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Anchovy oil is made from the anchovy, an extremely oily, small fish having a greenish color with silver scales. The oil of this fish — as with all fish oils — contains a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and can be taken as a health supplement for both humans and pets. Anchovy paste and oil are used around the world in cooking to add a distinctive, pungent flavor to food dishes, especially around the Mediterranean region and throughout Southeast Asia.
When used as a health supplement, anchovy oil has the benefit of having almost 30% more omega-3 than salmon oil — one of the most popular fish oil supplements. Oil made from anchovies is high in cholesterol and sodium, however, which makes it less healthful than other fish oils. Generally, fish oils can help lower the fat called triglycerides in the bloodstream, but they do not reduce cholesterol. The oil from anchovies already contains a high amount of cholesterol.
The nutrition label anchovy oil specifies the purity of the oil. It will usually state whether the anchovy oil was combined with sardine or other types of fish oil and may also indicate how the oil was processed. For example, the label may say that the oil is free from hexane — a common petrochemical used for distillation — which makes for purer oil. Meanwhile, fish oil that is marketed for pets is usually a low-grade combination of sardine and anchovy oil.
In addition to being used as health supplements, anchovies, anchovy oil, and anchovy paste are used in recipes throughout the world. The oil is used for making savory fish stock, sauces, and stews. Dried anchovies or anchovy paste is widespread in Asian cooking, while European and Mediterranean dishes tend to include fresh anchovies and small amounts of anchovy oil.
The anchovy oil used in cooking is sometimes flavored with herbs and spices. It can be purchased in bottles imported from such Mediterranean countries as Turkey or Italy. Anchovy oil is one of the main ingredients in Caesar salad dressing, as well as in many pasta sauces and other dishes of traditional Italian cuisine.