Canned Tuna in Olive Oil

some of the top tuna in olive oil brands: Cento, Pastene, Genova, and Ortiz, As do Mar
some of the top tuna in olive oil brands: Cento, Pastene, Genova, and Ortiz, As do Mar

Canned Tuna, Really? As Suzzane Hamlin points out in her well written 1997 article for the New York Times, canned tuna in olive oil is the best selling seafood in the country.  And your first reaction may be something akin to, “what, canned tuna, why don’t American’s buy fresh fish?”  Well, high quality fresh fish is, indeed, best but if you don’t have access to a great fish market and regularly buy gifts for the owner and/or fishmonger, then your best bet is high quality canned fish.  I’m not talking about tasteless tuna packed in water, but canned tuna in olive oil (or tonno in Italian), sardines that are oil or salt cured, canned oysters and clams, etc.  The aforementioned fish are prized in Italian and Spanish cultures, for example, and are often more desirable and expensive than fresh fish.  In the following article we focus on Canned Tuna in Olive Oil: Top Brands and Recipes

My favorite canned fish is tuna and I’ve been eating the Italian variety packed in olive oil since I can remember (in fact, it was the cause of much stress during lunch time at my grammar school and you can imagine the flack I received for eating “fancy food”)  Tuna is a saltwater fish and the largest member of the mackerel family; the genus is Thunnus with 13 species or so. Most canned tuna is made from albacore, yellowfin, skipjack, and/or bluefin.

Many southern Italian natives have a fondness for tuna because some of the best tuna product in the world is caught off the coast of Sicilia often commanding astronomical prices from bidders all over the planet (including Japan, US, and other European countries).<

Canned tuna is precooked and then allowed to marinate in high quality olive oil for 1 to 2 months prior to being distributed.  Many canned tuna connoisseurs believe that what makes Italian and Spanish style tuna much better than tuna in water is the period of marination when olive oil and tuna are allowed to intermingle!

Health Concerns and Top Brands
Canned tuna is a great source of Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.  Some tuna, especially older and longer living species like bluefin and albacore, can contain high levels of mercury.  I tend to consume a can of tuna every other week, though I’d recommend not consuming larger fish species in general, such as tuna, swordfish, etc. if one is pregnant.
I’ve also tried many tuna brands and some of my favorites include (with canned and cured fish you often pay for good quality so buy the best you can afford):
  • Alco (part of the Bolton group which also makes Rio Mare and Palmera)
  • As Do Mar
  • Callipo
  • Cento *good value
  • Flott
  • Genova *good value
  • Ortiz
  • Pastene *good value
  • Rio Mare
  • Rizzoli
My favorite way to consume canned tuna in olive oil is as a side to a lazy weekend lunch or dinner, dressed simply with oregano, salt, pepper, and some fresh olive oil.  I also like to make a modified tuna salad with parsley, diced tomato, salt, pepper and oregano.  I suppose you could add mayonnaise to canned tuna in olive oil but that’s the equivalent of wearing a raincoat over an Armani suit (why would you cover up an excellent, and high quality, product with a useless condiment?).  Mayonnaise has it’s place, but not when it comes to high quality tuna.  Lastly, don’t forget the wonderful Tuna Nicoise (click for my recipe) and our Pesto Tuna recipe.


  1. Mr. Scordo, I love everything about your blog, I try to read it everyday!!! Many thanks, Peggy

  2. Awesome article Vince. Guilty as charged though, I do mix the Genova with mayo, salt and pepper. Will have to try it without.

  3. Love it, Vince. I wondered if my favorite “Callipo” would make the list. Glad to see it did. Pasta tonno is a staple in our house, too!

  4. Great article, Vince. I, too, can only have tuna packed in olive oil. But you forgot my favorite way to enjoy tunafish: in insalata di fagioli e tonno… that is, when I’m not just eating it right out of the can.

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  7. I love tuna canned in olive oil….I wonder why people are`nt requesting more ?

  8. Joseph Chiaravalloti

    I’d like your opinion of the only American Tuna canned in olive oil that I’m aware of. Lynne Rosetta Caspar once rated it favorably in a blind tasting of Italian tuna brands. It is Starkist Solid Light Tuna in EV Olive oil (sometimes labeled “Gourmet Choice).”

  9. i live in Oregon USA and can no longer travel but I so miss tuna pizza which is popular in Spain and Italy..everyone thinks I am nuts, is tuna in olive oil the secret? PLEASE

  10. Try the tuna & olive oil with some roasted red peppers. green olives and capers with Italian bread…Wow, deliciosso!

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