16 Clever Ways To Incorporate Canned Pineapple Into Your Meals

With grocery prices rising faster than a sourdough starter set out to proof in a warm room, Americans are turning to cheaper alternatives for their needs. Savvy shoppers know where to cut corners — buying generic brands, frozen fruits and veggies, and non-organic products can cut down a grocery bill considerably. Another hack for stretching your dollars is purchasing canned foods. Canned foods are generally cheaper than their fresh counterparts, require minimal preparation, cut down on food waste, and (as Doomsday preppers are well aware) many will last for years with proper storage in the pantry.

Fruit is some of the consistently least expensive canned food available in supermarkets, and while there's definitely a difference in taste between fresh and canned fruit, there are a lot of innovative uses for it. Pineapple is one of the most popular types of canned fruit; you can find it in any grocery store in juice, chunk, crushed, or sliced rounds form. It's also fairly healthy — its sugar content can be quite high, but it's rich in vitamins C, B1, and B6 along with important minerals such as potassium. Canned pineapple offers a great way to elevate your meals with a sweet tang without loading up on artificial sugars or breaking the bank. Here's how to incorporate canned pineapple into your next meals.

1. Use it as a sweetener

Anyone who's tried a no-sugar diet like Paleo, Whole30, or keto can tell you that finding ways to sweeten sauces, coffee, baked goods, and so on without using conventional white or brown sugar is quite a challenge. The loophole is that naturally occurring sugars are often permitted within such diets, and items like date syrup, monk fruit extract, and fruit juices make excellent sweeteners. Whether you're actively trying to eliminate sugar from your diet or not, we can all benefit from reducing our sugar intake, and as the diet industry has expanded, many of these products are readily available to consumers at a reasonable price.

Pineapple, in particular, can be used as a sweetener in many innovative ways, providing a bright pop of tropically sweet flavor to anything it touches. Canned pineapple makes a delicious and health-conscious way to sweeten a salad dressing, ramp up a marinade, or elevate homemade barbecue sauce. If using canned pineapple in a liquid sauce, dressing, or marinade, we recommend either using canned pineapple juice or blending canned pineapple chunks with your other ingredients to create a smooth texture.

2. Make al pastor

What's your favorite street taco? Do you prefer the classic flavor of carne asada? The gamey taste of lengua? How about citrusy carnitas? If you have a hankering for delicious, show-roasted, sweet, and savory al pastor, you're in luck. It's easy as pie (or in this case, pork) to whip up stovetop, Instant Pot, or slow cooker al pastor at home. Al pastor consists of spiced pork cooked down in stock with smoky peppers, onions, garlic, and pineapple until the pork is juicy and tender from cooking in the stew of ingredients. It's aromatic and a little spicy, but the pineapple produces a sweetness that sets al pastor apart from other traditional street taco meat.

While fresh pineapple is usually used in the cooking of al pastor, canned works just as well, and it'll save you prep time and food waste. As a bonus, you'll get more liquid pineapple juice from a can of pineapple chunks than you would from fresh pineapple. This helps infuse the pork with even more bright, tangy, sweet pineapple flavor to tango with the other savory, smoky notes in the mix.

3. Spruce up breakfast

Eating fruit with breakfast is an easy way to kick-start your day with some healthy sweetness. It's tough to be in a bad mood with a mouthful of blueberry pancakes, peach yogurt, or bananas and granola — and we won't say no to breakfast for dinner, either. If your go-to breakfast pairs best with a sweet treat, consider using pineapple to kick things up a notch. Nobody wants to peel and core a whole pineapple first thing in the morning — allow canned pineapple chunks or rounds to come to the rescue.

Canned pineapple is a great way to add flavor to pancakes and waffles (add chunks right into the batter or pile them on top with syrup), an acai smoothie bowl, and other sweet breakfast items. However, it's equally effective as a side for savory meals like eggs, bacon, and toast; vegetable quiche, or an egg white and spinach omelet. Fruit is an important part of a balanced diet, and getting a vitamin and mineral boost via canned pineapple with breakfast is a tasty way to round out and enhance your meal.

4. Put a twist on chicken salad

Chicken salad is a versatile, protein-packed, and delicious concoction. It's a great way to use up the rest of that Costco rotisserie chicken in the fridge, and the options for flavor experimentation are endless. Take a trip to India with a curried chicken salad by adding curry powder and alliums to the mix. Make it a fiesta with Mexican chicken salad, incorporating taco seasoning, black olives, jalapeños, shredded cheese, and avocado into shredded chicken and sour cream. Alternatively, inject leftover chicken salad with fruity sweetness by adding sliced grapes and canned pineapple to chicken salad.

Most recipes start with chicken and a creamy base like mayonnaise or Greek yogurt to bind ingredients together. Cooked chicken pairs surprisingly well with fruits like strawberries, grapes, and pineapple, especially in a chicken salad situation. The rich, fruity flavor of canned pineapple combines effortlessly with tangy mayo or slightly sour Greek yogurt. Add in some chopped red onions, maybe some fresh herbs, and voila — you've got an easy chicken salad that's sure to boost your next salad, sandwich, or wrap.

5. Elevate kebabs

Kebabs offer an eco-friendly way to use up meat and veggies that are taking up important real estate in the fridge — just string them onto a wooden or metal skewer, pop them on the grill (grill pans and griddles work too), and you have a healthy lunch, dinner, or side in a flash. There are many kebab-friendly ingredients out there — if it can be skewered, it can be kebabed — but if you're not adding fruit to the skewer, you're doing it wrong. 

Pineapple is one of the absolute best fruits for grilling. There's something about that bold, tropical, tangy flavor that benefits tenfold from a touch of smoky char. Additionally, the flesh of the pineapple will caramelize slightly when exposed to high heat, adding another level of complexity. Fresh pineapple is ideal for grilling, but canned chunks will work in a pinch. Be sure to drain the juice from the chunks of pineapple (pro tip: use the juice as a steak or chicken marinade!) before stringing the pieces onto your skewer.

6. Upgrade any pizza

Bring up pizza on pineapple to the wrong crowd and all hell breaks loose. It's a true black-or-white conundrum: You either love pineapple on pizza or loathe it with every fiber of your being. Pineapple is a staple on Hawaiian pizza, and some people will eat it on just about any type of pizza you can name: pepperoni, BBQ chicken, veggie, and so on. The combination of tangy, sweet pineapple and acidic, spicy pizza sauce doesn't exactly sound like a perfect fit, but somehow, the two flavor profiles work.

If you're pro-pineapple on pizza, great news: Canned pineapple is almost indistinguishable from fresh pineapple on pizza after cooking. Canned pineapple chunks will work best here, as crushed pineapples contain enough juice to make the dough soggy, and the sliced rounds are quite large. After draining the juice from your can, use canned pineapple chunks to add a tropical touch to any kind of pizza you like — you can even use it to upgrade a frozen pizza. Add pineapple to your pizza before cooking it to allow the pineapple pieces to cook.

7. Dress up a ham

Speaking of sweet and salty pizzas, did you know that ham is usually an ingredient on a pineapple-studded Hawaiian pizza? The fun combo of the ham's smoke and salt qualities mixed with the pineapple's bright sweetness just might be the key to Hawaiian pizza's popularity. If you're not a fan of pineapple on pizza but like the idea of pineapple and ham, consider making a smoked pineapple ham for a drool-worthy Christmas centerpiece or birthday treat for someone you love ... or, you know, for a regular Sunday dinner.

Smoked pineapple ham is made by taking canned pineapple rounds and attaching them to a bone-in ham with toothpicks before roasting. The juice from the canned rounds is reserved for a sticky, sweet brown sugar and pineapple glaze that caramelizes beautifully over the ham as it cooks. The end result is a magnificent, lightly charred, tender ham with all the best flavors: Smoke, salt, fat, acid, tanginess, and sugar. If you've been gunning for the position of head chef at family gatherings, this easy dish is sure to secure plenty of votes in your favor.

8. Boost baked beans

Baked beans are a timeless BBQ side dish, right up there with potato salad and mac 'n cheese. Sure, you can buy canned baked beans that require little to no preparation, but what is a barbecue if not a chance to show off your cooking chops? There are many ways to dress up baked beans, from adding bacon to allowing them to simmer in fresh herbs like cilantro, but combining canned pineapple and baked beans leads to a dreamy, innovative side dish that's sure to wow your BBQ buddies — don't forget the peppers, chile powder, and garlic.

Baked beans tend to be robust, earthy, and err on the sweet side, but it's a different sweetness than that of pineapple. While baked beans have a hearty sweetness similar to sweet potatoes, canned pineapple is undeniably saccharine, with zesty, acidic, tropical notes to boot. Combining the two allows the pungent flavors to blend together in a beautiful, syrupy symphony of earth, salt, and honeyed sweetness. As a major bonus, two of the primary ingredients here (pineapple and baked beans) come in canned form, making pineapple baked beans both a delicious and cheap side for your next potluck.

9. Whip up fresh salsa

Salsa goes far beyond tomatoes, onions, and garlic these days. Peep the salsa selection of any major supermarket, and you'll find flavor and spice-infused varieties like peach, pumpkin seed, and ghost pepper holding court. Most of us associate salsa with tacos, burritos, and Mexican food in general, but it's just as good when used to amp up a grown bowl, salad, pasta, or whatever you're feeling at the moment.

You can find pineapple salsa in many grocery outlets, but it's super easy and cost-effective to make your own at home using canned pineapple chunks and a handful of fresh ingredients, including onion, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, and lime. Make sure to drain the juice from your pineapple chunks before tossing everything together — it'll prevent your salsa from getting soggy. Bright, pineapple salsa tastes delicious when it's used to top fish tacos, a carnitas burrito bowl, or a summer steak salad. As a bonus, pineapple salsa gets even better the day after it's made as the ingredients have had a chance to blend together.

10. Make fried rice

Fried rice is versatile, low-cost, and easy to cook on a busy weeknight. It's extremely popular in many types of Asian cuisine and offers a tasty, eco-friendly way to use up a hodgepodge of veggies, herbs, and meats that might otherwise face death by trash can. You can even use leftover rice, so if your fridge shelves are straining under the weight of two-day-old Chinese takeout, fried rice provides an economical way to dress up and repurpose some of those leftovers.

Part of the appeal of fried rice is that you can put anything you want into the mix — peppers, herbs, fish, pork, onion, carrots, bean sprouts, and so on. If you like it, throw it in. Many canned ingredients work well in fried rice, so if you've inventoried your fresh produce and come up short, turn to the pantry. Canned green beans, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and pineapple (among others) are perfect for dressing up fried rice. Canned pineapple in particular lends a unique, sultry, tropical sweetness to rice, sauce, and veggies. Add it to a veggie fried rice dish, or alternatively, give our pineapple shrimp fried rice recipe a whirl.

11. Marinate meat, fish, and seafood

Pineapple is often associated with sweet foods, but it's also a fun way to inject savory, spicy dishes with a hint of juicy sweetness. The naturally occurring sugars in pineapple offer a different kind of sweet profile than that of everyday white sugar, so it's a great way to change things up. On top of its abundance of vitamins and minerals, pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down collagen fibers such as those found in meat, fish, and seafood; meaning that pineapple makes a great meat tenderizer.

The combination of pineapple's tangy flavor and the fact that it leads to juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat means it's ideal for marinating tough cuts like chuck, flank, and shoulder; but it's also suitable for tender cuts such as rib and loin. Use canned crushed pineapple pieces (or juice) to create a bright, sweet, tropical-feeling marinade for a flank steak, pork ribs, grilled chicken, or salmon, adding ingredients like fresh peppers, herbs, olive oil, or dried seasoning to the canned pineapple to suit your tastes. Bear in mind that pineapple is quite acidic, so you won't want to marinate your meat, fish, or seafood for too long.

12. Amp up fruit salad

Fruit salad is an age-old classic: a brunch fave, a baby shower go-to, and often the healthiest thing on the menu at a greasy-spoon diner. Fruit salad consists of different fruits chopped up and thrown together, and while there are no rules about what kind of fruits are to be used, items like melons, berries, grapes, and kiwis are popular choices. It's a healthy breakfast and offers the chance to get a huge range of different vitamins, minerals, and other health benefits in a single serving. 

Pineapple commonly makes an appearance in fruit salad dishes, and using canned pineapple chunks is a great way to stretch your grocery budget. After all, it can cost an arm and a leg to buy enough fresh fruit for a fruit salad. Canned fruits also cut down on prep time — let's face it, unless you're a professional, coring fresh pineapples, peeling kiwis, and cutting up cantaloupe is a time-consuming and messy endeavor. The next time you have a craving for fruit salad, add some canned pineapple chunks (drained of their juice) to your strawberries, grapes, watermelon, or whatever fruits you have lying around.

13. Make a casserole

Casseroles are dietary staples in many areas of the United States. From tater tot hot dish in the Midwest to green bean casserole in the South, most regions have a take or two on the classic casserole, and everybody swears their grandma's recipe is the best. Casseroles make hearty additions to the Thanksgiving table or a weeknight dinner table. They're typically affordable, drawing on canned and frozen ingredients much of the time, and don't generally require much chopping, slicing, and dicing.

If you're looking for a unique dish to cook for dinner or a work potluck, give pineapple cheese casserole a try. Consisting of canned pineapple, sugar, flour, butter, crumbled crackers, and an ungodly amount of cheddar cheese, cheesy pineapple casserole manages to meld the acidic, sweet flavor of pineapple with the sharp taste of cheddar for an oddly delightful side dish or dessert. With canned pineapple chunks and crushed pineapple serving as star ingredients, this casserole is a delicious, albeit unusual, way to incorporate canned pineapple into your meals.

14. Bake with it

Speaking of baking with pineapple, there are tons of ways to use canned pineapple in baked goods. It's versatile enough to pair with a wide variety of flavors used in baking, from rich chocolate and caramel to tart raspberries and cherries to acidic apples and citrus-loaded oranges. As previously mentioned, canned pineapple is affordable, eliminates food waste, and can cut down on prep and cook times immensely.

Want to jazz up your baked Brie? Canned pineapple chunks, reporting for duty. Craving pie, but too tired to whip up an apple pie filling? Swap in fresh pineapple for a tropical take on a classic. Forgot you signed up to bring a dessert for your kid's school bake sale tomorrow? Use canned pineapple and cake mix to make a cobbler in a flash. Be sure to read through a recipe before beginning to cook with canned pineapple — in many cases, the juice will need to be drained from the can prior to use.

15. Mix it with cream cheese

If you're a fan of fruity cream cheeses, you've got to try mixing canned pineapple with plain cream cheese. Crushed pineapple is ideal here — pieces or rounds contain large chunks that won't be as easy to mix in, while crushed pineapple blends seamlessly with room-temperature cream cheese. This two-ingredient spread is fantastic all on its own, but you can also spice things up by adding dried seasonings, hot peppers, sweeteners, additional fruits, herbs, and other ingredients to the mix. 

Once your pineapple cream cheese is whipped up, there's no wrong way to consume it. It's delicious when incorporated into a cheesecake. You can also use pineapple cream cheese to top your bagel, or put the cream cheese in a bowl and eat it with pretzels or pita chips as a party dip. For a more savory take, replace plain cream cheese with pineapple cream cheese in homemade crab rangoons — the tangy citrus of canned pineapple pairs well with the saltiness of imitation crab meat and the creamy, sweet cream cheese.

16. Make Watergate Salad

America as a nation has largely moved on from that unfortunate era in which gelatin provided the basis for many a dessert. Collectively known as "dessert salads," dishes like Jell-O salad, ambrosia salad, and the like were all the rage in the 1970s. It was during this period that Watergate Salad snuck its way onto dinner tables all across the United States. The reigning theory is that the reason it's called Watergate Salad is because the dessert's whipped topping acts as a "cover-up," a nod to the Nixon scandal of 1972 — however, Watergate Salad crops up under different names dating all the way back to the early 20th century.

Whatever you want to call it, you're not likely to come across Watergate Salad anytime soon. The dessert salad, made by combining canned pineapple, pistachio Jell-O pudding, marshmallows, pecans, and whipped cream into a fluffy, jelly-like monstrosity, is hardly in vogue these days. However, if you're curious, or throwing a '70s-themed dinner party, it's not hard to whip up Watergate Salad at home. Bright canned pineapple contrasts with the nuttiness of the pistachio instant pudding and pecans, while marshmallows and whip pull everything together in creamy sweetness.