The Many Types Of Canned Meats And Unexpected Ways To Use Them

Canned meat may not scream luxury when it comes to whipping up dinner, but if you're scouting for ways to make conveniently simple meals, canned meat cannot be beaten. Thankfully, there are a variety of canned meats available in grocery stores, and most of them come already fully cooked and ready to use. With these easy meat options on hand, you not only have the potential to save time and money but can also stash the cans for a rainy day, since most feature extended shelf lives.

So, what kind of canned meats are available on the market today? It turns out there are more varieties than you may think! We'll detail the many types of canned meats we've scouted in our local market, as well as some unique and unexpected ways you can use them in your next meal. If you're looking for fun and simple ways to pull together breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this is the post for you. Let's dive in.

Shredded pork

‌Using canned shredded pork can be a lifesaver when it comes to making a delicious and hearty meal without too much fuss. This fully-cooked meat makes for a quick and easy meal — all you really need to do is open up the can, drain the liquid, and heat the contents over the stove. Thankfully, canned pork is easily found at local grocery stores and is priced around $10 (at the time of publication) for a 28-ounce can.

As far as how to use it, we know what you're likely thinking — BBQ pulled pork on buns, right? Not quite. While you could certainly indulge in your can of pulled pork this way, there are other recipes to try that deviate from the norm. For an interesting spin on traditional BBQ pulled pork fare, try ladling pulled pork over cooked sweet potatoes for an instant sweet side dish. Simply heat the meat along with your favorite BBQ sauce and serve it hot over canned (or cooked from fresh) sweet potatoes.

If you're sick and tired of the whole BBQ spiel when it comes to shredded pork, you might consider giving pork burritos a go. Just heat the meat along with any Mexican-inspired seasonings (like cumin, chili powder, and lime), and you have a tasty filling to garnish with all your favorite burrito toppings.

Vienna sausages

‌Vienna sausages come in cans for a tasty little snack that packs plenty of protein and serves as a low-carb bite. Libby's Vienna Sausages are found in several grocery stores and consist of a blend of different meats like chicken, beef, and pork, along with a few additives, including sodium nitrite and sodium erythorbate. The sausages can be easily heated in the microwave per the instructions, and since they are already fully cooked, it'll only take under a minute before they're hot and ready to eat.

As far as how to use these canned sausages, consider including them in a keto-style gumbo along with a little bit of shrimp and cubed chicken. You could also throw them in a skillet with cabbage, complete with onion, chives, and garlic. Just be sure to cut your sausages into rounds and sear until lightly browned before adding them in for a yummy charred flavor that tastes oh-so-delicious against the backdrop of subtle-tasting cabbage. 

If that's still not unique enough for you, try making arroz con salchichas using your canned Vienna sausages. Arroz con salchichas simply translates to "rice with sausages" and tastes just as yummy as it sounds. Get creative and give it a go — these inexpensive sausages can cost as little as 98 cents per can, so stock up and get cooking.


Tuna is a household staple, so you probably aren't too surprised to find it on our list of canned meats. There are so many ways to use canned tuna, and thanks to its long shelf life, it's the perfect choice for emergency reserves or everyday fare.

One thing we find truly awesome about using tuna is that you don't have to worry about heating it first. While this is certainly the case with most items on this list as far as safety concerns, most people won't want to indulge in, say, canned sausages that are cold or at room temperature. Tuna, on the other hand, remains tasty either way and can be utilized for both hot and cold dishes, making it a versatile and important commodity to have on hand.

For unique ways to use tuna outside of the traditional tuna sandwich or tuna noodle casserole, consider adding it to your next cheesy baked potato or using it to fill cheesy pasta shells, crescent rings, or wraps. You can also use tuna to top cornbread, adding melted cheddar on top to finish it off. Trust us, although tuna on cornbread with cheddar sounds a little weird, it's truly amazing.


Salmon is traditionally considered a luxury ingredient, and while buying it canned takes a little bit of that feeling away, there are still plenty of advantages to this format. Apart from its various health benefits and the overall convenience of having canned salmon in your kitchen at the ready, there are multiple ways it can be used in lunch, dinner, and even breakfast recipes.

Consider adding canned salmon to your morning egg whites for a high protein and delicious way to get your nutrients first thing in the morning. Stir it into your pasta along with lemon butter and herbs for a savory lunch, or use it as an interesting component in salads. Alternatively, go the Southern route and fry it up with a few other tasty ingredients to make salmon croquettes, or make canned salmon burger patties.

It's worth noting that you can expect to pay more — much more — for canned salmon than you would for tuna. At the time of publication, canned salmon in our area was going for around 28 cents per ounce, while canned tuna hovered around 17 cents per ounce. Nevertheless, it makes up for it with the novelty factor.


There are a variety of ways to use canned ham, especially considering the different formats available on the market. Some canned hams can be quite large, weighing up to three pounds or more, while other products come in smaller portions of about 5 ounces each. Depending on the recipe you intend to use, any of these options will work, so you'll need to gauge for yourself which is best suited for your culinary endeavor.

Among the various ways to prepare canned ham, you can make an old-fashioned style recipe, similar to what you would do with a whole store-bought ham. Of course, this version will be a lot smaller and won't work for diced ham varieties, but the taste will be similar if you're using a whole canned ham. Score the top of the ham and make a glaze out of brown sugar, pineapple, mustard, and spices. Pour this concoction over the meat and bake until it's fully warmed through.

Other unexpected methods for using canned ham include making ham-infused mac and cheese or ham and cheese stuffed waffles. Of course, you can also use the ham traditionally to make sandwiches and salads, but sometimes it's fun to jazz things up a little bit, isn't it?

Chicken breast

Having lean chicken breasts already cooked, canned, and ready to use is incredibly convenient. Chicken breast is naturally healthy, so it's a bonus to be able to buy it in canned form. However, canned versions sometimes contain additives not usually present in fresh chicken breast. Watch for sodium phosphate, modified corn starch, and other additives if the use of those kinds of ingredients bothers you.

With that out of the way, canned chicken breast is a versatile option that can be used in multiple recipes. Keto baked chicken nuggets are one unique idea that combines canned chicken, egg, mozzarella, parmesan, and seasoning. Mold the mixture into nuggets and bake — that's it. Another great way to use canned chicken is to make stuffing with it. While many stuffing recipes have the essence and flavor of meats like chicken, this recipe will actually feature real pieces of meat in each bite, making it a distinct and tasty option, especially for the holidays. All in all, it might not be the same as freshly sliced chicken breast, but it'll do, especially for the dishes we mentioned. 


You've probably heard of SPAM, but you may not know exactly what this processed meat contains. As it turns out, SPAM is basically just pork blended with ham. It has a few additives in it as well and can come in different varieties, though the traditional version of this canned meat seems to be by far the most popular. SPAM makes for a convenient meat choice that boasts a long shelf-life, much like most of the items mentioned on this list. It has gained tremendous popularity throughout the years and is commonly consumed with eggs and rice for breakfast in some places (as seen amongst the locals in Hawaii).

As for unexpected ways to use SPAM, try the inexpensive version of takeout with General Tso's SPAM with ramen recipe or get fancy with a SPAM version of Kimbap. For a sweet alternative, try making maple-flavored monkey bread with cubes of ham, or cook and coat SPAM in BBQ sauce to create a mock version of "burnt ends." Whichever way you use it, just be sure to keep your consumption at a minimum if you're watching your sodium intake — this processed meat tends to be high in salt, so bear that in mind as you indulge.

Roast beef

‌Canned roast beef is a great alternative to the real thing, especially when you want a hearty and savory option without having to spend hours cooking a pot roast from scratch. You'll find different varieties of canned roast beef available, with some containing better ingredients than others, and of course, the quality to match. Nevertheless, there are plenty of creative ways to utilize your canned roast beef, from whipping together nachos to other more exciting dishes.

We love using canned roast beef to serve a quick yet filling stroganoff. If you're anything like us, you enjoy the rich umami flavor of this dish but hate preparing the meat for it. Instead of settling for ground beef, go ahead and pick up several cans of roast beef and get to work. Combine the meat with all the traditional goodness of stroganoff and serve it over warm buttered egg noodles for a deliciously easy bite.

Other distinctly different ways to use canned roast beef include making a Philly cheesesteak dip (umm ... delicious), roast beef hash browns, or chili con carne. No matter which you choose, we're willing to bet you'll love having canned roast beef on hand; it's convenient, effortless, and scrumptious.

Corned beef

Canned corned beef is commonly sold and makes for several yummy options when you're planning meals for the day. As far as breakfast goes, try adding cubed corn beef to your waffles (it sounds weird but is delicious), then drizzling the top with maple syrup and devouring the sweet and savory combo. We've also seen recipes for corned beef hash quiche and corned beef potato pancakes, both of which are surprising yet enticing ways to serve up this inexpensive canned meat.

In addition to breakfast options, feel free to use corned beef in other recipes including corned beef casserole, spaghetti with corned beef, or even corned beef cabbage. Priced cheaply at the grocery stores we visit, keeping a few cans or more on hand is a great option for guaranteeing a quick meal at arm's reach, especially when the last thing you feel like doing is pulling together dinner after a busy day.


‌There are so many dishes to make with turkey. Nevertheless, we tend to only think of this particular meat around the holidays, even though it's lean, flavorful, and full of protein. You can typically find canned turkey in the store, and you can substitute it in recipes that call for chicken and still be satisfied with the results. For example, try subbing out canned turkey for chicken the next time you make a "chicken" salad. 

For an even more creative option, replace the chicken and add turkey to a traditional chicken tetrazzini recipe and you'll realize that canned turkey is a tasty choice to incorporate. Another great way to use canned turkey is to add it to a pot pie. Use all the flavorful elements of a traditional chicken pot pie, but this time, swap the meat with turkey. You can use turkey broth instead of chicken broth if you have some on hand for added flavor.

Lastly, making a turkey stuffing casserole is a breeze if you have a canned turkey on hand. Though this is a more Thanksgiving-style dish, it can be served at any time of the year. Simply combine stuffing, turkey, sour cream, frozen veggies, and seasonings before drizzling a yummy gravy over the top and baking until brown and bubbly.


Mention of sardines may turn some stomachs out there, and we'll admit, this fishy tin-canned snack doesn't have the best reputation. With that said, there are several ways you can use sardines to make them worthwhile, consequently turning any disdain you have for them on its side.

We recommend using canned sardines to make a yummy spread for toast. Simply mash the sardines, combine them with butter and lemon juice, and spread over crusty bread for a delectable snack. You can also add seasoning to your liking, from plain salt and pepper to a bit of garlic, herbs, or chili flakes — whatever suits your taste buds. 

Another idea is to add the sardines to a flavored pasta dish for a unique break from the traditional chicken, shrimp, and ground beef routine. Simply stir the sardines into the pasta dish of your choice for a coastal-inspired meal. Be sure to drain the sardines before using, and for an extra touch, consider frying them with a bit of garlic, onion, and wine to impart more flavor.


This may be hard to come across, as it seems to be a more popular find in the U.K. than it is in the U.S. If you do happen to run across canned meatballs, consider yourself lucky — there's a lot you can do with them, especially if they're covered in gravy. 

One option to use up a can of meatballs and gravy is to cook a pot of egg noodles with butter and a bit of seasoning. In the meantime, heat the canned meatballs in a pot until they are warmed through, adding a little flour if needed to help thicken the gravy. From there, simply ladle the meatballs over the noodles along with extra gravy, and serve with a leafy side salad or your choice of veggies. You could also consider using this conveniently canned meat to spoon over cooked rice with sauteed onions. Or for a hearty comforting meal, serve it over a piping hot serving of homemade mashed potatoes along with peas and carrots. 

Dealing with meatballs in marinara? No problem. Heat them through and layer the meat on a hoagie with mozzarella and parmesan for an easy homemade version of a meatball sub. You could also keep the meatballs the way they are, place them in a baking dish, and load 'em up with Italian cheeses and bake. Either way, using canned meatballs is a great way to get dinner ready fast, especially when you've got picky eaters joining you at the table.