We put branded products to the test so you know the ones to look out for. This month, we tried a range of anchovy brands to see which came out on top.
Looking for the best anchovies to buy? Read on to find the results of our anchovies taste test. Looking for anchovy recipes? Try our best anchovy recipes.
All about anchovies
Anchovies are small fish that are brined in salt and usually packed in oil, though sometimes pickled, dried or fermented. They bring strong umami notes to sauces, roast lamb and salads.
How we tested
We tasted the anchovies on their own, looking for texture, consistency, flavour of the oil, and quantity of visible bones. We then melted our top five into a simple pasta sauce to see which were best for cooking (after, check out our recipe for asparagus and anchovy pasta). Some anchovy stocks are more depleted than others. Check the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainability credentials at msc.org, and find out if the anchovies originate from an MSC-approved fishery.
The results of the best anchovies taste test
These have a soft, silky texture that melts in the mouth. They’re consistent in thickness and length, and come in a neutral olive oil that lets the umami flavour sing. There are no bones, they’re not overly salty, and the taste is a pleasant flavour bomb without being too fishy. They don’t cook down as well as others due to the thickness, but they’re too good to melt away! Try in a caesar salad, or serve on sourdough with butter.
We love that the anchovies are packed in a spiral, making them easy to remove one at a time, rather than being stuck together. They have a smooth texture, no bones and are easily melted. They come in flavourless oil and have fantastic fish flavour without too much saltiness. They’d work well in salads or green sauces.
With a really deep, rich flavour and slightly bitter, ‘beefy’ aftertaste, these are for the hardcore anchovy lover, or a recipe that requires a big savoury hit. Perhaps too strong and salty to eat in salads for some, they work well in stews, melted into pasta dishes, or pushed into the skin of roast lamb. Used sparingly, they’re a secret ingredient to keep in your cupboard to make savoury dishes sing.
These are packed in extra-virgin olive oil, which adds grassy notes when eaten whole. They’re the only brand we tested with distinct flavour to the oil. The fillets are rich, melt well and have the classic profile for tapenade. They’re more subtle than some but have a sweetness that would be great in salads, canapés or creamy dishes.
These are great everyday anchovies with a wide appeal. Minimal bones, and a moreish, deeply savoury flavour. They’re slightly more ‘meaty’ and less silky compared to others but they lend umami notes without adding fishiness. They’d work well in quiche with caramelised onions, or on pizza. They’re packed in sunflower oil which keeps them fresh, and have a decent thickness, so they don’t break up when removed from the tin.
Other expert taste tests from the olive cookery team:
Tinned tomatoes taste test
Marmalade taste test
Pesto taste test
White miso taste test
Salted butter taste test
Strawberry jam taste test
Hummus taste test
Dried spaghetti taste test
Oat milk taste test
Smoked salmon taste test