Our 10 favourite canned foods… and how to use them

We all rely on convenient tinned food from time to time, but beyond tuna, sweetcorn and baked beans lies a realm of hero products. From anchovies to corned beef, we celebrate our favourites...

Canned food

The canned food aisle isn’t the most glamorous in the supermarket, but it encompasses the widest range of ingredients. In a time of budget eating and food banks, certain products beat their fresh equivalents in terms of cost, convenience and longevity. What’s more, metal cans can be recycled again and again. We're not suggesting you forego the fresh veg but everything has its place. We dug around our storecupboards to find the tinned treats we wouldn't be without.

A note on safely storing canned food

Once opened, the contents of the can should be tipped out into a storage container. Never put open cans in the fridge – the metal may transfer to the can’s contents.

Our top 10 canned food products

Crab linguineCrab

If you’ve an abundance of time, money and patience, picking a whole fresh crab for a midweek supper is a reasonable option. For the rest of us, it’s safer to reach for the can. This usually means picking up chunks of white crabmeat, but it's possible to buy dressed brown crabmeat too.

Use in…

Crab & lemon spaghetti
Crab cakes with dill mayonnaise
Crab & avocado tostadas

Cherry bakewell Cherries

Think less kitsch glacé cherry and more classy clafoutis. Canned and pitted black or Morello cherries will save you hours of fiddling around with a paring knife, plus they come in a sweet, rich red syrup that can be used in cocktails and sauces.

Use in…

Cherry Bakewell sponge pudding
Cherry choc muffins
Cherry meringue tart

Crostini of artichokesArtichoke hearts

If you’ve ever tried to peel the layers from an artichoke you’ll know it’s a labour of love. As a result, prepared antipasti artichokes preserved in oil tend to be fairly pricey. Tinned versions offer a thrifty alternative, plus you can dress them in your own choice of oil, herbs and seasonings.

Use in…

Crostini of artichokes & chives
Spaghetti with artichokes & pesto
Baked artichoke dip

Chestnut cupcakesChestnuts

In the UK, there’s a short window in which to buy nets of fresh chestnuts, so they’re often relegated to the festive season alone. On the continent, these strong-flavoured nuts are rightly celebrated all year round. Pick up a can of chestnut purée to enjoy the flavour without the tedious preparation process.

Use in…

Chocolate chestnut cupcakes
Iced chestnut ripple cheesecake
Chestnut & amaretto roulade

Roasted tomatoes with anchoviesAnchovies

Fresh anchovies are a rarity on these shores, but most supermarkets will stock at least one canned variety of this salty, umami-rich fish. If you’re making a pasta sauce like puttanesca, use the oil from the can to cook with, otherwise use it to submerge any leftover anchovies in a storage container if you can’t use the whole can in one go.


Use in…

Roasted peppers with tomatoes & anchovies
Anchovy palmiers
Fresh spinach & anchovy tart

Tomato sauceTomatoes

Staple of household and professional kitchens alike thanks to their budget credentials and enormous versatility, we couldn’t leave tomatoes off our list. Supermarket economy lines offer cans for under 40p, but if you’re willing to go the Italian way and spend a little more it's worth trying canned organic, cherry or yellow tomatoes too.

Use in…

Classic tomato sauce
Chorizo & rosemary pearl barley risotto
Spicy Moroccan eggs

Lychee and lime sorbetLychees

The fresh version of this under-championed fruit comes in a slightly hostile-looking pink, spiky shell, while the canned equivalent comes ready-peeled and stoned to boot. Make sure you use the sweet syrup too.

Use in…

Refreshing lychee & lime sorbet
Frozen lychee & mint cocktails
Halloween jelly

Lentil lasagneLentils

Dried lentils win on the price front, but canned lentils can be used immediately, and in this modern world of fast living that’s sometimes just what you need. Canned lentils are soft in texture, so ideal for use in soups and cold salads, but if heated at length they’ll go mushy – perfect for a last-minute dhal. Be sure to give them a rinse as they’re likely to come in salty brine.

Use in…

Lentil lasagne
Curried carrot & lentil soup
Lighter Scotch eggs

Corned beef hashCorned beef

If the term ‘meat in a can’ makes you shudder, maybe this salt-cured beef isn’t for you. But if you’re of a nostalgic disposition, like us you’ll love the carnivorous hit of this crumbly canned product. Serve with potatoes or in bread – we like it with gherkins and mustard in a sandwich or in lightly spiced potato hash with baked beans.

Use in…

Corned beef hash
Red flannel hash

Thai prawn and peanut soupCoconut milk

Made from the flesh of the coconut rather than the liquid in its centre, this creamy product is an ideal dairy substitute for those following a lactose-free or vegan diet. It has plenty of health benefits, but if you’re watching your waistline we recommend picking up a half-fat version.

Use in…

Thai prawn & peanut noodle soup
Spiced coconut porridge 
Creamy mango & coconut smoothie

Are you a fan of the can? What products are always on your shelves? 

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
20th Aug, 2016
I like jars of roasted peppers. Use chopped in crab and pepper risotto then serve any leftover risotto stuffed into the peppers as a tapas. If you have carrots in the fridge - most of us do - grate them and make a red salad of sliced peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion and parsley. Use with smoked paprika in bean soups and in frittata. Buy at Lidl for value.
29th May, 2014
Tins used to stay in the cupboard forever. Now they come with a use by date. Is it safe to use them after this?
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.