When You Can't Find Fresh Shellfish, Reach For The Canned Instead

In the world of tinned fish, the iconic hot girl food and trendy ingredient on Tik Tok, shellfish deserves to take up more space in the conversation. Although American food enthusiasts are allured by this somewhat unfamiliar ingredient, it has been and continues to be a culinary staple in Spain and Portugal. Gone are the days when canned tuna was our pantries' only canned seafood option. So, consider canned shellfish instead of expensive crab legs or oysters for your next meal.

Canned shellfish is a culinary gem that will satisfy any seafood craving, even when fresh options seem out of reach. It's an ingredient that can simply be eaten with bread or incorporated into a wealth of recipes. Of course, we all know that there's nothing quite like the taste of fresh shellfish straight from the ocean. But one taste of the many tinned varieties out there might be enough to change your mind.

The culture of canned shellfish

Canned shellfish and seafood are integral to the culinary culture in Spain and Portugal, especially when it comes to conservas – elaborate dishes made from canned fish and seafood that are preserved in oil, broth, or sauce. "It's part of tapas culture that is very convenient and casual and social, but also a very elevated way of eating," Becca Millstein, co-founder of Fishwife, tells Thrillist.

If you're shopping around for canned shellfish for your next meal, you will almost certainly have a wealth of options, especially when shopping at locations that specialize in international food. Conservas can feature a variety of shellfish, such as mussels, squid, cockles, razor clams, gooseneck barnacles, and sea urchin roe. If you're looking for a place to start, chopped clams are a delicious and versatile ingredient to have on hand. According to Eater, they're also likely easy to find in American grocery stores and can be mixed into your next batch of garlic butter for a unique take on garlic bread.

The best ways to eat canned shellfish

While canned shellfish can be integrated into pasta, stews, and even fried food, it is most often enjoyed straight from the can. Angelica Intriago, a co-owner of Despaña, tells Eater that for shellfish that's canned in brine, like cockles or razor clams, she likes to drain the liquid from the can (sometimes preserving it to add to fish stocks) and drizzle on a little bit of olive oil before serving.

Of Spain's approach to canned shellfish, Millstein tells Thrillist, "You might serve a tin of cockles with a toasted baguette and some olive oil and some olives and a glass of white wine or something like that." If canned shellfish comes with a tomato sauce or are lightly pickled, you may also enjoy warming up the can before eating. Usewicz recommends adding a squeeze of lemon, squid ink, or white wine to shellfish in brine before heating. That being said, heating is optional, so you can eat canned shellfish as-is for a quick lunch or snack.