buddha bowl

3 quick and easy salads using tinned ingredients that are anything but basic

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Chef Theo Michaels is putting canned food front and centre with his latest cookbook – and here, he shares three of his best salad recipes using tinned ingredients.

If you filled your kitchen cupboards with cans of chopped tomatoes, tuna and chickpeas at the start of the first lockdown, we very much relate. But while we may now generally be able to get our hands on fresh fruit, veg and meat (exhibit 242 of ‘sentences we never thought we’d write in 2019’), that doesn’t mean we should ignore the potential of tinned ingredients.

In fact, canned and jarred foods have a host of unexpected and delicious uses, according to chef Theo Michaels (who you may know as a former MasterChef semi-finalist). His new cookbook Canned is filled with more than 65 ingenious recipes celebrating store cupboard essentials – including several surprisingly delicious salads.

From tasty bean mixes to moreish fish dishes, salads are some of the easiest, quickest and cheapest meals you can make out of tins. Plus, thanks to their minimal cooking time, they’re ideal for back-to-the-office lunches that can be prepped the night before. 

Forget veg-only leaf mixtures – below, Michaels shares three substantial salad recipes that put canned ingredients to good use.

Canned by Theo Michaels cookbook
Canned by Theo Michaels is out now with Ryland Peters & Small

Missed out on a Mediterranean holiday this year? Recreate the region’s classic tuna salad at home. Michaels uses the tinned stuff and combines it with canned beans, finely sliced red onion and jarred olives. Finished off with a sharp olive oil/lemon/vinegar dressing, it’s equally good as a side as it is being served as the star of the show with a hunk of bread for back-up.

For a vegetarian option, try the buddha bowl. In line with the principles of Buddhism, these mix-and-match dishes are almost always meat-free. Michaels’ version incorporates tinned chickpeas, roasted with honey and soy, and juicy cubes of canned mango (spiked with chilli and lime for extra zing). You can prep all of the components in advance, store in the fridge and put together when you’re ready to tuck in.

Finally, if you like warming flavours, you’ll love Michaels’ cumin-spiced apricot and grain salad. Tinned apricot halves are griddled until they’re brilliantly stripy, then mixed into ready-cooked grains. Served with chopped herbs and a dollop of Greek yoghurt, it makes a deliciously wholesome weekday lunch. Your kitchen cupboards won’t know what’s hit them…

  • Black-eyed bean and tuna salad

    black bean tuna salad
    Easy salad recipes: Theo Michaels' black bean tuna salad

    Theo says: “This simple black-eyed bean and tuna salad is the perfect solution when you want a little taste of the Mediterranean. Serve a generous helping with good bread, or as a side to a main meal.”

    Serves 4 as a main; 8 as a side


    • 2 x 400g cans black-eyed beans
    • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    • about 80g pitted black olives, drained and cut in half
    • a pinch of dried oregano
    • a small bunch each of fresh flat-leaf parsley and coriander, roughly chopped
    • 145g can or jar of tuna, drained
    • 75ml extra virgin olive oil
    • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Drain and rinse the beans, shaking off any excess water. Add to a mixing bowl along with the sliced onion, olives, dried oregano and fresh herbs, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix together.

    Once fully incorporated, gently fold in the tuna to avoid it breaking up too much.

    Lightly whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar, then pour this dressing over the salad and fold it through a couple of times before serving.

  • Buddha bowl

    buddha bowl
    Easy salad recipes: Theo Michaels' buddha bowl

    Theo says: “A buddha bowl should be a vegetarian dish, in keeping with the principles of Buddhism, and full of delicious and tempting contrasts of flavour, colour and texture, which is what I’ve aimed to create here. You can make all the elements of this in advance, or prepare it and serve immediately.”

    Serves 4


    • 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 1 tbsp runny honey or maple syrup
    • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
    • 400g can baby carrots
    • ½ tbsp sesame oil
    • a pinch of toasted sesame seeds
    • 50ml sriracha sauce
    • 100ml mayonnaise, or vegan equivalent if preferred
    • 2 x 400g cans pearl barley
    • a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped, plus a few extra sprigs to garnish
    • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped, plus a few extra sprigs to garnish
    • 1 pickled or peeled hard-boiled egg, grated (optional)
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 limes
    • 400g can mango slices in natural juice, drained and cut into 2.5cm cubes
    • ½ fresh red chilli, finely diced
    • 4 flour tortillas (optional)
    • 200g can edamame beans, drained
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/Gas 7.

    To make the honey and soy roasted chickpeas: dry the chickpeas on paper towels, lay them out on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. 

    Mix the honey or maple syrup and half the soy sauce together. 

    Remove the chickpeas from the oven and pour the honey soy mixture over them, ensuring they are well coated, then return to the oven for a further 7 minutes. 

    Once done, shake them, season with a pinch of salt and tip onto a flat plate.

    To make the sesame carrots: drain and rinse the carrots and splash with the remaining soy sauce and the sesame oil. When ready to use, drain and garnish with a pinch of toasted sesame seeds.

    To make the spicy mayo sauce: mix together the sriracha sauce and mayo and set aside.

    To make the pickled egg pearl barley: drain, rinse and dry the pearl barley (I tip it onto a kitchen towel). 

    Mix the mint, coriander and grated egg (if using) through the pearl barley and season with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

    To make the mango: sprinkle the juice and zest of 1 lime over the mango cubes. Season with a pinch of salt and diced red chilli.

    Toast the tortillas (if using) in a dry frying pan for a minute on each side, fold into quarters and set aside. 

    Divide the egg-barley mix between four bowls, then place all other components on top, including the edamame beans. 

    Drizzle over the spicy sauce. 

    Add a lime wedge and fresh herbs, then slot the folded tortilla down the side of each bowl to serve.

  • Griddled apricot and grain salad

    griddled apricot and grain salad
    Easy salad recipes: Theo Michaels' griddled apricot and grain salad

    Theo says: “This mixed grain, nut and canned fruit salad is delicious served as a summery main course or side dish. It’s flexible too, as you can swap out the pouch of pre-cooked mixed grains for puy lentils or a couple of cans of drained chickpeas. 

    “If you want to increase the volume of the salad, just add a few handfuls of mixed baby salad leaves. I sometimes serve it with a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side too.”

    Serves 4


    • 15g sultanas
    • ½ tsp cumin seeds
    • 15g mixed nuts
    • 250g pouch pre-cooked mixed grains (you can use any combination of wheatberries, rice, freekah, barley, quinoa, etc.)
    • 410g can apricot halves in syrup
    • 1 tsp runny honey
    • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • a few sprigs of fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, mint and/or coriander, roughly chopped
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Greek yogurt, to serve (optional)


    Place the sultanas in a bowl and pour over just enough boiled water to cover, then leave to plump up while you make the rest of the dish.

    Add the mixed grains to a large mixing bowl. Toast the cumin seeds and nuts in a dry frying pan, then lightly crush and add to the bowl.

    Drain the apricot halves, reserving 60ml of the syrup. Cut the apricot halves in half again. 

    Preheat a griddle pan and when smoking hot, place the apricot pieces in the pan for a couple of minutes on each side until charred. 

    Add the charred apricots to the bowl with the grains.

    Whisk together the reserved apricot syrup with the honey, vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour this dressing over the salad.

    Drain the sultanas and add to the salad, then fold in the chopped herbs. 

    Mix everything together, then transfer to a clean serving dish and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side (if using).

    Adapted from Canned: Quick And Easy Recipes That Get The Most Out Of Tinned Food by Theo Michaels (£18.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now

Photography: Mowie Kay © Ryland Peters & Small

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