We Asked 3 Chefs to Name the Best Canned Tuna, and They All Said the Same Thing

published Apr 3, 2024
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tuna cans arranged graphically
Credit: Photo: Chris SImpson; Food Styling; Jessie YuChen

Ever since my days making sandwiches for tourists at The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Virginia, I’ve had a special affection for tuna salad sandwiches. As my go-to shift meal during that time, they were a foundational piece of my college diet and one that I look back on fondly. Now whenever I crave a lunch that feels satisfying and nostalgic, I reach for a can of tuna to whip up a tuna melt or a pan bagnat — and it takes me back to those college days. 

Lately I’ve seen a proliferation of cheffed-up tuna sandwiches on Instagram — maybe they’re making a comeback, or maybe they never really went away. Either way, I was curious to find out what kind of canned tuna chefs prefer, so I asked a few. Here’s what they had to say.

Credit: Megan Litt

The Best Canned Tuna to Buy, According to Chefs

While there wasn’t one specific brand that rose to the top of the canned tuna pile (although one brand did get two mentions), there was one common element that kept coming up: When it comes to canned tuna, sustainable is best. Of course, sustainability can mean something different to everyone, so I pressed a few chefs to find out what they meant and why it matters to them. Turns out, there’s one hook for all three chefs I spoke with: Line-caught tuna is the way to go.

Creamline Chef/Owner, Harris Mayer, is all about line-caught albacore tuna, which he appreciates for its “clean and lean flavor.” For that reason, Mayer chooses San Diego-based American Tuna. He points out that, while most commercial tuna is caught with nets, American Tuna distinguishes itself by using what’s known as a one-by-one fishing method, using one hook and one line to catch a single fish at a time. It’s much more labor-intensive, but it reduces pollution from discarded fishing equipment, provides less interference in the marine habitat, and fosters a community of fisheries that can contribute to their local economies. “Sustainability matters to us because food that comes from a happier and healthier environment TASTES better,” insists Mayer.

Chef Morgan Jarrett, executive chef at STATE Grill and Bar, the flagship restaurant of the Empire State Building, echoes Mayer’s choice of American Tuna. Jarrett cites the brand’s commitment to sustainability as well as the fact that it’s an American-grown, American-made product as his main reasons for choosing American Tuna. “Supporting the American economy, entrepreneurship, [and] the next generation of people who want to go out and create their own businesses — that’s why I like to buy American brands.” 

Buy: American Tuna Wild Albacore Tuna with Sea Salt, $34.99 for 6 (3.5-ounce) tins at Amazon

Credit: Megan Litt

Tinned fish is very important to Ruben Garcia, the chef/owner of Casa Teresa in Washingont, DC, which is known for its strong tinned fish program. Garcia prefers the Spanish brand Ortiz, which he says “offers the best value and quality canned tuna for its price.”

Garcia selects Ortiz’s oil-packed tuna because it’s line-caught, never net-caught, and hand-cleaned, ensuring a premium quality for menu items like the ensalada mixta. “Our oceans are under enormous pressure from climate change, pollution, and overfishing. At the end of the day, chefs have a big responsibility to not only offer our guests the highest-quality products, but to also take care of our planet while doing so.”

Buy: Ortiz White Tuna in Olive Oil, $31.99 for 4 (3.95-ounce) tins at Amazon

Did your favorite canned tuna make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.