Cooking Easy: Canned Tuna is a Staple in My Pantry and Should be in Yours

Sherry McGuinn

Stumped for a quick and easy meal? You can't go wrong with canned tuna.
Photo byWikipedia Commons

When I grocery shop these days, I often leave the store with a headache after checking my receipt and realizing that I spent $70 and barely covered ingredients for more than one meal. That said, I never leave the store without two or more cans of tuna. There's always at least one brand that's on sale and I stock up so that I'll have the beginnings of an easy, nutritious meal whenever I want. Sometimes, If I want to keep things really easy, I'll just toss a can of tuna with a bag of broccoli slaw and "create" a salad from there.

I also purchase tuna in pouches because the flavor varieties are amazing. Chipotle. Jalapeno. Lemon and Dill. You can even find tuna pouches packed with fiber-rich grains like barley and quinoa. I must have fifty of those in my pantry as they're ideal for a quick lunch.

Over the past several months, as my tuna obsession has mushroomed, I've collected recipes from Taste of Home, Martha Stewart, Eating Well, and online blogs so that I always have a "clue" when mealtime rolls around. Because I don't believe in "gatekeeping" a good thing, I'm happy to share the following with you. One more thing: I love albacore and yellowfin packed in extra virgin olive oil, but you can use whatever tuna you prefer in these recipes, except for those that specifically taste "oil-packed.".

Tuna Patties


  • 2 (5 to 6-ounce) cans tuna
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup white bread , torn into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water, or liquid from the cans of tuna
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, green onions, or shallots
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 raw egg
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)


  1. Drain the tuna: Drain the liquid from the tuna cans. If you are using tuna packed in water, reserve a tablespoon of the tuna water, and add a teaspoon of olive oil to the tuna mixture in the next step.
  2. Make the tuna mixture: In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, mustard, torn white bread, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, parsley, chives, and hot sauce. Sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste the mixture before adding the egg to see if it needs more seasoning to your taste. Mix in the egg.

3. Form into patties and chill:

Divide the mixture into 4 parts. With each part, form into a ball and then flatten into a patty. Place onto a wax paper-lined tray and chill for an hour. (You can skip the chilling if you are short on time. Chilling just helps the patties stay together when you cook them.)

4. Sauté in a skillet:

Heat the olive oil and a little butter (for taste) in a cast iron or stick-free skillet on medium-high. Gently place the patties in the pan, and cook until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Serve with wedges of lemon. You can also serve with tartar sauce and a bun to make a tuna burger.

Tuna, Tomatoes, and White Bean Salad


  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes (12 ounces), peeled and sliced ½-inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed
  • ¼ teaspoon grated garlic (from 1 small clove)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound tomatoes, such as Campari or beefsteak
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) white beans, such as cannellini, drained and rinsed
  • 2 jars (each 5 ounces) high-quality tuna packed in oil, drained
  • Arugula, for serving


  1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan; add enough water to cover by 2 inches and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Return water to a boil; add green beans and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain.
  2. Mix together garlic and vinegar; let stand 5 minutes. Grate 1 or 2 tomatoes to yield 1/2 cup; add to vinegar mixture. Whisk in oil; season to taste. Cut remaining tomatoes into wedges, arrange on a platter, season, and drizzle with oil.
  3. Toss white beans with half of the dressing. Toss green beans with 1 tablespoon of dressing; arrange on a platter with potatoes, tuna, white beans, and arugula. Season to taste, drizzle with remaining dressing and serve.

No Cook Tomato Tuna Sauce With Spaghetti


  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • ¼ cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 jars (each 7 ounces) tuna packed in oil, drained
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (¼ cup), plus more for serving


  1. In a large heatproof bowl, combine tomatoes, 1/2 cup oil, garlic, basil, vinegar, and red-pepper flakes. Season generously with salt. Let stand up to 1 hour; remove and discard garlic.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of generously salted water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water, then drain.
  3. Immediately transfer pasta to bowl with tomatoes; add tuna, cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Toss well to combine, adding pasta water as needed to create a silky sauce. Serve with more cheese and basil.

Tuna Salad in Avocado Halves


  • 1 can (5.5 ounces) water-packed tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 avocados, halved and pitted


  1. Combine drained tuna in a small bowl with mayonnaise, lemon juice, and celery. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Fill each avocado half with tuna mixture, dividing evenly. Garnish with celery leaves, if desired.

One Pan Creamy Tuna Pasta

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces cavatappi or other short spiral pasta
  • 1 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (from 3 to 4)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces (3 cups)
  • 5 ounces baby arugula (4 packed cups)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 4 teaspoons fresh juice
  • 2 cans (5 ounces each) oil-packed tuna, drained
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


  1. Combine butter, pasta, broth, 2 cups water, and shallots in a large straight-sided skillet or stockpot; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until very al dente, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in asparagus; cook until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add arugula, Parmesan, and lemon zest; stir to combine. Fold in tuna and lemon juice. Serve immediately, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with more pepper and Parmesan.

Open Face Tuna Melt


  • 1 (5-ounce) tin tuna, drained
  • 2 slices sandwich bread, lightly toasted
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Provolone cheese slices
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan


  1. Evenly divide tuna between bread; season with salt and pepper. Top with a few slices of dill pickle and a slice or two of provolone.
  2. Stir together mayonnaise, Dijon, and Parmesan. Spread evenly over sandwiches. Broil until cheese melts and mayo puffs slightly and browns in places, 1 to 2 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I enjoy sharing them. Thanks for reading.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. She is currently pitching her newest screenplay, “The Month We Fell Apart,” a drama with dark, comedic overtones inspired by a true story, as well as “DEAD TIRED,” a female-driven, erotic thriller.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL

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