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How Long Can Tuna Sit Out Unrefrigerated

How Long Can Tuna Sit Out Unrefrigerated

Tuna is a popular ingredient used in salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and more. But how long can tuna sit out before it spoils? This guide will provide tips on how long tuna can sit out at room temperature and how to store tuna properly.

See also: What does bad tuna taste like?

How Long Can Raw Tuna Sit Out?
How Long Can Raw Tuna Sit Out?

How Long Can Raw Tuna Sit Out?

Raw tuna is highly perishable and bacteria can grow quickly on raw fish if left out too long. Here are the recommended time limits for leaving raw tuna unrefrigerated:

  • Raw tuna should not be left out at room temperature for more than 1 hour total.
  • If the temperature is above 90°F, only leave raw tuna out for 30 minutes before refrigerating.

Any raw tuna left out longer should be discarded, as bacteria may have grown to unsafe levels. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe and refrigerate tuna sooner rather than later.

How Long Can Cooked Tuna Sit Out?
How Long Can Cooked Tuna Sit Out?

How Long Can Cooked Tuna Sit Out?

Cooked tuna will last a bit longer than raw since the cooking process kills some bacteria initially. Here are the recommended time limits for cooked tuna:

  • Cooked tuna should not be left out more than 2 hours total at room temperature.
  • If above 90°F, only leave cooked tuna out for 1 hour maximum.

Leaving cooked tuna out too long increases risk of foodborne illness. Refrigerate leftovers within these time frames.

How Long Can Canned Tuna Sit Out?
How Long Can Canned Tuna Sit Out?

How Long Can Canned Tuna Sit Out?

Canned tuna can be left out slightly longer than fresh raw or cooked tuna since the canning process helps preserve it. Here are the guidelines for canned tuna:

  • An unopened can of tuna can be left out at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  • Once opened, canned tuna should be refrigerated after 2-3 hours at room temperature.

For best quality, consume canned tuna within 3 days of opening. Discard any tuna that smells bad or looks discolored.

You might also be interested in reading our article that discusses how many ounces are really in a can of tuna.

How Long Does Tuna Salad Last?

Here are some general guidelines for how long tuna salad will last in the refrigerator:

  • Homemade tuna salad made with canned tuna will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Since it contains mayonnaise, it’s important to store it covered and towards the back of the fridge where it’s colder.
  • Pre-made or store-bought tuna salad in sealed containers can last 5-7 days past the printed expiration or sell-by date.
  • Leftover tuna salad that has been served or exposed to air but then refrigerated in an airtight container will last 3-4 days.
  • Tuna salad made with fresh tuna steak or sashimi grade tuna will only last 1-2 days in the refrigerator. Fresh tuna has a shorter shelf life than canned.

The key things that affect tuna salad shelf life are the ingredients used, how it’s prepared and stored, and how often it’s exposed to air and higher temperatures.

See also: What is the Highest Temperature Allowed for Cold Holding Tuna Salad?

What Happens If You Leave Tuna Sitting Out Too Long?

Eating tuna that has been left out too long at unsafe temperatures can increase risk of foodborne illness. Bacteria like salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli can grow quickly on perishable seafood like tuna.

Symptoms from food poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

In severe cases, food poisoning can even result in hospitalization. So it’s very important to follow proper tuna storage times and temperatures.

How to Store Tuna Properly

Proper tuna storage is key for food safety and maximizing shelf life. Follow these guidelines:

Raw Tuna Storage

  • Place raw tuna in the coldest part of the refrigerator, around 40°F or below.
  • Store in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Use raw tuna within 1-2 days for best quality.

Cooked Tuna Storage

  • Refrigerate cooked tuna in a sealed container or resealable plastic bag.
  • Use within 3-4 days for optimum freshness.

Canned Tuna Storage

  • Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place like the pantry.
  • Once opened, transfer any unused tuna to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  • Use within 3-5 days for best quality.

Freezing Tuna

  • Tuna can be frozen for 2-3 months.
  • Portion tuna into freezer bags or airtight containers, removing as much air as possible.
  • Thaw frozen tuna overnight in the refrigerator before use.
Storage MethodRaw TunaCooked TunaCanned Tuna
Refrigerator1-2 days3-4 days3-5 days
Freezer2-3 months2-3 months2-3 months


Following proper tuna storage times and methods can help prevent foodborne illness. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe and throw away tuna rather than risk eating spoiled fish.

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Steve Momot

Steve is an accomplished professional photographer and marketer who specializes in the Fishing, Yacht, and Boating industry. With a strong presence as an influencer and marketing expert in the Marine Industry, he has made a significant impact in the field. Additionally, Steve is the original creator and co-founder of Sportfishtrader. Prior to his career as a marine photographer, he gained extensive experience as a licensed boat and car dealer in South Florida.

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