Some canned fish is available in oil or brine (e.g. tuna, salmon, saury), while other types of canned fish are only available with oil (e.g. sardines, mackerel). If I were to home can some of the latter, would it be completely necessary to add vegetable oil?

  • 1
    The internet suggests that some brands of sardines are available in brine and also that they can be home-canned in brine see here, recipe and video.
    – Erica
    Feb 3, 2015 at 20:44
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    Sardines are also available canned with tomato sauce. They're especially tasty this way! Feb 3, 2015 at 21:08
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    You can actually buy boneless, skinless sardines packed in water. It's hard to imagine a nastier food-like product, mind you, but it's manifestly possible.
    – Marti
    Feb 3, 2015 at 22:42
  • @jbarker2160 That tomato sauce contains vegetable oil in all canned fish pieces I have seen.
    – Enivid
    Feb 4, 2015 at 15:19
  • @Enivid, not in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. And some of those brands are sold in America. Feb 4, 2015 at 16:10

1 Answer 1


The reason sardines and mackerel are generally packed in oil is due to the naturally high amounts of fat/oil in the fish. If you cook a raw mackerel thoroughly you will soon notice the large amounts of oil left in the tray.

On the other hand when cooking Tuna you will notice the opposite and almost no matter how much oil you put in your frying pan the tuna will just keep sucking it up.

For this reason, as canning involves cooking, the oily fish are either packed in their own oil (more could be added) or something like a tomato sauce which, with it's acidity will emulsify with the fat.

If canned in brine/water you would still be left with a layer of fat floating.


In response to the comment below.

  • Mackerel - 100g - Raw - Fat Content: 13.9g
  • Sardine - 100g - Raw - Fat Content: 4.2g
  • Tuna - 100g - Raw - Fat Content: 1g
  • Saury/Pike - 100g - Raw - Fat Content: 0.7g
  • Interesting, but it looks like a strange reason. Besides, Saury is rather fatty and can be easily found in brine.
    – Enivid
    Feb 4, 2015 at 15:21
  • What is the source of that data? SELF Nutrition Data shows 16g fat per 100g.
    – Enivid
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:30
  • The official USDA nutritional database is my source. I can't link directly as I have the database running on a private server. However I can link you to the Google result Which gets its data from the very same USDA database. google.co.uk/…
    – Doug
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:46
  • Also, take note... the link you provided is to a Cooked fish. Where all the data I provided was for raw. I used raw on the basis when the fish goes into the tin it is raw, there is no where for the fat to go therefore it should not lose any.
    – Doug
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:48
  • I don't know, I can get fish packed in water here, and often they're packed in olive oil, not tomato sauce or their own juices
    – risto
    Feb 5, 2015 at 7:43

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