Tuna in oil versus water

Tuna in Oil vs Water – Which One is Better

Tuna in oil vs water. Is one better than the other? Especially in the context of preparedness and long term storage?

What’s the difference between them?

Tuna in Oil vs Water

The main difference is this.. Tuna in oil has about four times as much fat as tuna in water. Consequently, tuna in oil contains more calories than tuna in water for the same size can.

If you’re here viewing this from a calorie-conscious point of view (e.g. watching one’s calories), then tuna in water is your likely better choice. Though you probably instinctively already knew that.

From a prepping and preparedness point of view, in my opinion, tuna in oil is a better choice than tuna in water. That’s because one factor we’re looking for is calorie density for what’s on our shelves (storage efficiency). Unfortunately for me, my issue here is that Mrs. J prefers tuna in water. Oh well.. Happy wife, Happy life..

Before we go further, here’s a reminder (caution) about potential Mercury in tuna. The general advice that I’ve read is to not consume more than one or two cans of tuna per week.

Calories and Fat in a can of Tuna in Oil

It may vary a bit depending on your brand of tuna. One example – A 5 ounce can of solid Genova Yellowfin Tuna in oil (olive oil).

210 Calories per can of tuna in oil
11 grams of fat
29 grams of protein! (excellent)

Calories and Fat in a can of Tuna in Water

Here’s an example of tuna in water. A 5 ounce can of Bumble Bee Solid White Albacore Tuna in water.

130 calories
1 gram of fat
29 grams of protein! (excellent)

Genova Yellowfin 8-pack (olive oil)

Chicken of the Sea Solid White 8-Pack (in water)

Tuna in Oil — Better for Preparedness

Overall, it seems to me that from a preparedness standpoint, tuna in oil may be the better choice.

Why? Because of higher fat and subsequent calorie content.

It may seem counterintuitive during times of non-emergency, or while being health-aware. But more fat and calories will be important during challenging times.

Some may suggest that the oil may go rancid in a can of tuna versus tuna in water. However I’m not so sure… because it’s ‘canned’. Regardless though, one should rotate their food storage anyway – before such things might happen. For example, maybe you’ve acquired ~ 2 years worth of canned tuna (given your typical consumption of tuna). Well, use it! Rotate. First in, First out.

I love that canned tuna is exceptionally high in protein. Important!

Which Tastes Better, Tuna in Oil or Tuna in Water?

The Canned Tuna Taste Test

Apart from the preparedness benefit of more fat and calories for tuna in oil, which tastes better? Tuna in oil or tuna in water?

Mrs. J prefers solid white tuna in water.
I like canned tuna in oil. I will admit however, that clean up is much easier for canned tuna in water.

[ Read: Canned Protein Foods for Preparedness ]

[ Read: How Much Protein in your Deep Pantry? ]


  1. The oil can also be used as a candle though I’d rather eat but who’s to say what I’ll face.

    1. Read somwhere that in water last longer than in oil. BETTER CHECK..

  2. Which has the longer shelf-life? Which will spoil quicker? Granted, heat is the enemy of canned goods. But, all things being equal, which type of canned tuna is safer?

    1. My instinct tells me since both types are commercially canned under the same process, it’s probably similar. Though oils will go rancid after some time, depending on conditions.

      Most all canned foods (grocery) will have a best-by or use-by date no longer than 2 years from manufacture.

      If food storage is consumed and rotated according to one’s consumption habits, it should all be good. Which gets into the notion of store what you eat and eat what you store…

      1. I can say that I’ve eaten older cans of tuna, some near 5 years and I was not able to detect a difference in taste with fresh. Both oil and water examples, but both were canned vs. pouch. I have no experience with old pouches, but my theory is it would be similar.

        Which are better to store – the pouch or can ? To me, the pouch is easier to store and more able to fine-tune the portion. The can provides a useful container for after its consumed.

      2. I found canned salmon had the longest best by shelf life, up to four years.

        1. Wish I could find Polar brand salmon again. a few years ago, I started storing it. The cans are 7.2 oz. and are perfect for stacking. The Salmon is excellent. I hope they bring it back. Walmart used to carry it and still have Polar brands, but I have not found this salmon here, in S.W. Ga.
          I will take my tuna in water, as I look for heathy oils. I don’t need any meds and want to keep it that way. As we age, we use less calories and a little less meat on my bones will just allow my framework to carry me a little further, with less pain in my feet. I do use Alive when I feel like I won’t be able to be as productive in my daily activities. I don’t like the taste of the oil. This is a guess, but perhaps adding the water will provide less mercury.

    2. We just finished off our pre-Fukushima tuna a couple of weeks ago. I think the expiration date was about 5 years ago. Three cans all packed in water. All tasted fine.

  3. Just this week, I open 2 cans of Star Fish tuna. 6.5oz in oil, dated 2002.
    Looked, tasted just fine, cooked in a tuna casserole.

  4. Last few years we purchased our tuna in water out of the Costco store. Rarely purchase tuna from the grocery store as we are not large consumers of this fish in a cooked dish, will use it for sandwiches. Of course the cats get a little treat at that time.

    1. AC, Wife loves the Costco Tuna and is somewhat of a tuna snob. Will only eat the Albacore and is disgusted when it is packed in oil. Shortly after I got together with her I was making tuna fish sandwiches for her son and myself. He stopped me in a moderate panic to tell me I was doing it wrong and that I was supposed to crumble the tuna with my fingers and not with a fork. He was 12 at the time.

      SMG 6.5 ounces in 2002 versus 5 ounces now. Reminds me of that old song. Where have all the flowers gone, now substitute product gone.

      We are fortunate in that the albacore life cycle brings them fairly close to shore here. they are best when fresh off of the boat.

      Scromboidosis is a form of fish poisoning that occurs after eating bad tuna. It mimics a fish allergy but is caused my too much histamine production from not cooling the catch adequately somewhere between hook or net and table. Although rarely fatal a visit to the ER is probably a good idea. If that is not an option, H-1 and H-2 blockers are indicated. Benadryl is an H-1 blocker and Tagamet and Zantac are common H-2 blockers. Look up the dosing as if I tell you I’m practicing medicine with out a license. It can occur after eating other kinds of fish although I don’t believe it occurs with freshwater species.

      1. If recall correctly the finer the tuna the larger and older the fish is. They have canned the white part of the meat and will have more Mercury. Cheaper tuna means smaller younger fish and thus less Mercury.

    2. Why eat tuna at all. There are other fish in a can.
      Mercury is extremely toxic and many of us have a great deal of it in us from many sources. Older people have it from fillings. Coal fired generators produce it.
      The half life in the brain is 27 years. The symptoms are debilitating. Treatment is difficult. It just ain’t worth the risk.
      Do sardines sound better?
      I also avoid swordfish and Spanish Mackerel.
      Ok, tuna rant over.

      1. Your concerns are valid. Though diversification of foods is good general practice when building up a deeper storage for preparedness.

        Eating tuna every day probably is NOT a good idea!

      2. Paleo, ( and me)

        Yes, we have cut our use of tuna to once every 3 months. we buy in lots of 6 cans.I get oil pack and water pack and use one of each in recipes calling for 2 cans….we do not like the taste of the water pack but is almost all is available here…so stock up on oil when we have avail. and is on the list….. and do rotate it.

        Your point is valid. One should also know how to do a heavy metal detox and have materials on had to do that…and have full knowledge as far as personal tolerances and mitigation needs… use and indications of need… of herbal detoxifiers like dandelion, milk thistle, serrapeptase, chlorella,and cordycepts.

        Mackerel or Salmon maybe 2 x a year. Sardines sounds horrid,… Not happenin’!… kipper not much better. fresh caught from the pond only slightly better. Just not a fish eater. Fresh not available unless pond raised this far inland. No China fish here.

        I echo your comment only slightly… There are other MEATS in a can..

        …….!. and the amounts of meat in each can is becoming less and less….with more packing juices.

        Me I would add to that know emergency dosing for different weights of individual s and have record of known allergies of those in your house..OF EACH medicine you have on hand and written clearly visible somewhere….

        .Keeping an easily absorbed form comes in handy…place under the tongue, if not in a syrup a dose is most quickly absorbed and effective… crushed and in jelly or honey..

  5. I prefer the tuna in oil. I don’t drain it and then crumble stale bread in it. The bread soaks up the oil and adds volume. It still taste the same and you get more and don’t waste the stale bread. You have to stretch things as far as possible when you’re feeding a house full of kids on a tight budget.

    1. Nice tip or maximizing foodstuffs car guy – my thanks for that.

      1. I like sardines in oil. In my country I never seen one can with water. I did not know about best before date for sardines can. I eat in army can of spam. It was older than myself. And it was good. I was not so young in that time.

    2. Car guy, If you can find someone with pecan trees that don’t use the nuts, they might allow you and the kids to pick they up. Sitting around cracking nuts can be your new “snap chat”, same as beans and peas. The nuts are great in tuna. Congrats on thinking outside the box. We can learn a lot by looking back at the Depression years. The last thing to not be rationed was sugar and that was not until 1947. I a not suggesting you store lots of sugar. Dental bills for a house full of kids would be down right impossible these days! Good luck to you!

  6. I had no Idea that nasty womans husband was affiliated with Starkist! Thank you for the info, I will try very hard now to avoid that brand, she has to be one of the biggest criminals in history!

  7. Someone posted on the Open Forum about using tuna with the oil. I remembered reading about a large number of tuna sandwiches being made in Seattle during the Depression using one can of tuna with bread crumbs and cod liver oil. I found one of the 2 recipes I have seen – For 50 sandwiches that were priced at 5 cents each, combine 1 quart bread crumbs, 1 small can tuna, and 1 cup cod liver oil. Evidently they sold out every time. I wouldn’t recommend this specific recipe, but not throwing out the oil depending on how you are using the tuna makes sense in these inflationary times. When I was a teenager cooking for 6 on the family farm, I stretched burger with oatmeal and even created a recipe where I mixed taco meat with chili beans and we had it on buns with cheese. I called it a chili burger and everyone loved it. Kind of a modern take on bean sandwiches. The head of Spartan Nash this morning said their suppliers are raising prices on average 12%.

  8. Decided to bottle all my yellow fin tuna I caught in September. Did half in olive oil and half in water. The olive oil tuna had better color after 1:40 minutes in a pressure cooker. Having tuna casserole tonight from the oil bottled.

  9. For the mercury issue in canned tuna…

    “The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that 0.045 mcg of mercury per pound (0.1 mcg per kg) of body weight per day is the maximum safe dose of mercury. This amount is known as a reference dose. ”

    Since some tuna species are very high in mercury, a single 3-ounce (85-gram) serving may have a mercury concentration that equals or exceeds a person’s weekly reference dose.

    However, research indicates that regularly eating fish with a mercury concentration greater than 0.3 ppm may increase blood levels of mercury and spur health issues. Most species of tuna exceed this amount.

    Therefore, most adults should eat tuna in moderation and consider choosing other fish that is relatively low in mercury.

    When buying tuna, opt for skipjack or canned light varieties, which do not harbor as much mercury as albacore or bigeye.

    You can consume skipjack and canned light tuna alongside other low-mercury species, such as cod, crab, salmon and scallops, as part of the recommended 2–3 servings of fish per week (10Trusted Source).

    Try to avoid eating albacore or yellowfin tuna more than once per week. Refrain from bigeye tuna as much as possible.

    The above material was copied, selectively from:


    IMO, if you are older than 55 and are in a survival situation “smoke ’em if you got ’em” and don’t worry about the Federal Guidelines.

    Obviously, the younger people have to eat too and you lower the risk/damage by choosing the lesser contaminated varieties and moderating consumption still consistent with survival.


  10. Albacore.
    Yes I know this article is about Water versus Oil.
    So on that subject yes for a Deep Pantry, Tuna in Oil is the better choice.
    BUT!!! just because TSHTF, it’s TEOTWAWKI, we’re in Lights Out, WROL, the Economy is GONE, its not rained in 8 months and it’s 1 year since you’ve seen the Sun.
    With all that in mind, there is no reason to give up the finer things in food selections.
    Hence I “hoard” Albacore, not Tuna, in Oil. Personally I find it to be more flavorful, larger pieces of meat ( not a can of goo) and just all out better. Yes it cost a little more, but so does Fuel nowadays (you ain’t seen nothing yet)
    BTW you better get that Rice stored up…..
    “Is 600 cans of Albacore really enough?”

    1. Too funny. I have been canning tuna and salmon since 6 am. I always can my tuna skinless in oil. Just vegetable oil because olive oil oxidizes at high heat and pressure. At least that is what I was told. I personally do not care for olive oil unless on a salad. Salmon always with skin on for the fat and oil. Although ot totally skeeves me to touch it when using the cans.
      Hope everyone has a great day

  11. I’ve read tuna in oil lasts longer; I am eating a tuna sandwich with used BB date of 2013 tuna in water.
    It tastes very good!!

  12. I eat this and sardines in olive oil.Great nutritional value.Add shredded parmesean cheese and it tastes even better!!!!

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