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, niçoise salad, grilled tuna steaks, sun-dried tomato and pesto tuna cakes…all of it.
Funny enough the only tuna food missing from that list is the classic tuna salad sandwich. I just can’t get into those. 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.
While I *love* those sun-dried tomato and pesto tuna cakes I linked to above, this tuna cake recipe is simply seasoned and makes the perfect canvas for your own flavor experimentation.
How to make tuna cakes
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.
While pan-fried anything is delicious, I find these baked tuna cakes hold together so well for a spin in the oven and turn wonderfully golden-brown under the broiler. There’s no need to mess around with getting the right oil temperature or fill your kitchen with that dreaded fry smell. Popping the baking sheet in the oven and setting the timer is more my speed.
In addition to being easier it goes without saying — baking tuna cakes is a much healthier and lower-fat preparation method.
You’ll start by whisking an egg in a mixing bowl, which acts as a great binder. Next comes a few tablespoons of light mayonnaise, lemon juice, chopped parsley, Old Bay seasoning, and pressed or minced garlic.
Once those ingredients are whisked in, you’ll add the drained tuna, breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and diced onion. Give everything a stir to combine, then shape the mixture into cakes and place on a baking sheet. Bake for ten or so minutes, then move the sheet closer to the broiler and broil until browned to your liking.
Something that can be the determining factor in whether or not a recipe qualifies as ‘easy’ is how many of the steps are tedious and/or messy. Much like how using a scoop makes shaping cookies a breeze, 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. It’s forgiving that way.
With my plastic measuring cup I don’t need to spray cooking spray inside in order for the cakes to release, but you may wish to do that if you’re having trouble.
Ways to make this easy tuna cakes recipe your own
Mix and match your favorite seasonings! We’re big into Old Bay (as in the two of us make quick work of a Costco-sized container) so that’s our baseline seafood seasoning. I’m thinking other variations that would work 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 aren’t very strong or overbearing, so you have artistic license with the spices.
You can omit the fresh parsley if you’re out and use two teaspoons of dried parsley flakes instead. More or less garlic can also be used, as can regular mayonnaise if that’s what you like. While I haven’t tried it this way myself, I would imagine plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of the mayo entirely.
These baked tuna cakes are versatile. They’re great on their own, served over a salad, as a sandwich, or in really any other usage you like.
My favorite FAVORITE topping for them is tartar sauce, a condiment I’ve discovered I’m pretty particular about. The tartar sauce you see adorning these tuna cakes is my homemade healthy tartar sauce to really drive home the better-for-you aspect of this meal.
- If you’re finding the mixture sticks to the inside of your measuring cup, give it a shot of cooking spray before scooping.
- See the post above for different ways you can customize the flavors and ingredients.
Healthy Baked Tuna Cakes
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp light mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 5-oz cans tuna (total drained weight 16 oz)
- 5 tbsp breadcrumbs, panko or regular
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano)
- 2 tbsp 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. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
- Add egg to a mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until light. Add the mayo, lemon juice, parsley, Old Bay, and minced garlic 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.