Taste test: Canned tuna


View gallery

Best canned tuna taste test

Tuna taste test (Photo: iStockphoto)

Epicurious taste tested 13 canned chunk light tunas, in water and oil, and reeled in a few winners.

Everyone has a preferred flavor enhancer for a "mean" tuna salad—celery, apples, relish, olives...the list goes on. But the key ingredient has got to be the tuna itself: Not even a whole jar of mayonnaise can salvage a smelly, soggy can of fish.

Canned tuna meat should be firm and flaky, but never mushy. It should be moist but not watery (and certainly not dry). And it has to look appetizing before it's dressed up with seductive ingredients.

It was not easy deciding which tunas to feature in our taste test. They come in cans, glass jars, and even pouches, and can be packed in water, vegetable oil, or olive oil. Even more confusing: Tuna varieties sold in cans include albacore, yellowfin, skipjack, and tongol. After much research, we chose to focus our test on canned chunk light skipjack and tongol in both water and oil. Why? Light meat, ie: chunk light tuna (in oil and water) accounts for 75 to 80 percent of annual domestic canned tuna consumption in the U.S., according to The Tuna Council.

(See more: Best and worst bbq sauces)

There is a health issue too: Chunk light skipjack and tongol generally have lower levels of mercury than albacore and yellowfin (for more information, read Mercury in Canned Tuna and the Seafood Selector entry on canned tuna from the Environmental Defense Fund).

To "catch" the best chunk light canned tuna, we tasted 12 varieties available nationwide, including the following, listed from highest to lowest score in our tests: 365 Everyday Value Chunk Light Tongol Tuna Packed in Spring Water, Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Oil, Trader Joe's Tongol Chunk Light in Water, Starkist Gourmet Choice Solid Light Tuna Fillet in Olive Oil*, Wild Planet Wild Skip Jack Light Tuna (no water)*, Miramonte Tongol Tuna in Spring Water**, Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Water**, Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Water, Cento Solid Pack Light Tuna, Starkist Chunk Light Tuna in Vegetable Oil, Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Oil, and Progresso Solid Light Tuna in Olive Oil.

(The brands marked with * received the same score. The same is true for those marked with **.)

Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of chunk light canned tuna. All were drained and served as is (without any mayonnaise or other condiments or garnishes). We ranked them according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being the best). One tuna was a real catch, while two others got good marks from the judges.

View gallery

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Chunk Light Tongol Tuna Packed in Spring Water
Best Overall

Epi Top Pick: Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Chunk Light Tongol Tuna Packed in Spring Water ($1.39 for 6 oz. can)

Pros: Aside from being the least expensive of all the winners, this firm yet chunky (not mushy) light-colored tuna impressed tasters.

"It has a subtle, clean ocean flavor; it tastes natural," said one editor. "I love how it's firm yet chewy, and perfectly salted," observed another.

Cons: Appeared dry at first glance.

View gallery

Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Oil

First Runner-Up: Bumble Bee Chunk Light Tuna in Oil ($1.89 for 5 oz. can)

Pros: Editors appreciated the firm white fish meat, which had a slight smoky accent to it. One taster noted: "This is the first canned tuna I've enjoyed without tons of added mayo."

Cons: Salty and slightly oily.

View gallery

Trader Joe's Tongol Chunk Light in Water
Second Runner-Up: Trader Joe's Tongol Chunk Light in Water ($1.89 for 6.5 oz. can)

Pros: Editors appreciated this tuna's moist appearance and chewy texture. "It tastes like fish but it's not too pungent and has no aftertaste," said one judge. Environmentally minded shoppers may also appreciate that this tuna is marketed as wild-caught.

Cons: The meat's two-toned coloring (with reddish and yellow patches) might be unappetizing to some.

The Other Contenders

Progresso brand may have won our taste buds over in the Chicken Noodle Taste Test , but their tuna product was judged the least desirable among the 12 competitors in this taste test. Editors were turned off by the "pungent" fishy smell and its lingering aftertaste.

Two other well known name brands did not fare well: Starkist Chunk Light Tuna in Vegetable Oil was described as bland and chalky, while Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Oil appeared soft, mushy, and overly moist. But judges did commend Starkist for not being overly salty, and the Chicken of the Sea tuna's "smokiness" convinced judges that it would be more appealing once drained and mixed with a dollop of mayo.

Prices and availability subject to change.

More from Epicurious:

Easy Family Dinners

25 Sandwich Makeovers

How to Eat Your Spring Veggies

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • The Walking Dead: Negan's Victim Speaks Out on 'Messed-Up' Exit

      Warning: The following doesn’t just contain spoilers for the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, it contains big ol’ bashed-in skull-shaped spoilers. So if you’ve yet to watch the episode — and think you’ll be able to bear to — proceed no further. Glenn’s death in Sunday’s Walking Dead premiere was meant to be — and […]

    • Police baffled by couple found dead next to untouched bags of Taco Bell — and not much else

      Cameron and Courtney Hulet were lying on their living room floor when a neighbor saw them. The neighbor didn’t think much of it. She heard moans and figured they were asleep. She closed the front door, which the couple had a habit of leaving open, David Uhl, manager of the southeast Michigan village of Dundee, told The Washington Post. It was Tuesday morning. The neighbor didn’t see the Hulets all day, she told authorities. She went back to check on them later that night. They were still lying next to each other. Taco Bell bags and drinks sat next to them on a table, untouched. The woman had a male friend check on them, Uhl said. Police were called to the apartment shortly before midnight on

      Washington Post q
    • Man murdered wife's family and then killed her as she attended funeral service in 'evil plot'

      A man has been found guilty of executing an "evil plot" in which he killed his sister-in-law and father-in-law to lure his wife to their funerals, where he then murdered her. Samuel Velasco Gurrola, 41, conspired to kill his wife Ruth Sagredo and her family with the help of his two siblings in the US town of El Paso in Texas. As Ruth Sagredo joined her sister's funeral procession, Gurrola murdered her.

      International Business Times ONC UK q
    • Michael Crabtree touched his shoulder and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct

      Michael Crabtree is one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from an automatic ejection after getting penalized for doing nothing wrong. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree wasn’t able to avoid the penalty Sunday, even though he didn’t even do one. Crabtree celebrated a 2-yard touchdown pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars just before halftime by tossing the ball.

      SB Nation q
    • US: Philippines' Duterte sparking distress around the world

      MANILA, Philippines (AP) — America's top diplomat for Asia said Monday that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial remarks and a "real climate of uncertainty" about his government's intentions have sparked distress in the U.S. and other countries.

      Associated Press 54 min ago
    • Saturday Night Live: Tom Hanks Exposes a Surprising Truth About Trump Supporters

      The final debate sketch wasn’t the only time Tom Hanks and Saturday Night Live decided to roast Donald Trump. S.N.L. hasn’t exactly been gentle on Trump supporters this election season. Or did you miss that fake ad last year where the show unflinchingly compared them to Nazis? So, knowing some biting political commentary is coming, it’s surprising to see Tom Hanks—who, earlier in the night, leaned into his gentle, “America’s Dad” persona—put on that red “Make America Great Again” cap for a “Black Jeopardy!” sketch. But, either way, it was good to see Hanks behind the old Jeopardy! podium where he made such a splash playing a dumbed down version of himself opposite Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek back

      HWD q
    • Top aide touts Donald Trump's 'drain the swamp' message

      That would've meant Trump running mate Mike Pence would've been term-limited out of office halfway through his 12-year tenure representing Indiana. "He was definitely living in the swamp," Conway said of Pence, who led fiscal conservative fights like opposing the bank bailout pushed by his own party's President George W. Bush. "Mike Pence would agree with Donald Trump on that: When you're there for too long, you need that fresh blood and new perspective," Conway said. "I wish there were more members like Mike Pence. If there were, we wouldn't need to have the conversation." Conway also attacked Clinton over her family foundation's acceptance of foreign contributions -- but Tapper pointed out

      CNN q
    • Bella Thorne looks like a live-action Jessica Rabbit in this incredible red dress

      Bella Thorne is a red-hot fashionista and we are totally obsessed with her latest look. The 19-year-old actress has a history of…

      Hello Giggles
    • Jay Z Says He 'Misses The Old Kanye' Following West's Recent Rant

      Here’s something we all have in common with Jay Z: He misses the “old Kanye.” Roc-A-Fella co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke revealed as much following Kanye West’s surprising rant against his idol last week. Kanye blasted Jay for not personally visiting him after wife Kim Kardashian got robbed in Paris, for never setting up a playdate with their kids, and for Tidal politics preventing him from linking up with Drake, an Apple Music artist. “I was shocked to hear what Kanye said onstage,” Burke told Page Six at his Reasonable Doubt 20th anniversary pop-up shop on Saturday.

    • 745-Pound Woman Needs Gallbladder Surgery, Doctors Refuse

      Desperately in need of gall-bladder surgery, Katrina Randall, was rushed to the hospital on Friday. Her family hopes her latest trip leads to a life-saving procedure but there`s a catch - her family says doctors won`t operate because of her size. She weighs 740 pounds.

    • The Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere Recap: Blood, Regret and Tears

      Warning: Spoilers ahead. So, unless you’ve already watched the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, you might wanna do what we wanted to during Negan’s “batting practice,” and look away. Remember how awful we thought it was, waiting all summer long to find out the identity of Negan’s victim in the Season 7 premiere of […]

    • Ariel Winter finally explains why she wore that swimsuit on the red carpet

      Modern Family star Ariel Winter has a great track record as a body-positive role model. She is so outspoken about her journey to feeling happy in her own skin and knows how to handle bullies without dimming her shine. That’s why we love this explanation of why she wore a swimsuit, shorts, and heels on the red carpet over the summer. Ariel debuted this look at the Just Jared 4th Annual Summer Bash hosted by Uno in Los Angeles in July. Some fans loved the look and some people hated it, but it definitely got people talking. It’s true, this is a real outfit she rocked on the red carpet! In a recent interview with People about her most controversial outfits, Ariel talked about the look. She said:

      HelloGiggles q
    • MarketWatch q
    • Michigan lined up in a 10-man centipede formation again

      Jim Harbaugh is unique. Michigan’s coaches don’t call it that -- they call it “trains” — but we’re not Michigan’s coaches. Needing two yards, Michigan came out with five linemen, three tight ends, a fullback, and a running back.

      SB Nation q
    • 'Saturday Night Live' Spoofs Trump, Clinton in 3rd Presidential Debate, Tom Hanks Plays Moderator Chris Wallace

      Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton continue to provide "Saturday Night Live" with plenty of fodder. As in weeks past, Alec Baldwin and "SNL" cast member Kate McKinnon impersonated Trump and Clinton, zeroing in on the most eccentric and quirky aspects of their behavior. The fictional Trump's tone soon changed, when he was asked about reproductive rights.

      Good Morning America
    • The Best All-Inclusive Packages at Adults-Only Resorts (7 photos)

      Hear that? Its not the sound of a baby on an airplane , or an argument between two kids. Its the roar of waves crashing on rocks, tree frogs chirping from the canopy, and of complete, grown-up silence. You dont have to be a parent to value the absence of potentially noisychildren. Everyone can appreciate the absolute tranquility of a kids-free hotel. Thats not to say adults cant get rowdybut adults-only properties tend to foster a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Guests are typically seeking a low-key (and yes, quiet) reprieve from life; especially if that life has three kids between the ages of 1 and 7. Resorts such as these know theres only one thing more calming than an escape from the myriadday-to-day tasks ofparenthood (or a romantic getaway that isnt stifled by shrieking infants or toddlers peeing in the pool ): an all-inclusive package. Forget about nitpicking every cocktail or excursionall-inclusive packages make a resort stay a totally worry-free experience. You already know what the bill will look like when you get return home. Even your tips are included. If all this sounds like just what you need, read on for a few of our favorite all-inclusive packages at the top adults-only resorts.

    • Clinton Vaults to a Double-Digit Lead (POLL)

      Hillary Clinton has vaulted to a double-digit advantage in the 2016 election.

      ABC News q
    • Emily Ratajkowski Cheers on the L.A. Dodgers in a Midriff-Baring Crop Top, Smooches Her Boyfriend in the Stands

      Who says you have to rock a billowing jersey to show your sportsmanship? Not Emily Ratajkowski, who showcased her toned physique as she cheered on the Los Angeles Dodgers at a baseball game in L.A. on Thursday. The model and actress took a minimalist approach to dressing for the sidelines and rocked a black pair of high-waist jeans with a long-sleeve white crop top that showcased her abs. She proudly put forth her support of the hometown team with a black cap that simply read "LA"

    • These twin brothers dancing in a supermarket are going viral and it’s cause they’re amazing

      Dancing in public is pretty much a regular activity for us. But when we discovered these twin brothers with amazing moves busting a…

      Hello Giggles
    • ‘The Walking Dead’s’ Steven Yeun Says Season Premiere is ‘Bittersweet’

      The identity of Negan’s victim on “The Walking Dead” is one of the most closely guarded secrets in television, and after seven years on the show, Steven Yeun — aka Glenn — has trained himself to not spill the beans. Variety caught up with the Korean-American actor at the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) 25th... Read more »