17 Unusual Canned Foods You'll Actually Want to Use


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There's a whole world beyond canned corn and tuna fish. Canned versions of unique domestic products and exotic ingredients from other cultures can also be enjoyed at affordable prices. These 17 canned specialty foods offer a taste of that global menu -- and they have the added benefit of an extended shelf life.

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A prized delicacy in Mexican cuisine, kernels of corn affected by a particular fungus take on a mushroomy flavor and add complexity to dishes like quesadillas. A little goes a long way with this specialty ingredient, also known as huitlacoche.

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If not for canned lychees, many Americans would never taste this sweet and aromatic fruit. Soft and fragrant, lychees are commonly used in cocktails and other drinks, and to flavor fruit-based desserts.

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This vegetable is a staple in Asian cuisines. The nutritious slices of lotus root have a fun shape and add fiber-filled bulk to dishes like curries and soups. The canned varieties are easy to find in Asian supermarkets or the ethnic aisles of some supermarkets.

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Guava is a sweet fruit that is popular all over the world. It's typically mixed into candies or made into a paste to accompany cheese. All-purpose canned guava paste can be eaten as is or used in many recipes.

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Conchs are sea snails that live inside those big horn-like shells in the ocean. They have a mild flavor and a pleasantly chewy texture. They are typically fried in breaded pieces or stewed in Caribbean curries.

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This dark and slightly sweet bread hails from New England but has roots in Ireland and England. The bread is steamed right in the can for an authentic flavor. Pair it with baked beans for a cheap and traditional Boston meal.

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Snails, or escargot, are a fancy and generally pricey dish when prepared the traditional French way with garlic, herbs, and plenty of butter. This delicacy can easily be found online and in specialty stores for a fraction of the prices at restaurants -- some of which use the canned variety anyway.

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Forget Cheez Whiz. Canned cheese isn't limited to cheese-like products sprayed onto crackers. Fine aged cheeses are also available. Washington State University's line of canned cheeses offers a variety of flavors from classic aged cheddar to dill garlic and chili-infused versions for less than $1 an ounce.

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Canned squid comes from all over the globe, including the United States and Europe. This popular seafood is generally sold in its natural ink, which is considered a delicacy in its own right.

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These tender shoots come from the inner layer of palm trees and are almost always sold in canned form. They are mildly earthy and generally packed in a subtly savory brine. They add texture and flavor to salads and stuffings.

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These specialty fruits are not easy to find fresh, so most people have never tasted a gooseberry. It has a zippy flavor that is bright and uniquely fruity. The more common dried versions have a different more-concentrated flavor while the canned variety offers a fresher flavor.

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These peppers are native to Spain and often stuffed with tuna or goat cheese. Their rich flavor earns them a place as a star ingredient in tapas dishes, especially when paired with wine.

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A German specialty food, fresh white asparagus begins to appear in early spring and figures in traditional dishes throughout the country. Cooks can use canned white asparagus and successfully get the delicate and mildly earthy flavor of the fresh version in dishes like white asparagus soup.

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This vegetable is a popular ingredient for preserves, baked goods, and pie fillings, but it has a short season. The long pink stalks are actually quite astringent and need a considerable amount of sugar to make them tasty. Canned varieties come cooked and slightly sweetened for easy use.

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Practically unknown in the United States, these berries are native to South America. Considered a superfood by many, golden berries are touted for their vitamins and minerals as well as what they can do for skin and even asthma.

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Eel is commonly used in sushi and other rice dishes. Braised eel usually has a sweet and savory sauce that is deep and flavorful. A good source of protein, canned eel makes a healthy snack or a convenient filling for homemade sushi.

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Chanterelles are considered high-end mushrooms, and they can be scarce and expensive in their fresh form. Preserved mushrooms hold their flavor well, which makes the canned variety a valuable low-cost option for anyone who is mad about mushrooms.