We’re hooked.

What is it

Anchovies are small fish that are preserved and stored in tins or jars.


If you’re in the market for anchovies, most of the time you’re looking for the ones in oil. Find out more below.


Once you’ve opened your anchovies, they should be kept in the fridge. If they’re in a tin, transfer them into a resealable container with the liquid.

Roast red pepper salad with anchovies and almonds

Roast red pepper salad with anchovies and almonds

Sprouting broccoli with anchovies and lemon oil

Sprouting broccoli with anchovies and lemon oil

Anchovies are small fish with a big bite. Their delicate freshness is short-lived so they’re filleted, salt-cured and packed into tins or jars. Preserved this way, they transform into something intensely sophisticated. They’re the soy sauce of the sea, adding a salty, umami layer without hijacking your dish.


While these tiny fish are delicious fresh from the water, the kind we cook with are canned. Because of their small size, you can eat the bones. When sizzled off in a saucepan, anchovy bones dissolve completely.

The traditional method of processing and preserving anchovies is to gut and salt them in brine, allow them to cure, and then pack them in oil or salt. Glamorous, right? But during that salty siesta, something incredible happens. Enzymes and good bacteria work their magic, turning these tiny fish into salty, briny powerhouses.

If you’re in the market for anchovies, most of the time you’re looking for the ones in oil. But there’s more than one way to reel them in.

  • In oil. These are your kitchen workhorses. They're salt-cured, cleaned up, and chilling in oil, ready for action. Pop open a flat can or a glass jar, and they're your trusty sidekick for any recipe. Reserve the fancy ones for a solo snack.
  • In vinegar. Great for eating, not so much cooking. If you haven’t tried boquerones, you’re missing out. Delicioso.
  • Fresh out of water. If you manage to find them fresh in a fishmonger or supermarket, use your nose to judge freshness–when anchovies begin to spoil, they smell pretty bad.

How to cook with anchovies

Slipping a few anchovies into your cooking is one of those sneaky tricks that boost flavour with practically no effort. They bring out the character of other ingredients while adding complex saltiness–with none of the fishiness that the anchovy-adverse may fear. A few anchovies could add that umami oomph you have been looking for. And as soon as you cook them, they don’t taste fishy.

Starting a sauce
Add a few whole fillets into your pan and watch them disappear into the sauce. They’re the unsung heroes Worcestershire, Caesar, remoulade and even some versions of Café de Paris. Melt some fillets and garlic into a pan of oil, then use that as the foundation of whatever sauce you want to build. Anchovies take tomato sauces from sweet and acidic to bold and balanced.

With meat
Anchovies are rich in a compound called inosinate which enhances the meatiness and savoury flavour of beef or lamb. It’s based on the same logic as using Worcestershire sauce (which is anchovy-based, anyway).

What's umami? Humans can taste five fundamental flavours: sour, salty, sweet, bitter and umami. It's that rich taste that you might notice in foods like mushrooms or parmesan. You know that satisfyingly savoury flavour that makes your cheeks dimple a bit? That’s umami.

"Chef, what's your favourite brand of anchovies?"

If you’re adding anchovies to your cooking, you don’t need to spend too much. Expensive anchovies are a waste as the texture and subtle taste differences will be lost anyway. For Chaya, it has to be John West for consistency. For Milli, it's Pujado Solano.

Chaya - Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Development Chef