We Taste-Tested The Best Brands of Canned Tuna — Here’s Our Favorite
Not all brands of canned tuna are created equal, either in terms of their flavor profile or their health benefits. Fortunately, more and more canned fish brands are focusing on ethical and sustainable practices, so we can now better trace the environmental impact of our canned tuna consumption — and reap the increased health benefits. After all, according to the authors of one recent medical review, fish consumption has been associated with remarkable decreases in coronary heart disease.
When we set out to find the best canned tuna, we knew the taste would play a major role in our final picks — but it was equally important that the brands we tested synced with our values and concerns for our health and that of our planet. So we came up with a list of determining factors to help guide our choices:
Wild-caught vs. farmed (and a word on toxins)
Wild-caught fish are typically superior to farmed because of their ability to grow and feed in an organic environment. However, while this is a good general rule, it’s not universal and depends on the conditions, size, and species of fish. The waters in which they live make a big difference in the health of the fish: if pollutants are present in natural water environments, then the fish can absolutely be less healthy than those found in clean, managed farms.
Additionally, larger and more mature tuna accumulate higher levels of mercury and other toxic elements, whereas younger and smaller species like skipjack — sometimes labeled as “chunk light” — tend to have less. For this reason, the FDA recommends limiting white tuna consumption and mixing a variety of fish into our diets.
“Pregnant women and smaller children, in particular, should adhere to these guidelines to avoid mercury toxicity, which could be especially damaging to the brain and nervous system,” says Crystal Karges, RDN.
It’s widely known that our oceans are being adversely affected by human activity, and the ways in which we harvest marine wildlife have an immense impact. Many of the brands that we tasted work with fisheries that use the pole and line method, which is preferred. We avoided those that use mass harvesting techniques such as long lines and nets that don’t discriminate, catching all types of sea life — including dolphins, turtles, and even sharks — that either die in the fishing process or after being tossed back into the water as bycatch.
Oil- vs. water-packed
As it turns out, choosing tuna packed in water or oil is not just a matter of personal taste. “In tuna canned in oil, the omega-3 fats can leach into the oil and if you discard the oil, you are consuming fewer omega-3 fats,” says registered dietician Rosie Schwartz. “This doesn’t happen with tuna canned in broth or water.
BPA, or Bisphenol-A, is a plastic-based lining that was invented in the late 1800s to serve as a barrier between foods and tin cans to help decrease corrosion and the contamination of the foods contained within them. Decades later, its effects on the human endocrine system, brain, and other organs were discovered, spurring a slow decline in its use. While low-dose exposure through canned foods is typically not of great concern, many brands have switched to BPA-free linings to offer their customers an extra level of protection.
A pro tip for healthier tuna
“Canned fish can be significantly higher in sodium when compared to fresh or frozen,” Schwartz says. “But rinsing the tuna well with cold water can help to decrease the amount of sodium.” So the next time you’re making classic tuna salad with solid white albacore or topping pasta with oil-packed yellowtail, consider implementing this tip during the preparation for a healthier meal.
Our top canned tuna picks
This was without a doubt our favorite solid white tuna. The tuna was packed in noticeable chunks — much like you would get from a whole, fresh fish. And since it’s packed in water with no salt added, it’s the ideal choice for recipes that call for other high-sodium ingredients, like pickles. Crown Prince’s sustainability practices are also top-notch, making it the clear winner.
What we liked:
- Packed in spring water; no salt added
- Pole & line caught; MSC Certified Sustainable Seafood
- Dolphin Safe Certified by Earth Island Institute
- Non-GMO Project Verified; Certified paleo; Keto certified
- Contains 1,165 mg omega-3 per serving; Gluten-free; Kosher
Wild Planet is the runner-up in the albacore tuna category. Like Crown Prince, Wild Planet tuna gave us those big, flaky chunks we look for in albacore. The texture was meaty, and since all that was in the can is pure tuna, there was no salty flavor to distract from the wild fish flavor.
Wild Planet’s focus on smaller migratory tuna ensures mercury levels that are 6x lower than the FDA limit: a huge plus for those who want to make albacore a regular part of their diet.
What we liked:
- Pure wild albacore tuna; no salt added
- 100% pole & line or troll caught
- Contains 21g of protein and an average of 705mg EPA and DHA omega-3s per serving
Safe Catch prides itself on a host of sustainable and ethical practices, in addition to hand-packing and slow-cooking methods that preserve the flavor of its fish. Because this particular product is skipjack, the mercury levels are ten times below the FDA limits, but like all tunas labeled “light,” the tuna is actually darker in color and offers a softer texture that is great for topping fresh salads or adding to casseroles, where a flaky consistency isn’t essential.
What we liked:
- Wild skipjack tuna; no salt, additives, or fillers
- Sustainable fishing practices
- Meets Consumer Report’s “Low Mercury” criteria
- Follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program
If you’re looking for a tinned tuna that you can enjoy right out of the can all on its own, Fishwife smoked albacore is the way to go. The artisan taste and methods didn’t go unnoticed during our taste test. What we found were beautiful, whole chunks of tuna brined in extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and brown sugar.
The smokey flavor from the Alderwood adds extra depth to the fish. Fishwife products are all caught in the Pacific Northwest by small boat fishermen and are smoked, cooked, and hand-packed by a family-owned cannery on the coast of Oregon.
What we liked:
- Wild albacore tuna
- Hook & line caught under sustainable practices
- Supports small business
Because yellowfin tuna is a leaner fish, the way in which they are cooked and packed is crucial to the taste of the final product. Genova’s Mediterranean-style yellowfin tuna lends itself wonderfully to cuisine from the region: The olive oil keeps the fish moist and provides a silky texture that will definitely have you pouring the oil into your recipes along with the fish.
We did find it to have a little bit of a salty taste but paired with a little lemon, it wasn’t so overpowering that it took away from the fish flavor. Genova is also leading the way in sustainability by working with fisheries that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)certified or in the process of becoming certified. Their ethical labor practices are another reason to applaud this brand.
What we liked:
- Sustainability commitment that tracks every product
- Ethical Operations and Labor Practices
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