Anchovy Oil Is a Flavor Powerhouse Hiding in Plain Sight

Don’t throw away the oil your anchovies are packed in—it has a ton of flavor.

Published Oct. 5, 2022.

Anchovies are controversial. I get it. I happen to love them—so salty, so savory—but I can see why some people are turned off; anchovies have a TON of flavor, and if that flavor isn’t your jam, there’s a lot to dislike. 

So this is not a plea to convert the haters. Rather, it’s a recommendation to the anchovy lovers to make the most of what they’re buying by cooking with not just the anchovies themselves but the flavorful oil they’re packed in too. 

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While the test kitchen doesn’t have recipes (that I know of) that call for anchovy oil, I’ve found that you can use the oil pretty much anywhere you’d employ actual anchovies or fish sauce. Some of the ways I’ve used it in everyday cooking are in:

  • Salad dressings (Caesar and other)
  • Marinara sauce for pasta or pizza
  • Tuna salad
  • Deviled-egg filling
  • Marinades for chicken or shrimp
  • Base for sautéing seafood
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Stir-fry sauce
  • Roux for shrimp gumbo or bisque

Obviously, the preferred anchovy oil for any of these uses is oil from nice (that is, relatively expensive) specimens packed in nothing but extra-virgin olive oil and salt (you can read our taste test of anchovies to find the brand that’s right for you). But I’ll be honest; I’ve used the oil from anchovies packed in lesser oils and it still worked great, adding a background seafood flavor, salinity, and deep umami to whatever I was cooking. 

Smart cooks are thrifty cooks, and using your anchovy oil is a pro move that will add more flavor to whatever you’re cooking—and save you money in the process.

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