Baked tuna cakes are simple to prepare and are baked then broiled for a better-for-you meal. SUPER easy to shape, this healthy tuna cakes recipe can be flavored a variety of ways. A dollop of tartar sauce adds a great touch!
If you asked me if I'm a fan of tuna, my answer would be a resounding YES. Seared ahi, spicy tuna rolls, tuna pasta salad, grilled tuna steaks, all of it.
Funny enough the only tuna food missing from that list is classic tuna salad. It's just not for me, personally. But with canned tuna being both protein-rich and cost-effective, I've landed on an easy way to work it into my kitchen repertoire: healthy baked tuna cakes.
P.S. For a slightly different rendition, these baked salmon patties are also a household hit!
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Baking tuna cakes is a much healthier and lower-fat preparation method than traditional pan-frying. Plus you won't fill your kitchen with that dreaded fry smell.
- These patties hold together so well for breezy prep, and keep their shapes as they're baked and broiled.
- As written, this recipe for baked tuna patties is simply seasoned and makes the perfect canvas for your own flavor experimentation.
- Tuna: Canned tuna in water is my choice here. While I do like "in oil" varieties in other recipes, these cakes have plenty of other flavor going on. This also often keeps the sodium levels lower.
- Mayonnaise: This provides moisture and helps hold the patties together. You can also use regular mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt.
- Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is best for its bold, bright flavor.
- Old Bay: This provides so much flavor and all the saltiness you need. Go with two teaspoons if you're not the biggest fan of its zippy flavor (or if you're using oil-packed tuna or seasoned breadcrumbs), increasing up to three teaspoons in total if you know you're an Old Bay fan.
- Breadcrumbs: Either regular or panko breadcrumbs work here. Seasoned breadcrumbs have higher sodium content so I like to use plain here.
- Egg: This helps bind the mixture and hold the tuna patties together.
- Parmesan: I'm always a fan of grating your own from a wedge of Parmesan, but in a dish like this where it's a small, mixed-in component, any pre-grated variety you have on hand will be just fine.
These baked tuna cakes come together with the same method I use for crab cakes (which is another recipe I plan to get on the blog at some point): stirring together, shaping, baking, then quickly broiling.
- Whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, Old Bay, and garlic.
- Next add the drained tuna, breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and diced onion. Give everything a stir to combine.
- The baked tuna cake mixture will be cohesive and should hold its shape when you press it. The photo below shows a close-up view of it once everything is mixed in. If for some reason it's looser than that or too liquid-y to hold its shape, add in additional breadcrumbs a small amount at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
- Grab a one-quarter cup measuring cup and firmly pack it with the tuna mixture. Invert the cup over a baking sheet and tap on the bottom to release it. You can also shape the mixture into patties (vs. taller cakes), simply reducing the bake time a bit, as needed.
- Bake at 400°F (204°C) for 10 minutes, then move the sheet closer to the broiler and broil until the cakes or patties are browned to your liking. These cakes will be golden-brown on the outside with tender, softer centers.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- While you can shape these tuna cakes with your hands, using a one-quarter cup measuring cup helps you produce equally-sized baked tuna cakes, no problem. After packing the tuna cake mixture into the measuring cup, invert the cup over the baking sheet and tap on the bottom until it releases. This mixture holds together very well, so this process shouldn't be a headache. If a few bits come apart, just press them back into the tuna cake and they're good.
- If you find the tuna mixture to stick inside your measuring cup (I have not had any issues), spray the inside of the cup with a brief shot of cooking spray to help it release.
These baked tuna patties are versatile. They're great on their own with a side salad, served over a salad, as a sandwich, or in really any other usage you like. My favorite topping for them is tartar sauce, a condiment I've discovered I'm pretty particular about. The tartar sauce you see over top of these tuna cakes is my homemade light tartar sauce to really drive home the better-for-you aspect of this meal.
Yes. You can freeze these patties both before or after baking, keeping in mind that tinned tuna is fully cooked before being canned. Form unbaked cakes/patties and freeze them in a single layer before transferring to an air-tight container so they keep their shape. That step isn't necessary if freezing cooked patties. For either method, placing a sheet of parchment or wax paper between layers will prevent them from sticking.
While Old Bay is a classic seafood seasoning, other variations that would work here instead are lemon pepper, mango habanero, Italian seasoning, a few dashes of hot sauce, cajun seasoning...your favorite all-purpose spice blend, really. The other flavors in these cakes aren't very strong or overbearing, so you have artistic license with the spices.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Healthy Baked Tuna Cakes
- 1 large egg
- 3 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 - 3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 5-ounce cans tuna (total drained weight 16 ounces)
- 5 Tablespoons breadcrumbs, panko or regular
- 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano)
- 2 Tablespoons diced onion
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Healthy tartar sauce for serving
- Situate one oven rack in the middle of the oven and one near the top. Heat oven to 400°F (204°C). Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
- Add the mayonnaise, egg, lemon juice, parsley, Old Bay, and minced garlic in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined. Add the drained tuna, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and diced onion and stir in until combined evenly.
- Scoop mixture into a one-quarter cup measuring cup, pressing it into the cup to pack it in as densely as you can. Invert the measuring cup over the baking sheet and tap on the bottom until the tuna cake releases. If any pieces of the tuna cake separate during the process, just press them back in. Repeat for the remaining mixture (I get 10 cakes).
- Bake for 10 minutes, then transfer baking sheet to the top rack and set the oven to broil. Broil for 1-2 minutes, or until the tops of the tuna cakes are golden-brown and have crisped up slightly to your liking. Serve warm.
- Shaping them with a measuring cup produces tuna cakes, while you can then flatten the cakes to produce baked tuna patties. Try and make them the same height so they cook evenly, and reduce the cook time if necessary as they're thinner.
- If the tuna mixture is sticking to the inside of your measuring cup, give it a quick shot of cooking spray to help it release easier.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
Made for 94 year old lady. Had to make a few light adjustment but all in all it was great. She reallly enjoyed them.
I'm so glad you could tweak this recipe as you needed to - thanks for letting me know it went!
I was amazed by HOW good these taste. Somehow I was not really present and I cooked them in a frying pan instead of the oven. But next time I will try the oven method!!! Oh and I added a little more panko to a plate and dipped the patties in the crumbs before frying. Thanks so much for this fabulous inspiration!
Just tried this recipe tonight and I loved it! I was really nervous that I wasn’t going to like it but was pleasantly surprised! Added a few extra seasonings including dry mustard and dill and it came out great!
I'm so glad you liked it, Elizabeth! Thank you for letting me know how it went. 🙂