What Are Anchovies Good For?

Astonishing Anchovies


Nowadays, large amounts of fish varieties available in the market contain toxic amounts of chemicals, which can lead to detrimental health effects. One of these chemicals is mercury.

Usually, large fishes contain high amounts of mercury because the percentage is directly proportional to their lifespans. Some examples of fishes that are high in mercury are marlin and tuna. Small fishes, like anchovies, contain the least amount of mercury because they can’t retain it.1

But aside from its low amounts of mercury, anchovies offer impressive amounts of nutrients that you can surely benefit from. Continue reading to learn more about this fish and why it’s a good idea to add it to your diet.

What Is an Anchovy?

An anchovy is a small oily fish that is abundant in the Pacific.2 Anchovies usually travel in schools, making it easier for fishermen to catch large amounts of their population. However, this has led to numerous manufacturers to overfish, eventually endangering the stability of its population around the world. This pushed numerous countries to establish strict fishing regulations to limit anchovy fishing.3

Anchovies have been part of the culinary world for centuries, having been used by the Roman civilization in making “garum,” a type of fermented fish made up of anchovies, brine, fish innards and aromatic fresh herbs. This was usually used as a condiment or as an addition to different dishes and meals.4 Anchovies were also eaten raw so as to trigger an aphrodisiac effect.5

Nowadays, anchovies are available fresh, preserved in glass jars or tin cans, or dried. Because of their pungent fishy smell, people often turn their noses and refuse to even try anchovies. But together with their refusal to eat this fish, they’re refusing healthy amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and many more nutrients necessary for the body to function as well.

By knowing how to prepare this fish the correct way, you’ll be able to appreciate its flavor and acquire a plethora of impressive health benefits.

Anchovies vs. Sardines: Is One Better Than the Other?

Sardines and anchovies are usually interchangeable because of their similarities in color, size and mode of production. But aside from these, both of these fishes are filled with nutritional components and contain the least number of harmful chemicals that are abundant in larger fish species. And even though they are alike in more ways than one, they are actually easy to distinguish from each other.

Sardines are a type of herring that takes its name from the island of Sardinia. They are usually found in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters and are abundant from June to November. They are larger than anchovies, measuring at 12 to 20 centimeters long during maturity.

Anchovies, on the other hand, are slimmer and smaller than sardines. They usually measure below 15 centimeters in size. Unlike sardines, anchovies are abundant all year round in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, although they are not limited to these regions.

The easiest way to distinguish one from the other is through their color. Sardines have a lighter hue than anchovies. They also have round dark spots on their bodies. Anchovies have a greenish tint and may even appear blue when light is reflected on their scales. They also have larger eyes than sardines, while sardines have a lower jaw that protrudes more than the anchovies’.6

In terms of flavor, anchovies have a more intense taste than sardines. Because of this, chefs and culinary enthusiasts only add small amounts of anchovies to dishes so as not to overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.

Nutritionally, both types of fish provide healthy fatty acids, protein, B vitamins and potassium in varying amounts. Sardines are higher in omega-3s, B12 and iron, while anchovies are higher in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. The nutritional differences between these two show that they have their own strong and weak areas, but it does not mean that one is better than the other.7

What Are the Health Benefits That Anchovies Have to Offer?

Even though anchovies are small and usually incorporated in recipes to only boost the flavor, they actually contain high amounts of minerals and nutrients. Even adding a small serving of anchovies to a dish can lift its nutritional content. Here are some of the health benefits you can get from these small fishes:8

  • Minimizes the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Anchovies have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats that help in preventing inflammation and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to this, they have good amounts of calcium and magnesium, essential minerals that regulate blood pressure and circulation. Their niacin content also contributes to the lowering of cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Promotes skeletal health. This type of fish contains calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, which help the body maintain and improve bone health and bone growth.
  • Assists in tissue and cell repair. Anchovies are abundant in protein that is needed for cell metabolism and tissue repair. This helps in triggering a healing effect in the body, especially when there’s damage or injury present.
  • Aids in weight loss. Anchovies are low in calories and high in protein. The high amounts of protein helps in triggering a body response that makes you feel full, while also limiting your calorie intake.

Here’s How You Can Clean and Prepare Anchovies

One of the most common questions that people ask about anchovies is how they’re prepared. Because of the intense flavor and smell of anchovies, some get disheartened and just set it aside for another time. To help you with this dilemma, here are a few pointers that can help you correctly prepare anchovies.

When buying fresh anchovies, choose those that have bright eyes. Blemishes on an anchovy are normal because they bruise easily. Take note that fresh anchovies need to be cooked at once because they spoil faster than other types of fish.9 To help you with cleaning fresh anchovies, here is a guide from The Spruce:10

  • Wash the anchovies under cold water.
  • Remove the scales by scraping them backward (tail to head) with a butter knife. Do this over a bowl of ice water or under cold running water. Rinse the fish after scaling.
  • Cut away the head of the anchovies. Cut the anchovy diagonally from the front of the anchovy’s bottom fin. Remove all the guts. Wash under cold water.

After cleaning and preparing your fresh anchovies, they can be marinated, preserved or added to different dishes.

Another way that anchovies are available is packed in salt. These are usually available in either glass bottles or tin cans. Salted anchovies can be filleted, but extra care is needed so as not to cause the fishes to disintegrate. Follow these steps on how to properly clean and fillet anchovies:11

  • Gently wash the salt particles off the anchovies. Let them soak in milk, water or white wine to get rid of the remaining salt. Make sure that you don’t oversoak them to avoid them getting overly mushy. The recommended soaking time about 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
  • After soaking, fillet the fish by gently peeling the flesh and exposing the bones. Slowly pull the viscera and the collar bones out. Let them dry.

After drying, salted anchovies can be added to pastas, salads, spreads or even eaten whole. Oil-packed anchovies can be used similarly to salt-packed anchovies.

Try These Tasty Anchovy Recipes That Are High in Healthy Fats

While the flavor of anchovies can be overpowering and may even be unappetizing for some, it all boils down to how this fish is prepared. If you’re itching to try some healthy and flavorful anchovy dishes, here are a few recipes you can start with:12,13,14,15

Anchovies Healthy Recipes:
Asparagus With Anchovies and Garlic

Asparagus With Anchovies and Garlic


4 teaspoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 tablespoon crushed red pepper

2 bunches asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon water

1 anchovy fillet, minced


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Stir constantly and cook until garlic is fragrant. This takes from 30 seconds to one minute.
  2. Add asparagus, water and anchovy. Stir constantly. Cook until asparagus is tender-crisp. This takes about five to six minutes. Serve.

(Adapted from EatingWell)

Marinara Anchovy Pizza

Marinara Anchovy Pizza

Ingredients for pizza crust:

Coconut oil to spray pan with

4 large organic eggs

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup coconut flour

6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese


Ingredients for topping:

1 1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce

1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 pinches dried oregano

3 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup grated hard cheese

6 to 8 pieces of anchovy fillets cut in half


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line two pizza pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with coconut oil. You can also make these pizzas side by side on a single, large baking sheet.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the water, garlic powder, onion powder and dried oregano.
  4. Measure out the coconut flour, breaking up any lumps with your hands. Stir coconut flour with egg mixture, mixing until smooth.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  6. Allow the mixture to rest and thicken for a couple of minutes. This will allow the coconut flour to soak up the liquid.
  7. Transfer half of the mixture onto each of the prepared pans. Use a spatula to spread it out evenly into an 8-inch circle.
  8. Bake the pizzas until set and the edges are beginning to brown. This takes about 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the pizzas from the oven and switch the oven to broil. Position the top oven rack 6 inches below flame.
  10. Spread the sauce on the crust and add garlic, oregano and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Sprinkle with half of the grated hard cheese. Add the anchovies on top.
  11. Broil each pizza until cheese is melted and crust is golden-brown. This takes about two to three minutes. Serve.

(Adapted from Healthy Recipes and Lucky Peach)

Browned Cauliflower With Anchovies and Olives

Browned Cauliflower with Anchovies and Olives


1 medium-small head cauliflower

1 large clove garlic, peeled

Pinch of Himalayan salt

6 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup coconut oil

15 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, more to taste

2 teaspoons capers, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes



  1. Trim the leaves and stem from the cauliflower head. Working from the bottom of the head, cut off individual florets until you reach the crown where the florets are small and fused together.
  2. Cut the large florets into quarters, the medium ones into halves, and the crown into four pieces, always trying to keep the top of the florets attached to pieces of stem.
  3. Using a mortar, crush the garlic and salt with a pestle until it has a paste-like consistency. Add the anchovies and pound them to a past as well. Scrape this mixture into a large shallow bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, the olives, lemon juice, capers, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Stir well.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium-heat. When the oil is hot, add half the cauliflower pieces in a single layer, flat side down. Cook the cauliflower until well browned on the bottom. This takes about two to four minutes. Transfer them to a plate.
  5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining cauliflower but don’t transfer to the plate. Return the first batch of cauliflower to the pan. Turn the heat down to low and carefully add 2/3 cup water. Cover and let steam until the stems are just tender. This takes about six to eight minutes.
  6. Transfer the cooked cauliflower to the bowl with the anchovy mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid. Let it sit for a minute to warm and loosen the mixture. Turn gently to coat the cauliflower and evenly distribute the olives and capers. Serve warm at room temperature.

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

Are Anchovies Really Healthy?
Check Out Their Nutritional Facts Here

Aside from being low in calories, anchovies contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals that can help you achieve a better state of health. To help you keep track of the approximate levels of nutrients in anchovies, here is a table for their nutritional values:16

Anchovies Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 100 grams
  Amt. Per
% Daily
Calories 131 7%
Calories from Fat 43.6  
Total Fat 4.8 g 7%
Saturated Fat 1.3 g 6%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 60 mg 20%
Sodium 104 mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 0 g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0 g 0%
Sugar 0 g  
Protein 20.4 g 41%
Vitamin A 1% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 15% Iron 18%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

In a market that’s dominated by processed meats and mercury-tainted fish, anchovies provide a way out. As a nutrient and protein source, anchovies are an excellent choice for you and your family. Not only does it offer you impressive benefits, it also lets you veer away from food sources that may harm you in the long run.

Generally, if you’re looking for fish types that are safe or low in mercury, consider switching to small fishes such as anchovies and sardines. Another good option would be the wild-caught Alaskan salmon, which is also low in mercury content.