I Tried 20 Cans of Tuna — These Are the 4 I’ll Buy Again

published Feb 7, 2023
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tuna cans arranged graphically
Credit: Photo: Chris SImpson; Food Styling; Jessie YuChen

Canned tuna and mayo on toasted white bread was a staple in my childhood, so I’ve always been a tuna-lover. But with time, my palate has evolved a bit, as have my shopping habits. I still love canned tuna, and now aim to buy sustainably caught tinned fish, searching high and low to find the tastiest varieties. 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.

To find out which 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: Its texture is leaner and flakier, which makes it an excellent candidate for a classic, rich, mayo-based tuna salad or tuna melt. Because it’s unfair to compare the two, I taste tested them in separate categories. 

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. Happy tuna eating!

Best Olive Oil-Packed White Tuna: Ortiz Bonito Del Norte 

I could (and do) eat this Ortiz Bonito Del Norte tuna straight from the can. The fish is firm and flaky, its flavor is clean and rich, and the olive oil that it’s packed in is delicious. The fish is individually line-caught using traditional fishing methods in Northern Spain during the summer fishing season. These meaty albacore fillets are a delicious addition to salads, toasts, and grazing boards, and are perfect for a salad Niçoise.

Budget buy: While I think this imported Spanish tin is worth the splurge, 365 by Whole Foods Market Albacore Wild Tuna in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil makes a great budget pick. It’s 100% pole-and-line caught, MSC-certified, packed in flavorful extra-virgin olive oil, and comes quite close to Ortiz’s flaky texture.

Best Olive Oil-Packed Light Tuna: Tonnino Yellowfin Solid Pack Light Tuna in Oil

Not to play favorites, but this is my platonic ideal of a can of tuna. The yellowfin fillets are tender, meaty, and rich. They’re full of tuna flavor, but not fishy. This MSC-certified, Costa Rica-based brand only sources yellowfin from fishing boats certified by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which guarantees and certifies that no species other than tuna are being caught. This tuna tastes great straight from the can, but also works in all kinds of dishes. I reach for this when making a pantry pasta, a tonnato sauce, or a sandwich like a pan bagnat.

Best Water-Packed White Tuna: American Tuna Pole-Caught Wild Albacore with Salt

This albacore surprised me because it tastes more like well-seasoned piece of cooked fresh tuna! Plus, the fish isn’t drowning in water, so it doesn’t even require draining. Founded by American fishing families in the Pacific Northwest, American Tuna prides itself on traceability, using the most environmentally friendly fishing practices, and receives the highest rating for sustainability and ethics from Greenpeace. This is a delicious option for a classic tuna salad or tuna melt.

Best Water-Packed Light: Tonnino Tuna Fillets in Spring Water

Just like Tonnino’s oil-packed tuna, these spring water-packed yellowfin fillets are a far cry from the shredded, water-logged canned tuna of my youth. The fish is thoughtfully arranged in large pieces in the jar. It’s meaty and tender, with a pronounced but clean tuna flavor and flaky texture that works great in a classic tuna salad or sandwich.

Budget buy: The Genova Yellowfin in Spring Water a worthy runner-up in this category for its comparable tenderness and flavor. Genova has made improvements in recent years to its sustainability practices, with an emphasis on traceability and sourcing tuna from 100% MSC-certified fisheries or fisheries working toward MSC certification. Genova’s tuna is a tasty option at a more affordable price point.

Buy: Genova Yellowfin in Spring Water, $3.09 for 5 ounces at Instacart

This post was originally published on Kitchn. Read it there: I Tried 20 Cans of Tuna — These Are the 4 I’ll Buy Again