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Canned Seafood Varieties & Ideas

I was at a new international store in G'boro yesterday, and in the canned isle I snatched up a few sardines I've never had, as well as some mackerel that sounded interesting and caught my curiosity, and a friend I was wish was going crazy over the idea of eating canned fish
"Ew," he said (basically). "Why don't you just make it yourself?"
I didn't bother to mention that i couldn't make smoked mackerel with the $1.50 or less the can cost. And that I'm lazy.
If it tastes good (and is often good for you-- omega 3s & protein!) why wouldn't I have the quick, cheap canned stuff?
Ignoring him, driven by my curiosity, I wanted to grab all the different asian and hispanic canned products that actually sounded good! Being used to canned tuna, which I really don't like except in tuna salad, all these varieties and flavors are just so cool and I've always been afraid to try them; no more!

So I've seen (and looked up) quite a few threads on different types of canned seafood and people asking what to do with them over the years (sardines and crab come to mind first), but not one on the crazy variety of canned seafood there is, and what people do with them!

So here I wanted to list the canned seafood I use and how, and would love to hear what you guys buy/eat, why, and how it tastes best! And better; what do you avoid, and why?

Also, opinions please!; has anyone tried canned...
-Fried Mackerel in Chili sauce (just bought this, anxious to try hot on white rice)
-Mackerel belly in ginger and soy sauce (also bought; not sure what to do with)
-Broiled/BBQ eel (I've always wanted to try these-- I LOVE bbq eel-- but, as I said, canned seafood outside of my comfort zone has always intimidated me. Is it anywhere near the real thing?)

What other strange and interesting tinned foods do you recommend?
Don't be afraid to be specific! That belly in ginger just called to me, but who would have thought they even made such a thing?!?

Here's what I do with canned...

Crabmeat (the cheap, little cans)
*While they sell giant, big-meat cartons of these, they're hella expensive, and I just use the little cheap cans they sell next to the tuna. Cheap alternative to the real thing. Pretty much always use in soup: spicy seafood soup or crab & corn chowder.
Have also dumped a tin into a puddle of melted butter, drizzled with lemon, and gone to town as a lazy snack.

*Also a lazy snack in melted butter with lemon. But for an actual meal, does a good clam linguine fake-up; clams, pasta, butter, seasonings and garlic.

Baby Shrimp
*Pretty much only use in two things; gyoza (mash with fillings and stuff: yum!) and on salads with a lemon vinaigrette.
Have also just eaten straight out of the can, but I think we can assume that's a given with all of these things...

*Any kind is delicious in lemon juice (see a trend?), olive oil, salt, and pepper, garlic and shaved onion, served cold with avocado, sliced tomatoes, and hot white rice, with some of that lemon dressing sprinkled over everything. This is how my mother made it when I was a kid, and I rediscovered it when I grabbed a can on accident and asked her what to do.
Also, of course, any kind in tomato sauce tends to end up as a quick pasta sauce, from simple with garlic and oregano to putenesca style (if you don't have any actual tomato sauce, just add broth/stock to the contents of the can and boil down, then toss pasta in the pan to soak up juices).

*I generally avoid, but I did make pretty good fish cakes with some once.

*I also tend to avoid... But tend to have a can on hand just in case a tuna salad sandwich craving suddenly hits.

Oysters (plain, in water)
*Instant oyster stew. Heat quick rue (butter & flour) with some garlic, add oysters (with water) till hot, lower temp, add milk/cream and seasonings. I could eat myself sick off of this sometimes...

Oysters (smoked)
*I pretty much never do anything with these except eat them out of the can, sometimes with hot sauce and crackers. Definitely a guilty pleasure and lazy snack.
I once used a can to make the oyster stew above when I didn't have the regular ones; it came out pretty good, just greasier than my usual.

So. Opinions? Ideas?

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  1. I use canned clams for clams casino when I need to make a large portion (50 or so clams). I use the foil clam shells and just spoon all of my ingredients in and then bake/broil. Not truly "authentic" but a close approximation.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      this sounds so easy I have to find out what clams casino is now...

      1. re: Philly Ray

        I also do this to stuff into muchroom caps.

      2. Trader Joe's has canned smoked trout in oil which is just delicious. I just eat it on a cracker with a little hummus as a fixative.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sciencediet

          I'll have to try that next time I can make it over there. TJs rarely disappoints (not never, but rarely)

        2. There are a couple of Spanish companies that sell a broad range of canned seafood that range from the ordinary to the exotic



          But be prepared to pay. A small tin of goose barnacles or Galician clams can run upward of $80.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ferret

            Cool, thanks!
            I don't think id ever be able to shell out the money for them, but I think that's another good question for opinions; speciality foods in a can, love or leave?
            escargo? pate? foie gras? are they ever worth getting?

            1. re: DreamCyn

              La tienda has some great spanish canned seafood- the bereberechos (barnacles) are beyond delicious! Also many other high quality options for less money:

              1. re: Ttrockwood

                berberechos are cockles, percebes are (goose) barnacles

          2. Oh, I forgot! I've also used sardines in a quick curry with rice, and I've read that mackerel is also good that way!

            1. The Goya canned octopus (Pulpo) is quite good (actually, all sauce varieties are good). I like it in a quick saute with summer squash, or right out of the can.

              6 Replies
              1. re: pinehurst

                I have a couple more tins of Conservas de Cambados octopus in Galician sauce - good stuff. Next week I break into a tin of their angulas (baby eels). Both are from La Tienda.
                I arranged for a sushi restaurant to serve the angulas as an appetizer, I think they will go well with sake followed by sushi.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Never ordered from LaTienda but I mean to...it's like a wonderland, that website. Let us know how the baby eels are.

                  1. re: pinehurst

                    Thumbs up on the baby eels last night.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Straight out of the tin or prepared???

                      1. re: DreamCyn

                        Straight out of the tin, which includes olive oil and bits of cayenne pepper. We ate them on plain crackers. They may also be good lightly sautéed to heat them up a bit, that is how both of us have had them in the past.

                2. re: pinehurst

                  I completely forgot about pulpo! I ate it all the time as a kid, and still love it drizzled in hot sauce!

                3. For some reason I purchased several cans of sardines a few months ago but never used them, so I'm quite excited to see ideas for them here.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    i mash sardine with mustard and avocado and roll that stuff up in nori sheets.

                    canned wild salmon is a staple for me since it's cheap and in new england i don't have good access to the fresh/wild.

                    have tried a few types of canned fish "in" sauces but the krap oil they usually use gives me indigestion so i just buy whatever canned in water.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      No access to fresh/wild salmon in NE?? Costco has fresh wild salmon in season, also there are a lot of fish mongers that have a good variety of wild seafood.

                      1. re: treb

                        wild salmon is in-season now (just had some sock-eye yesterday), but not all year and it's very spendy. the cans are a terrific convenience.

                        have never seen anything but frozen fish and farmed salmon at my costco.

                        won't eat anything farmed and do eat fresh wild fish several times per week, so am aware of what's out there.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        I actually also have a few cans of wild salmon but never used them as I buy fresh caught wild salmon very often and just had this feeling it would be so different as to not taste like salmon similar to canned tuna fish and tuna filets though I like them both equally of course for different uses so I should probably give it a try.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          it definitely does not taste like tuna, lol.

                          it's no replacement for a good fresh piece of wild salmon, but has its own place. mostly i have it mixed with avocado over salad, or wrapped up in nori sheets.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Haha, I meant that it wouldn't taste like salmon similar to how canned tuna doesn't taste like fresh tuna. Since I have it definitely worth it to try out and I do remember something about grandma's salmon patties from my youth.

                    2. Canned tuna is the foundation of one of best, classic, hot weather meals ever - salade nicoise. Indeed, it also includes canned anchovies.

                      1 Reply
                      1. I use canned clams for New England clam chowder and sometimes expand this to include canned oysters along with fresh shrimp and fresh bay scallops to make a more generalized seafood chowder, plenty of potatoes and onions of course.

                        There is also a scalloped clam casserole: Beat 2 eggs, add 1 1/2 cups milk, 1/4 cup melted butter, 24 crushed saltines, and 2 or 3 cans of chopped clams (including juice). Pour into 1 1/2 qt buttered casserole and bake about 45 minutes. Pretty good and you can make it with what you usually have in the house...Canned salmon makes good sauteed salmon cakes and baked salmon loaf...I have added a small can of crabmeat or shrimp to various canned soups...Tuna: tuna salad of course. Used to make creamed tuna and noodles but as we lived on it when my husband was in school, he then wouldn't touch it for the next 50 years so I quit making it.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Querencia

                          I wish my beau liked seafood more. I'd make some of this stuff too!
                          As it is, my canned meals are pretty much only when I'm alone or with one of my "anything friends" (friends that are always up for just about anything, including "strange" meals and bizarre trips)

                          1. re: Querencia

                            I used canned clams in a chowder made last night. The impetus for making chowder were leftover scalloped potatoes that I wanted to repurpose.

                          2. I have a can of the soy-ginger mackerel in my cabinet, but haven't tried it yet. From the same company is tom-yam mackerel (eh) and green curry mackerel, which is fantastic! I just eat it with Triscuits. Other than that, I go pretty standard.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: juster

                              I wasn't fond of either of my mackerel finds. there were too many bones that didn't feel soft and chewable, like sardines and anchovies, and there wasn't very much flavor. luckily mackerel is cheap here, so ill just have to settle for broiling fresh fish with gochujang like my favorite Korean place. more work than a can, but worth it.

                            2. I often use canned whole baby clams as an ingredient when making linguine w/ clams. I first use the juice in the can rather then purchasing bottled clam juice, and then just before putting the fresh clams (always remember to purge the fresh clams for at least an hour before steaming or cooking) into the mix I also add in the canned clams. You don't want to add the canned clams too early or they will become tough.

                              Another non canned, but packaged (in the refrigerated section of your store) seafood I love is WHITE ANCHOVIES. If you like anchovy and haven't had white anchovy you're missing it! White anchovy is commonly found in Spain, Italy and all over the Mediterranean as well as Eastern Europe.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: scohen850

                                What are some of your best ways to use refrigerated white anchovies vs either canned, from the deli, or paste?

                                1. re: msmarm

                                  I tend not to use Anchovy Paste at all in lieu of canned, bottled or White, as I mentioned. White Anchovies, at least the ones I get (Dinon brand found only at Mollie Stones, if you are in the Bay Area, Costco did have them and occasionally gets them back in stock) have a much fresher, almost citrus like flavor. I have used them in salads but my two favorites are a combination of thick slice of tomato (well seasoned) a drizzle of the oil from the pack, a ultra thin slice of sweet onion, a fresh basil leaf and 2 or 3 anchovies on top with another drizzle of the oil from the pack. My other favorite is on a seasoned toast of some sort with a little bruchetta and white anchovy served as an hor d'ourve. Finally, I can cook but I can't spell so excuse mis spellings!

                                2. I think I'm going to finally dive into the can of sardines in the cabinet today. It seems they are "with bone and skin," Wild Planet brand. I have no clue if they have heads as well as I've yet to open the can. Are the bones soft enough to eat? Do you eat the head as well or remove it?

                                  I thought I might broil them or saute with a drizzle of lemon juice.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    i had sardines today too.

                                    the bones are soft enough to eat, and a super good source of calcium. i doubt they still have heads, but if so you could eat them too. :)

                                    the canning process means they are already "cooked" so fine just out of the can but if you want a bit of char on the skin go for it!

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Great, SO would like our first go-round to be straight out of the can with lemon juice so we'll see...

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        Yeah, I usually have bones and they're fine to eat, but I've never seen any with heads in the can.

                                    2. re: fldhkybnva

                                      OK well it took me 2 or so months to finally dive into the sardines. The plan was sardines on toast with mashed avocado. I opened the first can expecting to revolt and to my surprise, a few fish bodies in my house wasn't that big of a deal and I just picked them up out of the can. I had a nibble and loved it, so dug in the cabinet for the other can I knew was hiding in there and popped it open as well. the two heaping pieces of toast with sardines, avocado and pickled onions were fabulous. And now, I'm looking forward to trying out all of the different varieties of sardines I've seen in the stores. Thanks for the ideas and encouragement here.

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        Be sure to try the ones in mustard. Delicious in a sandwich! My favorite sardines are King Oscars, Two layers packed in olive oil. Great in a salad, or straight out of the can with a little lemon. So good!!!

                                        1. re: Phoebe

                                          Great, I'll give them a try. This will be a nice alternate to canned tuna which I love but probably shouldn't eat so much because of the mercury.

                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                            You could always get a part-time job as a thermometer.

                                          2. re: Phoebe

                                            I picked up a few cans of the King Oscars in oil and they are quite delicious and cute! I don't seem to find any of the varieties I've tried to be very fishy as often described by others, but these were the mildest of those that I've tasted but quite good wrapped in lettuce leaves accompanied by avocado salsa, blue cheese, pickled onions and peppers.

                                          3. re: fldhkybnva

                                            One of my fave lazy quick lunches when noodling at home is a can of sardines in olive oil (drained a bit), saltines or a piece of sourdough toast, some leftover boiled potato if available, vinegar, diced raw onion, olives, hot sauce and a good beer - hits the spot!

                                        2. The Goya tins of nice octopus chunks for $2 are goofy good for the price. I had been buying it from Spain for $11, and the Goya is just as good. Nice with tapas or a Spanish "antipasto" plate.

                                          1. Get some mackerel in oil, get some octopus in oil, tuna in olive oil.... obviously better if it's olive oil but try out any of them in vegetable oil/soy oil first then seek out the more upscale versions....

                                            1. I buy the Spanish Ortiz Bonita del Norte, white tuna packed in oil. I could easily eat it right from the can. Usually I add some capers, red onion, cilantro (thanks Molinari Del in SF!) with some additional olive oil, a few drops of 'good' vinegar and s&p to taste. A great app when guests come over.


                                              Zingerman's recently had a great deal on it so I bought a case of 30! I'm set for a couple of years :)

                                              1. I just eat them with rice lol.

                                                Mackerel in escabeche sauce
                                                Sardines, usually spicy and I add a dash of citrus

                                                I like kipper or smoked clams with crackers, preferably triscuit

                                                I've used canned crab a few times but it seemed a bit salty. I think that's why it works perfect in soup applications.

                                                1. Thanks for the inspiration to try new canned seafood items! I regularly eat canned tuna, octopus & sardines but I am looking to expand my horizons. I have both Asian & Indian (Patel Bros.) markets close buy but have been reluctant to try products from countries that might have problems keeping seafood in the "cold chain" before canning. Being diabetic I'm always looking for low carbohydrate quick meal and snack ideas. This thread has given me lots of ideas.

                                                  1. Have razor clams been mentioned? I love a martini can of anything and oyster crackers

                                                    1. I can't believe nobody has mentioned sprats. Similar to sardines, but a lot less fishy at least to me.