An Eater’s Guide to Tinned Fish at the Deli

For everyone from pantry stockers, busy home cooks and dorm dwellers to pescatarians, campers and road trippers, tinned fish is the perfect food. Sustainable, portable and delicious, tinned fish defies social stereotypes and appeals to everyone from salt-of-the-earth workers to culinary elites.

For the uninitiated, tinned fish – beyond the ever approachable tinned tuna – may be a little mystifying. Cockles…from a can? How, exactly, does one eat tinned seafood? Oh, let us count the ways. We pulled together a collection of recipes featuring tinned fish from Connor Valone, retail supervisor at the Deli, Patagonia Provisions, and Ari Weinzweig himself!


Tinned fish is a flavor-rich staple that packs a punch of flavor. This means they’re at their best when they’re prepared simply. On crackers, crusty bread or greens, topped with herbs, chili flake or a simple squeeze of lemon, tinned fish don’t need a lot of attention. They’re even excellent on their own, and are prominently featured in classics like caesar dressing and nicoise salad. We gathered up some of our favorite “back pocket” tinned fish recipes for you to refer to as you embark on your tinned fish journey of discovery. 

“One of the loose recipes I go back to is tossing a grain (couscous, barley, farro) with olive oil, roasted piquillo peppers, peppers, celery, red onion, preserved lemon, with whatever is inspiring me that day. It could be squid, sardines, tuna, octopus, cockles – it changes by the season, based on what’s good at the farmers market. It’s a simple recipe made with things I have on hand, with a briney citrusy lift,” Connor Valone, retail supervisor at the Deli, said.

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Deli, has his own go-to ways to enjoy tinned fish:

photo courtesy of @fishwife

“I put some on a toasted caraway rye, spread first with the Creamery’s handmade cream cheese. Do the same on a sesame bagel or maybe better still on a Zinglish Muffin. Great on pasta with a bit of fresh spinach or broccoli rabe, topped with toasted bread crumbs. Pour (straight out of the tin) over just-cooked top quality potatoes. Add to salads (check out this recipe for Trout Caesar from the Scout website), rice dishes, or mash with the cream cheese to make a spread. Super simple and really superb on all counts,” Ari said. 

Tinned fish can even find a home on a plate, alongside leftovers. 

“I’ll put tuna on a plate and enjoy bites with leftover salad and risotto. This is a great way to add another element of flavor, add a protein to whatever simple light meal you might enjoy, especially if you’re eating for one or two,” Connor said. 


The Deli’s Chef Bill Wallo designed the recipes below for a special “Meet the Maker” event with Patagonia Provisions. At the event, the Deli’s co-managing partner Grace Singleton and Patagonia Provisions’ Danny Watts discussed where Patagonia Provisions’ products come from, how they are processed, and why they love eating them. 



If you’re looking for more tinned fish inspiration, look no further! Here are a few of Ari’s go-to recipes:


This is the sardine version of the classic taramosalata spread (made from carp roe). It’s easy to do:

  • Mash a tin of sardines, along with a clove of peeled garlic (Les Moulins Mahjoub sundried garlic available at the Deli is perfect) or three or four chopped scallions.
  • Add two well-cooked, medium-sized potatoes, a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of sea salt, and mash again.
  • Slowly add ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil. Add the oil a drop or two at a time while stirring with a wooden spoon so that the oil is beaten into the sardine-potato mixture and emulsifies. It should be creamy and thick.
  • Let the spread rest in the refrigerator for two or three hours before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh dill and freshly ground black pepper. An excellent hors d’oeuvres or sandwich.


This is a classic simple dish of the Veneto region of Italy that makes a sauce out of an ample amount of onion, along with sardines and/or anchovies. Here is how to prepare this dish:

  • Use about half a large sweet onion per person.
  • Add a pinch of sea salt, then cook slowly in olive oil and a little water for about 20 to 30 minutes until the onions are soft and golden. They should be almost broken down into a creamy texture.
  • Cook your favorite pasta as well.
  • Bigoli recipes call for either freshly cooked sardines or salted sardines—in either case take the fish off the bone and cook it slowly into the onions.
  • Slowly cook the fish until it breaks down into the onion. When the pasta is ready, drain it and toss with the sauce. Serve with lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Author Clifford Wright says you can make do with a tin of sardines and some added anchovies, and I’ve certainly done it. It should be a good bit of fish—about a tin of sardines or anchovies per person. (You can also use anchovies and no sardines at all.)


In Tunisia, sardines are often eaten with harissa. Here is how to make a fabulous hors d’oeuvres:

  • Pour a bit of good green olive oil on a plate.
  • Spoon on some of the Mahjoubs’ amazing harissa sauce. Open a can of sardines and lay them across the top of the harissa.
  • Grind on a bit of black pepper, sprinkle a touch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon over the top.
  • Serve with warm Zingerman’s Bakehouse Paesano bread.
  • For an extra treat, put a few pickled peppers, fresh radishes or sliced fresh turnips on the side.

> Inspired? We thought so! Stop by the Deli to stock your pantry with the best thing you can buy in a tin – shop our retail inventory.