When a reader requested we rank the best canned chicken, the first thing I thought of were those Sweet Sue whole canned chickens that come encapsulated in gelatinous muck like something out of a horror movie. Somehow I’ve managed to completely ignore the fact that, right there in the canned tuna aisle, there are rows and rows of canned chicken—no bones, no goo, just chicken meat in water. It’s a great shortcut for chicken salad and Buffalo chicken dip when you don’t have time to pick a rotisserie chicken carcass clean. I’m sure it’s also handy for casseroles. I love tuna noodle casserole—why not chicken noodle casserole? Live a little! And, look, I’ve made it easier for everyone to live a little by finding the best chicken in a can at the grocery store.
What were we looking for in the best canned chicken? Well, canned chicken should taste like chicken. A lot of canned chicken is very dry and flavorless—there’s no chicken flavor. No chicken fat. Just meat that’s been sitting in briny water. Tuna still tastes like tuna after it’s been packaged that way; chicken, not so much. If you open a can of chicken and see chicken fat, that’s a good sign (fat = flavor). This is a short list because one canned chicken just tasted so much better than all the others—but it’s a good list if you like chicken in a can! Whether you’re making chicken salad or stocking up on canned food for the apocalypse, this is the best canned chicken.
- Hormel Chicken Breast in Water
The number one canned chicken if you insist on eating only white meat chicken, this Hormel Chicken Breast in Water is the way to go. There’s fat in the can and the chicken actually tastes like roasted meat rather than tuna minus the fish flavor. It’s salty but not too salty—pleasantly seasoned. If you absolutely cannot find Swanson White & Dark (or refuse to eat dark meat), this will totally work.
Credit: Merc / Walmart
- Swanson White & Dark Premium Chunk Chicken
I tried so many canned chicken brands and had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it tastes like blander canned tuna. But then I tasted Swanson White & Dark! It actually tastes like chicken. It has that layer of chicken fat but it’s still 97% fat free. It’s salty but the sodium content isn’t totally outrageous (360 mg per serving). It tastes like chicken and the addition of dark meat definitely helps. My colleague Jordan Myrick thought it tasted like pot pie filling. This is the best canned chicken (and don’t mistake it for Swanson breast—it’s not as good).
Credit: Merc / Walmart
Best of the Best
Other canned chicken we tried: Valley Fresh, Sprouts Organic White Chicken, Wild Planet No Salt Added Organic Roasted Chicken Breast, Starkist Premium White Chicken (packet), Swanson White Meat, Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast, Bumblebee White Chicken, Kroger Premium, Tyson Chunk White