polar. I chop these up and put them in a pasta puttanesca, or a funky red sauce, or hell, I sometimes even put a few anchovies in my pesto or gremolata. This is a great way to infuse any dish with a salty blast of umami. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best anchovies

Best Spicy

Agostino Recca Fillets of Anchovies in Olive Oil with Hot Peppers

This has a harsh, harsh pepper flavor that I actually quite like. The blend of salt and spice here really works to create a bold flavor, and the olive oil feels deliciously opulent. With all these wonderfully assertive flavors, I think these anchovy filets would go best with pizza or a baguette, but throw a few of these on a caesar salad if you want to get fun and funky. I believe these are best enjoyed whole, as part of some sort of appetizer or charcuterie board.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best anchovies

Best Fatty

Rustichella D’Abruzzo Anchovies

These have some very, very mixed reviews online. I understand why: Some customers complained that they were sent a muddled anchovy paste instead of nice anchovy filets. Others complained that the anchovies were too intertwined to pull them cleanly out of the jar. I had a problem with the latter, but when I did manage to wrangle out an anchovy, I was absolutely delighted with the flavor. These anchovies have some streaks of white to them, which makes me think these might be marbled with fat (however I can’t confirm that’s what the white streak is—it could just be salt). These are, in fact, pretty salty, but they’re meaty, delicious, and a product of Sicily. I’m a fan of Rustichella D’Abruzzo Anchovies and their possibilities, but buyers beware.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Amazon

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Roland, Crown Prince, Kroger, Agostino Recca in Oil, Bellino, Merro

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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