How Long Does Canned Tuna Last?

Found an old canned tuna that’s a month (or a year) past its date? You’re probably wondering how long does canned tuna last, or if it goes bad at all.

If that’s you, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • the shelf life of canned tuna (and if the best-by date on the label is useful or not)
  • spoilage of canned tuna (and how to tell if yours is safe to eat or not)
  • storing the can and the leftovers (in case you want to make sure you’re doing it right)

Interested? Let’s dive in.

Does canned tuna go bad? Probably not, as long as the can stays intact

How Long Does Canned Tuna Last?

Unopened canned tuna is pretty much safe to eat for years past the date on the label, as long as the can is intact. Once you open it, canned tuna lasts 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

Canned food, especially store-bought, lasts for years, and canned tuna is no exception.

While some reputable sources state that it lasts forever, I probably wouldn’t dare to open a can that’s 30 years old. But if it’s “expired” for only a few years, it’s no big deal (at least for me).


The date on the label of canned tuna refers to food quality, not safety.

How long does tuna last? Thebest by date helps only so much
Canned tuna best by date

Now let’s touch upon quality. While the producers assure you that the product will retain quality for 3 to 5 years (depending on the brand) of canning, there’s little reason it shouldn’t keep it much longer.

The tuna is in a (pretty much) sterile environment, so there’s nothing fishy going on inside. Therefore, a 9-year-old can shouldn’t go bad or even taste much worse than a 4-year-old one.


You will judge the quality yourself after opening that old canned tuna anyway.

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

Canned tuna (unopened)best-by + 5+ years
Canned tuna (opened)3 – 5 days
How to store canned tuna leftovers? An airtight container is the best option.
Canned tuna leftovers in an airtight container

Does Canned Tuna Go Bad? How To Tell If Canned Tuna Is Bad?

Although it’s not a common occurrence, even unopened canned tuna can spoil.

Here’s when you should get rid of canned tuna:

  • The can is damaged, swollen, leaking, rusting, or dented. If there’s anything wrong with the can, discard it. Most likely, something went wrong during the canning process; that’s all. Consider it bad luck.
  • The can has exploded during opening or made a loud popping sound. Carbonation in canned tuna means it’s no good. It’s not champagne.
  • The tuna gives an off or acrid smell. An off smell is a sure sign it’s not safe to eat.
  • Color has changed. Usually, canned tuna is between light brown and light pink, sometimes has a bit of a reddish hue. If it’s dark brown or even black, it’s no good.
  • Tuna leftovers sit in the fridge for more than 5 days. If they sit refrigerated for that long, discard them no matter what.

If none of the above is the case, give that tuna a taste, and decide if it’s okay to eat or not based on that. Your taste buds don’t lie.

If you just opened the can, the fish will most likely be okay, and ready to use in your tuna salad (here’s how long tuna salad lasts).

Tuna out of the can
Tuna out of the can

How To Store Canned Tuna

Keep unopened canned tuna at room temperature and away from sources of heat. Once you open it, transfer the leftovers to an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Canned foods don’t need much in terms of storage – just toss them in a cabinet in the pantry or kitchen, and you’re good to go. There’s no need for refrigeration or anything – the can will make sure the food stays safe.

But remember that storing cans in places where the temperature exceeds 90°F (or 32°C) or freezing them is a bad idea. Either can compromise the seals, and you know how that ends.


If it’s a hot summer, it’s probably better to move your canned food from the kitchen (where it’s often warm) to the pantry or somewhere else that maintains a slightly lower temperature.

Tuna in tuna salad
Tuna in tuna salad (prep)

One more thing.

Most of us forget about washing the cans before opening them. By doing that, you prevent any bacteria that’s on the can from contaminating the food. That’s especially important if you need to store the tuna for a few days.

When it comes to leftovers, put them in a plastic container and into the fridge. That’s all.

Canned tuna leftovers
Canned tuna leftovers

Shelf Life and Storage of Canned Tuna Summary

Hope you found this article useful. Here’s a short recap of what we’ve covered:

  • How long does unopened canned tuna last? Unopened canned tuna lasts for years past the printed date as long as the can stays intact. The tuna retains best quality for 3 to 5 years of canning, but stays safe way past that period.
  • How long is canned tuna good for after expiration date? There’s no way to tell. Some sources say that canned tuna is safe pretty much indefinitely (assuming that the can isn’t compromised), so as long as you’re comfortable with the date, and the tuna seems to be perfectly fine, you should be good to go.
  • How long does opened canned tuna last? Once you open the can, tuna lasts for 3 to 5 days in the fridge before it’s no longer safe to eat.

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