Anchovy Paste Uses

Anchovy paste is a versatile and flavorful ingredient used in many cuisines around the world.

Anchovy Paste Uses

Made from ground anchovy fillets, salt, and oil, this smooth, spreadable paste packs a serious umami punch.

If you have a tube of anchovy paste in your fridge but aren't sure how to use it, read on.

What Is Anchovy Paste?

Anchovy paste is made by pulverizing salt-cured anchovy fillets into a smooth, spreadable paste. The main ingredients are simply anchovies, salt to cure them, and olive oil to form the paste.

Some brands also add spices and other flavorings, but traditionally anchovy paste derives its strong flavor solely from the anchovies themselves. It has a grayish color and a concentrated, fishy aroma.

The result is an umami bomb ready to boost the flavor of anything it touches. A little anchovy paste goes a long way thanks to its intense saltiness and savoriness.

Key Takeaway: Anchovy paste consists of cured anchovies, salt, and olive oil ground to a smooth, thick paste.

A Brief History of Anchovy Paste

Anchovies have been eaten since ancient times, but anchovy paste as we know it today traces its origins to 19th century England.

In 1828, a chef called John Osborn developed a spiced anchovy paste called Gentleman's Relish. It became popular in Victorian England as a spread for toast, earning its aristocratic-sounding name.

Italians have also used anchovy pastes and sauces for centuries. An Italian fish sauce called garum, made from anchovies and other small fish, was used in Ancient Rome. Anchovy pastes descend from this ancient condiment.

Over time, mass production made anchovy paste much more widely available. Today it is made globally, with major exports coming from Italy, Spain, and Morocco.

Anchovy paste retains its popularity thanks to its strong flavor and ease of use straight from the tube. It still graces charcuterie boards and store shelves worldwide.

Why Use Anchovy Paste?

Beyond its convenience, anchovy paste offers some excellent benefits:

Potent Umami Flavor

The foremost reason to use anchovy paste is for its powerful umami quality. Umami is the savory fifth taste sensation that makes foods intensely mouthwatering and moreish.

Anchovies are packed with natural umami flavor compounds like glutamates, nucleotides, and amino acids. Grinding them into a paste makes these compounds even easier to dissolve into food, flooding your tastebuds with more umami impact.

Just a bit of anchovy paste can give flat dishes a huge boost of deliciousness. It's an easy way to make food taste better with minimal effort.

Nutritional Value

In addition to great flavor, anchovy paste offers nutritional value. Anchovies themselves are high in protein, essential nutrients, and those healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Grinding them down concentrates these nutrients while preserving them with salt. So anchovy paste gives you a good nutritional bang for your buck along with all that flavor.

Long Shelf Life

Unlike jars of whole anchovies, anchovy paste keeps for a very long time unopened in the refrigerator - up to a year or two. Once open it keeps for several months.

That makes it a great convenience product to have on hand whenever you need an umami spike in your cooking. Compared to bottled anchovy fillets, the paste lasts much longer after opening.

Easy to Use

The paste format makes anchovies far easier to use compared to whole fillets. You can scoop it right out of the tube into dressings, sauces, spreads, etc.

There's no need to chop or mash fillets, deal with excess oil, or scrape skin and tiny fish bones out of your finished dish. The silky-smooth paste incorporates seamlessly wherever you need a flavor boost.

Key Takeaway: Anchovy paste offers convenience, long shelf life, nutrients, and maximum umami impact thanks to its smoothly ground texture.

How to Use Anchovy Paste

Anchovy paste is endlessly versatile. Here are some of the most popular ways to use it:

In Dressings and Sauces

Creamy, tangy, or savory sauces and dressings are perfect vehicles for anchovy paste's intense flavor. Mix in small amounts and taste as you go until the flavor balances to your liking.

Caesar Dressing
The classic! Anchovy paste is essential for real Caesar dressing along with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and Parmesan.

Pasta Sauce

A little anchovy paste dissolved into any tomato or cream pasta sauce gives it extra depth and savoriness.

Salad Dressings

From vinaigrettes to Green Goddess, anchovy paste boosts flavor in all kinds of salad dressings.

Seafood Sauces

Buttery, garlicky sauces for fish get an exponential flavor increase with some well-blended anchovy paste.

In Meat and Vegetable Dishes

Beyond sauces and dressings, a bit of anchovy paste can enhance meat and veggie dishes tremendously.


Mix anchovy paste into olive oil, herbs, lemon, etc. for a marinade that makes meats, fish and veggies shine.

Stews and Chilis

Rich beef or lamb stews, lentil soups, and hearty chilis all welcome anchovy paste's savory flavor.

Roasted Vegetables

Toss veggies with oil, salt, pepper and just a bit of anchovy paste before roasting for delicious caramelized richness.

Stir Fries

Mix a teaspoon or two of anchovy paste into stir fry sauces to give them an extra umami dimension.

In Seafood Recipes

Being made of fish itself, anchovy paste pairs especially well with all kinds of seafood.

Shellfish Bakes

Mix parsley, lemon, butter and anchovy paste and spread over oysters, clams or shrimp before broiling.

Fish Cakes/Croquettes

Blend anchovy paste into mashed potato or breadcrumb coatings for extra savory fish cakes and croquettes.

Bagna Cauda

This warm Italian dipping sauce combines olive oil, garlic, butter and lots of anchovy paste for dunking veggies.

Fish Soups/Stews

Use anchovy paste to reinforce the savory flavor in seafood soups, stews, gumbos, bouillabaisses, etc.

Tips for Using Anchovy Paste

When cooking with this powerfully flavored ingredient, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start small - Just a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon is often plenty for a whole pot of soup or sauce. Add slowly.
  • Mix it in - Blend, whisk or stir the paste very thoroughly so it doesn't leave big fishy blobs.
  • Balance flavors - Pair with lemon juice, parsley, garlic or other strongly flavored ingredients so the anchovy doesn't dominate.
  • Cook it - Saut√©ing the paste briefly mellows its flavor. Don't let it burn.
  • Taste carefully - Keep tasting as you add more paste until the flavor balances with the rest of the dish.


Does anchovy paste need to be refrigerated?

Yes, it's essential to store anchovy paste in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage and maintain quality. Keep it tightly sealed. The paste can last 1-2 years refrigerated before opening.

What's the best anchovy paste brand?

Quality brands to look for include Ortiz, Cento, Roland, and Agostino Recca from Italy and Spain for smooth texture and balanced flavor. Also try Asian brands like Three Crabs, Tiparos, and Megachef.

How long does anchovy paste last after opening?

It will keep for 2 to 6 months in the fridge after opening. Be sure to wrap the tube tightly in plastic wrap if it didn't originally come sealed. Discard if mold develops or the paste smells or tastes unpleasant.

Can you substitute anchovy fillets for paste?

Not directly. Whole or chopped fillets work well but don't fully dissolve into the dish. For dressings, sauces, etc. where you want smooth consistency, paste works much better. Make your own paste by mashing fillets with salt and olive oil.


That covers the basics of how to use anchovy paste! This simple, inexpensive tube of fishy goodness can make everything you cook taste exponentially better.

Keep some on hand to boost flavors in sauces, dressings, veggie and meat dishes, seafood recipes, pastas, soups and stews and more.

A small amount blends smoothly to add stealthy savory goodness without a strong fishy taste.

Both novice and experienced cooks can benefit from developing a skillful hand with anchovy paste.

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