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Quick & Simple Meals with Canned Tuna

I learned years ago that for a quick and simple meal, you need look no further than the can of tuna in your pantry.

I remember watching my father quickly transform what he called a “canna tuner” into a gorgeous salad filled with leafy greens, plenty of his beloved “tamaters” and his favorite marinated artichoke hearts.

Turned out tuna was not just for sandwiches! In fact, it’s perfect for appetizers, soups, main dishes, casseroles, pasta dishes and all kinds of salads. Did you know that canned tuna has been around for nearly 110 years? First marketed in 1903, it quickly gained popularity that has yet to decline. Tuna consistently makes the top-choices list for “best canned items” to keep on hand.

You’ll find canned tuna packed in water, oil or brine; it can be salted or unsalted; and you can choose the variety of tuna you want. Here’s a quick list:

  • Albacore tuna is probably the most popular, and in the US can be canned and sold under the name “white meat tuna.” It has a firm texture and clean (not too fishy) taste.
  • Tongol tuna is often labeled as “canned light tuna.” It is slightly darker and a bit moister than albacore tuna.
  • Skipjack tuna is common in tropical waters. It is very flavorful and light in color.

Our grocery team has done a lot of work toward sustainable sourcing of canned tuna and continues to work hard to source responsibly in this category.

For example, Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value® canned tuna (both skipjack and albacore tuna) is 100% pole or troll-caught.

And one of our major canned brands, American Tuna, is MSC-certified pole-caught albacore. Furthermore, other major brands are using only pole-caught albacore tuna from the US Pacific Northwest and other North Pacific and North Atlantic pole and troll fisheries.

Here are some choice ideas for canned tuna:

  • A tuna sandwich is always great, but especially so when spruced up with fresh chopped raw veggies such as carrots, celery, onion, radish, zucchini and parsley. It’s equally delicious with fruit such as chopped apples, grapes, pears or dried fruits, and nuts such as walnuts, pecans or sunflower seeds. For something different, season with curry powder or other favorite spices. Here is our Kid-Friendly Tuna Salad with Almonds and Raisins.  And here is our Tangy Curry Tuna Sandwich recipe.
  • Got a gorgeous green salad for lunch? Top it with a can of your favorite tuna. Scatter on some dried cranberries and a few chopped roasted nuts.
  • Bake canned tuna into vegetable casseroles.
  • Tuna salad does not always require mayonnaise. This Fresh Tuna Salad with Pineapple is refreshing and a cinch to make when substituting canned tuna.
  • Cook up some hot pasta; add canned tuna and favorite veggies. Toss with a delicious vinaigrette. Try this Sweet and Spicy Tuna Rigatoni.
  • Here is an Old Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole.
  • Mix tuna with canned or freshly cooked legumes. One of our favorites is Tuna with White Beans. Another is our Tuscan Tuna Salad with Cannellini Beans.
  • Make tuna salad and use as a dip for cut veggies and whole grain crackers.
  • Mix tuna, potato, boiled eggs and green peas with either mayonnaise or any favorite salad dressing – try this on crackers, bread or leafy greens.
  • Make Tuna Nicoise a little faster by using canned tuna in this recipe.
  • Add canned tuna to cooked whole grains including brown rice, quinoa, tabouli and kasha. Try our Tuna Tabouli.
  • Make a tuna melt by spreading tuna salad on bread. Top with cheese and broil just until the cheese melts. This is a quick favorite and especially delicious when paired with a lightly-dressed fresh leafy green salad.
  • Canned tuna is wonderful added to cheese soups and bisques. It’s equally delicious in Mediterranean-style soups and stews made with garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, olives and onions.

Please note: If you are a pregnant woman, a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, a nursing mother, or a child, the FDA and EPA advise against eating fish that might contain high levels of mercury.

Since canned light tuna is processed from smaller varieties of tuna, it will have less mercury than either canned albacore ("white") tuna or tuna steaks/fillets.

Accordingly, the FDA and EPA advise limiting intake of both albacore tuna and tuna steaks/fillets to up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of tuna steak eaten per week. Learn more about Methylmercury in Seafood.

Do you have a terrific tuna recipe? I’d love to know.