Tuna patties recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Tuna patties recipe

Tuna Patties by Pamela Salzman

Everyone this week was asking about my Mother’s Day and I realized I completely forgot to recount the day for my dear readers!  After all, it has been tradition the last couple of years that my husband and bother-in-law and sometimes my father-in-law too, plan and execute Mother’s Day lunch for the ladies.  They even do the dishes!  The whole day feels like such a treat since I can even workout in the morning AND wash AND blow dry my hair.  Before noon!  Now that doesn’t happen very often.  But I also really look forward to trying some new eats, like the bulgur-feta burgers they made last year from Maria Speck’s cookbook.  Yummers!  Eating food that’s not for a class or my blog is a fun experience for me.

really fantastic tuna from Vital Choice

This year, the boys were a little behind on their planning and were deciding the menu on Sunday morning.  On their way to the grocery store.  I guess they figured the easiest place to go for recipes with which they were familiar was my website.  Yep.  More of my food.  Whatever.  It’s all fine.  They did a great job even though it took them about 5 hours to make 2 salads and strawberry shortcakes.  And my husband put his own (unintentional) spin on my avocado, jicama and mango salad when he substituted curry powder for cumin.  The first two letters are the same — easy mistake!  Nonetheless, it was a perfect Mother’s Day.

makings of tuna patties

I was working at home the other day with my assistant and normally we throw together leftovers from a class for lunch or make a kale salad with quinoa and whatever is in the vegetable drawer, but yesterday I had a craving for NOT MY FOOD.  I was feeling spontaneous and decided to look through my Foodily faves and Pinterest pins.  I came upon these tuna patties and nothing could stop me.  They reminded me of ones that my mom used to make, except I am fairly certain she used Ritz Crackers as the binder.  Gotta love the 70’s.

taste it for seasoning before you add the egg

I had all the ingredients handy and we threw these together in no time.  They were so delicious and reminded me a little of crab cakes, but much easier on the wallet.  Next time I make them, and there will be a next time, I’m going to make a sauce to go with them.  I’m thinking something creamy with lemon and capers.  I think these could also be great as a mini version for an hors d’oeuvre.  We ate them with a mixed green salad and it was a really satisfying lunch.

chilling before you saute helps them stay together

By the way, I have a terrific source for very high quality tuna.  I buy it from vitalchoice.com and although it might be one of the more expensive tunas, it’s also the absolute best and Vital Choice doesn’t use BPA in their can liners.  Thank you, Vital Choice!  This tuna has minimal mercury and is the freshest-tasting I’ve come across.  If you have a canned tuna that you love, please share!

Tuna Patties by Pamela Salzman

Let’s think ahead here.  If you want to put the patties together before you leave for the day, or before you start driving everyone to sports practices and music lessons, you can do that and then just saute them right before dinner.  You can add some oven fries and a salad or grilled vegetables for a very quick, easy and healthful dinner.  Or next year’s Mother’s Day lunch.  Hint, hint.

Tuna Patties by Pamela Salzman

Tuna Patties

Author: Pamela, adapted from simplyrecipes.com

Serves: makes 4 large patties or 7-8 smaller patties
  • 2 6-ounce cans tuna (if you use 5-ounce cans of tuna, decrease lemon juice and water to 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs (or crumbled crackers or mashed potatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (lemon your lemon before juicing it)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon water (or liquid from the cans of tuna) - omit if your tuna is very wet like some chunk light varieties
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (measure after it’s chopped)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh green onions, shallots or chives
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used ½ tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper)
  • A couple dashes of hot sauce or tabasco
  • 1 large egg (I imagine you can substitute 1 Tablespoon ground flax meal mixed with 3 Tablespoons warm water. Just let it sit for 15 minutes before you add it to the tuna mixture.)
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil or ghee
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
  1. Drain the liquid from the tuna cans.  If the tuna is packed in water, reserve a tablespoon of the tuna water and also add a teaspoon of olive oil to the tuna mixture in the next step. If your tuna is soggy and not dry, do not add water.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the tuna, mustard, bread crumbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, parsley, onions, and hot sauce.  Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning before adding in the egg.  Add egg to mixture and combine.
  3. Line a baking sheet or a tray with parchment or waxed paper.  To make a patty, shape some of the mixture into a ball and then flatten between your hands.  Place all the patties on the prepared tray and refrigerate for an hour so they don’t fall apart when you cook them.  If you’re in a hurry, you can stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil and butter or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat.  Use less fat if you use a smaller skillet.  You want the oil and butter to be warm enough so that the patties sizzle when they hit the pan, but you don’t want them to be smoking.  Gently transfer the tuna patties to the pan and sauté until browned, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

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  1. These are so good! I love albacore but usually buy tongol tuna (crown prince BPA free) since I thought it had less mercury than albacore. Is that not the case?

  2. Hi Pamela
    Could u recommend a sauce with these patties and how to make it? Thanks going to try!

  3. I loved them!

    • Yay!! 🙂

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  5. Pamela~
    the tuna burgers turned out beautifully,crisp and hot. I served them with a thinly sliced cucumber, ginger & onion pickled with rice vinegar and chili peppers. it was fabulous.
    I baked 2 in the oven,, and what I found was as they baked, and dried out, they fell apart. the method you suggested on the stove top was perfect. the chia pudding is all gone LOL

    • Good call on the cucumber-ginger-pickled onion. Nice! I should have figured that since the tuna is already cooked, the time it would take for them to get golden in the oven would also dry them out :(. Glad you only tried 2! Thanks for reporting back.

  6. ok,,i have all the groceries in to make your chicken with mint sauce~~but,the teenagers have asked for hamburgers tonight, and the dad wants fish! so, it is going to be your tuna patties for all! can I broil these or perhaps bake them in the oven, for the sake of simplicity? o
    the chicken is on for tomorrow night :))
    it is as though I have fallen in to cooking heaven being able to refer to your site,,my sincere thanks. I certainly appreciate your lifestyle fun.

    • perfect compromise! I think you could bake these just fine, although I haven’t tried it myself. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Place the patties on the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops of the patties with oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 400? perhaps 375? until the patties are golden brown. I would love to hear if that worked for you!

  7. Do you think coconut flour or almond flour would work in place of the breadcrumbs? If so, it it a 1:1 substitution? We are grain-free but this recipe looks great! We’ve never purchased tuna from Vital Choice but have the canned salmon on auto-ship 🙂

    • That’s a great question! Danielle (commenter below) used ground sunflower seeds with success, although she didn’t think the patties stayed together quite as well as my pictures. I have used almond flour in other patties and they turned out great. You would sub 1:1. Coconut flour is an interesting idea, but it is much heavier and much more absorbent than wheat flours/crumbs so I would try it, but much less, perhaps 1/4 of the amount. Please let me know if you do!

    • I think Almond flour would work great! I made them again with ground up sunflower seeds subbing 1:1. I doubled everything except for the egg, I only used one and they came out fantastic. I think if you use Almond flour you just need to use a bit less liquid.

      • Thanks so much, Danielle!

  8. I helped Grandma make the tuna patties and they were delicious! I like the taste of lemon. She said we can make them again.

    • How cute is that! Glad you liked them, Isabella 🙂

  9. Go Daniel! Go Pamela! The perfect delicious blend.
    I love my children.

    • Thank you, Mom 🙂

  10. These were wonderful! I discovered your blog a few months ago and so many of your recipes have become staples in my kitchen. I just introduced my newly pregnant sister to your site as well and she is thrilled to have found so many healthy recipes to carry her through her pregnancy. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and delicious dishes!

    • Thank you so much, Sophie! It’s nice to know you’re out there :). Best of luck to your sister, too!

  11. Who doesn’t read your blog!? = ) Love these burgers! To make them gluten free, I subbed sunflower seeds for the bread crumbs. I took raw sunflower seeds and ground them up in a food processor. They were DELICIOUS, but not as pretty as yours. Maybe the bread crumbs soak up more liquid than the sunflower seeds causing them to stick better? I will try and reduce the liquid a bit next time.

    • Haha! Thank you, Danielle. I am so excited to know that you made these successfully with ground sunflower seeds. That’s awesome for people who don’t want to use bread crumbs, although the reason bread crumbs, even gluten-free ones, work well in patties is that help bind the mixture so they stay together well. Let me know if you adapt the recipe again!

  12. Hysterical! Do you think I can bake these with a little oil sprayed on them to make them Weight Watcher’s friendly? Looks delish!

    • If I were doing it that way I would try it at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time so they don’t dry out. Don’t forget that canned tuna is already cooked. Please report back if you try it!

  13. I be-e-e-e-g to differ … it only took us four and a half hours to prepare two creative (read: error-induced) salads and strawberry shortcakes! Next year I promise to not only read the recipe, but the ingredients as well.

    • You read my blog???!!!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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