Add Variety to Home-Canned Fish

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Fish may be processed in cans or jars without the addition of salt. Salt is used for flavoring only and does not play a role in preservation.Home-Canned Fish

For those who wish to reduce their salt intake or add variety to their home-canned fish, try one of the suggestions below. Each flavor combination was field tested by volunteers. Their comments are also given.

Note: Herbs and spices may intensify in flavor with long canning times. Label your jars and cans with any added herbs and spices.

Amounts listed are for flat, ½-pound cans or ½-pint jars.


Good Flavor

Flavoring Amount Comments
Basil ¼ teaspoon Good, better when salt added
Bay Leaf 2 leaves Looked nice when container opened

Chicken bouillon (dry)

2 teaspoons Good with halibut and salmon

Chicken bouillon (dry)


2 teaspoons

½ teaspoon 

Very good


Garlic salt

Red chili pepper

¼ teaspoon

¼ teaspoon

½ dried

Very good — would be great if you were using the canned fish for a raw vegetable or cracker dip, or for a spread
 Dill weed 1 teaspoon Good
Garlic ½ clove or small clove Good, better when salt added


Dry chives

¼ teaspoon

¼ teaspoon  with smoked fish

Good, but may be better with fresh chives or onions


2 to 3 slices

More or less can be added


½ teaspoon

Most like some salt added, but salt is not needed

Vegetable oil or olive oil

½ teaspoons to 2 tablespoons

Gave halibut and smoked fish a rich flavor, but the halibut canned without oil was also moist — some oil seems to be needed

Acceptable Flavor

Flavoring Amount Comments

Crab claw

Lemon pepper

1 claw

1 teaspoon

Did not add crab flavor to halibut
Lemon pepper 1½ teaspoons One group liked and one didn’t — good with halibut
Mustard seed ¼ teaspoon Can’t taste any mustard flavor
Paprika 1 teaspoon Added some color but not much flavor to halibut
Sage (whole) ½ teaspoon Okay, but not a favorite
Turmeric 1 teaspoon Very little flavor

Poor Flavor

Flavoring Amount Comments


Pickling spice

3 cloves

1 teaspoon

Not good!


Crushed red pepper

1⁄8 teaspoon

1⁄8 teaspoon

Not a favorite
Ginger ¼ teaspoon NO! NO! NO! NO!
Liquid smoke ¼ teaspoon Majority did not like this — left black deposit on surface of fish and lids of jars
Pickling spice 1 teaspoon No, pickling spice doesn’t work in canned fish
Tarragon 1 teaspoon Licorice flavor — most did not like

Other Suggestions

Ling Cod

Although softer in texture than salmon (before and after canning), those who tried this product seemed pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. Because of the softer texture, this might work well in a sandwich spread (with some crisp celery or onion added) or in a dip for raw vegetables.

Amounts listed are for flat, ½-pound cans or ½-pint jars.

Mock Smoked Fish

Flavoring Amount Comments
Salt ¼ teaspoon Excellent
Brown sugar 2 tablespoons  
Minced dried garlic 1⁄8 teaspoon  
Liquid smoke 1⁄8 teaspoon  

Sarah R-P. Lewis, Extension Faculty, Health, Home and Family Development. Originally prepared by Kristy Long, former Extension Foods Specialist.

Reviewed October 2021