How To Store Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is a versatile and nutritious pantry staple that can be used in a variety of dishes or simply enjoyed directly from the can. Whether you prefer it in salads, sandwiches, or casseroles, it’s important to properly store this high-protein, low-fat source of essential vitamins and minerals to ensure its freshness and safe consumption.

To keep your canned tuna at its best, it is essential to maintain a cool, dry, and dark environment for storage. This prevents the potential growth of harmful microorganisms, preserves the texture and flavor of the fish, and prolongs its shelf life. By following proper storage techniques, you can make the most of your canned tuna purchases and enjoy delicious meals without worry.

In this article, we will discuss the best practices for storing canned tuna, including optimal conditions and potential hazards to avoid. Armed with this knowledge, you will feel confident that you are helping to maintain the quality and safety of your favorite protein-packed ingredient.

Understanding Canned Tuna

You've Been Storing Canned Tuna Wrong This Entire Time

Types of Canned Tuna

When it comes to canned tuna, you’ll find several types on the market. The most common types are albacore and chunk light tuna. Albacore tuna is a whiter, meaty fish with a mildly rich flavor. On the other hand, chunk light tuna is typically sourced from smaller fish like skipjack, yellowfin, or tongol, and has a slightly stronger taste. You may also find flaked tuna, which is smaller shredded pieces of the fish.

Nutritional Value

Canned tuna is a healthy and convenient option to include in your diet. Here’s a brief overview of the nutritional values of canned tuna:

Omega-3 Fatty AcidsHigh
Vitamin B12High

As you can see, canned tuna is loaded with essential nutrients. It’s an excellent source of protein, which is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and overall body function. It also contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids including DHA, which contribute to better heart health and improved brain function. The fish is abundant in selenium, a potent antioxidant, and vitamin B12, which plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells and supports neural functions.

Benefits of Canned Tuna

Including canned tuna in your diet offers numerous health benefits. The omega-3 fatty acids it contains help maintain a healthy heart and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Omega-3 also supports brain function, reducing cognitive decline and improving memory as you age. The high amounts of protein help with muscle maintenance and repair, while the selenium and vitamin B12 reduce inflammation, provide antioxidant support for your cells, and maintain a healthy nervous system.

By understanding the types, nutritional value, and benefits of canned tuna, you’ll be better equipped to make informed choices when incorporating this versatile and nutrient-rich food into your meals.

Proper Storage Locations

Canned Food - Proper Storage

Storing in the Pantry

When storing canned tuna in your pantry, it’s essential to find a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations. Ideally, a temperature between 50°F and 70°F (10°C to 21°C) should be maintained. You can store canned tuna in a cabinet or on a shelf, ensuring the area is not exposed to moisture. Organize the cans by their expiration dates, placing the ones with the earliest dates in front for easy access:

  • Cool and dry place
  • Away from direct sunlight
  • Temperature between 50°F and 70°F (10°C to 21°C)
  • Organized by expiration dates

Refrigeration Tips

If you have opened a can of tuna, follow these refrigeration tips to help keep the leftover contents fresh:

  1. Transfer the tuna to an airtight container. Leaving it in the original can may lead to a metallic taste.
  2. Keep the container in the fridge, maintaining a temperature below 40°F (4°C). This will help prevent bacterial growth.
  3. Consume the refrigerated tuna within 3-4 days for best quality.

Remember that refrigerating canned tuna before opening it is unnecessary and may take up valuable fridge space.

Freezing Instructions

For your convenience, you can freeze canned tuna after it has been opened to extend its shelf life and prevent spoilage:

  1. Place the leftover tuna in an airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag.
  2. Label the container or bag with the date and contents.
  3. Store the tuna in the freezer, maintaining a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below.
  4. Thaw the frozen tuna in the refrigerator before using it to ensure even defrosting.

Be aware that freezing tuna may alter its texture and taste due to potential freezer burn. Ideally, consume the frozen tuna within 1-2 months for the best quality, but it can be safely stored for longer if needed.

By following these storage guidelines, you can enjoy canned tuna’s convenience and nutritional benefits while keeping it fresh and safe to eat at any time.

Maintaining Tuna Quality

To ensure the best quality of your canned tuna, it is essential to consider three main aspects: optimal temperature control, airtight containers, and the first in, first out strategy.

Optimal Temperature Control

The optimal storage temperature for canned tuna is between 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). Storing at temperatures higher than 70°F can cause the tuna to lose its freshness, negatively affecting the taste and texture. To maintain high-quality canned tuna, use a storage area with consistent temperature control to avoid temperature fluctuations. Be mindful of nearby heat sources, such as ovens, heaters, or direct sunlight, as these can adversely affect the tuna’s quality.

Airtight Containers

Moisture and air exposure can compromise the quality of canned tuna, leading to off-flavors and loss of freshness. To avoid this, use airtight containers with tight-fitting lids. When transferring your canned tuna into smaller containers, make sure to fill them with minimal air space to reduce oxygen exposure. Airtight containers are also essential to prevent the absorption of unpleasant odors from other food items in your storage area.

Benefits of using airtight containers:

  • Maintain freshness
  • Preserve taste and texture
  • Prevent odor contamination

First In, First Out Strategy

To ensure optimal freshness and maximize shelf life, follow the first in, first out (FIFO) strategy for canned tuna consumption. Always place newly purchased tuna at the back of your storage area, pushing older cans to the front. This method helps reduce food waste and maintain the quality of your tuna.

Consider incorporating meal planning in your routine to further reduce waste and make the most out of your canned tuna. Keep track of the EPA (Expiration or Use-By) dates on cans to determine which should be consumed first.

Following these guidelines will help you maintain the high quality of your canned tuna in terms of taste, texture, and overall enjoyment.

Safety Considerations

When it comes to storing canned tuna, safety should be a top priority. By following some essential guidelines and paying attention to signs of spoilage, you can help protect yourself and your family from potential health risks. In this section, we will discuss identifying spoilage, preventing bacterial growth, and contamination risks.

Identifying Spoilage

It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of spoiled canned tuna in order to avoid consuming contaminated food. Here are some key indicators you should look out for:

  • Bulging cans: If a can appears swollen or bulging, it could be a sign of bacterial growth, which can produce dangerous toxins. Do not open or consume the contents of the can.
  • Leaks or dents: If a can is leaking or has significant dents, it could compromise the seal, increasing the risk of spoilage and contamination. Discard any damaged cans.
  • Foul odor: Upon opening, if the tuna has an off-putting or foul smell, it may indicate spoilage. Dispose of the contents and avoid consumption.
  • Slimy texture or discoloration: Check for any changes in the tuna’s appearance, such as a slimy texture or odd discoloration. If you notice anything unusual, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not consume the tuna.

Preventing Bacterial Growth

To preserve the quality of canned tuna and minimize the risk of bacterial growth, consider the following recommendations:

  • Store in a cool, dry place: Keep your canned tuna in a cool and dry storage area, away from sunlight and heat sources. Ideally, the temperature should be between 50°F and 70°F (10°C and 21°C).
  • Use before the expiration date: Consume canned tuna before the manufacturer’s suggested expiration date to ensure optimal freshness and quality.
  • Practice proper hygiene: Wash your hands and use clean utensils when handling canned tuna to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Contamination Risks

Finally, it’s essential to be aware of potential contamination risks that can occur during the storage of canned tuna. Some common risks include:

  • Cross-contamination: Be mindful of the items stored near your canned tuna, such as raw meats or cleaning supplies, as they could potentially contaminate the cans. Make sure to keep the cans separate from other items to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Metal contamination: If you notice signs of rust or damage to the metal lid or can, discard the tuna immediately, as this could lead to the metal leaching into the food.
  • Proper food handling: When transferring the canned tuna to a dish or container, use clean utensils and separate cutting boards to avoid contact with any potentially contaminated surfaces.

By following these safety considerations, you can ensure that your canned tuna remains a healthy and delicious option for you and your family.

Post-Opening Guidelines

Storing Leftover Tuna

Once you’ve opened a can of tuna, it’s essential to store the leftovers properly to maintain freshness and avoid spoilage. First, transfer the leftover tuna from the opened can into an airtight container. It’s best to use a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

Remember to refrigerate the container as soon as possible, ideally within a couple of hours from opening the can. Store the leftover tuna in the coldest part of your fridge to ensure it remains fresh. Properly stored, opened canned tuna can last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Covering and Sealing Opened Cans

It’s vital to cover and seal the opened cans of tuna to avoid contamination and maintain the tuna’s freshness. Follow these simple steps for optimal storage:

  1. Remove any remaining can lid and dry the can’s edge for a secure fit.
  2. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the tuna, covering the entire surface.
  3. Press the wrap gently against the tuna to remove any air pockets.
  4. Seal the can with an airtight, reusable can cover or tightly wrap the entire can with another layer of plastic wrap.

Handling and Cooking Leftovers

When you’re ready to use your leftover tuna, you might wonder how to handle it correctly and safely. Follow these guidelines:

  • If the tuna was stored in the refrigerator, you can use it directly from the container. There’s no need to thaw refrigerated leftovers.
  • For cooked tuna, reheat it thoroughly to at least 165°F (74°C) before consuming. Using a food thermometer is a great way to ensure proper temperature.
  • When using leftover tuna in dishes such as casseroles, sandwiches, or salads, make sure to mix it well with other ingredients and cook or refrigerate the prepared dish promptly to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.

By following these post-opening guidelines, you can enjoy your canned tuna leftovers safely and confidently while maintaining the best possible quality.

Advanced Tips and Techniques

Storing Tuna with Other Foods

When storing canned tuna, pay attention to the packaging and storage conditions. Keep canned tuna in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. To maintain the nutritional value of the tuna, such as the omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to store it properly with other foods. A good practice is to store canned tuna separate from strong-smelling foods to avoid odors transferring.

If you have fresh tuna, consider freezing it to extend its storage life. Wrap your tuna steak tightly in plastic wrap before placing it in a freezer-safe container. Adding a layer of ascorbic acid (like vitamin C tablets) can help retain the tuna’s nutritional value. Remember to label the container with the date of freezing.

Innovative Meal Ideas

Get creative with your canned tuna by incorporating it into various recipes. Here are a few ideas to inspire you:

  • Tuna Salad: Mix canned tuna with chopped onions, celery, cucumbers, and mayonnaise. This can be served on its own or as a sandwich filling.
  • Sushi: Create homemade sushi rolls using canned tuna, rice, and fresh cucumbers. Follow the steps below to make a simple tuna sushi roll:
    1. Cook sushi rice according to package instructions.
    2. Lay out a sheet of nori on a bamboo sushi mat.
    3. Spread a thin layer of rice evenly over the nori.
    4. Place a line of canned tuna and sliced cucumbers in the center of the rice.
    5. Carefully roll the sushi using the mat, applying slight pressure.
    6. Once fully rolled, slice the roll into bite-sized pieces.
  • Tuna Steak: If you have frozen tuna steak, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking. Marinate it with your choice of seasonings and grill or pan-sear until it reaches the desired doneness.

Keep in mind that proper storage of fresh and canned tuna is the key to preserving its nutritional value. Be inspired by these meal ideas and feel free to invent your own tuna recipes to add variety to your diet.

Food Packaging and Materials

Understanding Can Materials

Canned tuna is typically packaged in airtight containers made of either aluminum or steel. These materials effectively seal the tuna, preserving its freshness and flavor. However, it’s essential to understand the materials used in the cans to ensure the safety and quality of the canned tuna.

  • Aluminum: Aluminum is lightweight and resistant to corrosion, making it a popular choice for canned goods. However, aluminum cans may contain a thin layer of plastic lining, made with BPA (Bisphenol A), which can be harmful to your health.
  • Steel: Steel cans are known for their strength and durability, offering a more robust alternative to aluminum. However, like aluminum cans, they may also contain a BPA lining.

In either case, it’s crucial to opt for cans that use BPA-free coatings or materials.

BPA-Free Alternatives

To avoid potential health risks associated with BPA, look for canned tuna packaged in BPA-free plastic or cans utilizing alternative linings. Some packaging options include:

  1. BPA-free cans: Many companies now offer canned tuna with a BPA-free lining in their containers. These cans are labeled “BPA-free” on the packaging, so you can confidently select a healthier option.
  2. Glass jars: Tuna packaged in glass jars provides an alternative to traditional cans. Glass is a chemically inert material, which means it doesn’t react with the tuna or leach any chemicals into the food.
  3. Pouches: Tuna in vacuum-sealed pouches offers another BPA-free alternative, with the added benefit of increased convenience. These pouches are generally made of food-grade plastic, take up less space, and don’t require a can opener. However, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s storage suggestions for optimal freshness.

When you store your canned tuna, choose a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. This will help maintain the quality and safety of your canned goods. Remember, properly understanding and selecting food packaging materials is a crucial step in ensuring the freshness, flavor, and safety of your canned tuna.

How To Store Canned Tuna

Great option
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 70 kcal


  • canned tuna


  • Storing canned tuna is simple. You can keep unopened cans in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or cupboard. Once opened, transfer any unused tuna to a sealed container and store it in the refrigerator. This will help maintain its freshness and prevent any odors from spreading. Just be sure to consume the leftover tuna within a few days for the best quality.


Calories: 70kcal
Keyword how to store canned tuna
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to store opened canned tuna in the refrigerator?

After opening your canned tuna, transfer the remaining tuna into an airtight container and cover it with a lid. Store it in the refrigerator at a temperature around 40°F (4°C). This helps prevent the tuna from drying out and keeps it fresh for a longer period.

Can unopened tuna cans be stored in the freezer, and if so, how?

It is not recommended to store unopened canned tuna in the freezer. The canning process already preserves the tuna, and freezing might damage the can or compromise its seal. If you want to store leftover tuna for an extended period, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze it.

What is the shelf life of unopened canned tuna at room temperature?

The shelf life of unopened canned tuna stored at room temperature can vary depending on the brand and type of tuna. Generally, it can last between 2 to 5 years. Check the expiration date printed on the can, and make sure to store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Once opened, how long does canned tuna remain safe to consume when stored in the fridge?

Opened canned tuna stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator should be consumed within 3 to 4 days for optimal freshness and quality. However, if the tuna develops an off smell, appearance, or taste, discard it immediately.

How can you tell if canned tuna has gone bad?

Canned tuna that has gone bad often has a sour or rancid smell. If the can is swollen, leaking, or rusty, or if the tuna inside looks discolored or slimy, discard it immediately. Additionally, if the taste is off, it’s best to not consume the tuna.

Are there any special considerations for storing canned tuna with mayonnaise in the refrigerator?

Yes, there are a few considerations. First, always store tuna mixed with mayonnaise in an airtight container with a lid. Also, keep it in the refrigerator at all times, as the mayonnaise can spoil quickly at room temperature. Consume tuna with mayonnaise within 3 to 4 days and discard if it develops an off smell or taste.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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