CANNED FISH: Most Convenient and Healthiest Boat Food Ever


Dec. 15/2023:  I have long been a fan of canned fish. It may be this is why I took up cruising under sail in the first place, so I’d have a good excuse to eat more of it. When provisioning a boat, particularly for a long voyage, one often defaults to canned food, primarily because it keeps forever and is easy to store. Problem is most canned food is pretty boring and usually much less nutritious than the equivalent fresh food. The one great exception is canned fish, most particularly sardines. They taste almost as good as fresh fish and are extremely good for you—a “nutritional powerhouse” that strengthens your heart, mind, and bones and helps prevent type Type-2 diabetes.

Best of all you don’t need to cook them or anything. I often eat them straight out of the can when I’m lazy or the weather is too snotty to cook. I also love to add them to a fresh tossed salad, both at home and on the boat. This has to be one of the healthiest meals on the planet.

If you are uncertain or fearful of eating canned sardines, you should check out this informative video here:

It is true that some canned fish is not that good, particularly the less expensive brands. I’ve always said that life is too short to eat cheap sardines, so don’t be afraid to pay extra for the good stuff. I’ve found King Oscar is reliably excellent, and lately I’ve become particularly fond of their canned mackerel.

It is possible to pay way too much for canned fish. I’ve been surprised lately to find it on menus in high-end restaurants, and I certainly don’t see the point in adding gold flakes:

I mean really: why would anyone want to eat gold???

Truth be known, the best canned fish I ever ate was some canned tuna fish I picked up in the Cape Verde islands while cruising there back in the ‘90s. The canned tuna routinely available in the U.S. is pretty homogenous and tasteless, but this stuff was truly amazing. Very hearty and full of flavor. In the Cape Verdes it was also very inexpensive, and I bought enough to last nearly a year.

I recently had a ride with an Uber driver from the Cape Verdes, and we had a long conversation about how great the canned tuna there is. He tipped me off that it is actually possible to buy it here in the United States.

It goes for $7 a can over here, but I assure you it’s worth it.

[Lead photo by Norman Hollands. You can follow and subscribe to Matt Carlson’s excellent Canned Fish Files YouTube channel here.]

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2 Responses
  1. Excellent advice, Charlie! My boat has been continually well stocked with canned seafood since I took possession in 2009. Note that Reny’s dept stores in Maine usually have excellent selections. And while I’m careful about cheap exotics from southeast Asia, I’ve consumed Maine and Canadian sardines that have been tucked away for many years. They get a little mushier but still eat good without dire consequences.

    I particularly favor the small species of herring called sprats or bristlings, and am recently enjoying a brand available on Amazon called “MW Polar Smoked Brisling Sardines in Olive Oil”. I like the big jars for snacking convenience, and think they’re tough enough to survive boat life.

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