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Nikki P’s top recipes with canned fish

Tuna Primavera

Nikki’s favourite canned fish recipes are hits the whole family (and your wallet!) will love.

I worked on the seafood counter at Woolworths for over 15 years and, as much as I love fresh seafood, I also really love canned fish. In Asian countries – especially the Philippines, where I am from – there are a lot of remote places that still don’t have access to electricity, let alone any form of refrigeration. So tinned or canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel, is more of a necessity than a choice and very handy to have on hand for the rainy days where sourcing fresh fish can be difficult.

Now that I’m in Australia, my family has a pantry full of canned food at home, including plenty of fish. We grew up loving it, and that has stuck with us. Sardines and tuna with steamed rice are my favourite, at any time of the day: breakfast, lunch or dinner. You really can’t go wrong! For me, the answer’s in the can, so I’ve rounded up my favourite recipes using canned fish; they’ll save you money and time, and taste sensational, too.

Nikki P Fresh Ideas expert




“It's recommended that we eat fish a couple of times a week to reap the nutrition benefits, but the price of fresh seafood can be a bit daunting. That’s another reason I loved canned fish, it’s budget-friendly, no-waste, and the perfect instant star, whether used to turn a simple salad, pizza, pasta or traybake into something special, or as an affordable, healthier hero in patties, dips and lunchbox sandwiches.”

– Nikki P

Healthier Tuna Sushi Bowl


Healthier tuna sushi bowl

A few fresh ingredients and pantry staples combined with a simple dressing make this the perfect lunch-on-the-go or easy midweek dinner for one. If you’re making this for more than one, just multiply the quantities! I keep wasabi peas to one side if there are any little eaters joining in, as they might find them too spicy. The Asian-style flavours really lift a simple can of tuna, which I often swap for canned salmon or mackerel. Serve this for dinner immediately, or cool the rice completely in the fridge before layering the ingredients in an airtight container for a delicious workday lunch.

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Speedy Tuna Mac & Cheese Bake


Speedy tuna macaroni & cheese bake

This hearty recipe is ideal for a midweek dinner because I can have it on the table in 30 minutes. It’s also a fantastic one-dish meal, which means it’s quick to make and quick to clean up, too. Sometimes, to change things up, I’ll substitute the tuna for chopped ham or leftover cooked chicken. Don’t have canned corn kernels? Frozen corn kernels work just as well, or even canned or frozen peas. To thaw frozen corn or peas, just pop them into a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water, set aside for a couple of minutes, then drain well.

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Tuna Primavera


Tuna primavera

This fresh, zingy pasta dish is a mainstay at my place – and it’s one I can change up with different veggies, such as green beans, broccolini or even frozen peas. It also works beautifully with canned salmon, and I sometimes swap out the fettuccine for spaghetti or short pasta, such as penne – whatever’s in my pantry. I always give lemons a quick rinse under cold water and dry with a clean tea towel before zesting. Too easy!

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Tunavacado Sandwich


Tunavacado sandwich

I’ll often make a batch of this delicious tuna mixture and store it in the fridge so I can use it as a filling or salad topper over the week – it stores well in an airtight container. Feel free to choose whatever bread you like for this tuna sandwich recipe; it’s great in wraps and rolls as well. I also make it with canned salmon for a salmon and avocado sandwich! Whichever canned fish you choose, drain it well to avoid the filling (and bread) from going soggy. Don’t worry if you don’t have kewpie mayo because regular mayo will taste just as good.

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Healthier Salmon Rice Bowl


Healthier salmon rice bowl 

While this spicy, colourful rice bowl recipe uses leftover cooked salmon, it tastes just as good with flaked canned salmon, tuna or mackerel. I’ve also made it with microwave brown rice, mashing up the fish, soy sauce, sriracha and mayo in one bowl once the rice is heated through. Or you could make this the night before and refrigerate the mixture in an airtight container. Pop it in a lunchbox with the remaining salad ingredients and you’ve got a fabulous lunch on the go.

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Healthier Tuna Mornay


Healthier tuna mornay 

Here’s another all-time family favourite that I’ll often cook for a warming weekend dinner over winter. It’s also very forgiving, as you can adapt it to whatever veggies you have on hand or whatever’s in season and on special at the supermarket – pumpkin instead of the sweet potato, and broccoli florets, green beans, or chopped capsicum for zucchini. Penne is another alternative – in fact, any short pasta is fine to use in this recipe, and salmon works well instead of the tuna, too. Mix it up and see what you can create!

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Speedy Tuna Pasta Salad


Speedy tuna pasta salad

If you have any leftovers, this recipe makes a yummy packed lunch for the next day. Plus, it’s an easy recipe to play around with, depending on what you’ve got in the fridge and pantry. You could substitute spiral pasta with farfalle (bowties), penne or any other short pasta; change up the tuna for canned salmon; and substitute yellow capsicum for red or green. I’ve even used fresh basil instead of the dill. Best of all, it takes only 25 minutes from start to finish, so it’s a midweek dinner hero in my books.

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Healthier Tuna & Pea Patties


Healthier tuna & pea patties 

My family loves a patty and these are among our favourites. These little beauties can be transformed easily into salmon and pea patties, and I’ve also been known to substitute the peas with chopped frozen beans or frozen sweetcorn if I’ve run out of peas. These also make a great snack or starter with just the ranch dressing for dipping, but the rice salad rounds it out beautifully as a simple yet satisfying midweek meal or weekend lunch.

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