How Long Does Canned Tuna Last? Room Temperature, Fridge, Freezer

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on December 17th, 2022

Have you come across an old can of tuna that is a month (or a year) over its expiration date? You’re probably wondering how long canned tuna lasts or if it ever goes bad.

If that describes you, you’ve come to the correct spot. This article will go over:

canned tuna

tinned tuna’s shelf life (and if the best-by date on the label is useful or not)

tinned tuna deterioration (and how to tell if yours is safe to eat or not)

storing the can and the leftovers (to be sure you’re doing it correctly)

Interested? Let’s get started.

How Long Does Canned Tuna Last? 

As long as the can is intact, unopened canned tuna is safe to consume for years after the expiration date. After you open it, you should be able to complete the leftovers within 3 to 5 days.

Canned food, especially store-bought tinned food, has a long shelf life, and canned tuna is no exception.

While some trustworthy sites claim that it lasts forever, I wouldn’t dare to open a 30-year-old can. But if it’s just been “expired” for a few years, it’s not a huge concern (at least for me).

The date on the can of tuna label pertains to food quality rather than safety.

Let us now discuss quality. While the makers claim that the product will hold its quality for 3 to 5 years (depending on the brand), there’s no reason why it shouldn’t last much longer.

The tuna is in a (virtually) sterile environment, so nothing fishy is occurring within. As a result, a 9-year-old should not go bad or taste significantly worse than a 4-year-old.

After you open that old can of tuna, you’ll be able to determine the quality for yourself.

When it comes to leftovers, they keep for 3 to 5 days, much like other leftovers.

Canned tuna (unopened)best-by + 5+ years
Canned tuna (opened)3 – 5 days

How Long Does Canned Tuna Last At normal temperature

Properly maintained, unopened canned tuna will normally retain its optimum quality for 3 to 5 years, but it will usually be okay to consume beyond that.

How Long Does Canned Tuna Last In The Fridge?

Tuna may be refrigerated for two days if it is both fresh and uncooked. The sell-by date may have expired during that refrigeration time, but they will still be fresh and safe to use if properly kept.

Raw tuna should not be opened until you are ready to use it to extend its shelf life. Tuna-based delicacies have a three-day shelf life.

Once opened, commercially canned tuna will keep for 3 to 4 days.

How Long Does Canned Tuna Last after it has been opened?

Unopened canned tuna has a three-year shelf life. Unused canned tuna can be safely stored for later use. Canned tuna has a liquid within the can that must be emptied before refrigerating.

After opening a can of tuna, handle it like any other perishable seafood. Any unused canned tuna should be refrigerated within the first two hours. Storing them ensures that the tuna is safe to eat.

Place the tuna in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the fish at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. After three days, they will be kept for consumption. Canned tuna that has been frozen has a longer shelf life. Before three months, it is safe to use.

Is it okay to eat unopened canned tuna after the “expiration” date on the can or package?

Yes, as long as it is properly stored and the can or vacuum-sealed pouch is undamaged – commercially packaged tuna will typically carry a “Best By,” “Best if Used By,” “Best Before,” or “Best When Used By” date, but this is not a safety date; instead, it is the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the canned tuna will remain at peak quality.

The storage time indicated is solely for optimal quality – beyond that, the canned tuna’s texture, color, or flavor may vary. However, it will still be safe to consume if properly kept, the container is unbroken, and there are no symptoms of rotting (see below).

Why Is Canned Tuna So Long Lasting?

Canned goods generally have a long shelf life since they are properly treated to endure a long time in our grocery shops. Tuna is available in cans or pouches; in any case, the preservation procedure is comparable and lasts a long time.

How long can unrefrigerated tuna be left out?

Because tuna fish is particularly perishable, storing it at room temperature for an extended length of time causes it to spoil. Tuna should be served at 70 degrees Fahrenheit after being removed from the refrigerator.

Cooked tuna may be kept fresh and unfrozen for up to two hours. On the other hand, the temperature of the surrounding environment is affected by it. It spoils more quickly at hot temperatures.

An unopened can of tuna will keep in the fridge for three years. However, depending on storage circumstances, the shelf life can be extended.

When an opened can of tuna is removed from the refrigerator, its shelf life is reduced within the first two hours.

How to determine whether your canned tuna is spoiled

1. Examine the can

Reading the expiration date on the can is the simplest method to know if your canned tuna is still OK.

The further the date has passed, the more probable your tuna fish will be spoiled. If you’re concerned about your tuna spoiling, eat it before the expiration date.

Some individuals might not want to open a can containing spoiled tuna fish. If you’re very concerned about this, we urge that you don’t let things go this far.

However, if you find a can that you’ve forgotten about and want to know if it’s still good, you should first check the expiration date.

If the expiration date has passed and you’re already concerned about the quality of the tuna within the can, utilize the rest of the suggestions below to determine whether you should toss the can or consume it.

2. A fishy scent

It’s no secret that fish doesn’t always smell great, especially if it’s been sitting in a can for who knows how long! One of the simplest methods to determine if your fish is bad is to open the can.

When you open the lid, you may notice an intense odor of fish, oil, and salt. If you’re a fan of canned tuna, you’ll recognize the odor we’re speaking about.

If you open the can and the fragrance changes, you may have a can of rotten tuna on your hands.

The fragrance we’re referring to is acidic. If the can has gone bad, it will not smell like typical tuna fish but rather ‘off.’ If you discover a fragrance like this, you should take care and dispose of the container immediately.

Wash your hands well and disinfect any areas where the tuna brine may have gotten on your hands when you were opening the can. This will ensure that rotten fish do not surround you.

3. Liquid leakage

A leaky can indicates that the tuna fish was not properly preserved. Therefore you should discard your tuna straight immediately.

If there is a leak, it signifies that the meat was not properly stored and is thus not guaranteed to be safe to consume.

Canned goods are pressure sealed to keep them fresh. This freshness has been compromised if the can is leaking or has been opened.

Even if the meat appears to be in good condition and smells good, we urge that you discard it immediately.

4. Metal that has corroded

Your canned tuna will come in a metal can. While metal is a reasonably robust and long-lasting substance, it is not invincible.

If metal is not properly maintained, it might rust and get rusted, causing your tuna to spoil faster than it should.

Rust and corrosion can cause microscopic holes in metal cans, interfering with the preservation process.

Moisture and air will be able to enter the can, lowering the quality of the tuna. If your can shows corrosion or rust, you should probably toss it away.

5. The color

When fresh from the can, tuna fish is often pinky-light brown in hue. Checking the color of your canned tuna before eating it will ensure it is still safe to consume.

However, if there are any discoloration patches on your tuna, do not consume it.

These might be in a dark brown, green, or black color. Discolored tuna is unquestionably unsafe to consume, so don’t consider it. If you’re unfamiliar with canned tuna and don’t know what color it should be, err on caution.

Use the various methods we’ve outlined to determine whether your canned tuna appears spoiled. Throw away the tuna fish if you’re concerned about the suspicious color and the can’s other indicators of deterioration.

We want to emphasize how essential the color of your tuna is. Some tuna in cans appears brown but is still safe to consume. But didn’t we say that dark brown tuna is unsafe to consume? We understand, and this is where things become a bit more complicated.

When the brown bits of tuna are warm brown in hue, they are still edible. In other words, the tuna will turn reddish while remaining brown. The tuna should not be consumed if it is dark brown with chilly undertones.

We prefer to think of it this way: if the fish is red and appears to be ‘alive,’ it’s safe to eat. However, it should not be consumed if the fish is grey and dead. Make sure you only consume tuna with red undertones and not grey undertones.

6. It exploded

Did you know that cans can explode when they’re sitting in your cupboard, minding their own business? While this is extremely rare, it can occur and is a solid indicator that something is amiss with the canned tuna.

However, because the tuna is most likely all over your pantry due to the exploding can, you might not be able to consume any of it. Clean up and discard all the tuna, making sure to sanitize any surfaces the fish touched.

When you open a can of tuna, it can potentially explode. Because of the pressure, the tuna may shoot out of the orifice. This can indicate that the can was faulty and was not properly preserving the tuna.

If the tuna can explode, toss everything out and start again with a new can. The can might also bulge from the top or bottom. Get rid of the fish if the can seems like it’s about to explode or if it does burst after you open it.

7. The can’s quality

As you can see, the can is crucial when determining the quality of your tuna fish.

Look for dents in the can as well, since they can dramatically change the expiration date. Dents aren’t necessarily dangerous, but it’s important examining the dents ahead of time.

Dents in the lid of your canned tuna are the most dangerous to detect, so avoid them at all costs. The dent might signal that the pressure within the can has changed, impacting the tuna fish’s preservation.

Many people are unaware that dents in canned tuna lids might increase the growth of salmonella and other undesirable germs.

As a result, we strongly advise only utilizing canned tuna in clean cans with no dents or blemishes.

8. Try a taste

No, we’re serious: the best method to tell if your tuna fish is excellent or terrible is to take a little bite and taste it. Taking a modest mouthful of rotten tuna should not damage you, so go ahead and do it.

If the tuna has an ‘off’ flavor or tastes acidic, spit it out immediately and discard the fish. We would never consume something that didn’t taste right, especially if it was over its expiration date.

Does Canned Tuna Go Bad When Heat Is Applied?

Excessive exposure to direct sunshine and heat reduces the shelf life of canned tuna from three years to two. As a result, exposure to high temperatures will ruin the canned tuna and render it dangerous to consume. When canned tuna is exposed to too much light, it loses nutrients and discolors.

As a result, it is critical to arrange the storage of canned tuna in areas where temperatures surge. Canned tuna flourishes in the refrigerator at temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cans of tuna will have a shorter shelf life if they are kept above this temperature.

Tuna in cans should also be stored away from wet heat. Hot moisture can promote rusting in tuna cans, resulting in hazardous tuna.

What happens if you consume tainted canned tuna?

Tuna, mackerel, Mahi Mahi, sardine, anchovy, herring, bluefish, amberjack, and marlin are all popular species. Scombroid food poisoning, usually known simply as scombroid, is a foodborne sickness caused by eating rotten fish. Flushed skin, headache, itching, impaired vision, gastrointestinal cramps, and diarrhea are all possible symptoms.

Is it necessary to refrigerate canned tuna?

You do not need to refrigerate canned tuna until after it has been opened. When canned foods are unopened, they usually do not need to be refrigerated.

However, once you’ve opened your canned tuna, any remaining tuna should be refrigerated or discarded.

Is tuna in a pouch preferable to tuna in a can?

Compared to canned fish, vacuum-sealed pouches offer a fresh flavor and texture. However, there is one possible disadvantage to eating it 3-4 times a week. Mercury levels are relatively high in tuna, particularly white albacore. Chunk light tuna, which has less mercury, can be eaten twice a week without concern.

How to Store Canned Tuna 

Store unopened canned tuna at room temperature and away from heat sources. Once opened, place the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Canned meals don’t require much storage — place them in a cupboard in the pantry or kitchen, and you’re set to go. There’s no need for refrigeration or anything else because the container will keep the food secure.

However, keep in mind that keeping cans in areas where the temperature surpasses 90°F (or 32°C) or freezing them is not a good idea. Both can jeopardize the seals, and you know how that goes.

If it’s a hot summer, it’s usually best to relocate your canned food from the kitchen (which is frequently warm) to the pantry or somewhere else that keeps a somewhat lower temperature.

How do you keep canned tuna once it’s been opened?

Refrigerate opened tuna in a firmly sealed plastic container. Use within three days.

Canned tuna is already cooked; all that remains is to drain it. It can be prepared as a cold or hot meal.

Most of us overlook the need to clean cans before opening them. You are preventing any bacteria on the can from contaminating the food by doing so. This is especially critical if the tuna needs to be stored for a few days.

When it comes to leftovers, place them in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

Why should you not put cans in the fridge?

You should avoid putting open metal cans in the refrigerator since the iron and tin can leach into the food, taint the flavor, and produce harmful health consequences in some situations.

Keeping open cans in the refrigerator is especially risky if the item is very acidic, such as fruits and tomatoes.

Is it possible to freeze canned tuna?

Yes, canned tuna may be frozen in the freezer, especially after the can has been opened, to keep it fresh for up to three months.

What is the best way to freeze canned tuna?

You will now learn how to freeze canned tuna in a few simple steps effectively.

Suggestions for Freezing Canned Tuna

Leftover tuna should be transferred to another container and frozen. To be safe, never freeze canned tuna in its original tin can.

If you keep your tuna in a freezer-safe bag, flatten it from the bottom of the bag so that it freezes evenly. Also, before freezing, make sure to push out as much air as possible.

You’ll need the following items to freeze canned tuna:

  • A freezer-safe bag or an airtight container
  • Transfer any remaining tuna to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag from the original can.
  • Stick the container or bag to the freezer after labeling it with the name and storage date.

How do you defrost or thaw canned tuna?

Only defrost frozen, canned tuna in the refrigerator for the finest quality. Remove the container or bag of tuna from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to defrost thoroughly. This procedure may take many hours, or you may defrost the tuna overnight if you expect to use it the next morning.

It is dangerous to thaw canned tuna on your counter since fish is a light meal and, if not firmly covered, ambient temperature can encourage bacteria development.


Editorial Staff

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