How To Store Anchovies? The Best Way To Keep Leftover Anchovies

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how to store anchovies

The best way to store anchovies at home is to keep them in the freezer. You can also submerge the preserved anchovies in a jar of oil with the lid sealed and put it in the refrigerator. Anchovies store at low temperature can last for months as it prevents mold and bacterial growth.

How do you know if anchovies turn bad?

There are two major types of anchovies the fresh ones which you will hardly find from the market (usually used for fishing bait), the preserved ones (for cooking) which are either salted-packed or oil-packed or dried anchovies.

Choosing fresh anchovies is just like buying other fish in the wet market where you look at the skin color and touching the flesh. Fresh anchovies have a silver body with a firm texture. If fresh anchovies turn bad, they turn dark and the flesh becomes soft and mushy. Also, when fresh anchovies turn bad, they will have a strange odor and smell nasty.

Preserved anchovies are traditionally gutted and salted in brine, later packed in oil or salt, or sold as dried anchovies. Dried anchovies can last longer than fresh anchovies since it has been dehydrated and salted. However, dried anchovies still can go bad if you don’t store them correctly. Dry anchovies can turn bad when they are in contact with moisture, they will slowly rotten when bacteria and mold grow on them.

Smell the anchovies. Just like other ingredients, when anchovies turn bad, they will smell bad as well.

Avoid smelly, soft, and mushy anchovies, these are signs that the anchovies have gone bad. When you see mold growing on the dried anchovies, discard them too. Do not use them in your recipe as they won’t taste great anymore and are detrimental to your health.

How long can you leave anchovies out at room temperature?

For fresh raw anchovies, just like other seafood, it will turn bad after 2 hours at room temperature. They will last longer when you keep them in salt brine.

Dried anchovies are the most common preserved types that are being sold in the market in Asia countries. Dried anchovies are normally stored in gunny sacks at room temperature for 2-6 months by the merchants, they will be replaced when new stocks arrived. Some merchants will pack dried anchovies in sealed plastic bags and they will last longer as they are not in contact with moisture. When you buy dried anchovies back home, they can last for a few months at room temperature provided that you keep them in place which is dry and cool.

Unopened canned anchovies can be either salt-packed or oil-packed and they can last as long as it does not past the expired date. Once you break the seal, they can still last for months if you leave them at room temperature with the lid closed. The salt that preserved the anchovies prevents any bacterial growth on the anchovies thus they can last long. Oil-packed anchovies can last long as well because the fish are submerged in the oil and are not in contact with any air and bacteria. Although both salt-packed and oil-packed anchovies can last long at room temperature with the lid closed, it is recommended to put them in the fridge for the best preservation result.

Do anchovies need to be refrigerated?

Yes, it is recommended to keep anchovies in the refrigerator no matter fresh or preserved anchovies. A cool and dry refrigerator environment prevents the growth of bacteria and thus the anchovies can last longer if they are kept in the refrigerator. Preserved anchovies kept in the refrigerator can last for months.

Fillets of anchovy deteriorate rapidly without cooling, they will become less tasty and mushy. This is most likely the reason why anchovies are disliked by many people in the United States. 

Keep fresh anchovies in salted brine and place them in the refrigerator will prevent the fish from going bad for days.

For dried anchovies, it is recommended to pack them in a sealed or zipped bag and store them in the refrigerator. For can-preserved anchovies, it is also recommended to store them in the refrigerator with the fish submerged in oil (virgin olive oil is common) inside a container with the lid closed.

How do you properly store anchovies?

It is common that one doesn’t finish consuming the whole pack of anchovies bought from the market or grocery store because you only need a few of them for most recipes. Storing anchovies properly can help to preserve the fresh and clean taste of the fish, so you can use them when you need to add some flavoring to your salads, pizza, pasta, and sauces.

Fresh anchovies

Just like any seafood, store fresh anchovies in the freezer can prevent them from going bad for months. You can home-preserve the fresh anchovies by cleaning and taking out the innards of the anchovies, pat dry, cure with salt, and then submerge them in a jar of oil and place it in the refrigerator.

Dried anchovies

Dried anchovies need to be stored in cool and dry area. If you are going to use the whole packet of anchovies that you bought from the store in a few days, you can keep them in a plastic bag at room temperature in a dry cool cupboard. If you cannot finish them all at once, pack the drid anchovies in a sealed plastic bag or container and place them in the refrigerator, they can last for months in the refrigerator. To preserve anchovies for long-term use, store them in the freezer with low temperature.

Preserved anchovies

If the preserved anchovies are still in the unopened tin or can, you can keep the anchovies in the cupboard or refrigerator until the expiry date. Once it is opened, it is recommended to keep the preserved anchovies (either salt-packed or oil-packed) in a jar of oil and place them in the refrigerator. They can last for months in the refrigerator where the low temperature condition slows down the growth of bacteria.

How long can you keep leftover anchovies?

Leftover anchovies often refer to those opened-can anchovies whereby you are likely not be able to finish them all at once for any small to medium family meal. If you store them properly, you can keep leftover anchovies for months. Leftover anchovies should be completely submerged into the oil in an airtight container or jar and keep it in the refrigerator. If the leftover oil from the can is not enough, you can top up some olive oil to fully cover the anchovies so that they do not expose to the air. It is recommended to transfer the leftover anchovies into a glass jar as metal can oxidise and rust with time.

Can anchovies in olive oil go bad?

Yes, anchovies stored in olive oil can definitely go bad with time although oil can inhibit growth of molds and bacteria. The preservation time depends on the cleanliness and the storage method that used to keep the anchovies. Making sure that the are no other impurities in the oil that the anchovies are kept is important to slow down any bacterial growth. Store the oil-preserved anchovies in low temperature environment like the fridge will help to keep the anchovies last longer.

What is the most effective method?

Covering the anchovy fillets with salt makes them salty and they must be rinsed thoroughly before you use them. Preserving anchovies in a jar of oil also requires digging out the fillets and removing the oil before using them. The most effective and easiest way to store anchovies is to freeze them in the freezer. Frozen and thawed anchovies taste just as good as they are. In addition, they are much easier to use and prepare for any recipe.

What else you can use leftover anchovies for?

You can use leftover anchovies for an endless list of recipes, including dressing salads, making butter and sauces, making soup and condiments, and many more.

Check out our fried dried anchovies with onion recipe which is very popular in Malaysia. The simple dish is savory, sweet, and crunchy, best for paring with rice or porridge.

Fried Dried Anchovies Recipe


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