Eating well on a shoestring budget is easy with these flavor-packed bowls, which conveniently rely on canned tuna. Perfect for a speedy weeknight meal or packable lunch! 🍚🥢
Don’t you love it when an easy meal is greeted as though you slaved away for hours? In our house, this is that sort of meal.
Plus these colorful, veggie-loaded bowls rival favorite takeout options for a fraction of the cost.
Sure you could substitute leftover grilled tuna steaks or go all out with sushi grade tuna, but a humble can of tuna works surprisingly well. (And if you’re a salmon fan, feel free to use canned salmon as an option.) I’ve served a lot of sushi bowls over the years as they are a favorite meal in our family, but nobody scoffs at this twist.
On the contrary, they’d happily eat these more often!
I always have a can or two of tuna in my pantry. It’s convenient, for sure, and it’s also a source of high quality protein and essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and Vitamin D.
When shopping for canned tuna, look for reduced-sodium varieties that come packed in water. This way, you’ll reap the benefits of the tuna’s protein and omega-3 fatty acid content without consuming excess salt. Interesting tip: water-packed is usually recommended because, in addition to having fewer calories, it retains more omega-3s.
That said, the oil that tuna is packed in—often soybean oil—is unsaturated and considered heart-healthy. So if you prefer the flavor of oil-packed tuna, you may certainly use it here.
Other choices include whether to buy mild-flavored albacore or the darker-colored and slightly stronger-tasting skipjack tuna (often labeled “chunk light”). I think both taste great but tend towards purchasing skipjack because it’s a smaller fish with lower mercury levels than albacore. (Generally speaking, the larger the fish, the higher the mercury levels.)
The FDA currently recommends that adults eat 3–5 ounces of fish 2–3 times a week to get the recommended levels of omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial nutrients. Skipjack and chunk light tuna can be consumed along with other low-mercury species, such as cod, crab, salmon and scallops, as part of the recommended 2–3 servings of fish per week.
For the FDA’s latest “Advice About Eating Fish,” click here. I’ve also attached a helpful chart below the recipe card.
Because sustainability is also a big issue in the fishing industry, I typically buy Wild Planet tuna, because it tastes great and the company employs fishing methods (it’s pole and line caught) that have less impact on other marine life. (I linked the tuna to Target for a visual and price, but if interested, the brand is widely available－and their canned salmon is great, too. This is in no way an ad, by the way.)
Another interesting discovery when I made tuna melts just last night: I had one can of Bumble Bee tuna and one can of Wild Planet, both 5-ounce cans of chunk light tuna packed in water. Once drained, it seemed to me that there was more tuna in the latter can, so I weighed the contents of both with my trusty kitchen scale. The Bumble Bee can had 3.0 ounces of tuna, while the Wild Planet can contained 3.7 ounces－a sizable 23% difference!
Helpful tips & variations:
- I serve the bowls chilled or at room temperature, so I often cook rice earlier in the day and let it sit at room temp. Leftover rice works well, too. Feel free to use freshly cooked rice if you prefer serving it warm.
- I like to dice the cucumber so it’s approximately the same size as the edamame. This way, everything in the bowl incorporates a little better.
- Like frozen peas, frozen shelled edamame can be thawed and enjoyed uncooked. However, if you’d like to serve the bowls warm or don’t have time to thaw the edamame (running under water will expedite the process), simply cook according to package directions.
- The vegetables may be varied according to taste. Chopped grape tomatoes or thinly sliced radishes would be nice, for example.
- Canned salmon could be used instead of canned tuna. As I mention above, leftover grilled tuna steaks or even sushi grade fish would work well, too－but they might not be budget bowls anymore!
- A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds or furikake (a Japanese seasoning made with sesame seeds and dried seaweed that’s delicious sprinkled over cooked rice, vegetables and fish) would be a lovely finishing touch.
- You may adjust the amounts of the various ingredients to taste. For example, I’ve stretched one can of tuna over three bowls, added a little more rice for heartier appetites, and now typically “eyeball” the amounts. The trick is to have a good ratio of guacamole and sriracha to rice, as you would have dressing to salad, as these components act as a binder, moisture provider and flavor enhancer.
- And finally, in lieu of guacamole, you could use the spicy mayo in this recipe and chopped avocado, if desired. (And if you don’t have a lime on hand, you can make the spicy mayo without it!)
- 1½ cups cooked rice (from about ½ cup uncooked; white or brown as preferred)
- ½ cup diced cucumber (I leave skin on; peel if desired)
- ½ cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed*
- ½ cup shredded carrot (about 1 small carrot)
- 1 (5-ounce) can chunk light tuna, drained and flaked (packed in water or oil as preferred)
- ½ cup guacamole** (may use homemade or store-bought)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (omit if not a fan)
- 2 tablespoons sriracha, or to taste
Place ¾ cup of cooked rice in the bottom of two individual bowls. Top each bowl with half of the remaining ingredients, placing in piles around the perimeter of each bowl.
Finish with a drizzle of sriracha and a sprinkle of cilantro. Stir all together and dig in!
*You may cook the edamame according to the package directions, but like frozen peas, frozen, shelled edamame is delightful when simply thawed. Feel free to run under water to expedite thawing.
**I often make a speedy one-avocado guac for this. (Happy to share that recipe soon!) As an option to guacamole, you could use spicy mayo and add chopped avocado, if desired.
Meal prep: The bowls will stay fresh for three days when refrigerated in air-tight containers.
Looking for other good seafood choices? This chart may be helpful: