This recipe for Russian canned fish in tomato sauce is as old school as it gets. The combo of white fish, tangy tomato sauce, & fresh veggies will hook you.
If you’ve ever shopped in a European specialty market, you’ve likely come across canned fish in one form or another. What started as a way to preserve food through the seasons turned into a dish that many folks from European and Slavic backgrounds simply crave today. Made in a Dutch oven or slow cooker, this stewed fish is great served hot or cold and is naturally quite healthy for you.
Note: You can use any fish you like for this recipe, including types with small bones (think: sole or trout). During the long cooking process, the bones will soften and disappear.
Making Authentic Russian Fish in Tomato Sauce
Making this classic Slavic fish dish really just requires you to throw everything in a pot and let the magic happen. It’s that simple!
- Prepare the Veggies: Slice the carrots into long strips and dice the bell peppers and onions into small cubes. Place all the veggies in the bottom on your Dutch oven.
- Make the Breading: In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Dip each piece of fish into the flour and place the fish fillets on top of the diced veggies.
- Make the Tomato Sauce: In another bowl, stir the water, tomato sauce, ketchup, and oil together. Pour it over the fish.
- Bake the Fish: Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and bake the fish at 350°F in the pot until the sauce begins to boil. Next, turn the heat down to 250°F and bake the fish on a light simmer for 4 hours. Enjoy hot or cold and store in a canning jar in your fridge for up to two weeks.
Hot Tip: Use a combination of green bell pepper and red bell pepper to add more complexity and flavor to the dish.
3 Tips for the Best Canned Fish in Tomato Sauce
A few solid tips will help you get the most out of this canned fish in tomato sauce recipe.
- Cook the fish covered in the oven. Using a Dutch oven creates so much moisture in the fish and the lid plays a huge part in the outcome. Keep the pot covered throughout the entire cooking process for the best results.
- Use any fish you like. Just about any firm white fish will work great in this recipe. From cod to halibut to mahi mahi, you can’t go wrong. You can even use salmon if you’d like!
- Add in your favorite spices and ingredients. There are a million and one different ways to tweak this recipe to your own tastebuds. A couple add-ins we love include lemon juice, olives, capers, garlic, parsley, red pepper, black pepper, or cumin.
Like a thicker sauce? Whisk in a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to thicken it up a bit before baking.
Making this Recipe in a Slow Cooker
Don’t have a Dutch oven or just don’t feel like turning the oven on at all? Whip up this recipe in your slow cooker! To do so, prepare the ingredients as directed and pop them into the slow cooker pot. Turn the heat to high and let the sauce come to a boil. Next, turn the heat to medium or low and cook it for an additional 5 hours.
Serving Canned Fish in Tomato Sauce
Traditionally, this canned fish is served as a side dish or as an appetizer with rye bread. You can also spoon it on top of toasted, sliced baguette or serve it with your favorite crackers. If you’re eating it as the main protein, serve it over rice, quinoa. buckwheat, or even pasta.
There’s two ways to go about storing your fish: 1) in the fridge fresh or 2) stored in a cool place properly canned. When stored in the fridge in canning jars, it will keep for up to two weeks. When canned, you can keep it on hand for up to a year.
Can you make the tomato sauce a bit spicy?
Absolutely! Add some crushed red pepper flakes or a little jalapeno.
What kind of fish should you use?
It’s truly up to you! You can use just about any skinned fish for this recipe.
What purpose does the flour serve in this recipe?
The flour helps to thicken up the sauce and give it a nice texture.
Can you substitute the fish for chicken or beef?
Technically, yes. But this recipe is really meant to tap into the flavors of fresh fish.
More Traditional Slavic Recipes to Try
- Russian Pelmeni (Meat Dumplings) – Meat-stuffed, boiled dumplings
- Russian Canned Stewed Meat (Tushonka Recipe) – Spiced stewed pork or beef
- Potato Piroshki (Extra Easy) – Mashed potato stuffed dumplings
- Traditional Cabbage Rolls – Meat-stuffed cabbage rolls
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 2 large onions
- 4 lb fish
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tbsp salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 24 oz tomato sauce
- 24 oz ketchup
- 1/2 cup oil
- Clean and dice the carrots into long strips.
- Dice the bell peppers and onions into cubes. Place the chopped veggies into the bottom of a dutch oven.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Dip each piece of fish into the flour and place it on top of the diced veggies.
- In another small bowl, whisk the water, tomato sauce, ketchup, and oil together and pour it over the fish. Bake at 350°F until the sauce begins to boil.
- Then turn the heat to 250°F and bake the fish for 4 hours. Eat immediately or can the fish for later. Enjoy!
Why dredge the fish in flour, salt, and sugar? Is it intended to thicken the marinade?
Hi Cecilia, Yes the flour is there to thicken up the sauce and give it a nice texture. Salt and sugar are for flavoring.
I'm a little frustrated with the lack of instructions detail in some of your recipes, like this one. I have tried many of your recipes and although they are amazing and taste delicious, I am usually forced to scrap the first recipe or make a crucial mistake, and then do it all over again from the mistakes I made and learned from. Last night I made this recipe and read your recipe and comments 3 times, looking for whether I need to cover the pot before baking in the oven or not. I looked at another similar recipe you have posted and in the comments you said to cover the pot, so I took a chance and covered it. To my big disappointment, there was so much liquid sitting in the pot when the time was done baking. Such a tiny detail cost me so much money that I had to toss. Please, when you write instructions, please provide all the necessary details that a first time cook would need. I would really appreciate that. Thank you!
Hi Stephanie, thank you for your feedback. This recipe is one of the older ones, over the years we collected feedback and going back to add as much detail as we can.
I would like to know what other recipes have you found difficult to follow? We have been including a lot of information in the recent recipes, so most of the questions are address above the recipe.
Also, if you are ever unsure about something in the recipe you could comment and ask, we tend to get back and answer all the questions and comments we receive.
Hello Natalya, I am.preparing this dish with bony fish fillets. Is 4 hours long enough to soften in the oven, or should this be cooked in a pressure cooker?
Hi Pavlik, I think 4 hours should be enough but a pressure cooker might be handy because its so much quicker. Enjoy
I left it in the oven for 5 hours. This recipe is the bomb. I learned a lot of recipes from my mom, but she passed away when I was in my teens, so always exploring recipes from my slavik background. My family loved it, no one could detect a single bone, and brought me right back to childhood memories! Thanks.
Oh wow, thank you for sharing this story. I am sorry about your mom but so glad I can bring some memories for you. Wishing you only the best!
Hello, how long can you store this in the cans? Also, should the cans be refrigerated?
If you keep it in a fridge, this will stay fresh for a few weeks.
I tried this in the crock pot last time, oh it was delicious everyone loved it! Thank you for the recipe!
Oh, that's great!
FINALLY! I could not find a recipe for this fish anywhere! Thank YOu so much 🙂 my husband loves loves this type of fish, but could not get the recipe from anyone before. Will definitely be making this! God Bless YOu!!
Hey Anya, thank you sweet thing! I totally know what you mean, we use to buy this fish at the store but gets too pricey. Hope you love this one!
this seems like a awesome recipe...i just have one question, can i use a regular boneless fish for example, tilapia, swai or something similar to that bought from the store/freezer
Yes, you can use any of your favorite fish:) the main flavors come from marinade. Keep me posted how it goes 🙂
i have tried that recipe...my husband and I really enjoyed...thanks for a great recipe
Awesome!!! Really enjoy reading feedback. 🙂
never thought of it, what a lovely idea?! Thank you! what kind of fish did you use for this recipe?
Yeah, isn't just awesome how those old classics are still possible to recreate at home 🙂
I used salmon, my parents have used cod and few other kinds. This marinade matches well with most fish.
Ohhh boy I'm drooling;) thank you so much for your creative recipies. I'm addicted to your blog lol:)
Tina, you are just sweet:) I am glad you are enjoying the blog! 😉