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Crispy Fried Anchovies with Tartar Sauce

Need a super crispy, (mostly) healthy, high-protein snack? Make these Fried Anchovies (aka Boquerones Fritos) in just a few minutes. They're lightly coated in seasoned flour and fried quickly.

Amazing with a squeeze of lemon juice and tartar sauce. You'll love the easy homemade tartar sauce recipe that I include!

The recipe below also has instructions for making gluten-free and low-carb fried anchovies.

Close up of fried anchovies (boquerones fritos)
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Fried anchovies

Fried anchovies are a popular appetizer or snack in Spain and in a lot of parts of Europe. We've had them in Portual and Croatia too. They're so so good! They're so crispy, salty, and so snackable. 

You typically find fried anchovies on the appetizer portion of the menu in restaurants, or in food trucks and street food vendors. There's nothing better than sitting down with a plate of fried anchovies in the shade on a hot day, squeezing some fresh lime juice over them, and enjoying them with a cold drink!

I wanted to bring the flavors of Spain to our house, so I got some anchovies from a fish vendor and made this crispy seafood appetizer!

Fried anchovies are SO easy to make: it's just a matter of tossing cleaned anchovies in seasoned flour and frying them for 1 minute in hot oil. The instructions below give you options for deep-frying anchovies and pan-frying anchovies.

Even though these anchovies are fried, the flour coating on them is pretty thin, so they're definitely not the unhealthiest fried food around!

If you're not sure whether you like anchovies in the first place, I really hope you give them a try! There's nothing that can't be made amazing by coating in flour and frying lightly. Fried anchovies are NOTHING like the canned anchovies that you find on pizza that get such a bad rep.

That's how I got my family to eat fried chicken hearts—by making them crispy, delicious, and fried! 

Plate of fried anchovies with lemon wedge

What kind of anchovies to use for fried anchovies

You'll want to use fresh or frozen anchovies to make fried anchovies, not canned anchovies. Canned anchovies are typically fillets and will not hold up well to being coated in flour and fried. If using frozen anchovies, let them thaw in the fridge so you can clean them out.

Make sure to choose anchovies that are smaller in size, about 2-3 inches is perfect.

Related recipe: Crispy Fried Salmon Skin

How to clean anchovies

Start by rinsing anchovies in water. Cut off the heads and use your fingers to scoop out all the innards and guts inside. Be sure to tug at the spine to remove it, if you don't want (or if your anchovies are on the larger side, more than ~3 inches). You will be left with "butterflied" anchovies, 2 fleshy fillets connected by the skin and the tail, which can open and close like a book.

Hands gutting fresh anchovies

Do you need to remove the spine from anchovies? 

The spine and bones from anchovies add extra crunch and calcium. If you don't like the idea of eating the spine or if your anchovies are bigger (more than ~3 inches) then it is better to remove the spine, simply by pinching it and pulling it out.

Removing spine from anchovies

Do you need to remove the tail from the anchovies?

The anchovy tail does not need to be removed because it becomes crunchy and easy to eat when fried. 

Do you need to remove the head from anchovies?

A few sources out there say the head is fine to eat, but since you want to remove any half-digested stuff from the inside of the anchovies, the easiest way to do that is by removing the head to get inside the anchovies. I recommend removing the head for cooking anchovies.

Removing head from anchovies

Are anchovies healthy?

Anchovies are one of the healthiest fish available. This is because they are high in omega-3's, which are healthy fatty acids essential for brain development and health, as well as for heart health. Anchovies are small fish, which typically means that they are very low in mercury. Anchovies are also high in protein, just like all fish. Anchovies are high in Vitamins B3 and B12. Because of these reasons, anchovies are a very healthy fish to add to one's diet.

While anchovies are not typically everyone's favorite choice of seafood, serving them fried is definitely a great way to convert people to anchovy lovers and get more of this healthy fish into your diet.

Ingredients

For the fried anchovies:

  • ½ lb fresh anchovies (or frozen, thawed)
  • 1-1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Optional: ½ - 1 teaspoon each onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, paprika and/or smoked paprika
  • ~1-2 cups vegetable oil, for frying (canola, soybean oil, corn oil, or sunflower seed oil work great!)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Tartar sauce, for serving

I use a similar seasoning mixture to make the flour dredging for fried lion's mane mushrooms, and it is so so good!

For the homemade tartar sauce:

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Optional: pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and/or ½ teaspoon yellow mustard

Instructions

Step 1: Rinse the anchovies in water. Clean the anchovies by cutting off the head, then use your fingers to scoop out the innards, guts, and spine from the anchovies. The spine might need to be pinched and pulled out.

Cleaned fresh anchovies in a bowl

Step 2: Combine the flour with the salt and pepper (and other seasonings, if using), on a large plate or bowl and mix well.

Step 3: Add the cleaned anchovies to the flour and toss/stir to coat the anchovies in flour completely.

Step 4: To deep-fry anchovies: Add the vegetable oil to a small saucepan (the oil should be at least a few inches deep). Heat the oil and do the toothpick test: insert the tip of a tooth pick into the oil carefully. If small bubbles form almost immediately, the oil is hot enough for frying. Use a slotted metal spoon or a metal spatula to carefully place a few flour-dredged anchovies into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry for about 1 minute, or until the anchovies are golden brown. Use metal tongs or a metal slotted spoon to carefully remove the anchovies from the oil and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. 

To pan-fry anchovies: Add enough oil to a pan to coat it about ½-inch deep. Heat the oil and do the toothpick test: insert the tip of a tooth pick into the oil carefully. If small bubbles form almost immediately, the oil is hot enough for frying. Add the flour-dredged anchovies to the pan and fry for about 30 seconds - 1 minute per side, or until golden brown. Remove and place on a plate lined with a clean paper towel.

Anchovies frying in a skillet

Step 5: Serve warm, squeezing fresh lemon juice over the anchovies and dipping into tartar sauce. Make the tarter sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste, and adjust the flavor to your liking.

Plate of crispy fried anchovies over salad.

How to serve fried anchovies

Fried anchovies are great as a finger food appetizer when served with a cream dip, such as tartar sauce. They're also great on avocado toast, on toast with hummus and a slice of tomato, over salad, on top of mashed potatoes for a little salty crunch.

Make low-carb or gluten-free fried anchovies

For a low-carb version of this recipe, use almond flour in place of wheat flour. For a gluten-free version, you can use either almond flour, cassava flour, or your favorite gluten-free flour mix.

Would you try this anchovies recipe?? 

More crispy fried foods to try:

If you enjoyed this anchovies recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Recipe card

Anchovies frying in a skillet
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5 from 4 votes

Crispy Fried Anchovies with Tartar Sauce

This whole anchovy recipe is ready in about 15 minutes, and makes such a delicious, high-protein snack! The easy homemade tartar sauce is a must-try if you don't have tartar sauce on hand.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American, European, Spanish
Servings: 4
Author: Kate

Ingredients

For the fried anchovies:
  • 1 lb fresh anchovies - (thawed, if frozen)
  • 1-1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups vegetable oil - for frying (canola, soybean oil, corn oil, or sunflower seed oil work great!)
  • Lemon wedges - for serving
For the homemade tartar sauce:
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Optional: pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and/or ½ teaspoon yellow mustard

Special equipment

Instructions

  • Rinse the anchovies in water. Clean the anchovies by cutting off the head, then use your fingers to scoop out the innards, guts, and spine from the anchovies. The spine might need to be pinched and pulled out.
  • Combine the flour with the salt and pepper (and other seasonings, if using—see notes), on a large plate or bowl and mix well.
  • Add the cleaned anchovies to the seasoned flour and toss/stir to coat the anchovies in the flour completely.
To deep-fry:
  • Add the vegetable oil to a small saucepan (the oil should be at least a few inches deep). Heat the oil and do the toothpick test: insert the tip of a tooth pick into the oil carefully. If small bubbles form almost immediately, the oil is hot enough for frying.
  • Use a slotted metal spoon or a metal spatula to carefully place a few flour-dredged anchovies into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry for about 1 minute, or until the anchovies are golden brown. Use metal tongs or a metal slotted spoon to carefully remove the anchovies from the oil and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
To pan-fry:
  • Add enough oil to a pan to coat it about ½-inch deep. Heat the oil and do the toothpick test: insert the tip of a tooth pick into the oil carefully. If small bubbles form almost immediately, the oil is hot enough for frying. Add the flour-dredged anchovies to the pan and fry for about 30 seconds - 1 minute per side, or until golden brown. Remove and place on a plate lined with a clean paper towel.
Serve with tartar sauce:
  • Serve fried anchovies warm, squeezing fresh lemon juice over the anchovies and dipping into tartar sauce. Make the tartar sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste, and adjust the flavor to your liking.

Notes

Optional seasonings: add ½-1 teaspoon each garlic powder, dried oregano, paprika and/or smoked paprika to the flour mixture, and/or a pinch of cayenne pepper powder.
For a low-carb version of this recipe, use almond flour in place of wheat flour. For a gluten-free version, you can use either almond flour, cassava flour, or your favorite gluten-free flour mix.
Fried anchovies are great as an appetizer when served with a cream dip, such as tartar sauce. They're also great on avocado toast, on toast with hummus, over salad, on top of mashed potatoes for a little salty crunch.
Nutrition facts will vary based on how much flour and oil are actually used in the making of these anchovies.

Nutrition

Calories: 313kcal (16%) | Carbohydrates: 19g (6%) | Protein: 26g (52%) | Fat: 14g (22%) | Saturated Fat: 3g (15%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg (24%) | Sodium: 636mg (27%) | Potassium: 470mg (13%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 1g (1%) | Vitamin A: 82IU (2%) | Vitamin C: 1mg (1%) | Calcium: 174mg (17%) | Iron: 5mg (28%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.

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