How Long Does Canned Tuna Last in the Fridge? Answered (2023)

Who doesn’t like whipping up a tuna sandwich before leaving for work? But there are only so many cans of tuna you can buy before their shelf life becomes a concern. 

So, How long does canned tuna last in the fridge before it goes bad?

After being opened, canned tuna should be refrigerated and used within 3 to 5 days. Unopened tuna can last up to 3 years when stored in a cool, dry place. 

How Long Can You Store Tuna?

You can store tuna for a few days to years, depending on the type. Regardless of the kind of tuna you buy, refrigeration is a must. Let’s look at the variations in shelf life.

1. Canned Tuna

This is usually the most popular in any household. That can be because of its extended shelf life or simply the convenience. The shelf life will depend on whether it is an opened or an unopened can.


If you have opened a can, it will last 3 to 5 days in the fridge. Do not forget to store it in an airtight container instead of the can you got it in.

tuna in can


Unopened cans typically last for 2 to 3 years. The exact shelf life varies based on the preservatives added and the specific manufacturing process. Refrigeration is the best way to store unopened cans. But if you cannot do that right now, a cool, dry, and dark place is the next best alternative.

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2. Raw Tuna

Refrigerated raw tuna will last a day or two if stored properly. With this fish, you can rely on the best-by date. The brand estimate is usually accurate. Remember to always store fish on a bed of ice in the refrigerator. This will keep it fresh for longer.

3. Leftover Tuna

If you have some leftover tuna salad lying around, refrigerate it. If stored well, you can enjoy it for 3 to 5 days. Remember to keep the fridge temperature below 40°F. I suggest adjusting your expectations according to the kind of tuna you are dealing with. Here’s a table for reference:

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TypeShelf Life
Skipjack tunaUp to 4 days
Albacore tunaUp to 3 days
Yellow fish tunaUp to 4 days
Bigeye tunaUp to 4 days
Bluefin tuna2 to 3 days

Have some tuna salad sandwiches with mayo left from last day’s breakfast? With refrigeration, it will last for 3 days. Tuna steak lasts for about 3 days. With patties or tomato curry, it is 2 days. Tuna in rice or pasta will last for up to 4 days.

How Should You Store Tuna?

Storing tuna does not take a lot of effort. There is one primary rule: refrigerate it. I will always advise against keeping it in the pantry or on the counter. With raw, cooked, or opened cans of tuna, keeping it out is not an option at all. But even with an unopened can that might just last in the open, why take chances? If you can afford to refrigerate it, do so. Here are some best storage practices:

1. Keep in Single Layers

Want to prevent bacterial growth? Bring the temperate down to below 40°F or 4°C. This exposes the surface of the fish to the chilly air, speeding up the cooling process. However, this will only work well if you store them in single layers. 

Do not stack them up while storing them. This is a good method to follow if you want to store and free them safely.

2. Seal It

Without proper sealing, even the most well-stored tuna can go bad. Divide the tuna into small portions, vacuum seal, label, and toss it into the refrigerator. Avoid old containers and get an airtight one. The container must have an airtight seal and a relatively large surface area. This makes the cooling process faster. You can also consider tightly sealed glass jars or heavy-duty freezer bags.

3. Maintain Proper Temperature

Do not forget the refrigeration temperature. This holds for all kinds of tuna. Below 40°F is the way to go. As per the US FDA, 40°F to 140°F is the breeding ground for bacteria. Below that, bacteria growth gradually slows down.

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If you have cooked or prepared tuna at room temperature, you can store it well for 2 hours. Cooling it after that will barely eliminate the bacteria already forming. It’s best not to eat it anymore. 

making tuna sandwich with lettuce

How to Tell If Tuna Has Gone Bad?

There are a few tell-tale signs that will let you know if your tuna has gone bad. Look for these signs to be sure you are not risking health issues while consuming this delicious fish:

1. Discolouration

If you notice any change in colour, rest assured it has gone bad. Any dark brown, green, or black streaks on your tuna after taking it out of the fridge or freezer means it is unsafe. Green streaks indicate mold growth, while black or brown ones suggest bacterial growth.

2. Rancid Smell

If your tuna emits any acrid or foul smell, it has gone bad. This is the easiest way to tell if the fish is safe for consumption. You will get a whiff the moment you open the can, freezer bag, or container. So, with this sign, you can detect it in a go.

3. Container Leakage

If you see the can or the container of tuna leaking, it is a preservation problem. There could be bacteria growth that can lead to food poisoning. Even if there are no other signs, I suggest throwing it out.

4. Pop Sound

If you hear a pop sound while opening the can, something is awry. The same holds for a bulge in the container lid or the can. These are all bad news for tuna, and the bin is the right place for them.

5. Corrosion

If there is any visible corrosion on the opened or unopened tuna cans, they are unfit for consumption. This is because corrosion leads to microscopic holes that let air in. This alters the internal condition of the container. Corrosion can also seep into the preservatives, especially liquids like olive oil. This contaminates the entire can, and more so if it is an old can. 

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Why Is Spoiled Tuna Bad?

Spoiled tuna contains bacteria and parasites, which can cause food poisoning, diarrhea, cramps, and more. All in all, if your tuna has gone bad or exhibits signs of spoilage, it is best to throw it out. You would not want to risk your health by consuming rotten fish. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Can I eat 5-day-old tuna?

Ans. You can eat 5-day-old tuna, yes. But it depends on the kind of tuna you are talking about. With canned ones, 5 days is the most you can have it for. If tuna is left over from the previous day, try consuming it within 2 to 3 days. Remember always to refrigerate it to enjoy it for longer.

Q2. Can you eat raw tuna?

Ans. Raw tuna is usually safe if properly handled and frozen to get rid of parasites. It is highly nutritious. But high mercury levels in specific species mean you should consume raw tuna in moderation.

Q3. Are canned tuna healthy?

Ans. Yes, canned tuna is healthy. It is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals like B-Complex and A and D vitamins. Its mineral content includes selenium, iron, and phosphorus. It has healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids such as DHA and EPA.

Q4. How long does tuna last once opened?

Ans. Once opened, tuna lasts for 3 to 5 days at best. Try to consume it within that time to avoid further health complications. Make sure you check the best-by date before consuming it. If there are signs of discolouration, odor, corrosion, leakage, or an explosive pop sound while opening the can, it’s bad news.

Q5. Why does canned tuna last so long?

Ans. Canned tuna is dipped in preservatives, making them last much longer than raw or leftover tuna. But they will only last long if there is no leakage and the seal is leak-proof. If you notice the seal leaking, there could be bacteria growth. Make sure you buy a properly sealed can, and you will be good to go.

The Bottom Line

Tuna is highly versatile. You can make tons of recipes with it, depending on your palette. But remember, it does go bad after a while. It is important you remember the shelf life and do not take chances with it. 

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Melissa Baker

Melissa Baker

I am a food lover and the founder of FoodQueries. I have years of experience when it comes to food. I have been cooking since childhood and I know a thing or two about storing, cooking and freezing food in the right way.