Quick and Healthy Tuna Recipes for Dinner Tonight
Get inspired with protein-rich fresh tuna steaks and poke bowls, canned tuna recipes like Nicoise salad, and more
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Above: Tuna Nicoise Salad by Rima Kleiner. Photo by Olga Ivanova.
Mmm, what to make for dinner with tuna? Whether you’re picking up fresh tuna steaks from the store or grabbing some canned or pouched tuna from the pantry, there are so many options. Sear or grill that fresh fish for an easy gourmet weeknight meal with your favorite vegetables. Dice sushi-grade tuna for a deconstructed poke bowl. Or try adding cans of tuna to salad or quesadillas for an instant protein boost.
Now, while I love fresh ahi steaks, I’d just like to say that canned and pouched tuna will always make my short list of powerhouse pantry staples. Why? First, you can’t beat the convenience, especially for quick weeknight meals. Second, it’s affordable, often at less than $2 per serving. Like fresh tuna, canned is healthy (more on that below). And finally, as the headliner ingredient in so many healthy tuna salads, healthy tuna melts, and even healthy tuna casseroles, canned tuna may be more versatile than your favorite leggings.
From steaks to cans and pouches, there are so many ways to get creative with tuna. Let’s explore some healthy tuna dinner recipes the whole family will love.
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Healthy tuna Q&A
Though tuna is delicious, affordable (if you’re talking cans and pouches), and versatile, for me its healthfulness may be the most appealing reason of all to incorporate it into dinners.
Q: Is tuna healthy for you?
A: Yes, fresh, canned, and pouched tuna is rich in protein (to keep you feeling fuller longer and to build muscles) and omega-3 fats (for heart and brain health). Tuna also provides other important nutrients like selenium (to support a healthy immune system) and the B vitamins folate (for a healthy pregnancy) and vitamin B-12 (for energy). Plus, tuna is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Fresh tuna may even provide slightly more protein and selenium than its shelf-stable counterparts. Tuna is also gluten-free, making it a perfect addition for those following low-carb diets.
Q: How to make tuna healthy?
A: Tuna is naturally low in calories, high in protein and other nutrients, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, just as with all other healthful foods, tuna can be as healthy — or as unhealthy — as the company (or preparation) it keeps. Avoid pairing tuna with foods high in saturated fat and excess sodium to keep this healthy food, well, healthy. For example, for a healthy tuna sandwich, use a blend of olive oil and light mayo or avocado in place of a lot of mayonnaise, add vegetables to the tuna salad, and serve on whole-grain bread.
Q: Can kids and pregnant women eat tuna?
A: Yes, tuna is an ideal protein option for both kids and expecting and breastfeeding moms. Canned and pouched tuna makes a great starter food for infants eating solids after 6 months of age. Just flake and serve finger-sized pieces to toddlers and young children. And tuna provides a lot of important nutrients for pregnant and breastfeeding women, particularly protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate.
All canned and pouched tuna, and most fresh tuna sold commercially, is safe for pregnant women and young children. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the only kinds expecting and breastfeeding moms and small children need to avoid are bigeye tuna, which is usually found in sushi or sashimi and can be higher in mercury, as well as (in the case of all animal proteins) raw or undercooked tuna.
Tuna handheld dinners
A brown bag lunch may come to mind when we think of tuna, but this protein is perfect for casual dinners, too.
These healthy tuna patties are easy to dress up or down. Go for the traditional tuna burger by adding a bun, some sriracha or avocado, and all the fixins’. Or serve them on top of a big salad with a creamy dressing.
By the way, canned light tuna is usually skipjack tuna or a mix of yellowfin and skipjack. It tends to be flakier, softer in texture, and darker in color with a milder flavor. Canned white tuna is albacore tuna, usually sold as solid or chunk white tuna. It has a firmer, steaky texture and is white in color with a milder flavor. They’re interchangeable in recipes.
You may not think of tuna salad for dinner, but it makes a portable meal for picnics or busy school nights when dinner is scarfed down in the car en route to sports practice. This healthy tuna salad recipe tastes delicious spooned onto lettuce leaves or tucked into hearty whole-grain bread or whole-wheat pita.
This tasty little twist on tuna melts elevates a simple quesadilla dinner. Even though veggies and a whole-grain tortilla make this quesadilla nutrient-rich, this comfort food dish will be a hit at dinner with the kids. We won’t tell them it’s healthy!
Like the quesadillas, these healthy tuna wraps incorporate whole-wheat tortillas, vegetables, and tuna, of course. Greek yogurt stands in for the usual mayo.
These tacos are a fun and tasty twist to your standard fish taco. Quickly seared tuna pairs beautifully with smoky chipotle red onions, salty Mexican cheese, and a drizzle of mango crema (Mexican sour cream).
Tuna bowls and salads
Healthy tuna salads and grain bowls work nicely with both fresh and canned tuna.
This classic summery salad from southern France that I created for Yummly is big on fresh flavors and textures, with a just-right homemade vinaigrette, tender potatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and juicy tomatoes. It’s big on nutrients, too, thanks to the veggies, tuna, and eggs.
As I was saying, I love fresh ahi. My Yummly recipe for these refreshing bowls tastes like your favorite sushi rolls. The marinated tuna is savory and salty, the avocado is deliciously creamy, and raw veggies add crunch.
This hearty grain bowl is protein-packed (thank you, tuna and eggs). It’s a healthy meal that you can meal-prep earlier in the week so you can whip up this bowl in minutes on busy weeknights (or brown bag it the next day for a healthy lunch).
Thanks to the tuna and the colorful veggies, this tropical salad provides a boatload of important nutrients. Ready in less than 30 minutes, the dinner delivers big flavors with a nice balance of sweet and savory.
Pull out the slow cooker, because it may just be the easiest way to cook tuna steaks. Slow cooking not only turns this salad into fairly hands-free prep, it also keeps the meaty fish incredibly tender and moist.
Tuna pasta and casserole
Sure, tuna stars in plenty of cheese-laden hot dishes like traditional tuna noodle casserole, but it can also be part of healthier pasta dishes.
Yes, healthy tuna casserole is possible, and even a good idea! With this lower-calorie, lower-sodium version, you say goodbye to condensed cream of mushroom soup and hello to a quick homemade white sauce featuring reduced-fat milk and cheese, and olive oil along with a modest amount of butter. Elbow macaroni, frozen peas, and canned tuna are still the headliners.
Fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes, basil, and lemon juice and zest elevate some handy pantry ingredients (tuna, pasta, and tapenade) for a tasty meal you can whip up in 30 minutes total time.
If spaghetti is on the weekly rotation, adding canned tuna might be a game changer. It’s an easy way to include protein to your pasta dish, especially since you don’t have to cook the tuna — simply open the can and add to your dinner. Buon appetito!
Mild, meaty tasting fresh tuna steaks cook up quickly on the stove-top or grill, and make any occasion feel special.
For this quick and flavorful weeknight dinner that I created for Yummly, I gave tuna the lemon-caper treatment that’s better known for chicken piccata. And to make it a little healthier, I swapped in extra-virgin olive oil for the usual butter. You can serve the fish with mashed potatoes or whole-grain pasta to soak up the tangy sauce.
This Mediterranean-style dish is packed with flavor, with tuna that cooks in a tomato sauce with smoked paprika, white wine, and garlic. It’s also packed with important nutrients, including protein and omega-3s from the tuna, and vitamin C from the tomatoes. Pair it with pasta, or just serve it alongside a baguette to sop up all of the delicious sauce.
For a quick weeknight — or leisurely weekend — dinner, it doesn’t get any simpler than grilling tuna steaks. All you need is some oil, salt, black pepper, and a grill for the perfectly cooked tuna steak.
Explore more fish recipes
Fish are an important part of a healthy diet, and there are so many ways to enjoy them.