How to Use Canned Fish

Last Update: December 21, 2023

If your canned fish repertoire involves mashing up tuna and mayonnaise for a quick lunch, it’s high time to expand your palate—and your pantry’s offerings. Tuna is a classic, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sardines, mackerel, and oysters are also affordable and sustainable options to support a healthy lifestyle. Ready to dive in? Keep reading for fresh ideas that go way beyond sandwiches.

Raising Our Standards on Sustainable Fishing

It’s a shocking statistic, but almost 90 percent of global fish stocks are fully exploited or overfished, and less biodiversity is closely linked with ocean pollution and acidification. That’s why it’s important to opt for more sustainable fish varieties when you can. By enjoying abundant options like anchovies, sardines, and mackerel, you’re helping relieve pressure on the most popular fish stocks (such as shrimp and tuna) and supporting brands that use responsible fishing methods that contribute to healthier marine ecosystems. At Thrive Market, we stock our shelves with the best brands who take sustainability seriously, like opting for line or pole fishing, or sonar detection rather than dredging, bottom trawling, or FAD fishing methods that damage ocean life and produce excess bycatch.

Types of Canned Fish

When it comes to choosing the most sustainable fish, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has guides for consumers and an app, and you can also stock up on some of our member favorites.

Safe Catch Elite Pure Wild Tuna

Safe Catch partners with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and tests every fish for mercury before it’s canned. The brand uses FAD-free fishing methods for its skipjack, the most abundant tuna species in the world since it spawns year-round. Lauren from Pennsylvania says “if you truly love tuna for salad or casserole, you will immediately notice a difference in quality compared to anything you used before.”

Thrive Market Non-GMO Wild Pink Salmon

Our canned salmon is dolphin- and turtle-safe and wild-caught in Alaska’s pristine waters, then packed fresh, right after catch. Thrive Market member Peggy from Florida finds it to be fresh and delicious, and “a great choice for wild caught omegas!”

Scout PEI Mussels

Scout’s Certified Organic mussels are shucked by hand in the inlets of Prince Edward Island in Canada and preserved in a rich smoked paprika and fennel tomato sauce. Kathleen from Minnesota says they’re “great with wheat crackers and parmesan cheese.”

Thrive Market Non-GMO Sardines in Water

Our sardines are sustainably caught and packed in water and a hint of salt. With 15g of protein per serving, they’re a paleo- and gluten-free pantry must-have. Rachel from Utah reports “these are by far the best sardines I’ve experienced; very fresh tasting and beautifully nutritious!”

Wild Planet Wild Mackerel Fillets in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Wild Planet’s mackerel offers 21g of protein and an impressive amount of omega-3’s per serving. This fish is sustainably caught in the Atlantic Ocean using single-species targeted purse seine fishing methods. Wild Planet’s founder Bill Carvalho says “because each fish is removed from the hook by a fisherman, if another species happens to be caught, it can be released back into the ocean.” This method is more labor-intensive, but there’s almost zero bycatch which helps reduce overfishing.

Canned Fish Flavor Boosters

Before we get to the recipes, be sure your pantry is stocked with all the condiments you need to transform your canned fish into memorable recipes.


Everyone needs a classic mayo on hand, but don’t miss the chance to add even more flavor additions like truffle and chipotle.

Olive Oil

From extra virgin to garlic-infused, there’s no such thing as too much olive oil.


Grain-free, gluten-free, or topped with everything spices, there’s a cracker for every mood.


Let your spice drawer do the heavy lifting and don’t be shy with adding a pinch to your dishes.

Salty Bites

Salty and briny bites are the finishing touch that takes a recipe from good to great.

11 Ways to Use Canned Fish (Beyond Tuna and Crackers)

You can always count on a bowl of tuna and crackers for a quick lunch in a pinch, but it’s time to step up your canned fish game with these fresh ideas.

Gluten-Free Fish Tacos

Yes, canned tuna can spice up Taco Tuesday. We jazz it up with vibrant spices like garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika, then drizzle on a zesty avocado crema to cool everything down.

Garlic and Herb Sardines

This appetizer is ready in 10 minutes flat and features sustainable sardines crisped up with melted butter, garlic, and a lemony coating—just add toast!


Whole30® Canned Tuna Larb

For a Whole30® month (or anytime, really), this 30 minute meal puts a spin on a traditional Laotian salad using canned tuna, lime juice, and staples like fish sauce, avocado oil, and ground ginger.

Salmon Cakes

Grab a can of wild Alaskan salmon for these tender cakes studded with bell peppers, shallot, and parsley. It makes an elegant and easy lunch or light dinner, and don’t forget the spiced remoulade.

Open-Faced Tuna Melts

Upgrade your tuna melt recipe with crusty bread, gooey cheese, and some extra special ingredients like capers, cornichons, and Dijon mustard for a puckery bite.

Lemon Sardine Pâté

This modern appetizer blends lemon and thyme with oil-packed sardines and rich ghee. The whole thing comes together in a food processor and couldn’t be easier.

Sardine Caesar Salad

Instead of classic anchovies, sardines star in this fresh take on Caesar salad that’s tossed in a creamy dressing with toasted panko breadcrumbs, salty Parmesan cheese, and romaine lettuce.

Gluten-Free Spaghetti With Sardines, Arugula, and Artichokes

Enjoy this gluten-free Mediterranean pasta any night of the week. Green olives, capers, and citrus elevate canned sardines for an easy dish that’s ready in under 30 minutes.

Anchovy and Onion Flatbread

When pizza night is on the menu, try this paleo version that uses a cassava flour crust. The topping combines caramelized onions and anchovies with arugula and lemon for a gluten-free bite everyone will love.

Tuna Temaki

These tasty hand rolls are sushi-inspired and paleo-friendly. Water-packed tuna stands in for the raw variety, making this dish an affordable weeknight option.

Pasta Puttanesca With Sardines

Pasta might be the perfect vehicle for sardines, especially when paired with sweet tomatoes, briny olives and capers, and a generous amount of garlic.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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