Photo courtesy of Comur.

If there is one thing social media has been good for in recent years, it’s revealing fresh takes on old favorites. The most recent fad? The rediscovery of canned seafood.  

Expand your pantry, move a little out of your culinary comfort zone and dive into some of these tuna alternatives. Known as “conservas” in Spain and Portugal, this time-honored tradition of preserving seafood dates back to the early 1800s. 

The most commonly found tinned fishes are: 

  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Mussels
  • Oysters 

Why jump on the trend? 

In addition to spicing up your food routine, little fishes are great for you. According to the Mayo Clinic, fish like sardines and herring are great for heart health. Some of the top nutrient-dense seafood can be found in cans. 

Not only is diversifying your seafood choices good for your body, but it can also be good for our planet. When consumers mix up their fish purchases, it can benefit ocean ecosystems by not overfishing certain species.  

With overall health and sustainability aside, tinned fishes just taste good!   

Photo courtesy of Patagonia Provisions.

Where to find quality tinned fish in Pittsburgh?

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill canned tuna. Take the opportunity to move beyond your usual mundane grocery store purchase and experiment with different items. It’s also a great time to check out a shop or market you don’t normally frequent. There are several neighborhood grocers that could have just what you’re looking for — and you’ll be supporting a local business. 

While Adda Coffee & Tea House in Garfield is one of several of Adda’s coffee shops in the city, this location in particular also acts as a small shop that carries a selection of curated items that are perfect for gifts. The array of spices and unique dry goods found here make for a great stop to liven up a tinned fish night. The international selection often includes preserved fish from Portugal, so it’s an ideal stop to pick up some essentials you may not know you even need in your pantry. 

Salem’s Market & Grill is a Strip District institution. The small grocer and dining spot is a much-needed source of international cuisine in the city. This is a place to peruse the aisles and explore adding a few ingredients you may not often cook with at home. Adding something Middle Eastern, East Asian or Mediterranean for your tinned fish dinner is a way to introduce new tastes that can be incorporated into weekly meals.  

Pitaland is a Mediterranean eatery and bakery in Brookline that also sells dried goods. While it’s a fantastic spot to stop for a meal at the cafe, a real takeaway treat is snagging a can of tinned fish and a few bags of pita. The whole pita procession operation makes around 20,000 fresh a day!  

The East End Food Coop in North Point Breeze can be a sustainable swap to your everyday grocery shopping as well as a source for hard-to-find items like specialty canned fish. A food coop, or “cooperative,” is a grocery store owned by the community, so local food and farms are a major focus. While you can be a member of the coop, anyone is able to shop at their store. Going in for a few items like canned fish is a great introduction to an independent grocery store model.     

If hyper-local shopping isn’t accessible to you, Trader Joe’s has also gotten into the canned fish craze and if you’re going for your weekly shop, it’s a great time to swing down an extra aisle and explore their seafood selections. 

If it’s difficult to get to a physical location for all your accouterments, Patagonia Provisions has a few good online options. The company recently committed their profits to fight climate change, so you can feel good about your purchases.

Photo courtesy of Comur.

If you’re looking to make a special purchase, then head straight to the source and order through Comur, a Portuguese company that showcases the “fantastic world of sardines.” Its colorful tins and whimsical designs are a true treat for the eyes as well as a feast for the stomach. Founded in 1942, Comur is one of the largest producers of canned fish. Comur has 22 stores located throughout Portugal but also operates an online shop so the seafaring snack can be shipped to kitchens across the globe.  

OK, now you have your main ingredients, What’s next?

The idea of a tinned fish meal is a casual dining experience, so dive into the condiment shelf in the fridge. 

Experiment with pairings and flavor profiles, spicy and sweet, savory or sour. Herbs and spices are your friends. Add some freshness by incorporating a sprig of chopped greens, a sliced chile or a squeeze of citrus. Seafood-friendly herbs like dill or parsley are a great start.

Capers, olives and cornichons or pickled veggies are something briny to complement seafood. A grainy mustard, spicy chutney and hot sauces are always a welcome addition. Something with a bite like radishes, baby heirloom carrots or a Persian cucumber can give that crunch that enhances the texture of the fish.  

Photo courtesy of Canva.

An additional protein like a jammy egg or earthy bean can expand the flavor profiles of your tinned fish spread.

Pair with crackers or slices of your favorite bread. If the fish is the star of the show, then think of bread as a much-needed supporting character. Add to a salad or top it onto noodles to make a more complete meal as opposed to a snacking or grazing board. 

What to drink?

Wines are a great pairing with a fishy dish, and since loads of canned fish hail from Spain or Portugal, it’s a great time to pick up a white wine from either of these regions. Bubbly wines like something sparkling or Champagne are both great choices if you’re looking to make your tinned fish a fancier affair. 

Pick up a bottle at a specialty wine shop and visit palate professionals such as Spill or Dreadnought Wines. Also, find an alcohol-free alternative at The Open Road shop. 

Curious about keeping your seafood purchases more sustainable? Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to be a more conscious consumer.