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What Goes with Tuna?

This is a whole cooked tuna fish on a plate.
  • Tuna is a versatile fish that comes in many different forms
  • It is well paired with a variety of foods and can also be used as an ingredient in cooking dishes with other flavors

Tuna is a versatile fish that comes in many different forms – canned, raw, or cooked. Each form is more suited to its use in different dishes and pairing it with certain other foods. With such a variety in forms of tuna, the foods that go with it are almost endless. We’ll have a look at how best to pair your tuna.

Related: Albacore vs. Tuna | How to Store Tuna | Types of Tuna | What Goes With Sushi | Sushi vs. Sashimi | Types of Food | Alternatives to Salmon | How to Clean Tuna

What foods go well with tuna?

Tuna is an incredibly versatile fish and can be prepared in several ways. It can be both a delicacy and a lunchbox staple. We’ll look at what goes well with tuna for each of the most popular forms that the fish is available in.


This is a close look at flaky canned tuna fish.

This is probably the way that you were introduced to tuna, as most people come to know the fish in a can, in oil, water, or some type of sauce. There are so many ways to use this long-lasting pantry staple in a tasty way. It can be used in salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, wraps, or quiches and eaten either hot or cold.

Because tuna in a can, can be dry and flaky once it’s been drained, it is usually a good idea to add something creamy to it, such as mayonnaise or cream cheese, or simply vegetables with enough moisture to carry the tuna without it drying out.

If you’re putting it into a salad, foods like avocado or tomato that have a creamy texture or a lot of liquid go well with tuna so that your mouthful is not dry. Similarly, in pasta, having a sauce or oil goes well with tuna as it provides some moisture.

Tuna goes excellently with the richness of eggs. A salad that features egg and tuna, such as a niçoise, or a boiled egg and tuna mayo sandwich is a great combination. Adding cheese, celery, and onion to tuna on a sandwich for a classic tuna melt is also a winner.

Tuna with mushrooms in a quiche or with olives, cucumber, feta, and tomato for a Mediterranean-style salad is also delicious.


Pieces of raw tuna sashimi on a dark plate.

Most popularly used in sushi, either in rolls or as sashimi or tartare, raw fresh tuna is delicious. If you are preparing tuna tartare, drizzling some soy sauce and lemon juice over it accentuates the flavors really well, and this is paired excellently with avocado for a creamy starter.

Tuna works really well in sushi, so if you think about the elements of sushi and deconstructing that, you could also get creative in serving tuna with rice, cucumber, and nori in other ways. An example is a poke bowl, where you can add edamame, pickled ginger and soy sauce, or miso mayonnaise.


A plate of fried tuna steaks with side salad.

A perfectly cooked tuna steak is hard to beat! However, it’s not the only way to cook this fish. Searing it or grilling it are the most popular ways to cook tuna, and both can be packed with flavor and mouth-wateringly delicious.

If you sear tuna, making a crust of sesame seeds and spices is a great combination. If grilling, adding some butter or olive oil, some lemon, and herbs is an easy way to ramp up the flavor.

Typically, it pairs really well with fresh herbs or with Asian spices. Serving it with sesame seeds, ginger, and pepper is delicious, or with basil or lemon-mint dressing.

Once you’ve figured out how to cook your tuna, it’s time to think about what will go well with it. Here are some ideas for sides that pair really well with cooked tuna.

This is a close look at a baked potato topped with tuna and cheese.
  • Potatoes: Also incredibly versatile, you can’t really go wrong here. Whether you choose to roast them, make fries, or cook a potato bake, no list of sides is complete without the humble potato. Lemon traditionally pairs well with seafood, and tuna is no exception. Adding some lemon to your potatoes or the zest or juice to a salad vinaigrette will taste fantastic with the tuna.
This is a canned tuna on a vegetable salad plate with lemon.
  • Salad: As simple or packed as you’d like to make it, anything from lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and onion salad with a vinaigrette will work as a side with tuna.
This is a plate of grilled tuna with teriyaki sauce.
  • Stir-fry with a teriyaki sauce
This is a plate of tuna linguine with mushroom and tomato sauce.
  • Stuffed peppers or mushrooms: Stuffing a vegetable is an easy way to pack in flavor and is almost guaranteed to be moist inside, pairing well with tuna
This is a healthy bean and tuna salad plate.
  • Green beans cooked with garlic and feta cheese
This is tuna tataki with vegetables on a bowl of rice.
  • Rice or other grains, either served plain or as a salad with a light mint or basil vinaigrette over it to add some flavor

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many other sides that would pair well with cooked tuna.

What can I add to canned tuna?

This is a canned tuna pasta salad in a large bowl.

Always salt and pepper! Aside from these two key flavors, lemon is always a good idea. If you’re just looking to flavor the tuna, these additions make for great alternatives to the standard mayonnaise default that has come to be associated with canned tuna:

  • Chopped celery
  • Red onion
  • Dill or parsley
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Dijon mustard

This mixture can then be added to a salad (green, pasta, or grain), sandwiches or wraps, or just eaten plain as a tasty snack.

Nutritional value of tuna

A close look at raw yellowfin tuna steak.

There’s more to tuna than meets the eye! They belong to a subgroup of the mackerel family called Thunnini, which range from the 1.8kg bullet tuna to a 684kg Atlantic bluefin tuna (which can live up to 50 years). It is popular as a game fish but also commercially fished, which has left some species on the brink of extinction.

As natural hunters, these fish eat sardines, squid, and other sea creatures.

Tuna is sold in different forms in countries all around the world. There has been attention drawn to tuna by heath groups over the years due to the mercury content in tuna. Mercury is a substance that is poisonous to humans in large quantities and gets into the tuna because they are predators and eat smaller fish already contaminated with it, resulting in tuna having a higher level than other seafood.

It is not easily excreted by the fish, and so levels build up. Sources of mercury in the sea can be naturally from volcanic eruptions or from industrial activity, such as coal burning.

Some species of tuna have a higher mercury content than others and should be avoided by pregnant women. Although some species could contain a higher amount of mercury in one portion than the recommended weekly safe amount, most tuna is perfectly safe to eat.

It is very high in vitamin B, omega three fatty acids and protein, and is generally low in fat, all of which are very good for you and result in tuna being considered a healthy fish to eat.

Tuna: A brief history

These are chunks of fresh tuna displayed on ice.

Tuna is a deep-sea fish that has been hunted for years. It became more globally popular in commerce only after the mid 20th century. Due to the distance of getting tuna back to commercial markets onshore, it was not a practical fish to catch until the development of deep-freeze facilities.

Because tuna is one of the few fish that can maintain a body temperature higher than the water around it, it was known to have a warm body temperature which spoiled the meat easily, making these fish unpopular, despite their size and the amount of edible flesh on them. Only recently did it become popular in Japan, too, as before, it was considered a very low-grade fish that not even the poor would eat.

Today, tuna accounts for five percent of the world’s fish catch by weight and is a $5.5 bn business. Because they are found beyond the 200-mile territorial waters, their fishing is regulated by regional fishing management authorities.

With much unregulated and illegal tuna fishing and bad fishing strategies, certain species of the tuna population have been left endangered, and knowing where your fish comes from and how it was caught is a good place to start in supporting sustainable tuna fishing practices.