Anchovies or Anchovies

What are Anchovies

Basics of biology on anchovies

Anchovy, also called alice (scientific name Engraulis encrasicolus ), is a bony fish spread throughout the Mediterranean, in the Eastern Atlantic, in the Baltic, in the Black Sea and in the Azov.

It is a pelagic species, which approaches the coasts only to reproduce (from June to November, depending on the area). It lives in flocks and at variable depths (more often within 50 m, but in winter it easily reaches 100-180 m). It feeds on zooplankton, therefore small crustaceans and mollusc larvae.

Anchovies have a short life cycle, rarely reach 5 years. Fortunately, they also possess a high reproductive capacity and in this way are able to survive the pressing fishing both in the Mediterranean and in the Ocean (even if the general population has been drastically reduced).


Similar to sardines, anchovies have a thinner and tapered body, which reaches an adult length of 15-20 cm in length.

The anchovies belong to the category of blue fish, with which they share the shape, size and color of the body. The back of the anchovies is in fact crossed by a blue stripe, with green shades; the scales of the lateral parts and of the belly are instead silver.

Anchovies as food

Taste characteristics

The meat of anchovies, both fresh and preserved, are particularly tasty and indicated especially for consumption as raw, after marinating, and for frying.

Also famous are the anchovies preserved in oil, salt and anchovy paste, used to flavor canapés, sauces and various dishes.

Especially during spring and summer, anchovies lay eggs from which the famous and highly sought after whitebait is born, a culinary specialty especially indicated for the preparation of canapés, pancakes and appetizers.

Tips for buying fresh anchovies

A fresh anchovy can be recognized:

  • from the smell: delicate and pleasant, not ammoniacal, especially in the gills;
  • from the color: brilliant body, bright eye with unblushed black pupil, blood-red gills or on the rosaceae border;
  • consistency: firm, elastic meat, close-fitting scales, turgid and protruding eye;
  • flavor: non-ammoniacal.

Anchovy VS Alaccia: how to avoid fraud

Similar to anchovies and even more to sardines, alaccia is a less valuable fish that is often marketed as anchovy. Discovering deception is quite simple in fresh fish, but more complicated in preserved fillets.

Fresh fish

Preserved fillets


Alice or anchovy

Smaller, tapered, with a typically blue livery on the back, silver on the side and white on the belly. It has a typically elongated mandible, which is inserted further back (towards the opercula) than the eye.

They are thin and narrow.

The flavor of the honey is on average more delicate, even when evaluating products preserved in salt or in oil.


Of greater dimensions, it has a more squat shape (more similar to the sardine), the livery is green, tending to light brown on the back and yellowish in the upper part of the flanks; all the rest is white. It has a much smaller mouth, with a short jaw that fits under the eye.

They are bigger, wider and thicker.

The alaccia is considered less valuable; it has a stronger, almost rude taste.

Nutritional properties

Nutritional characteristics of anchovies

In addition to having a very wide gastronomic use, anchovies are an advisable food also from the health point of view. Like all blue fish, anchovies are also rich in useful nutrients and have an extremely moderate energy content.

The calories of the anchovies come essentially from the proteins and in small part from the fats. Significant levels of carbohydrates are not appreciated; the fibers are absent.

The anchovy proteins are rich in essential amino acids, present in the right quantities, which establishes a high biological value. Lipids, although not abundant, are of great nutritional interest, as they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids of the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) type.

Cholesterol is present in modest quantities.

As for the vitamins, the concentrations of some water-soluble of group B, such as riboflavin (vit B2) and niacin (vit PP), and of the liposoluble calciferol (vit D) and retinol (vit A) stand out.

With regards to mineral salts, excellent levels of iodine, selenium, iron, calcium and phosphorus can be appreciated.

Anchovies lend themselves to all diets, including those for the treatment of metabolic diseases and overweight. They do not contain poorly tolerated nutrients (such as lactose and gluten), but are excluded from vegetarian and vegan food philosophies. Those suffering from gout should definitely avoid the consumption of anchovies due to the high purine content.

The average portion of fresh, clean anchovies is 100-200 g (95-190 kcal).

ANCHOVIES [100 grams]













Fresh anchovies







Anchovies in oil







Anchovies in salt







Nutritional advice and preparation of anchovies

When buying anchovies preserved in salt it is good to rinse them abundantly under running water, so as not to take excessive amounts of sodium, which is dangerous especially for those suffering from hypertension.

Anchovies preserved in oil should be chosen according to the type of oil used. To be preferred those in extra virgin olive oil, to avoid those stored in a package containing "vegetable oil", without specifying the type of oil used on the label.

Often anchovies are eaten fried, making a healthy and questionable choice. Granting yourself a dish of fried fish from time to time is not so dangerous, as long as some important rules are respected. First of all it is good to choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as the extra virgin olive oil, peanut or refined palm oil. The frying of the anchovies should take place at temperatures that are not too high (below 180 ° C) and, once cooked, should be carefully drained and placed on a double layer of absorbent paper.

A very popular recipe is made up of marinated anchovies . Despite the addition of acidic components (lemon juice or vinegar), which denature the proteins giving it a typically cooked appearance, it is a "raw" preparation. This characteristic makes the anchovies unsafe from the hygienic point of view, in particular for the Anisakis infestation. It is therefore necessary, at the expense of the gastronomic value, to subject the fish to a temperature reduction before processing; by itself, the acidity of the lemon or vinegar is NOT able to eradicate the potential parasite.

Recipes with Anchovies

Stuffed Tomatoes Grated with Anchovy Fillets

Recipe to prepare the tastiest and lightest stuffed tomatoes on the web, because they are prepared with very little added fat.

Alice, your PersonalCooker, is on air on MypersonaltrainerTv to explain you step by step how to turn real caloric bombs into light and balanced dishes.

Tomatoes au gratin with anchovies

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