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Oil vs. Water-packed Tuna

Midlife Sep 28, 2009 05:09 PM

OK. I suppose it's years of watching what I eat and a wife who does that for both of us. For as long as I can remember we've only bought water-packed tuna. Our current favorite is the Kirkland brand at Costco, which seems to be very consistently good-tasting and has more tuna-per-can, at a better price, than their Chicken of-the-Sea.

So, today I'm reading some posts about how to make the best tuna salad sandwiches and one of the things posters say is they absolutely HATE tuna packed in water. Can you guys help me justify tuna packed in oil? I'm sure it has a different and stronger taste, but what else should sway me in that direction? Good value brands and where to try them?


  1. Midlife Oct 1, 2009 05:02 PM

    Whoa!!!! TJ's brand tuna in olive oil is $1.99 for half of what's in a Kirkland can. I think my wife pays something like $15 for 10 cans of Kirkland (can't be too far off). That's the same as $40 worth of the olive oil kind at TJ's. Not sure I want to get hooked at that price.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Midlife
      Humbucker Oct 1, 2009 09:03 PM

      Is the Kirkland albacore? Trader Joe's oil packed Yellowfin is so much tastier than any albacore tuna that I think it's worth the extra dough.

      1. re: Humbucker
        Midlife Oct 1, 2009 11:09 PM

        Yes. The Kirkland is albacore. FWIW, I don't find it fishy, cardboardy or any of the other negatives above. I guess I'll try the TJ's in oil, but what if I really like it? :o)

    2. MsDiPesto Oct 1, 2009 10:07 AM

      I love tuna in olive oil. Trader Joe's used to sell the Genova brand, but not anymore. I've tried their house brand but it's just not the same to my palate.

      1. cassoulady Sep 30, 2009 02:34 PM

        I only eat tuna packed in oil. Om a salad, mixed with some red wine vinegar, in a sandwich- sometimes with mayo sometimes without. It has a more appealing flavor, texture and color to me. Tuna in oil, being bland often ends up smothered in mayo to spruce it up. Oil packed tuna needs very little else.

        1. s
          slacker1 Sep 30, 2009 01:32 PM

          As a treat, may I recommend a sandwich I had in Barcelona, Sp. It was a crusty roll filled with oil packed tuna, roasted red peppers and chopped kalmata olives. It was to die for.

          1. d
            dmd_kc Sep 29, 2009 10:57 PM

            Funny, at my Costco, the water-pack white Starkist is a lot cheaper -- and better -- than the Kirkland. However, I almost always do the chunk light. I'm extremely skeptical about the supposed mercury dangers of any of them.

            Oil- and water-packed are different beasts. I get the Starkist olive oil when the dish features the tuna fairly plain. For salad with mayonnaise, it's usually water pack.

            Walmart's water pack is pretty tasty, but it has a lot of added vegetable flavorings and salt. And like many house brands, it varies a lot from can to can.

            1. NYCkaren Sep 29, 2009 08:07 AM

              I am always watching my weight but I buy only olive oil-pached tuna. I prefer the taste. Just eat less if you're worried about calories. And drain it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: NYCkaren
                Will Owen Sep 29, 2009 05:57 PM

                Right on. Water-packed to me is fishy-tasting soggy balsa wood. If I were to add enough mayo to make it palatable I'd wind up with lots more calories than with oil-packed, and more salt and stuff as well. Olive oil is a lot better for you, too, unless you've made your own olive-oil, low-salt mayonnaise. Whoever thought up water-packed tuna OR sardines oughta be taken out and smacked. Salmon, okay - it can take it.

              2. fmcoxe6188 Sep 29, 2009 07:20 AM

                I grew up on oil packed- but recently for the same reason you eat it- I switched to water packed. To me the water packed tastes much "fishier" and not in the good way. I have to add a lot more "stuff" shallots, parsley, mustard etc to make it taste good to my palate. Tuna packed in oil as its been mentioned- can be eaten on its own and has a really beautiful flavor and even texture.

                4 Replies
                1. re: fmcoxe6188
                  pinstripeprincess Sep 29, 2009 12:22 PM

                  while the flavour is definitely better, it's the texture that really prompts me to go for oil packed. i find the water packed is very dry and grating on my tongue. i don't often make tuna salad but i will use tuna in bastardizations of nicoise salads and it's much easier to eat oil packed tuna on it's own with hardly any dressing (the oil in the can is enough dressing for me!) and is much much more enjoyable. it's worth a single can taste test to see, but definitely also olive oil over generic mish mash of vegetable oil.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess
                    Midlife Sep 29, 2009 03:03 PM

                    Since I usually mix water-packed tuna with lots of mayo I would probably be able to use much less with oil-packed. My guess is that olive oil is better for you than mayo, so this may just work. I still have to find out if I like the taste of oil-packed tuna though.

                    Off to TJ's.

                  2. re: fmcoxe6188
                    RGC1982 Oct 1, 2009 06:01 PM

                    I grew up on oil packed as well, and remember having the same reaction when I switched to water packed. We did it to cut calories, but the taste was fishier -- and it took some getting used to.

                    1. re: fmcoxe6188
                      smartie Oct 2, 2009 05:01 AM

                      we grew up with tuna in oil never water, I don't think I knew it even existed until about 15 years ago. I still prefer it in oil it makes the better sandwich.

                    2. BobB Sep 29, 2009 07:02 AM

                      One word: flavor. I use exclusively Pastene light tuna in olive oil and water-packed tuna (especially solid white water-packed) tastes like cardboard by comparison.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: BobB
                        fourunder Sep 29, 2009 07:28 AM

                        In the other thread where I mentioned the most memorable tuna sandwich I have ever eaten.....was made with a can of Pastene......though I cannot tell you if it was light tuna or other. I would agree tuna packed in olive oil is preferred over vegetable oil. or water.

                        1. re: fourunder
                          BobB Sep 29, 2009 07:35 AM

                          Pastene only packs solid light tuna.

                          I should mention that they also sell a couple of other canned tuna products - a version with red chili pepper and one with ginger - but these are Thai imports which they distribute in the US under the Pastene brand. While they are interesting variations, the actual tuna in them is not at all the same quality stuff they package as straightforward Pastene tuna (it's flaked packed in sunflower oil, not solid in olive oil).

                      2. ipsedixit Sep 28, 2009 10:58 PM

                        I prefer water.

                        Oil is too heavy for me, esp. if I'm making sandwiches.

                        I like the cleaner foundation that water packed tuna provides for the condiments and flavorings that I add.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          Axalady Sep 29, 2009 11:25 AM

                          I have to agree. Bought two cans of albacore a few weeks ago, one in water and one in oil (by mistake). When I used the tuna in oil I didn't like the fact I couldn't get it as dry (draining it) as I can the tuna packed in water. The tuna salad was way too heavy and wet for our liking. It's water for this girl unless I'm making a recipe that calls for tuna in oil.

                        2. greygarious Sep 28, 2009 06:12 PM

                          I mix one can of mostly-drained oil-packed with one can of thoroughly-drained water-packed. This contributes enough of the smoothness and moistness of oil-packed. Less mayo needed with oil-packed, Remember that soilid white tuna has more mercury than chunk light, so if you prefer the solid it's a good idea to either eat it infrequently or dilute it with chunk light.

                          1. a
                            adamshoe Sep 28, 2009 05:38 PM

                            I was like you for years!! Only albacore and only in water. Then i discovered chunk light. Then I found Trader Joes Tongol or Yellowfin tuna packed in Olive Oil (and this is key; Olive oil, NOT vegetable oil!) It is so flavorful and tuna-ey (in a good way). Good enough to eat straight from the can, but even better for tuna salad, Marcella Hazan's fresh pasta w/ tuna sauce, etc. Calories shmalories....olive oil is a GOOD fat. Sometimes I drain some of the oil, but mostly just use it all. adam

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: adamshoe
                              Humbucker Sep 28, 2009 06:35 PM

                              TJ's Yellowfin is awesome; a good compromise in price between the flavorless supermarket "solid white packing material" and the $10 per can Spanish Ventresca. I believe that it's a relabeled version of Genova tuna.

                              1. re: Humbucker
                                Vetter Sep 28, 2009 07:58 PM

                                Another vote for TJ's olive oil packed tuna. Makes the tuna I grew up with taste like cardboard. It's kind of nice to like tuna again. If I wanted straight bland protein, I'd stick to egg whites.

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