20 Delicious (And Healthy) Meals You Can Make With A Tin Of Tuna

Genius ways to use this lockdown staple.


Amy Hopkins |

Way before Lockdown, if I saw a special on tinned tuna, I would stock up. Why? Because tinned tuna is a versatile, ready-to-eat, good-for-you protein. And it would often form a part of my work-day desk lunch rotation. In fact, I kept tins of tuna in my desk drawers for emergency lunches! So, to be honest, when tinned tuna specials came on during Lockdown (five for R65 — I’m looking at you Woolworths), I bought in…

Now if you think of tinned tuna, I bet you can think of maybe 3, 4 or 5 ways you can use it… but 20? I’ll admit, it was a stretch for me too… But then I started remembering recipes my gran would make when we were kids. And recipes from the Jewish side of my family (because in case you don’t know, you cannot mix milk and meat, ie: no cheeseburgers for you)… So, here, a comprehensive list of recipe ideas featuring tinned tuna.

READ MORE: 5 Delicious Lockdown Recipes That Won’t Need A Trip To The Shops

1/ Tuna-mayo sandwich

Okay, let’s start classic here. Tuna and mayo are a winning combination. How to fancify this up? Add a squeeze of lemon juice, some freshly — and finely — shopped spring onion or red onion. Serve it on 100% rye toasted in hot olive oil with layers of chopped tomato and lettuce. YUM.

2/ Tuna-avo sarmie

Orrrr on rice cakes… Okay, so this is a WH HQ fave, especially now when it’s avo season! Easy enough: mush one ripe avocado and combine it with one tin of tuna. Spread on sandwich bread or on rice crackers or in butter-lettuce leaves (depending on how many carbs you’re cutting…) and munch. Why this is such a hit: avos are really good for you and packed with nutrients. Yes, they are high in fats — the good kind though — and when we’re talking getting in nutrient-dense calories, avos trump mayo.

3/ Egg-mayo sarmie with tuna

Brunch you say? Who has the budget for salmon in this economy anyway? Now when I grew up and we used to go on road trips — all the kids squeezed in the back of a bakkie — my gran used to make egg-mayo sarmies. Easy enough: you boil the eggs, you mash with mayo, salt and pepper and spread on a sarmie. Now, we already know eggs and tuna work well together, thanks to the French and recipe number 5. So why not double up on that good protein and add some tuna to the mix? It works!

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4/ Basic tuna salad

Think of this more like a green salad with tuna thrown on top. This is really what it’s about: you have some salad ingredients and you want to add some protein. Oh, hey there, convenient tin of tuna! Simply add on top with a basic olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix.

5/ Salade Niçoise

A much more intentional and fancy salad made convenient by the ready-made tuna. This salad has the following basics: tuna, boiled egg, olives, tomatoes, baby potatoes and green beans. There are variations of this salad that include lettuce, anchovies and capers… Mix it up as much as you like! It’s sure to keep you fuelled for a busy day ahead.

6/ Chopped Israeli-style tuna Salad

Think Israeli-style chopped salad: everything chopped into same-size 5mm cubes. Tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cucumber… and chickpeas! It’s a leafless salad with a lot of crunch. Now add tuna and some delicious avo (again, chopped into little cubes) and you have a filling dish that’s packed with all the good stuff.

7/ Tuna salad wrap

Take recipe no.3 above and place all the ingredients into a wrap.

8/ Tuna salad wrap with mealies and mayo

The above recipe bulked up with flavour. I don’t know why certain combos work… Like Tuna and corn aka mealies. But they do! So mix your tuna with some mayo, add corn kernels, then wrap with greens in a large soft tortilla.

9/ Warm tuna pita

In a bowl, combine chopped celery, chopped red onion, tuna and mayo. Layer this into a pita. Add grated cheese of your choice (have you heard of Eatlean Cheese?). Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted. This is serious comfort food. Salad on the side optional.

10/ Tinned Tuna (not) Tartare

A play on the French delicacy, you can use the principles to assemble a similar-looking dish, just with tinned tuna. Use finely chopped avocado as the base, then layer with chopped baby rosa tomatoes, layered on top with tinned tuna. The key is to dress the ingredients beforehand. A lovely lemony vinaigrette will do well, with some seasoning. Top with leaves and herbs, and serve. Thin slice of toast optional.

11/ Tuna pasta salad

A very simple dish I used to make when I was a student, tuna-pasta-salad takes the example of recipe 4 (basic tuna salad) and combines it with mayonnaise and penne pasta. It keeps in the fridge for three days and it’s easy to pack in a Tupperware. It’s not very pretty to look at, but it’s simple and tastes good.

12/ Lemony zesty tuna pasta

A very quick-and-easy recipe that can be served warm or at room temperature the next day. What you need: lemon (zested and juiced), olive oil, garlic, 1 tin of tuna and some pasta of your choice, plus herbs of your choice (parsley is a good one). Make it fancier: add wilted baby spinach to the mix. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped garlic clove. Allow to sizzle for a minute or two, then add the tuna, lemon juice and parsley and stir until heated. Add the hot cooked pasta to this pan with some of the pasta water and stir to combine. Serve with zest sprinkled on top and some extra herbs… For extra yum factor: add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

13/ Tinned tomato and tuna pasta

Cupboard stacked with tinned tomatoes too? Well, this is an easy recipe that will help make use of both tinned ingredients. What you need: olive oil; one large onion, chopped; one clove garlic, chopped; one tin of chopped tomatoes; chilli (or chilli flakes); pasta of your choice; one tin of tuna; fresh basil (optional). Method: Sauté onion in olive oil. After a couple of minutes, add the garlic and then the tin of chopped tomatoes with the chilli. In the meantime, cook your pasta. Season the tomato mix with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar if needed to calm the acidity. Simmer to reduce liquid. Toss the hot pasta into the tomato mix and flake in the tuna. Serve with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

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14/ Tuna Lasagne

Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Tip one 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 250g of sliced peppers, 50g of olives, 1 tbsp mixed dried herb herbs into a pan, cover and simmer for 10 mins until the tomatoes have broken down a little. Add the tin of tuna and season with salt and pepper. Pour one tub of cream cheese into a bowl, season and mix to loosen a little, adding a splash of water (or milk, if you have some) to make a thick white-sauce consistency. Assemble the lasagne in a baking dish, approx 20 x 30cm. Pour roughly a third of the tuna sauce into the bottom of the dish, top with 4 lasagne sheets, a third of the cream cheese sauce, then repeat the layers twice more. Scatter over some mozzarella and bake for 40 minutes until golden and bubbling.

15/ Gluten-free tuna fishcakes

Who doesn’t love a good fishcake? Mix together: 1 tin of tuna, 200g mashed potatoes, 1 egg, 1 tbsp gluten-free flour of choice (rice flour works well), 4 finely chopped spring onions, 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to season. Form patties with your hands. Coat the patties in some more rice flour before cooking gently in a pan with some olive oil. Yum!

16/ Tinned tuna poke bowls

Ah, we love a good poke bowl! But we don’t always have access to freshly caught tuna (like in this pic). You can make these the way you would any other good poke bowl. The base: steamed rice topped with crunchy, fresh veggies, nuts (almond or macadamias), avocado, spring onions, sesame seeds, fruit… The key is the good dressing! 1 tbsp sesame-seed oil + 2 tbsp tamari + Juice of one lime + Tiny drizzle honey mixed together and drizzled over.

Find more delicious, healthy seafood recipes here!

17/ Baked potato with tuna

I love a good baked potato. In fact, sweet potatoes baked whole are probably my favourite. Their skins caramelise so beautifully and inside it’s soft and just nearly sweet. Top this hot baby with some tinned tuna mixed with a little mayo (or creme fraiche if you eat dairy) and some chopped spring onions and dill. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon to finish it off and you’ve got a cracking little meal!

18/ Tuna frittata

A quick and easy lunch for the whole family — you can pump this up with extra veggies like peppers and mushrooms. Yes, added nutrients for the win! Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In an oven-proof skillet, sauté chopped spring onions in a little olive oil. Add your veggies (baby spinach, courgettes, tomatoes). Sauté until combined and wilted. Add one tin of tuna, drained. Whisk together 12 eggs and 1/2 cup soya milk (or cow’s milk) with a pinch each of salt and pepper (to taste). Pour egg mix into large skillet. Place in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until eggs are cooked through. Garnish with chilli flakes, Peppadews and fresh basil.

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19/ Tuna Tacos

Now the trick here is to combine the tinned tuna with some red onion, corn, tomatoes and chilli to make a spicy salsa to fill your tacos with. So, finely chop half a small red onion, mix with one tin drained tuna, one large chopped tomato, about 1/2 cup corn kernels and one finely chopped chilli. Add the juice of one lime and a little olive oil and stir together. Now mash avocado with chopped coriander, lime juice and salt and pepper. Have some sour cream on the side. Spoon your tuna filling into the corn tacos, add guacamole and a dot of sour cream. Delish. I like serving my tacos with a little shredded butter lettuce for extra crunch and freshness. Imagine the below with tuna instead of mince – much fresher!

20/ Tuna, olive and rocket pizza

Home-made pizza evenings are great! But you might not always have loads of toppings a hand… Enter that old faithful tin of tuna. Get your bases ready, smeared with some tomato puree, and your oven hot at 200-220 degrees Celsius. Top your tomato bases with shredded tuna, chopped black olives, capers (if you have) and mozzarella cheese. Bake until golden and melted and delicious. Serve with fresh rocket and thin slices of red onion. So yum!

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