What Is Anchovy Dressing?

Angie Bates

Anchovy dressing is a type of oil and vinegar dressing made with anchovies. Good for bitter salads or toppings for vegetables, this dressing is relatively quick and simple to make. Salty, without being overly fishy, anchovy dressing is considered an emulsion.

White wine vinegar, which can be used to make anchovy dressing.
White wine vinegar, which can be used to make anchovy dressing.

In addition to anchovies, vinegar and oil are required for this dressing. Usually balsamic, red or white wine vinegar is used, though some versions may replace the acidic vinegar with lemon juice. Since the oil is an active ingredient and not simply used for cooking, extra virgin olive oil must be used. Regular olive oil or vegetable oil that is sufficient for cooking will not provide a good flavor for a dressing base. Other oils, such as canola, may sometimes be combined with the olive oil, however.

Anchovies are cut into small pieces and mashed to make anchovy dressing.
Anchovies are cut into small pieces and mashed to make anchovy dressing.

Garlic, normally crushed, is also usually added to anchovy dressing. Crushing garlic is a relatively simple process. Once peeled, the garlic is then mashed underneath a large spoon. Alternatively, a garlic press can be used for more even results and less elbow grease.

The simplest recipes will only contain those four ingredients. Most recipes, however, will include additional flavorings. Worcestershire sauce, shallots, and lemon juice — regardless of whether or not vinegar is included — are often added.

Salt and white or black pepper are usually added to taste as well. Herbs, like rosemary, may occasionally appear in some versions. Egg may also be included, and less common versions will soak the anchovies in milk prior to preparing the dressing.

To make anchovy dressing, the anchovy fillets are first cut into small pieces. Then they are mashed in a bowl with the seasonings and herbs, or placed in a blender with the vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard and pureed. If whisking, the wet ingredients are added one at at time, each whisked thoroughly before the next is added. The oil is usually the last element to be added, though some recipes include the shallots and Worcestershire sauce after the oil.

Since anchovy dressing is an emulsion, the oil must be poured into the mixture slowly and steadily. A food processor should be running or the cook should be whisking the entire time the oil is being poured. If the oil is not included in this way it will not mix correctly with the rest of the ingredients.

Usually liquid, an emulsion is a mixture of ingredients which do not actually combine, though they appear to. Emulsions often separate when left undisturbed for a period of time, like oil and vinegar. When the cook stirs the oil into the mixture as it is being poured, he or she is actually allowing small beads of oil to be suspended temporarily inside the liquid, creating a mixture that is otherwise impossible.

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Discussion Comments


@Viranty - I don't like putting anchovies on my pizza, but they taste great in other dishes. Sometimes, I put them in salads, and other times, I cook them into my pasta. They melt into the spaghetti sauce, and that gives it a very nice flavor. After reading this article, I think I'm going to consider the dressing as well, especially considering how it says that it's salty without being overly fishy. That's been one of my main problems with anchovies...they have too much of a fishy taste. Also, as you stated Viranty, it's funny how there's so much variety, and yet it's one of the least popular foods. Funny how that works, huh?

I have only tried anchovies on pizza, and I have sort of a love/hate relationship with them. While I really like the strong flavor and taste, it's not hard to see why so many people dislike them, and it's not hard to see why so many people prefer not to put them on their pizza. They're way too salty, and as Viranty indirectly states, they overpower the pizza. When you take a bite out a deep dish slice loaded with anchovies, all you're tasting is salted fish and nothing else.

Until I read this article, I never knew about this type of dressing, and I only associated anchovies with pizza. In my opinion, anchovies are one of the most acquired tastes. Most people I know dislike them, especially on pizza. They claim that they're way too salty, and that they overpower the pizza. However, this article really shows how some of the best dishes and recipes can be made from even the least popular ingredients. People who aren't big on anchovies should try out this dressing. For all they know, they might be in for a big surprise.

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