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What Is a White Anchovy?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 16, 2024
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Also called a boquerone, a white anchovy is a type of fresh fish usually kept in an oil and vinegar liquid. Popular in Spanish cuisine as a tapas, white anchovies can be used in a variety of dishes including salad dressing and as pizza toppings. The only difference between white anchovies and canned anchovies is the way they are packaged.

An oily fish, anchovies in general are a healthy addition to any diet. Whether fresh or canned, the minerals, vitamins, and Omega-3 oils found in these fish are suspected to help prevent heart disease and improve cholesterol levels. Many people, however, find anchovies unpalatable because of their strongly salty taste.

Anchovies are normally found canned, which increases the intensity of their flavor. White anchovies, on the other hand, have a more mild flavor since they are fresh. They are however, normally preserved in an oil solution and may keep longer than fresh fish that are not marinated in this way.

In Spain, white anchovies can often be found as tapas. Tapas is a type of snack or appetizer usually served with alcohol and often found in bars. Although many types of tapas are available, white anchovies are often used. The anchovies are usually raw and are served in nothing more than the oil base they are marinated in. Often paired with Asturian cider or red wine, this tasty snack can also be included with simple bread.

In order to create white anchovies, fresh anchovies are gutted and the heads and tails are removed. Then the fillets are placed in a dish, are covered in vinegar — often a white wine variety — and are soaked for a few hours or overnight. The fish may be salted at this time as well. Once soaked, the anchovy fillets are removed and rinsed before being placed in a container with olive oil for storage. Other flavorings, such as garlic or parsley, may also be included.

White anchovies can be added to other dishes as well. Versions of egg salad use white anchovy fillets as garnish on open faced sandwiches. They also may be used for salad topping or may be pureed into dressings. Like canned anchovies, white anchovy fillets can be used on pizzas. More unusual or creative pizzas, such as Caesar salad pizzas, especially benefit from fresh anchovies.

Anchovy butter is yet another use for these fish. Made by mixing butter with minced white anchovy fillets, black pepper, and parsley, anchovy butter can be used to top steaks or vegetables. Whatever its application, the white anchovy provides a flavorful addition without the pungently salty or fishy flavor of its canned counterpart.

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