There’s a Cheap Food Trend Taking Over TikTok—and We’re Here for It
Sometimes big flavor really does come in small packages
If you haven’t thought about tinned fish like anchovies and sardines lately (or ever!), you’re missing out on an affordable, portable nutritional powerhouse—just check out one of the hundreds of #tinnedfish videos on TikTok. Tinned fish is one of the healthiest and most sustainable snacks around, packed with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium and vitamin A. And how many other superfoods come in tins pretty enough to gift?
Zingerman’s, the famed mail-order culinary emporium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, stocks more than 70 types of tinned fish, including aged varieties. But no need for a special occasion to open up a vintage tin, says co-founder Ari Weinzweig. “Eat them as is, just like an awesome aged cheese.”
Sardines appeal to almost everyone, he says, “from salt-of-the-earth workers to culinary elites.” Weinzweig notes their presence in various food traditions. “Sardines were a staple of the coastal Native American diet long before Europeans arrived,” he says. “There are many stories of poor Jewish families honoring the Sabbath tradition of eating fish by sitting down to a Friday meal of nothing but tinned sardines and hard-boiled eggs. In Michigan, sardines were a staple in the lunch buckets of ironworkers who built the Mackinac Bridge in the 1950s.”
How to enjoy sardines
Irresistible on their own, the little fish have a briny depth of flavor that makes them a perfect “back-pocket” ingredient in many dishes. A dab of anchovy in sauces brings “a burst of umami,” says Chris McDade, chef and author of The Magic of Tinned Fish, calling anchovies “a chefs’ secret.” Indeed, many people don’t realize that anchovies add zing to Worcestershire sauce, some steak sauces and many Caesar dressings.
Tinned fish are fantastic with salads and fresh vegetables. “I love a green goddess dressing made with mayo, sour cream, mustard, anchovies, lots of fresh herbs and jalapeño for spice,” McDade says. Try it drizzled on grilled broccoli, showered with pistachios and a handful of herbs.
Little fish are a sustainable option, McDade adds, because they are lower on the food chain. “Everyone loves tuna, swordfish and halibut, but we have to eat the smaller stuff. It’s the only way to keep the balance going.”
And with so many nutrients and so little mercury, tinned fish are a good way to keep your internal nutritional balance going too.