Have you ever gone to a friend’s house for dinner and their hosting style was so casually cool it made your jaw drop? These are my favorite people. Everything about them is warm and inviting, and the way they gather everyone around the kitchen island for good food and even better conversation makes you crave the next time you can get together. A few weeks ago, I attended a friend’s happy hour at home, and they pulled out this tinned fish board.
First off, I get it. If your reaction is one of doubt yet intrigue at the idea of arranging a charcuterie board with tins of fish, then let me say—at first, I was right there with you. And yet when my friend did exactly that a few weeks ago, she instantly became the coolest person on the planet. Who can so casually yet confidently arrange a few ingredients on a board with some tins of fish and have it feel both elevated and approachable? As the season ramps up and it feels like all I’m doing is penciling in catch-ups with friends and celebrations with pals, there’s nothing I love more than the idea of a simple get-together around a board of delicious ingredients.
How to Build Your Tinned Fish Board
Think of the theme of this board as a casual French happy hour picnic. It involves simple ingredients, none of which need to be prepped ahead of time. Everything on your tinned fish board complements each other into something more satisfying and special than just cheese and crackers. Here’s what you’ll need.
Tinned fish. We have all the options you need below!
Cheeses. Like any other charcuterie board, having a nice selection of cheeses can help anchor the ingredients. I like one salty cheese like a wedge of parmesan that you can just cut chunks from, a creamy brie that pairs well with sharp pickled ingredients as well as being smooth enough to temper the flavors of any tinned fish, and one herbed or marinated cheese that is creamy and flavorful like a Boursin.
Vegetables. Crunchy veggies always round out any board for me. I like cornichons or castelvetrano olives for a pop of green goodness. And then vegetables like radishes or cucumbers pair perfectly with the cheese options and butter. Speaking of…
Really good butter. Get the special stuff. Butter on crackers and bread is always a crowd pleaser, and the flavor pairs perfectly with vegetables like radishes (sprinkle on salt, as the French do), and also goes well with the fish.
Nuts. I like pistachios or Marcona almonds with this board.
Bread and crackers. A nice crusty baguette and your favorite crisp crackers will give everyone something to snack on.
Use the above as your baseline, then build from there. Pickled onions would be nice with the fish, some friends love ritz crackers or saltines with their tinned fish, and fresh herbs like a bowl of dill would also be a tasty pairing.
Tinned Fish Options
If you’re feeling intimidated or don’t know where to start with choosing from the tinned fish options, I polled our team for a few of their favorites.
Get the good stuff. It feels special, especially for the holidays! Of course, caviar leans on the more expensive side, but as with anything, it can be hard to know what to get based on price alone. We love Caviar Russe’s selection, trusted by casual hosts and restaurants alike. Each tin is sustainably farmed and packed to order, meaning you’re getting the freshest caviar possible. Expect a nutty, full flavor. And if you want to serve something bubbly alongside your tinned fish board, this caviar offers the best bite.
I know what you’re thinking: even for the well-trained tinned fish lovers among us, anchovies can be… a lot. And while they’re a necessity in the best caesar dressings, they might come as a surprise on your tinned fish board. Well I’m here to tell you they’re an appetizer essential—here’s why. These anchovies are rich and buttery. And while they do pack the same salty punch as other brands, Fishwife’s boast a mellower flavor that pair beautifully with bread and butter. Trust me, these will change you forever.
Sardines are a personal fave of our Managing Editor, Isabelle Eyman. She explains to me that this tin in particular is the best of the best (though Trader Joe’s sardines offerings comes pretty close). Portugal-based José Gourmet is a trusted and favored tinned fish brand among fanatics for their sustainable practices and unbeatable flavors. The sardines are packed in olive oil, letting the fish shine in all their glory while still retaining a nice, fruity bite. They’re a bit more mild than other small fish, making these great for beginners.
Salmon or Tuna
Perhaps the most familiar tinned fish varietals, salmon and tuna make great low-key additions to your board. I’d recommend opting for one or the other. Though they each offer different flavor profiles, they’re similar enough that they would end up competing against one another on the board. Again, Fishwife is a great option when it comes to tuna, and no one does it better than Patagonia Provisions when you’re selecting a sustainably-sourced salmon. Be sure to load up on a few tins the next time you’re shopping for outdoor gear.
Assembly Tips and Tricks
Everything on this board can be opened and prepped right before serving, meaning you don’t really have to plan ahead if you have everything on hand. But you can still keep a few tips in mind to ensure maximum enjoyment.
Let the cheese come to room temperature. Especially for a creamy brie, letting the cheese sit before serving helps the flavor shine and it spreads on a baguette or cracker much easier.
Salt is your best friend. Especially with the fish on this board, a little bowl of flaky salt lets everything shine a bit brighter. Including some lemon wedges for the fish is also a way to help elevate their flavor.
Group ingredients together. If you have fish and topping combos you like, group those ingredients close together on the board to help streamline assembly.