May 18, 2024

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Tuna Patties (aka Tuna Cakes!) – A Couple Cooks


This tuna patties recipe makes a crowd-pleasing easy dinner! The tuna cakes are tender on the inside with a golden crisp exterior.

Tuna Patties

Need mealtime inspiration? Here’s an easy healthy dinner that is always a massive hit in our house: Tuna Patties! Also known as tuna cakes, these unassuming burgers made of canned tuna might sound humble. But au contraire: they’re so savory on the inside and golden crispy on the outside, you won’t be able to resist another bite! This recipe is spiced with Old Bay, parsley and Dijon mustard, and it’s a total treat. We recently made them for my parents who immediately asked for the recipe…and our 5 year old licked his plate clean.

Ingredients in tuna patties, aka tuna cakes

Tuna patties are small fishcakes made with canned tuna, mayonnaise, mustard and breadcrumbs, similar to a crab cake. Also called tuna cakes, they’ve been a staple affordable meal idea in America for decades. But while they might be known as a cheap dinner, the flavors are anything but! Old Bay, Dijon mustard and fresh parsley make this tuna patty recipe taste restaurant quality. For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Canned tuna
  • Fresh parsley
  • Green onion
  • Old Bay seasoning: Look for this classic American seafood seasoning in your grocery store in the spices aisle. Or, you can buy Old Bay online or make homemade Old Bay.
  • Garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Plain panko or coarse breadcrumbs: use gluten-free panko if necessary. See below!
  • Dijon mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil
Tuna Patties

How to make tuna patties: the basic steps

Tuna patties are simple to make: the only thing to remember is that you’ll need 15 minutes for the patties to set before you pan fry them. Here’s the basic idea for how to make tuna cakes (or see the recipe below for specifics):

  • Mix: Drain the tuna and shred it with a fork. Mix it with the other ingredients (parsley, spices, panko, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, egg; see the recipe below.).
  • Form and refrigerate: Form the dough into 8 burger shapes, using ⅓ cup for each. Refrigerate 15 minutes to firm up the texture. (You can also refrigerate for up to 24 hours before cooking them, making them easy to make in advance.)
  • Pan fry: Heat the olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side until lightly browned on both sides.

Panko vs breadcrumbs

The panko or breadcrumbs are an important component for tuna patties: they make the texture cohesive and help it stick together. Panko is our top choice, since it’s easy to have on hand and very shelf stable.

  • Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb mixture that is airier and lighter than traditional breadcrumbs. You can use it in many other recipes like Pistachio Crusted Salmon or Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, or even in place of croutons in a Kale Caesar Salad or Romaine Lettuce Salad.
  • Coarse breadcrumbs also work! Packages labeled coarse are best, but traditional breadcrumbs also work. Or make homemade breadcrumbs.
  • Need breadcrumb substitutes? Try gluten-free panko or gluten-free breadcrumbs if necessary. You can also use an equal amount of crushed crackers to stand in in this recipe.
Tuna Patties

How to serve tuna patties

Neither Alex nor I grew up with tuna patties, which gives them a bit more allure in our household! This is one of the only dinners where our 5 year old cleans his plate and even asks for seconds. Here are several ways we like to serve these tuna cakes:

When we served this for my family as a “fancy” dinner, we plated the tuna cakes over a bed of lemon couscous with fennel salad and butter lettuce salad as sides. Extra Parmesan dressing from the salad with ideal as a sauce for the top of the cakes!

Tips for buying canned tuna

There are lots of options when it comes to the canned tuna aisle. What’s the best tuna to look for in this tuna cakes recipe? Here are some tips on buying it:

  • Look for light tuna caught by pole and line fishing, which is the most sustainable choice. Light tuna that comes from skipjack has the lowest mercury levels of all types of tuna. (Read more here.)
  • Buy BPA free cans. Look for cans that are BPA free, or some tuna is now sold in BPA free pouches.
  • Oil packed or water packed work. Some canned tuna comes packed in oil, whereas others are packed with water. Use whatever is your personal preference! Either way, drain the can before using.

More tuna recipes

What can’t a can of tuna do? Here are a few more fun tuna recipes that make dinnertime easy (and affordable):

This tuna patties recipe is…

Pescatarian and dairy free. For gluten-free, use gluten-free panko.


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This tuna patties recipe makes a crowd-pleasing easy dinner! The tuna cakes are tender on the inside with a golden crisp exterior.

  • 3 5-ounce cans tuna
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 green onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup plain panko or coarse breadcrumbs (or gluten free breadcrumbs*)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking

  1. Drain the tuna and flake it into small pieces with a fork, smashing up any big chunks. In a medium bowl, mix it with the parsley, green onion, Old Bay, garlic powder, kosher salt, panko, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and eggs.
  2. Form the dough into 8 patties using a ⅓ cup measuring cup to portion it out, then patting it into a patty with your hands. Refrigerate the patties for 15 minutes to firm up the texture (or up to 24 hours).
  3. When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, then gently flip them with a spatula and cook about 3 to 4 minutes more until lightly browned on the other side. Repeat with the next batch, adjusting the heat because the pan will be hotter on the second batch (much like pancakes!).
  4. Serve immediately, with a sauce (like remoulade, tartar sauce, Caesar dressing, or Parmesan dressing) or over rice, couscous, or quinoa.

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Seafood

Keywords: Tuna patties, Tuna patties recipe, Tuna patty, tuna patty recipe, tuna cakes, tuna cakes recipe


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