Salt 101

Apparently I like eating "cat food" now?

As a kid, I jokingly called the cans lined up in the pantry “human cat food.” Tinned fish—always tuna—was for last minute lunch packing emergencies. The thought of tucking into one when guests came round was a notion more far-fetched than believing that three wizard 12-year olds saved the world.

Cut to today—The year is 2024 and apparently tinned fish has been coined the new “hot girl food.” Tinned fish date nights are gourmet festivities. Oily squid in a tin can run you up to $45. And the whimsical, design-forward packaging has earned itself viral Instagram fame. I’ve linked some of my favorites here!

After years of mis-marketing the canned food aisle, tinned fish has returned to its roots as a treat to be craved rather than a last resort to be resigned to thanks to stores like Big Night, online marketplaces like Lata, popups like the Portuguese Sardine in Times Square, and gourmet brands like Tiny Fish Co. (code SOIREE10 for 10% off), FishWife, and Jose Gourmet. This letter is an ode to the comeback story of the century.

What is tinned fish?

Living in New York, grocery shopping is more of an expedition than an errand. You’re waiting in queues for hours, running into your ex's best friend and best friend’s ex, spending exorbitant amounts of money on what amounts to absolutely nothing and a bag of truffle chips, then lugging your bags up six flights of stairs, praying to god, Trader Joe, and the queen mother, Taylor Swift that they don’t break.

Finding something that is shelf-stable, affordable, aaaand has protein to boot…Charlie, my boy, you’ve got the Golden Ticket. Enter: tinned fish.

Some of the most popular types of tinned fish:


Keep in mind: Look for brands that have been ethically sourced or “pole caught.”

Favorite brand: Tonnino

Favorite way to enjoy: Make a tuna salad with a little bit of mayo, dijon mustard, a hint of soy sauce for umami, minced shallot, celery, lemon zest, and chopped capers or cornichons.


Keep in mind: Clams, mussels, and oysters are an easy way to add protein to a pasta!

Favorite brand: Tiny Fish Co. (SOIREE10 for 10% off)

Best way to enjoy: Our featured chef, Sara Hauman, the founder of Tiny Fish Co. and former Top Chef contestant recommends enjoying her Chorizo Spiced Mussels on a cracker with cream cheese and crushed hazelnuts as a salsa macha inspired treat!

“These mussels are an ode to my time living in Spain. I was enamored with the Moorish influence in the south of Spain—the architecture, culture and cuisine and I wanted to embrace that with the cumin and paprika forward spice mix you find in this tin.  I love adding a crunchy element, whether it is nuts or seed to this tin,” she explains.


Keep in mind: Look for wild over farmed salmon for a more environmentally sustainable choice. Opt for Alaskan, Sockeye, or red salmon.

Favorite brand: Fishwife

Favorite way to enjoy: Wrapped in wasabi seaweed with avocado like a hand roll.


Keep in mind: Tinned octopus can be on the pricier side, but the surface area and texture make it a great vessel for so many interesting flavors.

Favorite brand: Tiny Fish Co. (SOIREE10 for 10% off)

Favorite way to enjoy: Chef Sara recommended either enjoying the lemony, dill octopus on a cucumber round for a bit of freshness and crunch, topped with some feta or “warming this tin up just a little and then using it to enhance dishes, like pasta, steak, or even garlic bread,” she explains.


Keep in mind: Mackerel is a great 201 option if you’re just getting into tinned fish but are tired of the classic tuna.

Favorite brand: Patagonia Provisions

Favorite way to enjoy: In a crunchy salad with fennel, toasted nuts or seeds, green apple or grape, and a mustardy vinaigrette.

Sardines & Anchovies

Keep in mind: Sardines and anchovies are often confused for one another by their head to tail packing, small size, and fishy flavor.

Favorite brands: Ortiz & Bela

Favorite way to enjoy: Sardines on a cracker with a “cheaters aioli” (mayo, mustard, and a bit of minced garlic, mixed). Anchovies with lots and lots of butter on a baguette.

The history of tinned fish

Luckily, living in this age of everything vintage being new again, anything French-girl approved being the height of cool, and basics being effortlessly chic thanks to queen Dakota Johnson *bow down,* tinned foods have had a great renaissance in the years since the pandemic. Cans are cool again. Tins are *in*.

To fully understand the tinned fish craze, one has to start with a bit of the history.

The first records of “fish canning” date back to the late 1700s in France. Napoleon offered 12,000 francs as a prize to whoever could figure out a way to preserve energizing, protein-rich, and filling food to keep the military fed and healthy. Nicola Appert, often referred to as “the father of canning” created a preservation and sterilization process that spread quickly throughout Europe, but became especially famous in the Iberian Peninsula.

Spain and Portugal became leaders in the world of tinned fish, in large part due to the hot climate and limited access to refrigeration. With access to some of the best seafood and a widespread culture around “conservas,” restaurants dedicated to serving tinned fish, bread, wine, and assorted accouterments to enjoy it with, they still are.

In the Iberian Peninsula, seafood is preserved through a process of frying and canning in a boiling water bath—much like sterilizing jars for jam. What makes these “conservas” such a delicacy though, are the unique flavors added to each tin. Sauces, spices, and additions like garlic or Calabrian chilis are added to the oil or liquido de cobertura, the juice in the can that keeps the fish from drying out or going bad, to highlight the flavor of each fish.  

While the “conservas” culture is casual snacking in Spanish culture, much like the Italian aperitivo, in the 19th century, canned meats and seafoods were considered a symbol of wealth and luxury in the United States. Even Tiffany’s said so—the society-favorite jewelry brand going so far as to make and sell tiny six pronged sardine forks meant for the occasion that was…eating tinned fish.

Today, in the “hip,” or maybe “infamous” is a better word, Dimes Square, models, photographers, skaters, and “aspiring artists” flock to Le Dive, the Parisian-inspired “cool kid” watering hole, where tinned fish is a chic addition to the menu. $16 for sardines and a few pieces of baguette may seem blasphemous, but the “hot girl food” meant for sharing is a fan-favorite snack.

How to eat tinned fish

  • Straight of the can
  • On bread…specifically a baguette, ideally with a thick slab of salted butter
  • On an avocado or with crudités—cucumbers, radishes, celery, tomatoes, or carrots
  • On crackers, potato chips, or pita
  • In a pasta
  • In a salad
  • On a pizza, tartine, or crostini
  • In a sandwich or wrap
  • On a “Seacuterie Board” —a charcuterie board filled with assorted seafood and vessels to enjoy it
  • With cheese
  • With fruit—grapes, berries, figs, etc.
  • With jam, chutney, kimchi, achar, or tapenade
  • With herbs—dill, basil, mint
  • Paired with olives, cornichons, capers, pickled onions, roasted nuts, etc.
  • With oil, vinegar, or lemon
  • With whole seeds like fennel, coriander, or cumin
  • Topped with spices like turmeric, paprika, aleppo spice, sumac, za’atar, garam masala, chili flakes, or chili crunch (Momofuku’s is the best!)
  • Mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, gochujang, harissa, or yuzu kosho (I’ve included some of my favorite condiments here!)

Chef Sara Hauman, founder of Tiny Fish Co and former Top Chef contestant, shared a few more of her favorite unique pairings to try!

Spicy Jamaican Jerk Rockfish + Plantain Chip + Sour Cream

Shop here

Sunshine & Sole + Baguette + Dijon mustard + Capers + Parsley

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Enjoy these with a bubbly wine, a crisp white or rosé, or a lighter-bodied red wine. Natural wines and martinis are also great options since they can have an earthy, sometimes briney or funky taste that pair well! For more tips on wine pairing, click here!