17 Canned Foods You Should Always Have On Hand

canned foods on cabinet shelf
canned foods on cabinet shelf - Boogich/Getty Images

Canned food often gets a bad rap. It can be high in salt and sugar, often contains preservatives, and is assumed to be less nutritious than fresh food (even if that's not always the case). On the other hand, canned food is often cheaper than fresh, and some of the most versatile canned foods are cupboard staples, great to keep on hand and use in a variety of dishes.

From chickpeas to chipotles in adobo, and beans to canned fruit, there are some canned foods you should always have in your pantry. Not only are many of these delicious in their own right, but they're also essential additions to tons of popular recipes you might want to whip up next time you're in the kitchen. Whether you're prepping for a zombie apocalypse or simply stocking up to ensure you have plenty of ingredients for your recipes, our roundup of canned foods you should always have on hand is a great place to start preparing your shopping list.

Read more: Canned Soups You Should And Shouldn't Buy


Canned beans
Canned beans - New Africa/Shutterstock

Beans, beans, good for the heart; the more you eat, the more you ... Well, you get the idea. We're not just talking about baked beans here. Think kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, and more. Canned beans are incredibly versatile, and they're much quicker and more convenient to prepare than dried beans, as no soaking is required. They've got a long shelf life, too, and will last from two to five years due to their low acidity.

Look for canned beans that don't include nasty extras such as salt and additives, and always ensure you rinse your beans well before using them in your recipes. Add them to soups, stew, or chili. Pop some black beans in your quesadillas or tacos. Whip up a fresh, herby summer bean salad, add them to your pasta sauce, or whizz them into a rich, creamy bean dip.


Canned tuna in bowl
Canned tuna in bowl - Ac_bnphotos/Getty Images

Tuna is one of the best canned foods to keep on hand, and not just because of its versatility. Tuna is also a healthy choice, high in protein and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which a research review written up in the journal Cureus indicates can keep your brain healthy. Use it to make a classic tuna salad or casserole, top a jacket potato, or make a tuna melt. Enjoy it with crackers or make salade niçoise, if you're feeling a bit fancy.

Canned tuna has a shelf life of three years — though it's so delicious, it probably won't stick around that long! Always check the date on the can before using it, though.


Canned tomatoes
Canned tomatoes - Etiennevoss/Getty Images

Tomatoes are one of the best canned foods to keep around, and you'll find they come in several different varieties, from crushed and chopped to plum tomatoes as well as tomato sauce and paste or puree. Keeping some of each type of tomatoes at hand will ensure you've always got what you need to whip up delicious pasta dishes, sauces, soup, or homemade pizza. One of the best uses for canned tomatoes has to be a hearty classic lasagna that will feed the whole family.

You can afford to stock up on canned tomatoes, as they'll keep for up to 18 months in the pantry. If you have any leftovers, you can keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to seven days.


Cans of Spam
Cans of Spam - Kevin Schafer/Getty Images

Spam may be more popular in countries like South Korea, where it's associated with wealth and prosperity and often given as a gift at Lunar New Year, but it's still a pantry staple in the U.S. Spam has a best-by date that's usually around three years from its date of manufacture. To enjoy Spam at its best, you'll want to consume it within that three-year window. Its maximum shelf life is a matter of debate, with some saying it lasts indefinitely if stored properly, though there are no guarantees what it will look or taste like!

Part of Spam's appeal is its ability to be used in a variety of different recipes. Make spam fritters or fries, add diced spam to omelets or fried rice, or whip up a tasty breakfast hash. It's not the cheapest canned food on this list, but its versatility and long shelf life make up for the high price.


Campbell's soup cans
Campbell's soup cans - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There's a variety of canned soup out there to suit all tastes, whether your go-to is cream of chicken, lentil and bacon, or mushroom. But it's not only a quick snack or warming meal; it's also a pantry staple to keep on hand for all kinds of recipes. Use canned soup to whip up sauces for casseroles or pasta dishes, like tuna noodle casserole.

Try to buy the best brand of canned soup around and look for brands with as few additives as possible. Acidic canned soups like tomato will keep for at least a year in the pantry, and less acidic ones can last a few years, so make sure you have a few cans at hand to put together a speedy meal.

Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk
Canned coconut milk - Olga Gagarova/Getty Images

Coconut milk might not be the first canned food you think of when stocking up, but it makes a great base for Asian dishes and curries like Thai green curry chicken. If you're cooking for a vegan crowd, you can use it in place of dairy. It's also a great way to thicken sauces and soups, or cut some of the spice level for those who don't like their food as hot.

Don't forget to shake the can before using, as it can separate into coconut cream and water depending on how long it's been stored. In the pantry, it will keep for between two to five years from the date of purchase, and if you have any left over after making your recipe, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.


Canned corn
Canned corn - Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

If there's one canned good every household needs to have, it's corn. Provided you pick up canned corn with no added salt or sugar, it's pretty nutritious! You can add it to all kinds of dishes, too, from salads to pasta, pizza, tacos, and quesadillas. Or why not whip up corn fritters or chowder?

Canned corn will keep for between two to five years in the pantry, and any leftovers can be refrigerated for three to four days after opening. Because it can be a bit on the bland side, properly seasoning canned corn is essential to bring out its natural sweetness. Try some smoked paprika to enhance the flavor, or add a squeeze of zesty lime or lemon to corn before popping it in your tacos.


Pumpkin puree
Pumpkin puree - Maslova Valentina/Shutterstock

Pumpkins aren't just for fall — with canned pumpkin you can enjoy the vibrant orange veggie all year round. Buying pumpkin in a can is much quicker than de-seeding and preparing a fresh pumpkin, and you can do so much with it — plus, it will keep in the pantry for up to five years.

Make pumpkin pie, add pumpkin puree to pancakes, or whip up a pumpkin spice latte. Just remember that not all canned pumpkin is equal. Some canned pumpkin brands aren't really pumpkin at all but instead contain squash or a mixture of pumpkin and squash. If you're a pumpkin purist, make sure to check the label to ensure you're getting 100% pumpkin!


Canned anchovies
Canned anchovies - Magone/Getty Images

Love them or hate them, salty, flavorful little anchovies add umami to almost anything you can imagine. Pop them on a pizza, amp up your pasta puttanesca, make Caesar salad, or add them to a casserole or stew and watch them disintegrate into the sauce for bags of flavor.

Canned anchovies are incredibly versatile, and with a shelf life of five years from the date of purchase, there's no rush to use them up. Once the can is opened, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, as they can be whiffy! They'll keep for three to four days once opened.


Great Value canned chicken
Great Value canned chicken - Jfmdesign/Getty Images

Ok, so canned chicken may not sound like the most appetizing idea ever, but it's already cooked and is a quick alternative to fresh chicken. Depending which brand you buy, it might be cheaper, too. In the pantry, canned chicken will last for up to five years, so keeping a few cans on hand for your favorite recipes is a must.

Add it to casseroles, chicken salad, pot pies, enchiladas, or tacos — the choice is yours. There's no rinsing or draining; just open the can and add it to whatever you like for a speedy lunch, dinner, or snack.


Bowl of chickpeas
Bowl of chickpeas - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Dried chickpeas usually need soaking for a few hours or overnight, but you can eliminate all that fuss with canned chickpeas. A quick alternative to their dried cousins, they're staples you need on hand to whip up fresh, garlicky hummus or other dips or make falafel. Try tossing them with oil and spices for crunchy, spicy roasted chickpeas that taste great with anything. Or use the liquid in the chickpeas' can, known as aquafaba, as an egg substitute to make a whole range of delicious recipes, from meringues to chocolate mousse.

Canned chickpeas will keep for up to five years from the date of purchase. Don't forget to remove any leftovers from the can and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They'll last for three to four days if stored in this way.


Can of olives
Can of olives - Olgakr/Getty Images

Forget fresh olives and stock your pantry with the canned ones, whether you prefer green or black. Packed with monounsaturated fatty acids that can reduce your risk of heart disease and fight inflammation (per a review in Nutrients), olives are a healthy choice when consumed in moderation. They're a great snack but can be used in a variety of different recipes. Pop them on your pizza, add them to pasta, make salade niçoise, or whip up homemade herby olive tapenade or tomato olive salsa.

Canned olives keep longer than their fresh siblings, too. In the pantry, you can store them for 12 to 18 months from the date of purchase.


Canned salmon in bowl
Canned salmon in bowl - A-lesa/Getty Images

The texture of canned salmon might be quite different from fresh salmon, but it packs similar nutritional benefits, with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. This fishy staple is great served simply on crackers with salt, pepper and lemon, but it can also be used to create so many recipes.

Make salmon fishcakes or burgers, add it to salad or fried rice, or throw some into a frittata or other egg-based dish. You could even whip up a salmon salad for sandwiches with some mayo, mustard, lemon juice, capers, and red onion. Yum! The best thing about canned salmon? It'll keep for up to five years from the date of purchase.

Chopped Green Chiles

Chopped green chiles
Chopped green chiles - Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

Chopped green chiles are that pantry staple canned food you never knew you needed, yet you most definitely do. Perfect for spicing up any meal, they're already diced and ready to use in whatever way takes your fancy. The heat level can vary depending on the brand, so experiment to find the one that's right for you before stocking up.

Add these babies to guacamole for a spicy hit, pop some in your eggs, spice up your dips, or throw them into soups and sauces. They're also amazing on nachos or in quesadillas for that extra spicy kick. In the pantry, store them for up to five years from the date of purchase. Once opened, keep them in a covered container in the fridge, where they'll last for a month or two.


Tinned peaches in bowl
Tinned peaches in bowl - Supermimicry/Getty Images

From peaches, pears, and pineapple to fruit salad, canned fruit is often overlooked but super versatile and delicious. It'll keep for around 18 months from the date of purchase, giving you plenty of time to come up with inspiration on how best to use it.

Use a squeeze of lime or lemon on your tinned fruit to help bring out the flavor before adding it to your favorite dishes. Whiz some into a smoothie, use it to top oatmeal, make a fruity trifle, add some to your breakfast yogurt, or eat some for pudding (ice cream optional). If you're feeling really indulgent, make brandied fruit to accompany a cheese board for entertaining.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Canned condensed milk
Canned condensed milk - Jill Ferry/Getty Images

Though it might seem like something you used to find in grandma's pantry, some canned foods are timeless, and sweetened condensed milk is one of them. Keeping a few cans of this super-sweet concoction on hand means you'll always be able to whip up a speedy dulce de leche when the craving strikes. It's a crucial ingredient in key lime pie, and you can use it to make Vietnamese iced coffee on hot summer days. Plenty of speedy fudge recipes use sweetened condensed milk as a base, too.

Sweetened condensed milk will keep for up to 12 months from the date of purchase, but it's practically a given that it won't last that long in most households. There are too many sweet treats you can create with this.

Chipotles In Adobo

Chipotles in adobo
Chipotles in adobo - Hortimages/Shutterstock

The final canned food on our list isn't one that everyone will think of — but it definitely should be. Rich, smoky chipotles (dried, smoked jalapeños) in adobo sauce are the best way to add zest to a whole range of dishes. Add some oomph to Taco Tuesday, serve up the best chili this side of Texas, or pop some in your soup, beans, guac, or even egg sandwiches.

Though they'll likely not last long in the average pantry — they're just too delicious — you can keep unopened chipotles in adobo for three to five years. Once opened, transfer the contents to an airtight container and store in the fridge. There, they can last for up to two months, but if they show signs of turning moldy, it's time to dispose of them.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.