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Anchovies Exposed: What Do Anchovies Taste Like?

Just as the seas seem endless, the fishes living in them always have something new to offer to the palate of a seafood lover.

And anchovies are something you’ll find everywhere if you live by the waters.

You must have come across anchovies in many different ways but not realized it.

And if your first encounter with them were through some cheap pizza or hastily prepared stews, you’ll probably hate them.

But these fishes are much more exciting to eat, especially when prepared correctly.

What do anchovies taste like? Stay around because we’ll be looking at this fish’s taste and culinary uses.

What are Anchovies?

Anchovies are small forage fish distributed across the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Mediterranean oceans.

Among the 144 identified species, the Peruvian anchovy is the largest, and the European anchovy is the most consumed.

Although the oceans are the primary habitat for anchovies, they also live in brackish and temperate waters.

They do not like waters that are too cold or warm.

Adult anchovies may range from 2 to 40 cm in length.

These fishes are easily identifiable by their protruding upper jaw that extends far behind their eyes.

They have a silver stripe which makes their green scales appear blue.

When used as food, anchovies have a strong flavor and are mostly used in small quantities to flavor other dishes.

They are primarily sold fileted and canned.

Besides, anglers love to use them as fish bait, especially when fishing for sharks and salmon.

What Do Anchovies Taste Like?

The flavor that best describes anchovies is umami.

And if you reside in a region where fresh fishes are inaccessible, don’t lose heart because anchovies taste like fish sauce.

Well, most fish sauces are made with anchovies and sea salt, and you’ll find them in any convenience store.

They’re one of the best ways to introduce anchovies to your palate.

Anchovies will give your taste buds sweet, savory, bitter, and salty flavors.

Some may even taste fishy depending on the region you fish them.

But the overly fishy or briny elements in anchovies are also associated with the staleness of fish.

If you try eating anchovies raw, they’ll taste unpalatably fishy.

That’s because these small fishes are packed with robust flavors through all layers of their meat.

But when cooked, they taste earthy and savory, and their meat turns reddish-grey.

The texture is soft and meaty and easily disintegrates with cooking.

Because anchovies have an overly strong flavor, they are great at flavoring dishes.

Even a small amount will enhance your meal with enough fishy elements.

And don’t even think about saving them to try later because anchovies have many health benefits to offer.

The best one remains its healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

One fish that is very often used as a substitute for anchovies is sardines.

Both fish are small, taste similar, and are sold side by side in the canned fish section in stores.

They are both considered oily fish and are fairly inexpensive.

The difference is that sardines are less slaty and are larger than anchovies.

They also have a meatier texture, taste fishier, and are less oily.

This is what makes them incapable of being substituted for the other.

How to Cook and Serve Anchovies?

Preparing a meal with anchovies doesn’t have to be just plain, fishy dishes with unpleasant smells.

Consider these cooking/serving options when you have them next:

Anchovy paste: Turning anchovies into a paste will make them suitable for just about any type of dish.

And to do this, you’ll need vinegar, red wine, garlic, and some herbs to add a depth of flavor.

You can spread this paste onto freshly baked goodies or meat and veggies.

Sandwich: If you like enjoying the anchovies whole, a sandwich is the best way to serve them.

When you layer some canned anchovies over slices of tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo, you’ll have breakfast ready in no time.

Pasta sauce: Adding anchovies to pasta sauce is a quick way to turn any boring tomato-based sauce into a deliciously salty condiment.

Remember to let them cook for a few minutes while preparing your sauce.

Although you can eat anchovies raw, it’s best to avoid them as they contain high amounts of sodium and may be detrimental to your health.

In addition, you may even suffer the risk of experiencing parasitic infections.


Now that anchovies seem familiar to you, are you ready to try eating them? If you do, make sure to buy fresh anchovies that don’t smell too fishy.

These fishes are a little robust in flavor, so they’ll reek your kitchen of the unpleasant smell if you buy anything stale.

When prepared well, anchovies can make their way into many dishes as garnishes and taste enhancers.

Always serve them with some sides because these fishes are really high in sodium.

What Do Anchovies Taste Like? Do It Taste Good?

Andrew Gray
Looking for insights into the flavors of anchovies? Wondering if they're enjoyable to eat? Here's a guide on what anchovies taste like and whether they're considered tasty.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Food Taste
Servings 1 Serving


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Keyword What Do Anchovies Taste Like
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