HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Do you de-salt your anchovies before use?

I am really getting into anchovies, but they are sooo salty. Do you usually soak them for a few minutes or so to remove some of the salt?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Never even crossed my mind. So if this is a poll, put me down as a no. Those little suckers can really add a lot of depth to a lot of dishes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tim irvine

      Yea, it's why I love them was just wondering. Perhaps I'll drink some extra water :)

    2. Maybe you would prefer fresh anchovies (alici) - they are not nearly as salty as the ones in cans or jars (for obvious reasons), but they still have the tastiness that I assume you like. We find them in NYC at the deli counter with the smoked salmon (& caviar). You might also find them at an Italian deli.

      2 Replies
      1. re: boredough

        Yea, I looked for them at the store today and couldn't find them but I didn't check at the deli counter or perhaps they might be in the section with the smoke salmon and fresh sardines. For today, I guess the salty little filets will find their way in the salad dressing :)

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          Well, good luck next time you go back to the deli counter. Let us know whether you like/prefer them.... OTOH the cured ones are better for some recipes.

      2. I do, depending on their use in the recipe. If its for a salad dressing, no, I want those bitey, tangy tastes. If I do soak them, they are soaked in milk for 5-10 minutes.

          1. From what I've read, "before serving or using canned fillets, rinse well under cold running water or soak in cool water for 30 minutes."

            4 Replies
            1. re: grampart

              I gave up reading recipes years ago...they made me too mad when I missed steps or ingredients!

              1. re: tim irvine

                So how's that working out for you?

                1. re: tim irvine

                  I don't follow them either. I usually get ideas and wing it in the kitchen with those ideas in mind. I get your point.

                  1. re: tim irvine

                    I guess the point is if the recipe says to rinse the anchovies and you, for whatever reason, don't do it and the dish turns out too salty, who's to blame?

                2. Are you talking about salt-packed anchovies? I generally use the canned type, in oil. I do not rinse those. I like the saltiness.

                  1. No. Unless they are preserved in salt. Then they are pretty salty.

                    And I'm an anchovy fan. Mom and dad started us eating them as toddlers and every member of my family can eat a whole tin straight up as long as they arent crappy anchovies. We thought every kid ate anchovies as garnish, on pizza and out of the tin. Guess its a Swedish thing.

                    You don't really buy and use fresh anchovies. They need to be preserved in some way. Salt/oil/vinegar

                    But there are "white" anchovies that are preserved with vinegar. You might like them better.

                    1. It depends how you're using them: "neat" or in with other ingredients. If they're in with other ingredients, perhaps you can reduce the other salt in the recipe?

                      If you do want to soak them to de-salt them, try milk. I saw a chef demonstrate brandade. He soaked his salt cod in milk. It was scrumptious.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pdxgastro

                        Yea, that's what I usually do. I just don't add salt later when I would otherwise to a dish. I don't find they make any dishes that I've used too salty. I wondered if I might encounter this issue and also as I am a fan of eating them out of the can, the salt is quite prohibitive to me in this context. I think the fresh ones might suit my needs for this purpose.

                      2. Lessen/omit the salt or use less anchovies.

                        1. You don't specify: are you using anchovies packed in oil (in the tins, for example) or jarred anchovies in salt?

                          I do soak the jarred anchovies in cool water for a few minutes to remove excess salt, but I don't do anything special for the canned ones.

                          I can't get enough of them—yum!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: loratliff

                            They are anchovies packed in oil in tins. I did not see any in jars at the store, but perhaps didn't look in the right place.

                          2. Anchovies are sold in different forms. If you are talking about oil-packed anchovy fillets, they are not normally rinsed, but should be blotted on paper towels before use. The oil they are packed in is usually not the best quality. You can pour it off and fill the jar with your own extra virgin olive oil. No additional salt is usually needed in a dish when you use these. The top quality anchovies in this category come from the Cantabrian Sea, off northern Spain, and are beyond delicious. It would be a crime to rinse them. They are usually considered too good to cook with and are eaten on their own as an appetizer.

                            Salt-packed anchovies do need to be rinsed well, and usually filleted as well. Oil-packed anchovies started their career in this form, but were desalted and filleted industrially. It is usually better to buy salt-packed and do it yourself, but not everyone is going to want to dedicate the time to this tedious, smelly job (which, however, gets easier with practice).

                            Fresh anchovies are not sold at the deli counter but at the fish counter. They are a fresh fish like any other and very good. They need to be decapitated and gutted. They're delicious baked, sprinkled with just some breadcrumbs, and on pasta too. Too bad they're hard to find in the US, though I've been told they're on the rise.

                            Marinated anchovies are what you find at the deli counter. They are fresh fillets that have been marinated in vinegar or lemon juice and are sold as boquerones or "white anchovies." These are normally eaten on their own as an appetizer, not used in cooking, though they might be added to certain salads or the like. They are definitely not interchangeable in cooking with salt- or oil-packed or with fresh.

                            1. Thanks for this thread.

                              I have used oil packed anchovies for years (and anchovy spread from a tube), and more recently I've been using canned, salt packed. I had a hard time finding the salt packed variety, which I eventually found in Italian groceries in larger cities, like Pittsburgh and Philly. One can also buy them online. They are available at a reasonable price from Pennsylvania Macaroni in Pittsburgh.

                              The reputation for the salt packed is that they are more flavorful and authentic, which is what led me to look for them in the first place. I use them mostly in Caesar salad recipes, as an ingredient in sauces (like puttanesca), in antipasti, and on pizzas. They require a couple of additional steps in preparation, which to me is not a big deal. I select and set the salted fish aside covered in milk (or water) for about ten minutes, though I have to remember that there are two fillets per fish. Once soaked, the backbone comes away easily and you are left with two whole fillets. The milk or water soaking removes excess salt in which they have been packed.

                              The big hurdle for me was deciding how to save the remainder of what is a very large can of salt packed anchovies, once opened. After opening and using the first two or three, I have been emptying the remainder into a recycled glass jar (such as a pickle jar) just big enough to fit the salted fish, with a lid that seals well and does not have any metal exposed but is coated with vinyl or something similar. I seal the anchovies "as is" out of the can, and I do not add anything. These have kept well over months of storage in the refrigerator. As I open the jar and use them, two or three at a time, I will turn them to be sure they remain coated with salt .

                              Thanks for the suggestion regarding Spanish anchovies. My son may be visiting Galicia this Fall and I may ask him to bring some back, as well.

                              Hope this helps.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pennewise

                                Great, thanks this is just what I was looking for. I really enjoy the taste of anchovies but the salt is so overwhelming when eating them plain. I have started to soak in water for use in salads which has worked out well.

                              2. I buy a couple brands of olive oil packed anchovies in jars from my local Italian deli and I find them much less salty and deeper in flavour than most canned or cheaper oil perserved ones. Brands Stella Del Mare & Agostino Recca

                                1. I don't rinse them. Even though they are one of the best sources of good omega-3 oils, and the bones supply some calcium, I use them as a condiment in many dishes, instead of salt. The filets dissolve during cooking, but when I want to keep the flavor concentrated and the density intact, I add anchovies that have been rolled around capers... great when you want just one powerful bite, like on pizza.