18 Ways To Transform Canned Tuna Into A Gourmet Meal

No matter how bare your fridge and pantry get, there are a few staples you should always have on hand. For example, you might keep your pantry stocked with pasta, beans, rice, and tinned tomatoes so you can throw a meal together on a whim. But there's one pantry staple that we can't get enough of: canned tuna. Not only does it pack plenty of protein in every serving, but it's super versatile, too. In fact, you can add canned tuna to just about any meal to make it more filling... and more delicious.

But if the only way you've ever prepared canned tuna is a sad, unappealing tuna salad, then you probably haven't realized just how useful this staple can be. And it goes well beyond the basics — you can use a can of tuna to turn an average meal into an absolutely gourmet one.

If you want to take your canned tuna game to the next level, you're in the right place. These are some of the easiest ways to transform canned tuna into a gourmet meal. You may never look at a can of tuna the same way again.

Make it into a gourmet sauce

When you think of making a summery sauce, tuna probably isn't the first ingredient that comes to mind. But there's one memorable sauce that calls for tuna as the main ingredient: tonnato. This Italian sauce can be used on just about anything, from traditional veal to summer tomatoes. The best news? It doesn't require many ingredients beyond the tuna itself. If you plan on making this sauce, you're also going to want to grab some eggs, anchovies, lemon, oil, and Dijon mustard.

When all these ingredients come together, you get a creamy, briny sauce that's incredibly bold from the combination of tuna and anchovies. It's almost like mayo but just way, way more flavorful. It's elegant, it's easy, and it'll elevate any summer dinner party.

Add Dijon and lemon juice for a simple tuna salad

Sure, you can always make the same old tuna salad if you want to, but what's the point if it's dry and lacking in flavor? If you're always disappointed by your tuna salad, it may be time to start making it a totally different way with a spruced-up tuna salad recipe. Our advice is to use plenty of vegetables. Instead of just sticking to the standard onion-and-celery situation, see what other veggies you have in the fridge. Adding vegetables like grated carrots, chopped bell peppers, and cucumbers can make your tuna salad both heartier and more flavorful.

Don't forget to add plenty of herbs, seasonings, and spices as well. A little bit of fresh parsley can add a fresh, floral element to your tuna salad, and Dijon and lemon juice add that bold acidity that makes every salad shine.

Combine it with fresh vegetables for a salad niçoise

Want to make a salad that's going to impress your guests? You can't go wrong with a salad niçoise. Tuna plays a leading role in this salad recipe, but it's not the only ingredient you'll need. A good salad niçoise also contains ingredients like potatoes, tomatoes, olives, capers, and red onions, but feel free to add whatever other veggies you have on hand that you think would pair well with the tuna. We like using bright, briny veggies that complement the flavor of the tuna well.

Perhaps the best part of this salad (beyond the canned tuna itself) is the hard-boiled eggs. Together with the tuna, they make this salad extra hearty. Because it's filled with so many healthy ingredients, you can make this salad niçoise the main dish at dinner.

Use Swiss cheese and microgreens to make a fancy tuna melt

When was the last time you had a tuna melt? There's a good chance that it wasn't that appetizing, especially if you were just making it because all you had in your kitchen was some bread, a can of tuna, and a square of Kraft American cheese. The good news is that tuna melts don't have to be that boring, especially when you decide to follow Ina Garten's jaw-dropping tuna melt recipe.

So, what's so special about this tuna melt recipe specifically? It all comes down to the other ingredients Garten chooses to pair with the canned tuna. The stars of the show are the Swiss cheese, which melts beautifully into the tuna, as well as microgreens, which add a sharp freshness to the otherwise creamy sandwich. If you're on the hunt for a sandwich recipe that will change your life, you may just need to try this iconic gourmet tuna melt for yourself.

Shape rice around your canned tuna to make tuna onigiri

There are a few dishes you can eat for lunch that are as satisfying as onigiri, but you may assume that you have to have fresh tuna on hand if you're going to make your own. Plus, the idea of shaping the rice into that signature triangular shape may sound intimidating if you've never done it before. But in reality, you don't have to worry about either of those issues when you follow a good onigiri recipe. Although you certainly can use fresh tuna for your onigiri if you have it on hand, you can also just use the canned stuff—it'll still turn out delicious.

When it comes to shaping the onigiri, you'll want to make sure you do it with wet hands. This prevents the rice from sticking to your skin, which can leave you with a big mess.

Transform an average tuna casserole into a tuna pot pie

Although tuna casserole can be delicious, it's not always considered a gourmet dish, especially when your canned tuna is paired with canned soup to up the creaminess factor. But that doesn't mean you have to forgo casseroles altogether when you're trying to figure out what to do with the canned tuna in the back of your pantry. Instead of sticking with your average tuna casserole recipe, you may want to try your hand at making a tuna pot pie.

If you've had chicken pot pie before, you get the idea. The difference here is just that you're using tuna instead of chicken. It all comes together in only 30 minutes, which makes this gourmet meal ideal for those nights when you're trying to get dinner on the table fast without sacrificing flavor.

Combine with dill and cucumber cream for a summery snack

It may have never occurred to you to turn your canned tuna into a patty, but we're here to tell you that you definitely should. This recipe for dill tuna patties and cucumber cream sauce is one of our absolute favorite ways of preparing canned tuna. Frying the patties makes them nice and crispy, and you get a slight crunch when you cut into them and take a bite. However, all that fried tuna can be a bit heavy, so the addition of cucumber cream really pulls the dish together. It offers that creamy textural element we're going for, but the cucumber also provides some freshness that contrasts well with the fried patty.

One ingredient that you definitely don't want to skip here is the dill. You'd be surprised at just how much flavor a few sprigs of the herb can provide, transforming your tuna patty into a delicate, well-balanced snack.

Assemble a restaurant-quality wrap

It's lunchtime, you're in the middle of your work day, and you're considering going out to get something to eat once again. But wait! If you have a can of tuna on hand, you can make a healthy tuna wrap that will fill you up without making you feel too heavy. The best part is that you don't have to have that many ingredients on hand to prepare your tuna wrap. In addition to the canned tuna, you'll want to grab some red onion, Greek yogurt, lettuce, and a tortilla, along with some sauces and spices that you probably already have on hand.

Sure, this recipe may only take a few minutes to put together, but the finished product will taste like something you picked up from the best sandwich shop in town. This wrap may just become your next go-to lunch for busy days when you still want to eat healthy.

Tuna and cannellini beans make an elegant salad

Just because you're keeping things simple doesn't mean you can't make a gourmet meal. In fact, sometimes, it's the simplest recipes at all that end up being the most elegant and the most satisfying. That's certainly the case with one of Lidia Bastianich's canned tuna hacks.

She likes combining canned tuna with cannellini beans, red onions, oil, vinegar, and parsley to make a simple and easy salad. She says that you can also add some tomatoes into the mix if you happen to have some on hand. The result is a filling, refreshing salad that you can eat as a side dish or as your main course for a simple and easy lunch. Of course, feel free to add other ingredients you have in your fridge for some added flavor.

Chili adds a bit of heat

One of the main complaints people have about canned tuna is that it's just not that flavorful. This can certainly be true (especially if you're using water-packed tuna instead of the oil-packed stuff), but that doesn't mean that all tuna is destined to be lacking in flavor. Sometimes, you just need to add some ultra-flavorful ingredients to the mix to really make your tuna shine. That's exactly what this tuna chili pasta recipe does. The chili flakes add just the right amount of heat to really make the tuna pop.

Chili and tuna is a great combo on its own, but it may not qualify as an entire meal. That's why we love adding pasta to this dish. It takes a bunch of pantry staples you probably already have on hand and transforms them into a gourmet dish in a matter of minutes.

Soy sauce in tuna salad takes it to the next level

Does your tuna salad always come out bland, no matter how hard you try? You are not alone. One easy solution is to use some soy sauce in your tuna salad. It may sound strange if you have never tried it before, but believe us when we say that it can truly transform an average tuna salad into something spectacular.

You may think that soy sauce just adds a salty element to a dish, but that is not true, especially with tuna. Yes, it delivers a dose of saltiness that can add appeal to just about any dish, but it has an incredible depth of flavor that complements the fishiness of tuna very well.

Top your pizza with canned tuna

So, you want to make a homemade pizza, but beyond a few veggies, you don't have anything else to add on top of it. You may assume that you have to run to the store to pick up some pepperoni slices, but you can actually just use canned tuna. If you've never had it before, it may sound strange, but trust us — it's actually a really delicious combo. Tuna is a popular topping in Germany, where it's often used on pizza along with red onion, mozzarella, and oregano.

We love this pizza topping because it feels both healthy and hearty. It's lighter than your average meat-topped pizza, but it'll give you more sustenance than a plain cheese or veggie pie. Intrigued? Make some dough and pop open a can of tuna.

Make your own sushi

You may assume that if you want sushi, you have to actually go out to a sushi restaurant (or at least to the grocery store to get the pre-made stuff). But we're here to tell you that's not necessarily the case. Of course, you could find sushi-grade tuna at your local fish market if you happen to have one, but it can be pricey, and not everyone has access to good-quality seafood. Luckily, you can make delicious sushi at home using canned tuna.

In addition to the tuna, you'll need all the standard sushi ingredients, like nori and sticky rice. To season the tuna, grab some mayo, sriracha, and sesame oil. Don't forget to add some scallions and sesame seeds for even more flavor and texture. Sushi has never been so easy.

Apple and basil in tuna salad is fresh twist on a classic

Who says tuna salad can't be gourmet? Certainly not Martha Stewart. The home-cooking icon has a hack that can make any boring tuna salad more interesting, but it may sound strange to some. She loves adding apples to her tuna salad for some added freshness and crunch, and she finishes it all off with some fresh basil, which gives the salad a lovely floral quality. Sure, these may not be the tuna salad ingredients you're used to, but this recipe is a great way to expand your tuna horizons.

If you've only ever had the mayo-slathered, celery-dotted tuna salads of years past, you may be hesitant to try a recipe that's such a departure from your norm. But believe us when we say that this is one of the best possible ways to eat a gourmet tuna salad.

Fry your tuna to transform it into a crunchy patty

There are days when you want to eat as fresh as possible, and there are others when you're just craving something fried. That crispy, crunchy texture and the rich fattiness of fried food is hard not to love, but you may not assume that you can get that kind of culinary experience with a can of tuna. That's probably because you haven't tried a solid pan-fried tuna patty recipe yet, though.

By combining canned tuna with breadcrumbs, seasonings, and a few different condiments, you can form patties that you can then fry up in a matter of minutes. These patties are extra filling, and because you're adding in plenty of seasonings, they can be ultra-flavorful as well. Give them a try when you're craving fried food but want to try something a bit different.

Save your produce with veggie tuna soup

When you don't have much food in the house but you're trying to make a meal, there are few dishes that are easier to prepare than soup. That's because soups are great for adding in all your leftover veggies and cooking them down until all the flavors start to meld together. Of course, that's great for all the produce that's starting to go bad at the bottom of the drawer, but did you know that you can add canned tuna to soups as well? Tuna can add heartiness and flavor to a wide variety of soups, from potato to veggie.

Since canned tuna is already cooked, you don't have to worry about simmering your canned tuna forever. Instead, start cooking your other soup ingredients, and then add in your canned tuna a few minutes before you're ready to serve the finished dish.

Salty capers add flavor to your tuna dishes

Some everyday ingredients can transform an average meal into something special, and capers are one of those ingredients. The tiny, briny balls of saltiness can add a ton of flavor to just about any savory dish, but we especially love them when they're paired with tuna. The slight saltiness of the tuna can stand up well to the intense brininess of the capers, and together, they create an unmatched flavor experience.

You can add capers to a basic tuna salad if you're trying to make a gourmet version of the classic, but you can also add capers to your tuna pasta salad. This combo of flavors gives an average pasta salad a delicious Mediterranean spin, making it ideal for warm, summery days when you're craving something comforting and filling.

Black lava sea salt makes the flavor pop

Occasionally, all it takes is a single ingredient to transform an otherwise average dish into something a little more special than the norm. We think that ingredient is black lava sea salt when it comes to making a solid tuna salad. This kind of salt comes from volcanic areas, and that volcanic rock actually plays a role in seasoning the salt. Of course, it's salty just like any other kind of salt, but it also has a smokey, earthy flavor to it that makes any tuna dish more interesting.

You can add black lava sea salt to your tuna salad, but that doesn't mean you have to stop there. You can sprinkle black lava sea salt on any of the tuna dishes we've already mentioned for a richer, more complex flavor profile.

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