A can of tuna is a lot of things: it’s a staple of the thrifty and a godsend for those times when you don’t really feel like cooking. It’s the chicken of the sea and a protein you can stockpile in your pantry. But what canned tuna really is, above all, is an excuse to get creative—tuna salad sandwiches are just the tip of the iceberg. It can be a fantastic addition to pasta, salads, and more. Here are fifteen ways to build a meal around a can of tuna, from the frugal to the regal.
1. Grown-Up Tuna Salad
A heavy-on-the-mayo, old school tuna salad has it’s place as a sandwich icon. But there are some familiar foods that benefit from a little pick me up every now and then. With fennel, parsley, and a hint of lemon zest, this version subtly brings an extra flourish. Get our Grown-Up Tuna Salad recipe.
2. Curried Tuna Sandwich
On the other hand, there are some times when the classics demand a complete transformation. This curried tuna salad with currant and apricot has sweet and spice, forgoing the usual white bread for naan. Get the recipe here.
3. Tuna, Olive, Avocado, and Green Bean Salad
There are some nights when a salad for dinner will do. This one fits the bill perfectly, offering plenty of veggies and protein to satisfy. Get our Tuna, Olive, Avocado, and Green Bean Salad recipe.
4. Niçoise Salad
Of course, then there’s the Niçcoise, the original salad with heft to spare. Packed with tuna, egg, potato, and olive, it evokes summer on the French Riviera. Get our Niçoise Salad recipe.
5. Spicy Tuna Guacamole Bowls
Not many meals come together with just a bit of light chopping and a drizzle of sriracha, but this one accomplishes that feat. Loaded with tuna, avocado, carrot, cucumber, and edamame, it’s a healthful option for lunch or dinner. Get the recipe here.
6. Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocado
Pile it on! These ingenious boats fit creamy tuna salad right into the rounded center of the avocado. Get the recipe here.
7. Gruyère Tuna Melt
Creamy, cheesy, and sloppy in all the best ways, a tuna melt is like a hug you can taste. Although there are endless variations on them to be found, this one with gruyère toasts and melts oh so nicely. Get our Gruyère Tuna Melt recipe.
8. Tuna Melt Potato Skins
Prefer to skip the bread? Then put it in a potato! These tuna and cheese filled skins make it easy to share the gooey goodness with friends. Get our Tuna Melt Potato Skins recipe.
9. Tuna-Noodle Casserole with Cauliflower
Tuna casserole may stand out as one of those retro culinary oddities best left for the dinnertime graveyard. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth revamping. This take lightens it up and adds some fresh cauliflower and parsley, transforming it into a recipe you’d even be proud to serve to guests. Get the recipe here.
10. Zuni's Pasta with Preserved Tuna
Some pasta dishes achieve greatness simply by balancing a few distinctive flavors. This fine example from San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe does so through headstrong contrasts and delightful clashes, pairing tuna’s fishy flavor with capers, preserved lemon, and fennel seed. Get the recipe here.
11. Tuna and Cannellini Bean Bruschetta
Whether you’re hosting a crowd or just a few hungry snackers, these bruschetta make for elegant finger foods on the cheap. Get our Tuna and Cannellini Bean Bruschetta recipe.
12. Tuna Patties
Think of these as crab cakes for the budget conscious. With a list of ingredients that comes straight from the average pantry, you can put these together without much fuss at all. Get the recipe here.
13. Tuna Gimbap
Gimbap is Korea’s take on the maki roll. Filled with a finely textured tuna salad, these little rounds are easy-to-make alternatives to the ones filled with pricey premium tuna. Get the recipe here.
14. Spanish Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers
This tapas classic can be made straight from the can. Or two cans, rather: one of oil-packed bonito tuna and another of bright and sweet piquillo peppers. Get the recipe here.
15. Italian Tuna-and-Rice Salad
Featuring olives, sun-dried tomato, and a scoop of long grain rice, it’s a tuna salad, but not in any ordinary sense. Get our Italian Tuna-and-Rice Salad recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.