Tuna: One of the Healthiest and Thriftiest Meats You Can Buy

Tuna. For most people, you either love it or you hate it. As a kid, I was in the latter group. Over the last year or so, I’ve started to like it pretty well. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I love it, but I definitely like it now.

In the U.S., the average cost of a good quality can of tuna is $1, give or take a little. Whatever country you may be in, there are a few things you want to look for. These things will make sure you’re getting a healthier and better quality cut of the fish. You either want to look for “chunk” or “solid.” You can find flakes of tuna and other types, but when you go with a chunk or solid, you’re assuring that your getting tuna from the same fish, and the same area of the fish. Anything else, and you could just be getting the leftover scraps, which isn’t nearly as good for you. (Think a hot dog compared to a steak).

The other thing you’re going to want to keep an eye on is that you’re getting tuna canned in water. When you get it canned in oil, it brings down the healthiness, it, at least in my opinion, isn’t nearly as tasty, and it’s getting loaded with salt and more unhealthy saturated fats.

How Often Should We Eat Tuna?

Sometimes, this is something people think of, sometimes, it doesn’t even cross a person’s mind. The FDA has some guidelines on how often children and women should eat fish in general. To sum it up though, for kids 7 and under, it’s not recommended to have more than one can a week. For adults, it’s recommended that you max it out at 2-3 servings (cans) a week.

What’s So Great about Tuna?

For every ounce (28 grams) of tuna packed in water and strained, you’re going to find a mere 24 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 6 grams of protein. Now, that might not sound like a ton of protein, but when you think about the fact that the average can of tuna in the states is 5 ounces, (6 ounces in Canada), you’ve got at least 30 grams of protein for less than 150 calories.

Now, 30 grams of protein may not seem like a lot, but to put it in retrospect, a Big Mac at McDonalds has over 500 calories, yet only 25 grams of protein. Not to mention, tuna has way fewer preservatives, chemicals, sodium, and other unhealthy things.

Now, let’s get into some recipes!

Tuna Salad

This is probably one of the most basic things you can do with tuna. It’s super easy, cheap, and completely customizable. All you really need are 2 ingredients;

  1. Tuna
  2. Mayonnaise
  3. Salt & Pepper to taster

What’d I tell you? Easy right? The ratio I find I like the most is 1 tablespoon of mayo to 2 ounces of tuna. But, it’s completely customizable to your personal preferences! Now, this is just the basics. Let’s see how we can spice it up a little and give it a flavor punch. (Please note; I still add the mayo salt and pepper, I just use these to heighten the flavor.)

Fresh and Dilly – To me, there is just something about dill, be it dried or fresh, that just brings a light freshness to any meal. I personally love to add a teaspoon of dill, and a teaspoon of lemon juice to my tuna, as well as a small sprig of green onion from my garden. I just find it takes the canned and bland food and really livens it up.

Embrace the Heat – Another fun one is adding a little hot sauce into the mix. My go-to is usually Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. It’s cheap, and it just brings that nice cayenne pepper taste to the front. Mixed with the mayo, it’s a perfect pairing!

In a Pickle – Or, maybe more accurately, the pickle is in the tuna. I like to take a little bit of dill pickle, dice it up finely, (I usually do about 2 tablespoons), and add it in. That mixed with the mayo gives it an almost tartar sauce-like quality which I absolutely love.

Tuna Melt

Okay, so we all know how to make a tuna sandwich. You take one of the above tuna salad recipes and slap it on a couple of slices of bread and there you go. An easy, typical, (and slightly boring) lunch.  But, what if, with just a little effort, you could turn it into something fancy? Tuna melts are the best way to do it!

It’s super easy. First, take your bread (buns work great as well), and you’re going to want to toast it. I recommend in the oven at 425 for about 10 minutes. Slather a little butter or margarine on beforehand for a perfect golden toast.  While that’s in the oven, taking your preferred tuna salad recipe and mix it up. Also, shred a little cheese too – I prefer cheddar, marble, or mozzarella.

Once the bread is done toasting, pull it out of the oven, and spread the tuna evenly on each piece, and top with that shredded (or sliced) cheese. Put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese gets all melty, and bam! you’ve got yourself a delicious-looking gourmet tuna melt!

Tuna Casserole

Don’t forget our ultimate frugal casserole formula. Tuna makes a great protein to add to this! One of my go-to’s is to make tuna casserole with rice, but it’s also great used with other grains like pasta or quinoa. (I haven’t tried it with potatoes myself, but who knows, that might be tasty too!)

My standard recipe is:

  • 6 cups cooked rice or cooked pasta (if pasta, I typically go for something like macaroni noodles)
  • 2 cans of tuna (I prefer the tuna that is stored in water)
  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup** (10.5oz/284mL)

**I know not everyone likes mushrooms (myself included), so if you want to swap the soup, both cream of broccoli and cream of celery work just as well.

For vegetables, I like to add peas, corn, or carrots. Mix it all together and bake until hot. And, if you’re like me and love cheese, if you have some on hand, this is a great dish to sprinkle a little on top of and melt in the oven until bubbly.

And that’s it, a meal for many with minimal effort!

A Few Last Meals

Here are just a few short other ideas if you’re still wanting more.

  • Pasta Salad with Tuna – this is super easy to make. Just add a can of strained tuna into your standard pasta salad recipe, and you’ve got an extra source of a little protein.
  • Tuna Wraps/Sandwiches – these ones are pretty self-explanatory and probably a go-to for many tuna eaters, but, though I should still write them down. And, if you’re looking for something new, try it with one of the tuna salad recipes listed above.
  • Lettuce Salad – Add a can to your lettuce salad. It’s a great alternative to chicken, and just as filling. I love it with a bit of ranch dressing.
  • Try a Lettuce Wrap – Instead of tortilla or bread, try switching it up and adding a little extra veggies, and put it in a piece of lettuce instead.
  • Tuna and Crackers – Try your favorite tuna salad recipe and just add it to crackers. This makes for a great quick and easy lunch.
  • Tuna Cakes – I don’t have a go-to recipe for tuna cakes, but there are tons. And by cake, I mean tuna, mixed with flour (and I think eggs) and pan-fried in oil until hot and crispy.

So Many Options

With tuna, there are so many options. There are almost endless recipes you can try. There are also so many health benefits. If you haven’t tried adding tuna to your weekly meal plan yet, I recommend starting the next time you go to the store. There really isn’t a reason not to!

Do you have some uses for tuna that I left out? What are your favorite tuna recipes? Let’s talk tuna in the comments.

Tuna: One of the Healthiest and Thriftiest Meats You Can Buy
Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan

Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college age students on their own for the first time, and with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future.

15 thoughts on “Tuna: One of the Healthiest and Thriftiest Meats You Can Buy”

  1. Woohoo! I love tuna. Know something strange?

    I’ve tried a ton of different tuna brands and generally, the best I’ve found (nice big tuna chunks, very few flakes) is the Kroger house brand chunk light tuna in water. You can get it at Fry’s and other Kroger affiliated stores in the US. It’s generally one of the cheapest brands in the store. I also notice they put better ingredients in the broth so it doesn’t have a funny metallic taste.

    Generally the name brands are more expensive and don’t have as good a quality, at least in my experience.

  2. Another non-obvious benefit of buying tuna is that the cans are easily made into alcohol burner cooking stoves. Run a search on YouTube.com with this phrase: tuna can alcohol stove

    Several different DIY designs will come up. Some of them are a little easier if you use a safe / comfort / side-cutting can opener (such as made by Farberware or Good Cook) so you don’t leave sharp / jagged / finger slicing edges.

    –Lewis

  3. One of my all time favorite tuna recipes is a simple pasta/tuna salad. 1 Box (16oz) of cooked pasta, 3 cans of tuna in water (drained), 1 can of peas (drained), Miracle Whip and mustard mixed to taste (usually about 4-5:1 Miracle Whip to mustard ratio. I sometimes use honey mustard for a change of pace. Make a ton of pasta salad, could be a main dish for a simple meal, or a side.

  4. Opening a can of tuna is guaranteed to bring my cats out of hiding! It’s good stuff, but some varieties are hugely over-fished, specifically the blue fin and yellow fin species. Albacore has been built back up to population target levels however. Some tuna farming is being done but until tuna can be hatched in captivity, it’s considered unsustainable. So perhaps eating tuna in moderation would be an option.

  5. A relative of mine used to make tuna patties because she said salmon was too expensive. Tuna, egg, cracker crumbs, diced onion. Form into patties, fry in butter. Delicious. She served baked sweet potatoes with it. For some reason, they make a good combo. I think a slice of cheese melted on the top would be perfect, too.

  6. Tuna is poisonous. If you eat it regularly you can literally suffer from mercury poisoning. Do not make it part of your regular diet. I now make a “salmon salad” to replace my beloved tuna salad.

    1. I love tuna and know about most fish you can’t have too much per week due to heavy metals. Since Fucishima most sea food now is even more deadly.

  7. My boys loved a box of the cheapest mac n cheese, 1 can tuna, 1 can peas, and milk as called for in the mac n cheese.
    Make mac n cheese as directed, drain a can of peas and a can of tuna. Stir them in and serve hot or bake at 350° and serve. The boys all adopted it as Batchelor food they could cook.
    I like a drained can of tuna, a couple sticks of ceIery sliced very thin, marinate them together with Italian salad dressing. Add a pinch of ground black pepper. Serve on a bed of chilled lettuce. With crackers it’s my favorite summer lunch. See

  8. My favorite way to use tuna is boil eggs and use the cooked egg yolk diced in the tuna salad and then put your tuna salad in the boiled egg halves!

  9. Ah, tuna! I’m about to bore you stiff on the subject. I love it.

    A great tuna salad is a can of tuna + drained garbanzo beans, diced onion and red bell pepper (can add parsley and celery if you like), tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. Healthy and full of fiber. For tuna casserole I like to cook diced celery and onion in a very small amount of water till no longer crunchy and mix that into the casserole. It ups the veggie quotient, you can use the flavored water to thin the mixture as needed and I think the celery and onion add a fresh flavor. Also, I love capers in tuna salad. They are a little expensive but last a long time.

  10. I have found the tuna in pouches does not get that ‘tinny’ taste that can come with cans. Tuna in oil is your best bet (not canola). It has more calories, which will keep you feeling fuller longer.
    Also, I would be wary of eating a lot of tuna – consider Fukushima, and all the mercury.

  11. Mom always made tuna salad with a splash of milk, a dab of sugar, finely diced onion along with mayo of course (mayo is at the bottom of my food pyramid).

  12. Green beans sauteed with garlic and mix in a tin of tuna. Lush. Even better with a boiled egg cut up and mixed in, or 1 egg omelette with sprinkle of feta cheese on the side!!

  13. My favorite way to eat tuna is a bit of a knock-off of a tuna salad I had at a hotel in Italy as a child:
    1 can peas & carrots, drained
    1 can tuna, drained
    2-3 chopped small dill pickles
    Small amount of chopped onion
    Mayonnaise & Pepper to taste

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