Today’s Convenient Canned Seafood Packs a Sustainable, Flavorful Punch

Lineup of canned and pouched seafood on blue background
Chris Wellhausen

We’ve come a long way from Chicken of the Sea. Today, you can enjoy seafood beyond the confines of a deli or restaurant—though we’d avoid Subway with the whole no-tuna-found-in-its-tuna fiasco. Brands are offering gourmet delicacies you can eat directly out of a can or pouch while camping in the backcountry, hiking a 14er or simply whipping up a quick lunch at home. And it’s not just tuna. With today’s canned seafood, you can snack on smoked mussels, fragrant sardines, and octopus in garlic-infused olive oil.

Seafood is a superfood in its own right, providing muscle-, heart-, and bone-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as key vitamins and minerals. You get lots of sustaining protein with little fat. Moreover, all of these picks rank high in sustainability. Some are caught without bycatching—where other sea life, like turtles and sharks, are mistakenly caught. Others are traceable from ocean to pantry. And all are packaged sustainably; tin is completely recyclable and in the case of pouches, Safe Catch offers a recycling program if your community doesn’t accept them.

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“Canned seafood is versatile, convenient and budget-friendly,” says Katie Wagner, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries.

It can be thrown in a backpack and stored on tiny apartment shelves. And they don’t require cooking—just open a can and eat these gourmet options below on their own for Or add them to a salad for a fancy, uber-healthy (and quick and easy) meal. Consider this pouched and canned seafood the Feast of the Sustainable Fishes.

1. Patagonia Provisions Mussels

From the outdoor industry leader in all things environmentally sustainable comes a three-pack of canned mussels that could pass for a flavor-packed bistro appetizer in a blind taste test. The mussels are sourced from Spain, where they’re grown on long, underwater ropes (one of the most sustainable types of aquaculture) and harvested by a family who’s been in the mythiculture biz for generations. The muscles naturally filter the water around them by feeding on microplankton, which both improves the water quality and doesn’t require additional feeding for harvesting. These European Union organic mussels come in three flavors: Lemon Herb, Savory Sofrito and Smoked. Each tin contains 15g protein.

[$21, 3 cans; patagoniaprovisions.com]

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2. Güeyu Mar Chargrilled Sardine Tails in Escabeche

As craft as it gets, these hand-cut sardines are grilled over an open fire of holm oak wood and packed in escabeche sauce—a traditional Spanish medley of premium olive oil, vinegar, onion, paprika and spices. Chef Abel Álvarez cooks everything in his intimate restaurant on the northern coast of Asturias. Each sardine is flipped one by one on the grill and packed by hand. Sardines have healthy omega-3s as well as calcium and vitamin D. Serve as small bites while hosting a dinner party or picnic with crusty bread. The sardines meet Marine Stewardship Council certification, which indicates the fishery meets international best practice for sustainable fishing.

[$21.49; lata.shop]

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3. Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna

Wild Planet strictly utilizes pole and line catching to avoid bycatch—when other sea life is mistakenly caught in netting. The company also partners with Trace Register, which allows them to track each boatload of albacore from catch to can to shelf. The tuna is caught, immediately frozen, cleaned, trimmed and packed, then cooked once in the can with just a touch of sea salt—no water. Each flaky, flavorful serving has 21g protein.

[$24, 4 cans; wildplanetfoods.com]

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4. José Gourmet Octopus in Olive Oil with Garlic

Cool artwork adorning each recyclable package of octopus nestled in high-quality olive oil and garlic aside, this Portugal-based product ranks high in sustainability. From ensuring all seafood is caught with environmentally sound fishing gear and handled by its own employees, to sustainable practices of waste resulting from fishing, to aligning with seasonality to optimize both the rhythms of nature and the ideal nutritional value, this brand’s offerings are feel-good (and taste-good). Octopus is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, and selenium, an essential trace mineral. Carried by Food52 for U.S. distribution.

[$39.98/2 4oz. cans; food52.com]

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5. Safe Catch Wild Pacific Pink Salmon Pouch

These sashimi-grade salmon steaks are hand-tested to ensure they’re 25 times lower in mercury than what the FDA demands. (The founder’s mother developed mercury poisoning after eating tuna daily.) These individual packages are void of any water or other fillers—they’re just packed with rich omega-3 fatty acids and salmon’s natural oils. Safe Catch follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which sets standards in sustainable fishing practices to help protect turtles and other sea life from being harmed. Each pouch has 21g protein; add to salads or fork it out of the pouch if you’re on the go.

[$35.99/12 pack of 3-ounce packages; safecatch.com]

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