I Tried 20 Cans of Tuna — These Are the 4 I’ll Buy Again
As a cook and recipe developer, canned tuna remains one of my favorite back-pocket proteins so you’ll never catch me without a few cans in my pantry. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved tuna — canned tuna and mayo on toasted white bread was a staple in my childhood. But with time, my palate — and my shopping habits — have evolved. I still love canned tuna, and now aim to buy sustainably caught tinned fish, searching high and low to find the tastiest varieties.
To find out which canned tuna is tops, I tested 20 cans across four main categories: olive oil-packed white, olive oil-packed light, water-packed white, and water-packed light. Here’s a breakdown of the categories and which ones I’ll buy again.
How I Tested the Canned Tuna
I’m partial to the richness of olive oil-packed tuna because it has more flavor than water-packed tuna, and has a luscious quality that lends moisture to salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and more. That said, there is a time and a place for the water-packed variety: the texture is leaner and flakier, which makes it an excellent candidate for a classic, rich, mayo-based tuna salad or tuna melt. Since it’s unfair to compare the two directly, I taste tested them in separate categories.
Another important distinction you’ll find on a can of tuna is the species of fish. Cans labeled “white” tuna contain albacore, and are labeled as such for its leaner, more lightly colored flesh. “Light” tuna is labeled as such because it contains yellowfin or skipjack, two species that are darker in color, a bit softer in texture, and stronger in flavor than albacore.
While the two can be used interchangeably, taste-wise, you can think of white tuna as the chicken breast and light tuna as the chicken thigh of tinned fish. If you’re a hardcore tuna-lover like me, you might opt for the stronger flavor found in light tuna; if you’re not a fan of fish-forward flavors, you might favor the white tuna. Because the textures and flavors differ so much, I treated white and light tuna as subcategories.
One further requirement across all of these categories was that the tuna had to be sustainably caught and ethically sourced, via wild, pole-and-line caught fishing practices that avoid unnecessary bycatch. That meant a few brands came at a higher cost than the average supermarket tuna, so in two categories, I flagged worthy runner-ups with more affordable prices.
Without further ado, here are my favorites in each category.
Did your favorite canned tuna make this list? Tell us about it in the comments below.