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Easy Tuna Chili Recipe

This quick and easy Tuna Chili recipe replaces ground meat with canned tuna and vegetables to make a hearty and healthy pot of delicious chili.

Perfect for a cool night or a quick weeknight dinner!

Tuna chili in a bowl garnished with avocado and red onion.

When there’s no time to grocery shop and all you have to work with are mostly pantry staples, this tuna chili recipe comes to the rescue.

Finally, a recipe for canned tuna that isn’t a casserole or tuna salad!

A hot bowl of homemade chili on a cool fall day is the absolute best meal.

Replacing ground meat with canned tuna makes it even quicker and easier to prepare. Not to mention many of the other ingredients (like canned beans) you probably already have on hand.

If you’re short on time and short on ingredients, this healthy tuna chili recipe is a great one to add to your collection.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Here are four reasons why this recipe is a keeper:

  • It’s budget-friendly. This tuna chili is made with simple, inexpensive ingredients.
  • It’s packed with protein. Between the canned tuna and the beans, you won’t miss the meat.
  • It’s super quick and easy. This chili tastes like it simmers all day, but it takes under an hour to make it.
  • It’s not boring. This healthy recipe is a unique way to use canned tuna.

Tuna chili in a pot with a wooden spoon in it.

Ingredient Notes

Here is a brief overview of the ingredients:

  • Vegetables: Yellow onions become sweeter and more flavorful as they simmer in the chili. Red bell pepper gives it a sweet and tangy flavor and a beautiful and appetizing vibrant red color.
  • Seasonings: Garlic Powder, chili powder, and red paprika flavor this chili perfectly.
  • Sugar & Salt: Sugar is optional and will give this chili a richer flavor and a touch of sweetness.
  • Canned Beans: A blend of black and red kidney beans boosts the protein and fiber content of this homemade chili. Use low-sodium canned beans to avoid sodium overload.
  • Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil lightly coats the pot to add moisture and prevent sticking. You can also use avocado oil or your favorite mild-tasting cooking oil.
  • Diced Tomatoes: Low-sodium canned diced tomatoes are a base for this recipe.
  • Canned Tuna (packed in water): Canned tuna is one of the healthiest, most affordable, and shelf-stable protein sources to stock up on. Do not drain the tuna before adding it to the chili.
  • Vegetable Broth: Broth is the base of this recipe. You can also use chicken stock. It’s better to use low-sodium broth to keep down the sodium content of the dish.

How To Make Tuna Chili

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to make this recipe:

  1. Saute the onion: In a heavy-bottomed pot, add olive oil and heat over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chopped onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent (about 4 minutes).
  2. Saute the red bell pepper: To the pot, add the sliced red bell pepper and saute with the onions until the peppers soften (2 to 3 minutes).
  3. Add the remaining ingredients: Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, red beans, tuna (and the water in the can), vegetable broth, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and sugar (if using). Stir well and add salt to taste.
  4. Simmer and serve: Raise the heat to bring the broth to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat, cover, and cook (low simmer), stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve with your favorite chili toppings.

Recipe Tips

Here are a few tips to help you make the best tuna chili:

  • You should only use tuna packed in water for this tuna chili. The water will naturally salt the chili and deepen the flavor. So hold off on adding any salt to the dish until after you add the canned tuna. Canned tuna in water can be quite salty, so only add salt to taste. You can also buy sodium-free canned tuna.
  • I keep my pantry stocked with BPA-free cans of beans to make chili. Be sure to rinse and drain the beans well.
  • You can absolutely use dried beans for this recipe. However, dried beans need to be soaked overnight, so be sure to plan ahead (I’m not always that well organized).

Tuna chili in a bowl garnished with avocado slices and red onion.

Variations & Serving Suggestions

If you want to serve your tuna chili just like in the pictures, garnish it with fresh sliced avocado, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro, and fresh lime wedges.

Shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped green onion, jalapeno slices, and hot sauce are also yummy chili toppings.

You can also prepare a fluffy side of quinoa or buckwheat to serve with tuna chili.

Wrap tuna chili with chopped veggies and guacamole in a sturdy whole wheat wrap or burrito-sized tortilla.

Keep it simple and serve a healthy bowl of tuna chili with a fresh green salad and a simple vinaigrette.

Feel free to add more or your favorite veggies like green bell pepper, jalapenos, zucchini, diced sweet potato, etc. You could also add fresh or frozen corn for a bit of sweetness and texture.

Storing & Freezing

  • Storing: Let tuna chili cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
  • Freezing: Let tuna chili cool completely to room temperature and then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 2 to 3 months. When ready to reheat, defrost tuna chili in the fridge and then reheat over medium heat.

Close up shot of tuna chili in a pot with a wooden spoon in the chili.

Frequently Asked Question

What is the best canned tuna in water?

StarKist Albacore White Tuna in Water is super easy to find at most grocery stores. Safe Catch, Bumble Bee, Safe Catch are also delicious.

Why does chili need sugar?

Adding sugar to chili balances the flavors and cuts the acidity from the tomatoes. You could also use a bit of honey or maple syrup.

Can I make tuna chili in the Instant Pot?

Yes! To make this yummy tuna chili in the Instant Pot, follow these easy steps:

    1. Turn the Instant Pot on SAUTE mode. Add the olive oil and heat until hot but not smoking.
    2. Add the onions and cook until softened (3 to 4 minutes) and then add the bell peppers and continue to cook until the peppers soften (2 to 3 minutes).
    3. Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, red beans, tuna (and the water in the can), vegetable broth, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and sugar (if using) to the pot. Stir well and add salt to taste.
    4. Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to cook at high pressure for 10 minutes (manually release the remaining pressure).
    5. Stir, salt to taste, and serve!

More Hearty Soup & Chili Recipes

Here are a few other recipes for cold nights:

Tuna Chili

Easy Tuna Chili Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 portions
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This tuna chili recipe is very easy to make using ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry. High in protein and very filling.


  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (398 ml/13.46 oz) low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (540 ml/19 oz) low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (540 ml/19 oz) low sodium red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans (170 g) tuna in water
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • salt to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent for about 4 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and cook until the pepper has softened for about 2 to 4 more minutes.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, red beans, tuna (together with water), vegetable broth, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and sugar. Mix and season with salt.
  3. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes.
Nutrition Information
Yield 5 Serving Size 1/5 of recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 464Total Fat 6.3gSaturated Fat 1.1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5.2gCholesterol 0mgSodium 406.9mgCarbohydrates 67.5gFiber 25.8gSugar 6.3gProtein 36.4g

Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.

Did you make this recipe?

If you tried this recipe, please give it a 5-star rating! To do this, click on the stars above. You can also leave a review or comment below. And don't forget to tag me if you share a picture on Instagram!

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Quay Robinson

Sunday 17th of September 2017

I Loved this tuna chilli recipe prep. It was quick and easy. I did add several other seasonings, though. I cant wait for it to be finished cooking. I am also cooking it on the charcoal grill outside! So we will see how the smokiness infuses into the dish!? Cyber?Hugs

Maria Ushakova

Monday 18th of September 2017

Oh, wow! It's such a great idea to make it on the grill. And everything tastes better when it's been prepared outside :)


Friday 14th of April 2017

I'm going to have to try this chili-it sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing it, and great blog.

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