Tuna Patties

Tuna patties! All you have to do is say these two words and I’m flooded with childhood memories. We kids are only a few feet high, have tiny feet, scabbed knees, and boundless energy. In between chasing each other around the dining room table we are squealing to our mother, “We’re having tuna patties!”

We were enthusiastic about food, to say the least. And always hungry. Back then, this was one of my mother’s go-to dishes. No idea what her recipe was, and it’s been so long since she’s made them, it’s long forgotten. This recipe is as close as I can come to what I remember, probably with a few added flourishes.

Tuna Patties

What I love about the recipe is that I almost always have the necessary ingredients in the pantry and fridge, the patties are incredibly easy and quick to make, and they’re budget friendly too. Oh yes, and they taste great! (At least to us. Big fans of canned tuna here.)

Tuna Patties Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 4 patties.


  • 2 6-ounce cans tuna
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup white bread torn into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp water (or liquid from the cans of tuna)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives, green onions, or shallots
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A couple squirts of Crystal hot sauce or tabasco
  • 1 raw egg
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter


1 Drain the liquid from the tuna cans. If you are using tuna packed in water, reserve a tablespoon of the tuna water, and add a teaspoon of olive oil to the tuna mixture in the next step.

2 In a medium bowl, mix together the tuna, mustard, torn white bread, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, parsley, chives, and hot sauce. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste the mixture before adding the egg to see if it needs more seasoning to your taste. Mix in the egg.


3 Divide the mixture into 4 parts. With each part, form into a ball and then flatten into a patty. Place onto a wax paper lined tray and chill for an hour. (You can skip the chilling if you want, chilling just helps the patties stay together when you cook them.)

tuna-patties-2.jpg tuna-patties-3.jpg

4 Heat the olive oil and a little butter (for taste) in a cast iron or stick-free skillet on medium high. Gently place the patties in the pan, and cook until nicely browned, 3-4 minutes on each side.

Serve with wedges of lemon. You can also serve with tartar sauce on slider buns for a tuna burger.

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Tuna Burgers

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  1. Kristine

    Is it possible to use panko breadcrumbs instead of the bread?

    Possibly, though regular breadcrumbs would come closer. ~Elise

    • mom24boys

      We use soda crackers so really, it’s one of those things that is interchangeable. It does however give a different product in the end.

  2. Su

    Oh, I loved this recipe, just perfect. And you’re right, it’s easy and the ingredients are allways there.

  3. Samuel Hay Dighan

    Yes, you can use Panko. Using canned salmon is awesome too! I love this recipe.

  4. Kristin Crane

    Do you have any suggestions for a substitution for the dijon mustard? My daughter is allergic to mustard and we find when we just leave it out of the recipe, it drastically changes the taste.

    Try a little prepared horseradish. Maybe half as much as is called for with the mustard. ~Elise

  5. Peggasus

    I always add about a cup or so of mashed garbanzo beans to mine, too (to bulk them up and get extra fiber in, kids never even knew!), as well as shredded cheese. They’re in regular rotation at our house.

    Great idea! ~Elise

  6. michelle in wellington, nz

    Tuna in any form wasn’t a fish I grew up knowing here in New Zealand apart negative mentions in Beverley Cleary/Clearly (?) books about Ramona the Pest, Henry and Co. Tuna sandwiches seemed to be loathed!

    Now I know much better. Fresh tuna is a treat and canned is a pantry staple for me – your recipe has my taste buds agreeing with all the ingredients. Yum!

  7. The Starving Student

    I love it, they are like the poor man’s version of crab cakes! Top them with some homemade aoili and you are set. What a great Starving Student recipe, thanks!

  8. Jules

    How far in advance can I make these and let them sit in the fridge? This seems like a great thing to be able to throw together early in the day and just cook at dinner time. Thanks!

    You can easily make these in the morning and cook them at night, just wrap in plastic-wrap and refrigerate well. ~Elise

  9. karen

    Tuna patties appeared weekly at our house when I was a kid. I think my mom used saltines as a binder and included dill pickle relish. Fresh herbs were not part of our diet growing up.

    Saltines! I bet that’s what my mom used. We would also have had dill pickle relish in the house, so I imagine some of that may have gone in the patties too. ~Elise

  10. DebWS

    This made me remember my Mother Salmon Patties. She used saltines, not bread crumbs. I wish my kids liked Fish.

    • Bob Roush

      My kids thought they didn’t like fish also……I made these and told them it was chicken parties..(I know I know)….I was told these are the best chicken parties We have ever had dad

  11. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    My grandmother, a lifelong non-meat-eater, used to make these for me when I was a little girl. I’ve always loved them, and whenever I make them I think of her. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

  12. Jinnie

    Will these freeze well?

    No idea. If you try the recipe and freeze them, please let us know how they turn out for you. ~Elise

    • Tricia

      I assembled my patties onto parchment paper and then popped them into the freezer. After a few hours, I moved them into a Ziploc bag for storage. I put them into the fridge the day before I am going to fry them and it turned out fine. I don’t think I would freeze the fried product, or else it would be really mushy. This kept it nice and crispy.

  13. Nicole

    Excellent! My kids love salmon patties, as do I — will have to try the tuna variety. FWIW, I use leftover mashed potato as a binder in my salmon patties, and I bet that would work well here, too, in lieu of the bread/cracker crumbs.

    Brilliant. A good substitute for those on a gluten-free diet. ~Elise

  14. Bob

    Love this. I’ve never chilled them first though, definitely trying that next time I make them.

  15. Kathleen

    My mother also made wonderful tuna patties with left over mashed potatoes.

  16. Annie B

    Boy do these look familiar! Mom used to make something like these when we were kids. We didn’t have a lot to spend on meat, but Mom could whip up tuna patties or loaf and make it seem like a feast. Thanks for the recipe and for poking my memory!

  17. Susan B.

    My mother made something similar, but she used canned salmon instead of tuna. She used mashed potatoes as the filler where you use bread. They were awesome. Time to go make me some.

  18. JS

    Could these be baked? If so, would you think 400 on an oiled sheet for 20 min would work?

    Your guess is as good as mine. ~Elise

  19. Jasmine

    You could use canned chili tuna and replace the bread with some boiled mashed potatoes. That’s what I do. You won’t need the tabasco or mustard then!

  20. Natalie

    @JS We had something similar except that it was cooked in a covered dish (called tuna loaf, kind of like meatloaf). Same basic ingredients but microwaved. Quick and with out that oily (yummy) crust.

  21. Lani

    I JUST made these and they were wonderful! I cut down a little on the frying oil and they still browned up beautifully! So yummy, healthy, and very low Weight Watcher points!!

  22. Susan Martin

    Our tuna patties were made by me, from the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Children.

    Talk about nostalgic! I had that cookbook too. ~Elise

  23. Anna

    Tuna and salmon patties are a family favorite, usually served with a quick & easy sauce consisting of homemade mayo pimped up with a bit of fresh lemon juice, minced capers, and Herbes de Provence. I usually make a double batch of tuna patties so there are a few leftover for breakfast and lunches.

    I stopped consuming and serving tuna for a while, because over the years the common supermarket brands of chunk light tuna had devolved into nasty catfood-like tuna sawdust-in-a-can.

    Now my canned tuna of choice is Wild Planet’s kkipjack tuna, for many reasons. First, skipjack is a smaller tuna species, so it has much lower mercury and other toxin levels than larger albacore and yellowtail tuna species that are higher on the food chain. Secondly, many tuna species are overfished and/or not harvested responsibly – skipjack is overfished. Additionally, WP skipjack is pole-caught, which is a more environmentally responsible and sustainable method of harvesting tuna. I also choose Wild Planet because their can linings are BPA-free.

    As if that weren’t enough reasons, I love the way WP tuna is packed in only its own juices – no oil OR water is added, so no draining is needed. The tuna juices easily resorb into the tuna when flaked with a fork, so those healthy Omega-3 fatty acids can be consumed instead of discarded down the drain. The firm, chunky texture and taste is great (though my mom commented that she thinks the salted variety is a bit too salty, but there is a no-salt option, too).

    Wild Planet is somewhat pricy at my local stores, especially compared to bargain tuna, so I buy it at a lower per can price by the case (12 cans) either direct from the Wild Planet website, or more often, from Amazon.com (free shipping). I have no affiliation with Wild Planet, just a satisfied customer. :-)

    I also make my tuna patties gluten-free, either without breadcrumbs (which is also Low Carb) or with crumbs I make from stale GF bread. I’ve used oat bran in place of breadcrumbs, which works well, too. Flaked or granulated dried seaweed is another ingredient I sometimes add, as it’s a great source of iodine and other trace minerals. No one is the wiser, as it looks like parsley flakes or ground pepper.

    When cooking tuna patties, especially LCGF without breadcrumbs as a binder, it pays to not crowd the pan and be patient – the patties are delicate and break up if turned hastily before the bottom develops a crispy “skin” (more than one rushed panful has became tuna scramble in my kitchen). A flexible and very thin spatula is key to successfully turning a tuna patty after it has cooked enough to develop a golden crust that easily releases. Also, I prefer to cook tuna patties with ghee or clarified butter instead of regular butter, as the butter’s milk solids sometimes brown too much and taste burnt (especially if making a double batch). Butterfat is an excellent fat for pan-frying as its saturated bonds are stable and less prone to oxidative damage from heat compared to EVOO or vegetable oils, plus I prefer the buttery & nutty taste.

  24. Muze

    I just recently started following this website, and I wanted to thank you all for sharing your simple recipes. Not only are they easy to make but you give great ideas on what to make for office functions and weekday meals. I love this one, because I love sea food, so I definitely want to try it out. Thanks again!

  25. Debbie Redfearn

    I can’t believe that this recipe was here. It brought a smile to my face when I saw it and so many memories of tuna patties for an after school snack. I have looked for the recipe off and on for years. I’ve never been able to find it. I will definitely try this one. I thought I remembered the tuna patties being baked though. I’m not really sure about that though. Thank you Elise for sharing.


    In reading Anna’s post I was prompted to comment on Skipjack tuna. For the past several years I have been canning { in jars } our wild caught tuna. I have canned blue fin , skipjack, yellowfin, and blackfin tunas as well as mackerel {tuna is a mackerel after all }. It is generally agreed that the BEST tasting is blackfin with skipjack and yellowfin a close second and third. Blue fin is great, but tends to be a bit heavy and oily for some.
    I have discovered that processing in pint jars { which hold about 12 oz. of tuna } you should add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of coarse sea salt for a wonderful finished product. Anna is absolutely correct when she suggests to break up the tuna and let it reabsorb the natural juices. You will also discover that if you are making tuna salad, that this will allow you to use much less mayo. I do not recommend ” water pack” method as the product is not as nice and also for some reason the olive oil helps retain the natural {and desirable } fish oil.
    A final, and most important note, is that manymost fishermen on the East Coast, especially Florida where Skipjack are plentiful, consider them inedible trash fish. Convince these anglers otherwise, or suggest that you want them for your cats and dogs, and try canning them. It is EASY and economical and better than any canned tuna you can buy { even Anna’s I will bet }. You will discover new friends and neighbors and have wonderful eating and gifts for others as well.

  27. Jodi

    Oh, these look wonderful. I love crab cakes. These will work fine for the folks in my house who are allergic or won’t eat shellfish. What a great idea. Thanks elise.

  28. S.

    My childhood memories don’t have these in them, but now I wish they did! I’ve been missing out! Never had tuna patties before even though I’ve heard of them. Had an extra can on the shelf I didn’t want to see go to waste so made these and they are awesome! I was expecting they might be dry, but they were actually a bit “delicate” and very moist! I love them! Thanks for the recipe. Another keeper and success :-)

  29. Paula

    Received this recipe today (Thank You) and decided trying it first for myself. Salmon cakes are not a favorite but I love crab cakes and my husband can’t eat them. These are delicious and I am thinking this will be a great easy company recipe to whip up at the last moment, I always have tuna. Somehow I missed tuna cakes in my past but not anymore.

    Thanks Elise, I’ve never had a anything but wonderful recipes from your site.

  30. Colleen

    I made this tonight for the kids (5 and 2 yo) since your post indicated that it was kid-friendly. I’ve really struggled lately cooking food that appeals to them. I had my doubts about this but they loved it – between the two of them they finished it! Thank you for the recipe!

  31. Paula

    Really?! Tuna shouldn’t be this complicated, should it? I think that I accidentally ended up on the Epicurious blog with all of the “fish snobbery”going on around here. All we need is a wine reccomendation!
    Anywhooo – great recipe and great memories from my childhood. I feed these to my four kids now and they love them.
    For Kristin who’s daughter is allergic to Dijon; try using grated parmasean instead of the mustard and use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs instead of the bread pieces,(I like progresso). BTW I have frozen these many times and it works great if you put them in flat layers with wax paper in between the layers and wrap it well.

  32. Tom Barr

    I dont use tuna I get fresh salmon pieces from the fish mongerrough chop them and mix with mashed potatoeand sometimes fresh mint or fresh basil. Just a few variations.Very nice keep up the good work

  33. Diana

    Oh my goodness! I have tuna patties on my meal plan for tomorrow night. My mom’s version is just tuna with egg, bisquick and tobasco. These look much tastier, will have to try some of your additions. Thanks Elise!

  34. shorthand

    My grandma hated to cook, but she was good at it, and this brought to mind the salmon croquettes she made on meatless Fridays. She made them much like your patties, except she also put a bit of paprika because she put that in just about everything she made. Haha. She would serve them with green beans and homemade baked spaghetti and cheese. MMMMM. Thanks for the memories. Cheers!

  35. Adam Bomb

    Salmon patties were a regular meal when I was a child. Tuna only made an appearance in tuna noodle casserole. Strange fact: When I was young, salmon patties were always eaten with pancake syrup as a condiment. No joke, and it was delicious.

  36. Christy

    These tasted good but didn’t stick together well when I went to flip them in the pan. Perhaps my bread crumbs were not fine enough or I needed more egg (I used liquid egg). Thanks for the recipe though. Served with salad and a home made roumalade sauce.

  37. deb

    Made these tonight..with both tuna AND salmon!!(not together!) I didn’t have enough of either for the whole family, so I did two cans of tuna, and two of salmon. Both were outstanding! My husband, who insists he doesn’t like seafood, ate two tuna patties!
    Thanks, Elise!!

  38. lizette

    i made these last night and they were delicious! my husband said he used to have them a lot growing up but i had never even heard of them.

    i used cilantro instead of parsley, panko bread crumbs instead of bread, and more lemon juice & zest that suggested here. i served them with a lemon mayo (1 c. mayo + two chopped scallions + juice/zest of 1/2 lemon) – they were fantastic!

  39. pat

    Anna posted a link for the best tuna. For us who don’t live in metropolitan areas, it makes it very hard to buy from recommendations. I don’t even know how far away a Whole Foods would be from where I live. There is nothing within 150 miles that would sell the choices that were offered.

    Give us a break and write articles, posts, etc. that helps mid-America follow recipes to a T.

    We aren’t hicks. We like to eat well (and healthy) also.

    Almost every ingredient posted on every recipe on this site is available online. Check out Amazon.com’s grocery area. ~Elise

  40. David

    I made this for my family for dinner today.
    I mixed it together last night, pattied it on wax paper, covered it with more wax paper, and left it in the fridge until frying it up today.
    I had it with some asparagus that I cooked in a closed container w/ a little water in the microwave, some oven baked french fries, and a small locally grown pear for each person.
    It was very good, fast, and took very little effort.

    I did double the amounts and make a few changes to the recipe due to what I had available in my kitchen, and some personal preferences.

    -Used a lesser amount of yellow mustard because as I was out of Dijon, didn’t have any parsley, added some small diced celery because I like it with almost everything, left out the hot sauce, added some dill relish instead to give it some perk, left out the egg and added slightly more tuna water and more olive oil to hold the patties together.

    But other than that it was your recipe and it was very good.
    Thank you.

  41. Linda In Washington State


    Like the others, Thanks for the memories.

    My mother made fried fish cakes using left over homemade biscuits.
    Your Mom probably did use saltines like my husband’s mother did when he was growing up.
    I make tuna cakes for my family using 3 cans of tuna,12 crushed saltines,3 eggs, 1 tsp of salt free lemon pepper seasoning and 1/2 tsp of paprika and pan fry them in canola oil. I serve the tuna cakes with homemade mac and cheese and green peas or other veggie on the side.

  42. Francheska

    mmm I like the korean version of these, Chamchijeon so delicious

  43. Jim Price

    I used the canned skipjack and replaced bread crumbs with 1/2 cup mashed potatoes. Really Good!

  44. Caroline

    I had a tuna-less childhood; my parents, sister and I hated tuna so much that we’d feel nauseated just from the smell of it. I’m not a picky eater and hated the idea of not being able to stomach something that most people enjoy, so I trained myself to like tuna (starting with sashimi grade and working my way up to canned Albacore). My parents joke that they need to disown me now. Needless to say I’ve never tried a tuna patty but they sound great! I will definitely be giving this recipe a try.

  45. Mali From ATX

    I just made these for dinner tonite and they were a hit w/my husband. I wasn’t sure as I am the tuna lover in the fam. When I told him what we were having dinner, I started out by saying “You know crab cakes & salmon croquettes? Well it’s kinda like that.” I made an e-z homemade tartar sauce and he loved them. So it is definitely on the rotation from now on. Right up our budget conscious alley. Although, even when we are rolling in the chips, it will stay in the rota. Thank Elise!

  46. Linda

    Thank you for this twist on tuna patties. I make them the way my mom always did, but I really prefer your way now. I love the hint of lemon and tabasco that is such a good balance to the tuna. As always, I appreciate your sharing of recipes and memories.

  47. Jennifer

    I made these last night and they were delicious! thank you for the recipe.

  48. Jen

    Do you know if these would keep well in the fridge for a few days after being cooked? These look like something I’d enjoy for lunch but my husband doesn’t like canned tuna so I’d be making them all for myself. They’d be great to make all in one day and have for lunch over the course of a week if they’d keep well.

    I would think they would be fine. Like a regular leftover, good for several days. Just reheat and eat. ~Elise

  49. Linda

    Do you have a favorite brand of canned tuna? I just made these for dinner from StarKist (only 5 oz cans, boo) packed in water and they were pretty tasty. Just wondering–thanks!

    I try to get Italian tuna packed in olive oil at our local specialty grocer. It just tastes better. I’ve also been happy with tuna from Trader Joe’s. ~Elise

  50. C

    My girlfriend and I had never heard of tuna patties, but we love crabcakes and canned tuna (plus the cost of living in DC is so high that cheap meals are always welcome), so I gave these a try.

    They were delicious! I used panko instead of breadcrumbs, and cilantro and red onion instead of the parsley and chives, because that’s what I had on hand. Also, I found that you could skip the oil and butter entirely by searing the patties in a seasoned cast iron skillet. I think I might like them even better than crab cakes.

  51. lynn @ the actor's diet

    i’ve been wondering what to do w my tuna lately! thanks!

  52. Tess

    Better late than never….I finally got around to making these patties and they were delicious! From the first bite, I was hooked and the family loved them as well. I paired this with sliced tomatoes in Balsamic dressing. Try it…you’ll like it. Thanks for the terrific recipe!

  53. Danielle

    This is the second dinner I prepared for my boyfriend, who has lots of cooking experience. It was quick, easy and absolutely delicious. He can’t wait until I make these again! Thanks!

  54. Jill

    I made these for myself for lunch today, they were sooo delicious, but I did have to improvise because I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand. I used panko instead of torn white bread, added a bit of dill and old bay seasoning, and used white onion instead of chives. I also did not have any lemon. I think if I had everything to make these they would have been even better. It’s definitely a keeper recipe!

  55. Chris

    First recipe I’ve made from this site. Husband and I loved it. Kids did not rave but they ate it. Good enough for me. I’ll definitely make again.

  56. Christina

    I’m making these and adding mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach to modernize it a bit. I used to love salmon patties growing up and have started experimenting by adding all kinds of savory foods. Thanks so much for the recipe!!

  57. Bob

    Hi Elise, I’ve been following your blog for years now and this is the first time I have posted a comment. So let me start off by saying I love your blog. I was looking for something for lunch and decided on tuna salad; …no celery. What else could I make… So here I came. I used panko bread crumbs. I had no white bread. Most everything else I had. Added some dill and a little ground fennel. I let the mix sit a few min. to allow the crumbs to absorb some of the liquid and I have to say these were wonderful. I served them on a bed of shredded greens with light balsamic and wedges of lemon. Huge hit for lunch. Thanks you so much.

  58. Glenn

    Excellent! Add some Old Bay seasoning to the mixture and also while browning in the pan. Simply tasty.

  59. erin zinsli

    These were wonderful! The only difference I made was using breadcrumbs in place of the bread pieces. I did not cool them before hand and they stayed together with no problems at all!! I REALLY enjoyed them :) definitely a keeper

  60. Linda Williams

    I made these Friday for supper. They were so good, even my daughter liked them. I added old bay seasoning to the mix. Yummy! I will definitely make these again. Thank you for the recipe!

  61. Sally B

    My grandmother used to make these for my family alot when I was a younger child. All she would use was a tower of saltines, two eggs, a can of tuna and 1 small onion chopped up. After the ingredients was mixed together well, she would fry them up with butter in a hot pan. The trick to them was to flip them once while each side is golden brown and thoroughly cooked. I loved eating them with ketchup!

  62. Mar Flores

    I am newlywed and was looking easy and delicious recipes .
    I made this recipe today and my husband and I loved it! thank you very much
    best regards from mexico

  63. Savy

    I used chicken broth instead of water, SO GOOD\(^_^)/

  64. Stephanie

    Made this for dinner tonight. So good and easy. Everyone ate it happily and I think it’s going to become what we call a “repeat”. Thank you, Elise from your neighbors down the road in Davis!

  65. Kim M

    I apologize if this has been asked or discussed but I was searching for Paleo recipes on Pinterest and this recipe came up but I dont know how it can be with bread used in the recipe, what could I use instead of bread, crackers or mashed potatoes (which arent paleo)?
    Thanks so much

    • Elise

      Hi Kim, this recipe is not categorized paleo, and if someone has labeled it so on Pinterest, it’s their mistake. If you want to make it paleo, I’m guessing you could use mashed potatoes instead of the bread.

  66. Jackie

    50 or 60 years ago, my Southern MIL made “Fish Cakes” with canned mackerel…..2 cans mackerel w/juice, 3# chopped yellow onions, 2 loves bread dried out in the oven and a big bowl, adding a little more water until it stayed together to form patties. At the time, canned mackerel was $.27 and could feed a large farm family, breakfast, lunch or dinner :-) Sometimes she would a little bacon grease to the oil she fried them in and everyone added ketchup when eating.

    Thank you for the tuna recipe, it sounds must faster and easier but still a “fish cake” :-)

  67. Fatima Abu Bakr

    Thank you for making tuna enjoyable…I tried yogurt n a little oil as a substitute for egg.. Grounded linseed oil with a little water till it gel is another…

  68. Mia

    I just made these and they were wonderful!
    I didn’t have any bread in the house, so I used 1/2 tbsp flour to 1 can of tuna + 1 egg. They were lovely and intensely satisfactory for how easy they were. I can’t wait to make these for my boyfriend!

  69. elena

    Very nice recepie.
    Thankyou very much!

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