How to Prepare Fresh Anchovies

In this guide, you will learn how to prepare fresh anchovies with food safety in mind. You will learn…

  • How to kill the nastiest pathogens that fresh anchovies can carry—which can cause foodborne illness or even death
  • How to filet anchovies: removing the head, organs and spine

Need a classic recipe for fresh anchovies? Here’s one you will love!

Italian Marinated Fresh Anchovies Recipe!

A plate of fresh marinated anchovies—Italian style!

Much like the South American ceviche recipes, this Italian Marinated Fresh Anchovies recipe involves marinating the fresh anchovies in an acidic solution of vinegar and lemon! Add some garlic and fresh Italian herbs and this dish is perfect as an appetizer or light main course.

The anchovies in this dish will still be uncooked at the end, so it’s important that you use this guide to prepare the anchovies by freezing them for the right amount of time before marinating them.

How to Filet Fresh Anchovies

To prepare whole fresh anchovies for use in recipes, we don’t need any special tools—just our little hands!

Whole fresh anchovies. use gloves to avoid touching the raw fish.

Remove the anchovy head…

After ripping off the anchovy head, use your finger to open the belly of the anchovy.

Open the anchovy belly with a finger. Then, pull down towards the tail to remove the stomach and intestines……

Removing the stomach and intestines…

Finally, open the anchovy to pull out the spine.

Here’s the spine— we need to remove it!
Removing the anchovy spine.

Give the filleted anchovies a quick rinse in ice water. At this point the fresh anchovies are ready to use in a a recipe in which they will be thoroughly cooked with heat.

However, if you plan to use fresh anchovies in a dish in which they will not be thoroughly heated, you will need to follow one more step!

Freeze the Anchovies

These fresh anchovies should be frozen for a week.

Like sushi, uncooked fish can carry pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.

Bluefish (of which anchovies are one) can specifically carry Anisakiasis larvae which can make you sick or even kill you. This is why if your recipe does not call for cooking the anchovies—but rather simply marinating them— you need to freeze the anchovies first.

As you will learn in this NIH article, “The marinating process (with vinegar, lemon juice, or brine) is not effective in Anisakis devitalization.”

Learn more about the FDA recommendations for freezing fish like anchovies to kill pathogens. Please read the guides we’ve linked to in order to have a good understanding of the risks involved in eating fresh (uncooked) anchovies and how to minimize those risks.

Obviously, thoroughly cooking anchovies is the best way to kill all pathogens, but not all recipes call for cooking the fresh anchovies.

More about Anisakiasis larvae:

Watch the Video Guide!

At the end of this video, Italian Grandma Lulu demonstrates how to prepare fresh anchovies for this dish, using this guide!

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About the author

Classic recipes from Italy and beyond. Traditional Italian Cooking and Mediterranean Diet recipes!

PIATTO™ Recipes bring traditional Italian food recipes to your table with our tested, step-by-step recipes and videos. You'll find the best Italian recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Always tested, always delicious.

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