Here are a few easy ways to turn some of your most common canned foods into enjoyable meals, because you might be on lockdown but your taste buds aren't.

It's easy to take canned food for granted. But right now many of us are looking to canned food as the mainstay of our shelf-stable food supply. The trick is to make the most of these everyday staples and turn them into satisfying meals you actually want to eat.

Canned Meats

Spam Fried Rice
| Credit: Matthew Francis

Canned meats are protein-rich foods you can eat right out of the can if you need to. But if you do have time and some other ingredients at hand, you can easily turn canned meats into great meals. Some meats, such as canned chicken, are a blank canvas and take on the taste of whatever recipe you use them in, while others, such as Spam, bring the party with them.

Drain well. To reduce the "canned" flavor of mild-tasting canned meats like chicken, drain away as much liquid as you can before using the meat in a recipe that adds a lot of flavor. Try this recipe for Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup using canned chicken.

Browning is your friend.  To bring out the taste of more full-flavored canned meat like Spam, your best move is to brown it in a frying pan or oven. This caramelizes the meat and intensifies the distinctive taste.

Mix it up. After browning a canned meat like Spam, go one step further and add it to other ingredients such as vegetables and rice to make a complete meal. Try this easy recipe for Spam Fried Rice.


Canned Tuna

Spicy Canned Tuna Fish Cakes
| Credit: Matthew Francis

Canned tuna is a beloved pantry staple for making tuna salad and tuna casseroles, and has the added benefit of being a heart-healthy source of protein.

Know your tuna. You can buy canned tuna packed in water, packed in oil, or packed in its own fat — all with or without salt. What you buy depends on your own flavor preference. Canned tuna packed in its own fat will have the strongest "fishy" flavor, while tuna packed in water will taste the least fishy.

Go beyond basic salad and casseroles. Mix in eggs, bread crumbs, onions, mustard, garlic powder, and Sriracha to turn canned tuna into Spicy Canned Tuna Fish Cakes, or plate it up with boiled eggs, canned beans, and steamed green beans to make a Nicoise-Style Tuna Salad With White Beans and Olives.


Canned Beans

Quick Black Bean Chilaquiles
| Credit: Matthew Francis

Canned beans are packed with protein and fiber, and come in a wide variety that you can use in all kinds of recipes.

Just get the beans. Try to stick with canned beans that don't have a lot of flavorings added. This gives you greater flexibility to choose what kinds of recipes you want to make with them. While they do have their own taste, canned beans tend to take on the flavor of whatever recipe you use them in.

Save the liquid. If you're using canned chickpeas, they come packed in a liquid called aquafaba. Instead of draining that away, you can save it and add it to hummus, whip it to make vegan meringues, or use it as an egg substitute. The liquid from other beans can be added to soups and stews for flavor and richness.

Stretch a recipe. Add canned beans to just about any savory recipe to bulk it up and get more servings. This recipe for Quick Black Bean Chilaquiles makes a satisfying meal any time of day.