9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

You’ve got a can of tuna in your pantry. I’m almost certain of it. Go check if you don’t believe me. See? You have three! Tuna is an item that seems to duplicate in the back of the cabinet if you leave it there too long. What’s to be done with it? Not everyone is into the classic mayonnaise-heavy tuna salad of yesteryear, and that’s just fine. There are a whole universe of ways to use this high-quality protein in your cooking, and many of the following recipes will help use up some other pantry staples that have seemingly spawned since you last checked on them, too. Read on for nine inspired uses for canned tuna.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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Cheez-It Tuna Salad

Cheez-It Tuna Salad

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Nearly every guy I know has admitted to eating some variation of this since childhood. While most of the dinner-for-one recipes my gentleman friends have shared with me are not fit for print or human consumption, the Cheez-It/tuna combo is outstanding. One of my oldest friends told me his “recipe” was putting tuna, mustard, and Cheez-Its in a Ziploc bag, shaking it fiercely, and then eating it from the bag with a spoon. My version classes things up a bit by adding some seasonings and using a bowl.

  • 1 can tuna in water, drained
  • 1/2 cup Cheez-Its, crushed finely
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Mix everything together; eat with more Cheez-Its.

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Goldfish Brandade

Goldfish Brandade

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Since the combo of tuna and cheese crackers is utterly outstanding, why not make it even better by whipping them into an elegant brandade? And why not decorate it with Goldfish crackers to make it fancy and schmancy?

  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, Microplaned
  • 1/2 cup leftover mashed potatoes (if you don’t have leftovers, mix 1/4 cup instant potato flakes with 1/2 water and let sit til thickened)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ground cup Goldfish Cheddar crackers, plus more for topping
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Toast, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together, put into a small baking dish, and cover with whole Goldfish crackers. Bake for 20 minutes and eat with toast.

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Tonnato Sauce

Tonnato Sauce

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Traditionally, this salty, umami-rich Italian sauce is served with veal, but you’re going to want to pour it on everything you can. Drizzle on grilled vegetables or roast chicken, use as a dip for crudites, toss with mixed greens, spread on sandwiches, or do whatever else your heart tells you to do with it.

  • 1 can tuna in water, drained
  • 4 anchovies, or 2 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • 3 fat cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. dill or Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl every so often. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Tonnato, when stored in a tightly closed jar, will stay good in the fridge for 5-7 days.

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Tuna Rolls

Tuna Rolls

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

This tuna salad makes an awesome sandwich if you’ve got freshly baked crusty bread on hand, and it’s great as a salad when piled on simple mixed greens. During the summer, I like eating it like this: in a lobster roll bun with crispy microwave-fried capers on top. Had I taken this picture in mid-summer, the tuna roll would have a beautiful slices of tomatoes in it. However, the tomatoes I had were from the supermarket, which I deemed not good enough for this sandwich. It only deserves the best tomatoes, like those from the farmers market or your own yard.

  • 1 can tuna in water, drained
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced olives (any kind)
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1/2 tsp. caper brine
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • Lemon, for serving

Mix all the ingredients together, let it sit for 5 minutes, then give it a taste and season as desired. Pile into a split top roll with lettuce, thinly sliced red onion and, if available, slices of perfect summer tomatoes. Spritz with lemon juice.

To make fried capers, put a spoonful of drained capers on a microwave-safe plate, mix with a tiny drop of olive oil, cover with a paper towel and microwave in 30-second increments until crispy (about 2-3 minutes total).

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Tuna Pasta

Tuna Pasta

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

When adding canned tuna to pasta, add it at the last possible second—you want to warm it through, but not cook it. In the event that you end up with leftovers, this pasta is wonderful when eaten cold.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar or Prosecco vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained
  • 3 nice tomatoes seeded and diced, or one cup tiny tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup chiffonade or roughly chopped fresh basil

In a small pan over medium heat, smash together the anchovies and olive oil until they’ve broken up, then add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is light brown and crispy. Turn off the heat and immediately remove the garlic to a small bowl. Allow the olive oil to cool while you bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.

While cooking the pasta to package directions, pour the cooled olive oil into a large bowl and whisk with the lemon juice, zest, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Dunk a liquid measuring cup into the pasta pot to reserve some of the water, then drain the spaghetti well, add to the bowl, and toss with the dressing, adding a bit of water if needed if the pasta looks dry. Add the tuna, tomatoes, and half the basil and toss, then serve with toasted garlic and extra basil sprinkled on top.

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Easy Tuna Melts

Easy Tuna Melts

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

If you can’t get your tuna salad to taste as good as the one at your favorite deli, here’s why: you’re not adding panko. This “secret ingredient” is used to add some lightness—and also to give you a little more tuna salad for your money. This recipe can make one to three tuna melts, depending on how high you like yours to be piled.

  • 1 can tuna in water, drained
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 Tbsp. finely diced red onion
  • 1-2 Tbsp. finely minced celery
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2-3 thick slices of bread (your choice)
  • 1 good tomato, thinly sliced
  • Muenster cheese
  • 1/2 Tbsp. (small pat) butter

Move an oven rack to the highest position, slide in a cast iron skillet, and turn on the broiler. Put the bread directly onto the rack and toast on one side—this takes about 2-3 minutes, but check the bread every 20 seconds or so to keep it from burning. Once brown, flip over and toast the other side for about 60 seconds—you want this side to be toasty, but not dark.

In a small bowl, mix together the tuna, panko, mayonnaise, red onion, celery, pepper, and garlic powder. Taste for seasoning and adjust as you see fit. Put 1-2 thin slices tomato on the toastier each piece of bread, divide the tuna in between them, and then top with slices of Muenster cheese (I will never tell you how much cheese to put on your sandwich, as you should live your life without cheese limits).

Put the butter into the hot cast iron pan and swirl it around a little. Put the tuna melts into the pan and slide it under the broiler for a minute or so until the cheese is browned to your liking.

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Tuna Tacos

Tuna Tacos

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

You can have fish tacos in less than five minutes without having to turn on the stove. It’s okay if you’re angry at yourself for never thinking of this before, because I know I’m furious at myself.

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 Chipotle peppers, packed in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 3 limes
  • 1/4 small head cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. Tajin seasoning
  • 1 can tuna in water, drained
  • 1 fresh jalapeño
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Minced red onion (optional)
  • Hard taco shells

In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, chipotles, and the juice of 2 limes. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as you please. In another bowl, toss the cabbage with a few spoonfuls of the chipotle sauce to make a slaw.

In another bowl, mix the tuna with the juice of half a lime. Mince 1/4-1/2 the jalapeño and toss with the tuna, with a bit of red onion, if desired. Smear the inside of the taco shells with chipotle sauce, add some slaw, top with tuna and fresh cilantro leaves. Slice the rest of the jalapeño and limes and serve on the side.

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Tuna Dip

Tuna Dip

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Tuna dip is like tuna salad, except it’s easier to eat in bed.

  • 2 cans tuna in water
  • 1 (8-oz.) container whipped cream cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4-5 scallions
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 small jalapeño, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Crackers, for serving

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. You can eat it immediately, but it gets better if you store it in the fridge for at least an hour, letting all the flavors meld.

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Tuna Buljol

Tuna Buljol

Illustration for article titled 9 genius uses for that can of tuna in your pantry
Photo: Allison Robicelli

We previously published an incredible recipe for vegan jackfruit buljol by Lee Bentick, a chef from the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent. Traditionally the dish is made with salt cod; if you don’t have the patience to soak your cod for a few days, using a can of tuna is a solid option.

  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), diced
  • 1-2 chili peppers, minced (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 Tbsp. minced dried seaweed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder

In a skillet, heat the oil and begin to saute the onions and peppers for about 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the tuna along with the garlic, garlic powder, seaweed flakes, salt, and lime juice.

Continue to saute over medium heat until everything is combined, typically 5-7 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

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Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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