What is gluten free tuna?

What is tuna?

Tuna is a saltwater fish that belongs to the mackerel family. There are many different species of tuna, but the most common ones used for human consumption are:

  • Albacore (Thunnus alalunga)
  • Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)
  • Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)
  • Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)
  • Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Tuna is a very popular fish due to its mild flavor, low fat content, and high protein value. It is commonly eaten fresh, canned, frozen, and in many types of prepared dishes. When it comes to canned tuna, the albacore (“white meat”) and skipjack (“light meat”) species are most commonly used.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue. The only treatment for gluten-related disorders is adhering to a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Is tuna naturally gluten-free?

Yes, tuna is naturally gluten-free. Since it is a fish, it does not contain any gluten proteins. You will not find ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye used in tuna fishing and processing. Plain tuna steaks, fillets, or canned tuna packed in water does not pose any problems for people on a gluten-free diet. They can safely eat these forms of plain tuna without worrying about gluten exposure.

Why would tuna not be gluten-free?

While tuna itself is naturally gluten-free, sometimes tuna-based products or tuna prepared by restaurants/food manufacturers may contain ingredients or come into contact with ingredients that contain gluten:

  • Breading/batter – Tuna fillets or steaks are sometimes breaded or battered before frying or baking, which could contain wheat flour.
  • Sauces/marinades – Many prepared tuna dishes come with soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or other gluten containing sauces/marinades.
  • Broth – Tuna used in canned broth products or tuna casseroles may be made with wheat-based broths.
  • Shared equipment – Tuna processed on shared equipment with gluten-containing foods may be cross-contaminated.
  • Starches – Some brands add textured vegetable protein (TVP) or wheat-based starches to their canned tuna to affect the texture.

So you always need to check the ingredients list and preparation methods before consuming flavored, breaded, canned in broth, or restaurant-prepared tuna dishes if you are on a gluten-free diet. Cross-contamination is also a possibility in processing facilities.

How to find gluten-free tuna products

Here are some tips for finding gluten-free tuna products:

  • Check ingredients – Read the ingredients on all packaged tuna products. Avoid ones with wheat, barley, rye, malt, and ambiguous ingredients like “starch.”
  • Look for gluten-free labels – Many products that are tested to have less than 20ppm of gluten will say “gluten-free” on the packaging.
  • Contact manufacturers – If it’s unclear from the packaging, you can call or email manufacturers to inquire about gluten content and processing procedures.
  • Shop specialty aisles – Many stores now have dedicated gluten-free sections which can make it easier to identify safe options.
  • Buy plain – Choose fresh plain tuna steaks/fillets or canned tuna packed in water to avoid sauces, breading, and marinades.
  • Make it yourself – Prepare tuna salad, tuna patties, tuna casseroles, etc. at home from scratch so you control all the ingredients.

Many well-known tuna brands like StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee offer gluten-free options that are plain, in water, or with no gluten-containing ingredients. You can find these in most major grocery stores.

What to watch out for at restaurants

Eating tuna dishes at restaurants requires extra diligence:

  • Breading – Request plain grilled/baked tuna with no breading.
  • Sauces – Ask for sauces and marinades to be served on the side.
  • Sides – Make sure side dishes like salad dressings, soup bases, and croutons are gluten-free.
  • Kitchen practices – Inquire about cross-contamination and separate cookware for gluten-free dishes.
  • Broths – Request tuna casseroles be made with a gluten-free broth.
  • Sushi – Verify that soy sauce provided and other ingredients used to make sushi rolls are gluten-free.

The key is communicating your needs clearly. Most restaurants are accommodating of gluten-free diner requests these days. Checking menus online in advance helps too.

Gluten-free tuna recipes

Here are some delicious sample recipes for preparing gluten-free tuna dishes at home:

Gluten-Free Tuna Salad

Ingredients Quantity
5 oz can of tuna packed in water, drained 1
Mayonnaise 2 tbsp
Celery, diced 2 tbsp
Carrot, grated 2 tbsp
Onion, finely diced 1 tbsp
Lemon juice 1 tsp
Salt and pepper To taste


  1. In a bowl, combine drained tuna, mayonnaise, celery, carrots, onions, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  2. Mix ingredients until well combined.
  3. Serve on gluten-free bread, lettuce wraps, or crackers.

Gluten-Free Tuna Cakes

Ingredients Quantity
5 oz can tuna packed in water 2
Eggs, beaten 2
Celery, minced 2 tbsp
Onion, minced 2 tbsp
Parsley, chopped 1 tbsp
Garlic powder 1/2 tsp
Salt and pepper To taste
Almond flour 1/4 cup
Olive oil or ghee For frying


  1. In a bowl, mix together tuna, eggs, celery, onions, parsley, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  2. Shape into patties and coat all sides with almond flour.
  3. In a skillet, heat olive oil or ghee over medium heat. Fry patties for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown.
  4. Serve with desired gluten-free condiments or on a salad.

Baked Lemon Tuna

Ingredients Quantity
Tuna steaks 2
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Garlic, minced 2 cloves
Lemon juice 3 tbsp
Parsley, chopped 1 tbsp
Salt and pepper To taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Pat tuna steaks dry and brush with olive oil. Place in a baking dish.
  3. In a small bowl, mix garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Spoon over tuna steaks.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until tuna flakes easily with a fork. Do not overcook.
  5. Serve with roasted vegetables or a fresh salad.

Is canned tuna healthy?

Canned tuna can be a very healthy addition to your diet if eaten in moderation. Here are some benefits of canned tuna:

  • High in protein – A 3 oz serving contains about 22g of protein, providing over 40% of the daily value.
  • Low in calories – Half a can contains around 90 calories only.
  • Good fats – It has omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are good for the heart, brain, and eyes.
  • Vitamins & minerals – Provides niacin, vitamin B12, selenium, and potassium.
  • Convenience – Canned tuna is inexpensive, readily available, and has a long shelf life.

However, some downsides of canned tuna include:

  • High sodium content – Canned tuna can average 300-500 mg per serving.
  • BPA concerns – Cans may use BPA liner containing bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor.
  • Mercury levels – Larger fish like albacore can have higher mercury compared to salmon.

To make canned tuna healthier, some tips are:

  • Rinse before use – This can remove up to 40% of the sodium.
  • Choose low-sodium options – Many brands offer low or no salt added versions.
  • Eat more light meat – Skipjack and yellowfin have lower mercury levels than albacore.
  • Pick BPA-free cans – Some manufacturers use BPA-free liners; check labels.
  • Limit to 1-2 servings weekly – Eat a variety of fish to minimize mercury exposure.

Overall, tuna is very nutrient dense and can be part of a healthy diet when care is taken to minimize additives and contaminants. Moderating intake and combining it with other healthy whole foods is key.


Tuna is a versatile, lean protein that is naturally gluten-free. However, when buying packaged tuna products or ordering tuna dishes in restaurants, precautions need to be taken to ensure gluten-free preparation when you are on a gluten-free diet. Read labels carefully, research brands, ask questions, and specify how you want your tuna prepared. With some careful sourcing and cooking, tuna can be enjoyed safely by virtually all individuals who aregluten-free. Preparing tuna salads, tacos, patties, and other dishes at home from naturally gluten-free whole ingredients gives you full control over a gluten-free meal. Tuna makes a nutritious addition to a well-balanced gluten-free diet.

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