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Anchovies : Love it or hate it.

I know it's hard to have feelings for anchovies.
Most people consider it a salty, foul-smelling turn-off.
Others, however, find it a rich, pungent fish.
It's one of those either "black or white" foods without any gray area.
Do you have a favorite anchovy dish or would you rather change the subject?

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  1. Of course they've been an available topping on pizza forever, but didn't they used to appear on Caesar salads?
    I just eat them on crackers or add diced anchovy to spaghetti sauce, scrambled eggs(anchovy and onion), any number of things-with other dishes like soups I simply use liberal doses of fish sauce.

    1. We use anchovies all the time, but for flavours. We do not use them as a main dish or as an app. Thus, they are usually pulverized in a blender or crushed in a mortar and pestle. So we run through a six oz package every two months.

      1. You're absolutely right, Wiley - I love seeing a nice Caesar salad with anchovies

        Love making a pasta dish with an anchovy based sauce - heat up a pan, hit it with the anchovies and the oil it came in, then add shallots and garlic, salt & pepper, and then add the cooked dripping pasta, top with fresh parmesan. Yum!

        2 Replies
        1. re: dachopstix

          Cesar dressing sometimes still has crushed anchovies, or at least Worcester sauce, fish sauce of the West.

          1. re: dachopstix

            Add some olive tapenade and you have the trifecta of things people think they hate - anchovies, olives, garlic.

          2. Love them in all their forms. Great whole in a caesar salad or a pasta. I even have a foondness for the salty ones on a pizza. They are also wonderful in sauces. Either as the star, or adding that bit of umami you can't quite put your finger on.

            1 Reply
            1. I can't stand them, but my husband loves them.

              1. Chow had a recipe for a lemony dressing for panzanella that had anchovies. It was good.

                1. lOVE THEM, as one said diced up in spaghetti sauce, on pizza, and good italian restaurants used to offer them on antipasto salad.

                  1. I'm thumbs up on 'em. I'll use the canned or jarred filets in a variety of preparations. My favorite dish, however, is plain old, pan-fried, whole, fresh anchovies.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MGZ

                      the mention of fried anchovies make people look at me funny. FRESH anchovies/sardines/smelts are PERFECT for frying. The small ones I call french fry fish...

                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        and perhaps a good drizzle of some good evoo, and some crusty semolina bread..

                    2. Not in my house, not at my table, not in my food, not on my plate, and I'll be damned if I'd kiss you if you just ate them.

                      18 Replies
                        1. re: MGZ

                          If you take the time to shave, you have time to brush your teeth and use mouthwash

                            1. re: jpc8015

                              I'm afraid we'll never get rid of the Caesar/anchovy myth. I love them but put them in a Caesar and you have something else. its the vodka martini story again

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                I love Caesar salad but I've never detected any anchovy flavor. Do some restaurants add it whereas others don't?

                                1. re: UTgal

                                  It's like fish sauce. You may never know that it is an ingredient.

                                  1. re: UTgal

                                    The answer is...as all food things are, it seems...complex. In its heyday, the salad apparently never had anchovies added whole or in part as a garnish. I remember them from the tableside show in New York in the 1960's and my father, who was a Caesar Salad snob of the first chop, always compared those to the ones he'd had over the years. He searched for the best recipe for years and finally found it in the pages of a now-dead New York newspaper. It had no anchovy, nor did any of the standards we ate then (and that he ate before). The ingredients were cast-in-stone: Romaine (washed, dried and chilled) finest olive oil(even in Manhattan this was a limited pool in those days), lemon juice, homemade croutons, parmesan cheese (grated at the table..this began to vanish towards the end of the era) salt, pepper, one beaten raw egg and Lea & Perrrins. That's it No anchovies, no artichoke hearts, no chicken pieces...

                                    It has been said that the notion of anchovy inclusion came from the fact that Lea&Perrins is (was) made with anchovies. I think that is nonsense. try to pull out the anchovy flavor in a Tablespoon of L&P in a salad involving a full head of romaine. Might as well add tamarind on the same theory.

                                    In my experience the anchovies began to appear when the Caesar returned from exile in tha llate 1970s/early 1980s when it became an anchor of the then-common power-lunch. These abysmal events involved innocent delights used to show that the diner was Fearless & Tough. So steak tartar, raw oysters and Caesar Salad made comebacks. The raw egg is the key "gross" item in the salad but anchovies showed up too. I don't know f they were considered anathema and therefore worthy of inclusion in this ridiculous "institution."

                                    Then you had the school that insisted on mashing up the anchovies in the prepared dressing. I don't know when that emerged but doubtless there are some recipes fro mthe 1950s that have that. It certainly is a tasty thing and good way to add salt.

                                    As noted, I love them and will eat them in any manner possible. But they are not authentic in a Caesar..And I will sometimes make a basic Caesar and add artichoke or/and anchovy and lots of finely chopped fresh garlic...but it is no longer a Caesar, that's all. Just saying.

                                    Try frying anchovies in a batter sometime. Outstanding.

                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                      i was under the impression that a caesar salad was built in a wooden bowl that had been rubbed with anchovy in the manner of garlic to impart a whiff or hint of the flavor...don't know where i got this but still...

                                  2. re: hazelhurst

                                    Odd. Every chef in every restaurant I have ever worked in has put them in the Caesar dressing and labeled it Caesar dressing. I don't recall ever having a single person send a salad back because it wasn't a Caesar.

                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                      This may be a function of age. Post WWII America was barraged with "improvements" that displaced many things I grew up with and did not see publically available until the whole Food Thing arose. TV Dinners and Clarence Birdseye lie like a band of scorched earth between the 1950's and now. Caesars vanished in the 1960s..at least the tableside show did. And about the same time, Italian Seasonings began marketing prepared salad dressings (0r "fresh ones" using a dry pack of stuff that you put in their little carafe with a green eye-shaped cap and then poured oil in and shook. My father viewed this with diaphanously veiled horror.) And the "Caesar" had anchovy in it. And then the idea that you could order a Caesar that was NOT made to order but, horrors, assembled in the kitchen, from a "Caesar Dressing" which had anchovy mashed and added. As I said before it is a great way to get salt in.

                                      Later--this is in my experience only--tableside prep made a return about the time of the Power Lunch[supra]. and then we saw anchovy filets mashed by fork into egg yolk.

                                      Now, I would not and will not order a Caesar not made in front of me if at a good restaurant. But were I to order one at a decent or somehat upscale place and I got the Caesar Dressing with the anchovy I probably would not send it back because I would half expect it. And besides, I like anchovies so the aberration is not unpleasant, it is just a different beast.

                                      And the standard has shifted such that people today think anchovies are essential. they just don't remember..or were not alive.

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        If the standard has shifted then doesn't the standard now include anchovies?

                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                          good point. Standards are standard and I stick to mine, which is 1930/30/50/60.. The point is that people NOW think anchovy is de facto part of a Caesar salad. and this is odd because the Caesar salad is one recipe that we know, to a remarkable degree of certainty, what the original and long-running version was....and it was without anchovy.

                                          Akin to the martini. trouble makers argue that if one is a purist, one should make The Real one (Martinez or whathaveyou) and this would be sweet stuff. I'd argue that the classic was set in the 1930s...Prohibition screwed up more things than garage walls on Clark Street in Chicago . That was not evolution so much as it was ascendance. And adding anchovy to a Caesar may be an enhancement...but a line must be drawn between The Real and the Faux. And, as with both Caesars and martinis, when too much latitude is allowed to "improve" perfection, we end up with Webster's Third International Dictionary: mayhem.

                                        2. re: hazelhurst

                                          Honestly, I've never had a tableside made version that wowed me. I have had quite a few kitchen prepared that did. Where are the wow table side restaurants?

                                          1. re: Bellachefa

                                            It is hard to find one. The last one I had that was great---and it was the first decent one in twenty years---. The Penrose room at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs did a bang-up job. the mix-master knew her stuff: history of the salad, controversies/debates, anchovies-or-not. And she was good enough to ask if we wanted the spiel or not. I told her to make the salad comme-il-faut, without anchovies BUT I also asked for anchovy on the side. Thus, I had the Best of All Possible Worlds. Even Candide would have taken a breather for fun..

                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                              Reading your posts reminded me of one of my favorite Cesar salads. When I first came to NY, there was the place called One Fifth (address One Fifth Ave so I could always find it). When you ordered the Cesar salad, the waiter would bring out a little cart with a bowl and all the makings for the salad. He would pour the cheese in the bowl, add the egg yolk, lemon juice and pour olive oil over it all with a couple of dashes of worcestershire sauce. Blend it then add the lettuce leaves and toss. Always enough for at least two servings. It was great and no anchovies in sight from what I recall.

                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                That's the basic drill. There was a spilt between adding the leaves last indtead of starting with the lettuce and tossing after each item was added. The former school believed that the salad did not wilt so much where as the latter believed in "fatiguer". There was also a major fight between those who wanted the lettuce torn (no black edges) and those who said it doesn't matter, just chop it.

                                  3. Love.
                                    Stuffed into olives
                                    scrambled into eggs
                                    schmeared into cream cheese
                                    melted into sauces
                                    in puttanesca
                                    in Caesar dressing
                                    sprinkled with lemon juice, s&P and grilled
                                    marinated in olive oil and vinegar
                                    lightly egg battered and quick fried

                                    LOVE them.

                                    1. Never sampled one, that I'm aware of.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Definitely love. I don't think a Caesar salad works without them, and they're great on pizza pasta. Of course, I was just snacking on a bag of Japanese dried anchovies, so I guess that speaks volumes as well.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: PegS

                                          I no longer eat fish but when i did those japanese sesame dried anchovies were my crack!!

                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                            I forgot about those dried anchovies. For an anchovy-lover like myself, those dried anchovies can be quite addictive. Particularly for someone on a low carb diet, the sweet and spicy anchovies are the perfect replacement for someone with a weakness for BBQ chips.

                                            But as much as I love salty anchovies on pizza or cured anchovies on cheese and tomatoes; I could never wrap my mind around the fermented anchovy sauce that my grandparents kept in their cupboard. It is a precursor to fish sauce, so if you find fish sauce pungent or repellent, just can only imagine what is like BEFORE the refining process.

                                            1. re: JungMann

                                              JM, i have a total weakness for BBQ chips - would i find the sweet & spicy anchovies at any big asian supermarket? do you know what they're called, or do you have a brand name you like? tho how easy those would be to eat at lunch in an office - odor-wise - i don't know.....

                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                You can find sweet and spicy anchovies in the snacks aisle of most big Asian supermarkets, but I prefer to buy them at the Filipino store where they are called by their Tagalog name, "Dilis." There are a couple brands and often housemade versions sold in saran wrapped plastic cups. In general I prefer to stick to the jars or cups over vacuum packed brands like Seakid. If you don't have a nearby Filipino store, the photo below is a good Japanese brand that seems to be widely distributed in most Asian stores, though it lacks the heat that makes the Filipino anchovies taste barbecuey.


                                        2. As an ingediant LOVE IT. As a stand alone item HATE IT.

                                          1. well in regards to 'black or white' I love a bite or two of regular anchovies in a salad, or melted down for cooking. I even like them rolled around a caper. I loath the fancy white anchovies and won't order a salad out that boasts them as an elevated and more special ingredient.

                                            1. I enjoy them when mixed in with ingredients

                                                  1. Love : Agostina Recca anchovies packed in salt
                                                    No love : Star anchovies

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: emglow101

                                                      i love the Agostinas better - much, much better - but i would eat and enjoy the Stars.

                                                    2. Anchovy is essential in pasta alla puttanesca. It is customary, but not essential, in Caesar salad dressing. I don't care for the practice of putting anchovy fillets on a Caesar salad.

                                                      One of the best uses of anchovy is to serve them with just bread and olive oil in a tapas bar (boquarones). These should be the white anchovies.

                                                      I like to smash them into butter (the regular anchovies packed in oil in small jars) to put on toast.

                                                      Then there's pizza, of course.

                                                      1. Love canned anchovies in pastas, dressings, tapenades, bagna cauda...

                                                        And they're not canned, but fried boquerones are a fave, too.

                                                        Definitely in the anchovy love camp. :)

                                                        1. Hate them, but like fish sauce.
                                                          I think I probably hate anchovy in European dishes that you would use anchovy in. Asian dishes where there is fish sauce are more balanced to my taste. If there is anchovy in my salad/pizza/pasta/whatever.....I can smell it and taste it from ten paces. Fish sauce used in Asian cuisines....yum!

                                                          1. Blended into pesto.

                                                            Lovely. Just lovely.

                                                            1. Agostino Recca salted anchovies with HOT vinegar peppers and a crusty Italian bread. To drink, maybe a nice amber beer or something Carricante perhaps.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. Never met an anchovy I didn't like. Once spent a week in Barcelona and had boquerones every day. Give me a tub of these and a cocktail stick and a beer and I'm a happy man.

                                                                1. "It's one of those either "black or white" foods without any gray area."
                                                                  Not for me. I can't stomach them whole, but I do cook with them and love them in things like a puttanesca sauce, etc. Go figure.

                                                                  1. Have to say "hate" with a BIG BUT!?! Don't like them on pizza, even if only on half... that FISHY flavor swarms the whole pie.

                                                                    Years ago, watched "Ciao Italia" with Marianne Esposito on PBS... still watch. She was making a muffaletta sandwich that had an olive spread. It was green/black olives, onions/garlic, olive oil, and a bunch of other things zizzed up in food processor till a coarse paste. I've added marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and other things I knew would get along.

                                                                    When she got to the anchovies (like a whole small tin with the oil), swear she heard me YUCK!! She said there would be no fishy taste/smell and that they were basically enhancing flavor and adding salt to the mix. So I bought a small can, opened it, and was surprised NOT to encounter an ODOR I couldn't stand!?! I got brave enough to add about half of the can to the mix. Sandwich was a BIG success. I wrapped up the other half can of anchovies and stuck in freezer for another time. When I finally went to use them, there was that SMELL I hated?!?

                                                                    My conclusion was... once a tin is opened, they need to be consumer relatively quickly before the undesired aroma developes?!? Can't imagine a pizza place using those LITTLE tins; probably more like pound cans. Also thinking opened and properly refrigerated ones could last safely for a while.... and that's what probably happens at a pizzeria!?!

                                                                    1. This morning it was anchovies and scrambled eggs.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        You're halfway there...you got the Green eggs part.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          I've never thought to do that but that sounds wonderful.

                                                                        2. Anchovies (almost any style), a loaf of crusty French bread, big chunk of rat trap cheese, Valida onion, a little minced garlic/parsley in olive oil, and an Abita beer is one of my favorite snacks.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: mudcat

                                                                            I'll bring a can of sardines, and a bottle of hot sauce.

                                                                          2. There are three things that my palate will not tolerate and I have tried over and over and over again to love them but to no avail-trust me I do consider myself a Foodie. They are Lima Beans, Olives and Fishy Fish. To some Anchovies are not very fishy but salty. Well to me they are fishy-and we are not even going to start with Sardines-just the smell of them and I want to hurl.

                                                                            So when I do have a Caesar Salad it has to be very light on the Anchovy to the point were I can barely taste them.

                                                                            1. Love! One of my favorite treats is going out for a plate of marinated anchovies and a glass of beer in the middle of the day when I should be at work.

                                                                              As for canned ones, I love them sauteed in olive oil with garlic, as a topping for broccoli or cauliflower.

                                                                                1. Anchovies with roasted peppers are a delight. Also great on an Italian sub (hero, grinder, etc).

                                                                                  A real treat are the milder, uncured white anchovies from Spain.

                                                                                  1. White anchovies on a crust of bread with a glass of red, nothing else needed.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: treb

                                                                                      Always good--although beer is a good choice. Try Gentleman's Relish on melba with garlic butter.

                                                                                    2. LOVE!♡♥♡♥

                                                                                      Right out of the can on fresh crusty semolina italian bread. Delicious!

                                                                                      1. love them. whole, fresh, cooked, white, canned, salted, jarred - any which way.

                                                                                        a local restaurant mashed them up and them puts them in extra virgin olive oil and serves them as a dipping sauce for bread. we go through baskets of that stuff.

                                                                                        bagna cauda? That's heaven in a cauldron.

                                                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                            With pineapple. Don't forget the pineapple.


                                                                                          2. I would guess that more people have eaten anchovies without even knowing it. For example; at restaurants that little salty after note in your entree may just be anchovies. Also, found in things like Worcestershire Sauce. So enjoy, they're a great little treasure.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: treb

                                                                                              I chuckled when I read this as I am a Worcestershire Sauce Junkie. I even started a thread-'My love affair with Worcestershire Sauce'. I remember reading the ingredients when I was much younger and when I saw Anchovies listed I stopped using it for months. Haha. I went back to using it and tried to block out the anchovies.

                                                                                            2. canned anchovies are not all that palatable raw, straight & whole - they are just too intensely salty/fishy for most peoples taste (my doggies love them) but they do absolute wonders for building a flavor base. Like fish sauce - I don't enjoy drinking shots of it but on and in dishes it is wonderful and mostly you don't detect it aside from the umami factor.

                                                                                              1. A hunk of nice seeded, crusted Italian white, cut open, shmear some nice ricotta on both sides, lay a thin layer of canned anchovies a slight drizzle of the oil from the can, close it up and cold Amstel light...great Saturday lunch...

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                    The would be a justifiable substitution.....

                                                                                                1. Love and hate. Love the way it adds flavor to dishes, hate the way it's a gout trigger. The imported ones from Spain and Italy that are packed in salt are a totally different animal from the oil can ones we used to put on pizza in the '70s. No smell at all. Adding a couple to soups and stews adds umami, which will intensify the other flavors. I keep some anchovy paste when I need just a squirt. Lots of old British recipes call for a splash of anchovy sauce. The original ketchup was anchovy based; same with Worchestershire sauce. And the Greeks/Romans used garum like it was going out of style, which it eventually did.

                                                                                                  One of my favorite kinds of tapas was fresh anchovy fillets in oil with a drizzle of lemon juice on grilled bread.

                                                                                                  1. Definitely a favorite, and have been since childhood when we'd get the huge pizza with the works. Today, I love fresh grilled red bell peppers with anchovies, a fruity olive oil and several grinds of black pepper. I make my olive tapenade with them and always insist that my Caesar salad have two or three.

                                                                                                    I had a Mexican friend years ago who would open a can of anchovies, dump them on a piece of white bread, roll it up and eat it like a fish Twinkie. Surprisingly, he was a surgeon and you'd think the doc would have been more BP conscious.

                                                                                                    I once ordered pizza in NYC and the waitress asked,"Ya want eyebrows on that?" It took a moment but I got it.


                                                                                                    1. I really like a recipe I learned here - chicken salad made with chopped hard boiled eggs, and mashed anchovies. I usually add cilantro leaves when I serve it, usually in a starburst tomato or avocado half.

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                        Starbust tomato? Avocado half?

                                                                                                        You're such the Martha Stewart.

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                          I always had this thing for Martha....then I actually met her in person....

                                                                                                          1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                            Just be glad you don't work for her. The stories one can tell ...

                                                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                            Wait until you see my Ginger bread men sparkling Christmas tree ornaments this winter! You eat them as you take the tree down, which is usually a chore, but now it's a hootenanny!

                                                                                                        2. We recently had a terrific lunch, pre-theatre, in NYC. One of the dishes was orecchiette with broccoli rabe, anchovies, bread crumbs, garlic and olive oil. Perfect.

                                                                                                          1. I LOVE anchovies. Try and get the italian ones packed in glass jars. They tend to be less salty. Love Agostino Recca or Stella Del Mare.
                                                                                                            I add them to pasta sauces and stews, just one per serving but they add this Unami flavor (reduce salt)
                                                                                                            There is a great relish I do with them for grilled lamb. Equal parts chopped anchovy, parsley, garlic & Capers. Add olive oil to taste.
                                                                                                            Also great for Salad dressings of all sorts not just ceasar.
                                                                                                            Even love them on wheat toast with sour cream and chives for breakfast.
                                                                                                            YUM Anchovy..

                                                                                                            1. Nothing makes a better dirty gin martini than anchovy-stuffed olives. i love those things, the olives. I buy Reese because that's what they sell where I shop. I often eat a few as breakfast (no gin).

                                                                                                              I like anchovies with pasta (mmm, puttanesca), and with potatoes (casseroles like Jansson's Temptation) . Also mashed into cream cheese and spread on toasted english muffins. And on pizza, tho they are often not the best anchovies.

                                                                                                              1. From a can, on a Ritz, during the game. Also love smoked herring as a chaser for a tequila shot.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: tonyabbo

                                                                                                                  Maybe someone will come up with an anchovy rimmer for tequila and Bloody Marys..

                                                                                                                  1. re: Wiley1

                                                                                                                    Ch-er L.Nightshade once made me a bloody mary into which she had blended a salt packed (rinsed) anchovy and sriracha, topped off with a crisp slice of bacon as. garnish. to die for.

                                                                                                                2. New to the boards, but had a timely story on this topic. Family dinner Friday night at an Italian restaurant. My salad comes with a rather stinky anchovy on top. I forked it off and deposited it onto my sister’s plate with a big grin. My DH then takes the little fishy and tells 9 year old nephew he would pay $1 if he ate it. Nephew ate it, managed not to gag, and promptly declared, “that was not good.” He proudly took his dollar and ate his dinner.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: Aussieshepsx2

                                                                                                                    I recall being 9, when a dollar was worth more. I would have done it.