Do Anchovies Go Bad? – Full Analysis

by Charlie
Anchovies

Anchovies are one of those foods that many people have in the back of their cupboard. They are extremely popular with people who love seafood. 

Salty, fish, and full of flavor, anchovies are an important part of many broths and sauces. Since this fish is so small and potent, it is important to know when it goes bad and the best practices for consuming them safely.

Do anchovies go bad? Yes, anchovies do go bad, but they will not spoil for a long time since they are usually canned. As long as they are covered, and their jar or can is never punctured, a can of anchovies will last one year in a cupboard. Once the anchovies are opened, they will last about two months. 

To know if anchovies have gone bad, check for a rancid smell or inspect their coloring to see if their scales have changed to grey or blue.

Do Anchovies Go Bad?

Yes, anchovies do go bad, and depending on how it is stored, they can expire faster or or last longer.

Back in the day, many people grew up with anchovies as part of their diet, so don’t be surprised if you talk with an older person and they rave about their love for anchovies.

Not only can you get a ton of anchovies at the grocery store for only a few bucks but you can also go out on a boat and catch anchovies for yourself.

How Long Do Anchovies Last?

So, you have decided to keep anchovies in your home. Well, depending on how you acquire them, they can either last for a very long time or you’ll have to eat them soon. 

If you decide to go out and catch fresh anchovies for yourself, they will last about a month if the anchovies are stored in the freezer. If you place the anchovies in the fridge, they will only last five days at most.

But going to the grocery store and grabbing them off the shelf is a better and easier idea. Learning to fish for a few anchovies is just too much trouble for what you get. All you need to do is walk to the grocery store, buy a pack can of anchovies canned in oil, and take it home. 

A can of anchovies will last about a year in the cupboard. But when you open a can of anchovies, their shelf life drops to two months as long as they are stored in the refrigerator.

How Long Do Anchovies Last? [Chart]

AnchoviesTime
Canned anchovies, unopened1 year
Canned anchovies, opened, fridge2 months
Fresh anchovies, freezer1 month
Fresh anchovies, fridge5 days

How Do You Know if Anchovies Have Gone Bad?

Because anchovies have such a strong smell and flavor, it is easy to know if a container of anchovies has gone bad. There are three qualities you need to check for: terrible smell, sliminess, and discoloration.

Color – Anchovies are known for their silver scales. But these scales change color as the anchovy turns rancid and rotten. If you see that their silver scales are turning blue, or they’re changing into a darker gray, this means that the bacteria around the anchovies are causing the fish to spoil.

Slimy – The number one rule of fish is that they should not be slimy in any way. This slim indicates that it is already spoiling, and it is not safe for a human being to eat. So, if you open a can of anchovies and they are extremely slimy, throw it away. Also, if a fish is slimy, it will have a foul smell.

Horrible Smell – Once you open a can of anchovies or defrost them from your freezer, they should not smell at all. So, if you detect any odor, that means it is not safe for you to eat. All fish that is safe for consumption should not smell like fish when it is defrosted or opened. Fish should only smell like fish when it is in the cooking process.

Can You Eat Expired Anchovies? 

This is a tricky question. While it is true that just because the expiration date on food has passed, it does not mean the food is bad. 

According to the FDA standards, all foods must have an expiration date whether they expire or not. So technically, as long as the anchovies look and smell good, you could eat them. However, we do not recommend consuming old anchovies. 

The reason for this is if the anchovies are going bad and they’re past the expiration date, but you cannot detect how rotten they are, you could end up with severe food poisoning. There’s nothing worse than contracting a foodborne illness from an extremely potent and oily fish. So, it is best if you don’t eat a can of anchovies after its expiration date. 

Anchovies Have Gone Bad – Substitutes to Use

Finding a replacement for anchovies in a recipe can be difficult, but not impossible. The best replacement is one that has an extremely strong flavor. 

Because of the many similarities, if you do not have anchovies, it is suggested that you use Worchester sauce. You could also use soy sauce, capers, or a shrimp paste. All of these foods have a strong, distinct flavor and are extremely salty.

How to Store Anchovies

If you catch fresh anchovies, place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge. But you can only do this if you are going to eat the anchovies within a couple of days. 

If you wish to save them for later, place them in the freezer. Be sure not to fill up the container with anchovies. Leave a little bit of room.

If you like anchovies from the grocery store, just leave them in your pantry or cover them until it is time to consume them.

Once you open a jar or a can of anchovies, you have to keep them in the fridge. Do not place them back in the cupboard or pantry. If you do, they will quickly spoil and release a horrible rancid smell.

Final Thoughts

  • Anchovies are tiny fish that have a strong taste and are salted and packed in oil.
  • A can of anchovies will last one year in the cupboard as long as they are not open.
  • Once they are open, they will last two months in the refrigerator.
  • If you decide to catch your own anchovies, they can be placed in the refrigerator or frozen for later.
  • If you see that the scales of the anchovies are turning from a silver color to a dark gray or blue, then throw them away. You will get food poisoning.
  • Freshly caught anchovies can be frozen.
  • Although there are many foods that you can eat after they pass their expiration date, we don’t suggest that you follow this rule for anchovies. If they are old, they can give you severe food poisoning.

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