Anchovy Equivalents and Substitutions

Anchovies and Anchovy Paste

Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

Anchovies are a small fish that tend to get a pretty bad rap from picky eaters and probably most famously from the Ninja Turtles; the famous foursome would regularly turn their noses away from any pizza with the dreaded anchovy topping. As children, we may have believed the words of our favorite cartoon but as adults, we know not to believe everything we see on TV. Anchovies can add a great salty kick ​to many dishes. 

How Anchovies Are Sold

You can buy anchovies in many different forms. They're often sold in tins preserved with oil or white vinegar. Some cultures in South East Asia will dry anchovies or ferment them and they make a popular soup stock in many countries as well. Anchovies are sometimes sold in a sauce with tomatoes and garlic.

Many recipes use anchovies for a punch of flavor where the fish are neither recognizable visually nor necessarily by the tastebuds. Caesar dressing is a great example—while not every Caesar salad contains this ingredient, traditional recipes do call for it and most people probably don't even notice the taste of fish. Anchovies are often that secret ingredient that you just can't put your finger on, the one that really makes the recipe pop. However, recipes also call for anchovies in many different forms, like a paste or chopped fillets. Here are some measurements and equivalents if you need to switch the type of anchovies you have. 

Equivalents, Measures, and Substitutions

  • 1 anchovy fillet = 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (to make your own quick anchovy paste, simply mash anchovies to a paste consistency)
  • 1 teaspoon mashed anchovies = 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (but remember the paste has added vinegar and spices and is milder in flavor)
  • One 2-ounce can = 7 to 10 fillets
  • One 2-ounce can = 3 tablespoons mashed

Health Concerns 

One health warning to be aware of with anchovies is that in very rare occurrences they can cause Amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans and birds. This illness is caused by a neurotoxin the fish produce in their guts called Domoic Acid, this acid is poisonous to humans. If you experience severe gastrointestinal issues 24 hours after eating anchovies seek medical attention; especially if any neurological issues like a headache or seizures occur. The neurological symptoms of Amnesic shellfish poisoning can take several days to occur. The illness can be fatal if left untreated. The name Amnesic Shellfish poisoning comes from the fact that it's usually shellfish that transmit the disease and because it causes memory loss in many people. Thankfully this disease is very rare but it's best to be informed so you know what to do just in case someone gets sick!