Here’s how canned ingredients are making us better cooks.
When you hear the words “stocking up,” what do you think of? Probably a few chunky cans of those great utility legumes of the grocery store: black beans and chickpeas. Maybe a short stack of oblong tins of anchovies, sardines, or fried dace in black bean sauce. Definitely some gigantic cans of whole peeled tomatoes—and maybe, if you’re lucky, some canned cherry tomatoes to boot. If you’re really planning ahead, possibly a couple cans of sweetened condensed milk.
Even when we’re stocking up out of bleak necessity (as many of us have been doing these last few weeks), canned foods can be a source of optimism, inspiration, and sweetness in the kitchen. The 200-year-old technology of canning is responsible for tres leches cake, spaghetti sauce, and one of America’s favorite sandwiches. We even published an entire special issue on the subject.
Canning is the reason that a mango grown seven thousand miles away can travel across the world in a can and into your kitchen. It’s the marvel of engineering that has brought us the concept of the whole, shelf-stable chicken. Here are a few of our favorite stories and recipes about often-overlooked canned ingredients, in all of their compact, long-lasting potential. —Anna Hezel
A Second Look at the Tuna Sandwich’s All-American History
How Japanese-Americans helped launch the California tuna-canning industry—and one of America’s most beloved sandwiches.
Mexican Desserts and the Magical Can
It’s a key ingredient in tres leches cakes and dulce de leche, but condensed milk also works as a sauce on its own.
The Fourth Leche
Coconut milk is the secret weapon for the only party cake you’ll ever need.
You’re Invited to Join the Cult of Dace
Like Spam, this fried fish bathed in black bean sauce is hard to replicate and often eaten straight from the can.
A Saltier, Snackier Cookie
Permission to put blue cheese, chives, and even anchovies in your shortbread.
Ube Halaya: Spread It, Mix It, Eat It by the Spoonful
It’s impossible to talk about Filipino desserts without bringing up ube, the starchy, can’t-believe-that’s-not-food-coloring purple yam.
The Fake Rolex of Canned Foods
San Marzano tomatoes are prized for their balanced flavor and distinct tomato-iness. Yet as home cooks become more and more enchanted with the Italian variety, questions arise over what exactly is in that can with the San Marzano label.
Red Bean Paste Can Make Anything a Dessert
A can of sweetened red bean paste can go far.
Everyone Should Have a Gross Recipe
Sometimes your best recipe is a thing you would never in a million years serve to guests.
15 Flavors of Spam and Counting
Since its rise to popularity during World War II, Spam has come a long way. We took a closer look at some of the canned meat’s offshoots, from Spam Chorizo to Spam Oven Roasted Turkey.
Indian Mangoes: Crossing Continents in a Can
There’s nothing quite like fresh mangoes from India. But when you can’t find them, the next best thing is canned mangoes from India.
A Tiny Can Full of Smoke
Canned chipotles are an extremely dependable grocery-store staple, and the smoked peppers are going to change the way you think about veggie burgers.