Everyone's Favorite Extra Crispy Tuna Patties

With a crisp exterior and creamy interior, these tuna patties are an easy, delicious dinner to add to your weekly rotation. They’re versatile, too—serve them in a bun, over greens, or alongside pasta salad.

Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties plated and ready to serve

Emily Laurae

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
50 mins

A good tuna patties recipe is one that every cook should have in their arsenal. They are easy to prepare, use inexpensive and readily available ingredients, and they're a protein-packed crowd-pleaser. They can be made in the morning and fried up just before dinner, and they can be served in a number of different ways.

These tuna patties feature tangy lemon, crisp and colorful bits of red bell pepper and celery, and a creamy caper sauce that you’ll want to eat with a spoon.

How Do You Make Tuna Patties?

We have a detailed recipe below, but here's a quick outline:

  • Start with two cans of tuna, and press as much of the liquid out of the tuna as possible, so the patties won’t be too soggy.
  • In a bowl, mix the tuna with all the other dry ingredients, including the vegetables and breadcrumbs.
  • Separately, whisk together the egg with the mayonnaise, and stir it into the tuna mixture.
  • Form into patties, let set in the refrigerator.
  • Right before serving, give them one last pass in panko breadcrumbs so you get extra crispy tuna patties.
  • Pan-fry the patties in hot oil until they're crisp and golden brown.

How Do You Keep Tuna Patties From Falling Apart?

Tuna patties fall apart when they have too much moisture in them. By pressing as much of the liquid out of the canned tuna as possible, you’ll ensure that the mixture is dry enough to hold together.

The egg in tuna patties is also essential, so don’t leave it out: just like in a meatloaf recipe , it acts as a binder to hold everything together and help the mixture firm up when it cooks.

Finally, forming the patties and giving them a chance to set in the refrigerator will help the tuna patties keep their shape.

If you feel like your tuna patty mixture is too wet, you can add more breadcrumbs to try to balance it out. Take care when you’re coating the patties in the breadcrumbs so they don’t fall apart in your hands, and make sure to use enough oil and a nonstick pan so they don’t stick.

What Kind of Tuna Do You Use for Tuna Patties?

You might be confused when you're in the canned fish aisle of the supermarket: Do you choose cans or pouches? Water-packed or oil-packed? Chunk or solid, light or white?

For this recipe, we've chosen water-packed canned chunk light tuna because it is inexpensive, lower in fat, and has a more pronounced tuna flavor.

You could use the same amount of tuna in pouches, which have less water to drain out. White tuna is a good option for this recipe if you prefer a milder flavor.

If you use solid tuna, you’ll need to chop or flake the tuna before mixing in the other ingreidents.

What To Serve With Tuna Patties

In the summer, serving tuna patties on a bed of mixed greens makes a delicious light dinner. You can use the remaining half of the lemon from this recipe to make a lemon vinaigrette to dress the greens. Steam-in-the-bag peas are a quick and easy side.

This tuna patties recipe is remarkably versatile. You can enjoy these patties in slider or burger buns or tucked into a pita. Try them on a bed of pasta or on a rice or grain bowl. You can also make mini tuna patties to serve as appetizers for a party.

Love seafood patties? Try our Salmon Patties next.


Tuna Patties

  • 2 ( 5-oz. ) cans chunk light tuna or chunk white tuna packed in water, well-drained

  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced

  • 2 scallions , white and light green parts, finely diced

  • 1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper (about half a pepper)

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs , divided

  • Zest of 1 lemon (reserve lemon for sauce)

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt , divided

  • 3/4 tsp. ground black pepper , divided

  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 Tbsp . vegetable oil , more as needed

Lemon-Caper Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt

  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp. )

  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers , roughly chopped

  • 1/4 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Make tuna patties mixture:

    In a medium bowl, combine the drained tuna, celery, scallions, bell pepper, 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, and lemon zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg,  mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and pepper flakes.

    Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties ingredients

    Emily Laurae

    Add the egg mixture to the tuna mixture, stirring with a fork to combine well.

    Southern Living Crispy tuna patties mixture

    Emily Laurae

  2. Shape tuna patties:

    With clean hands, scoop up about 1/4 cup of the mixture and form it into a patty. Repeat with the remaining mixture to form eight patties. Place the patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight to allow patties to firm up.

    Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties patties formed

    Emily Laurae

  3. Make sauce:

    Meanwhile, make the lemon-caper sauce. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

    Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties lemon caper sauce ingredients in a bowl

    Emily Laurae

  4. Make panko crust:

    Place the remaining 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix to combine.

    Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties patty and breadcrumb mixture

    Emily Laurae

  5. Cook tuna patties:

    Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

    Remove the patties from the refrigerator and dredge them, one at a time, into the breadcrumb mixture, turning over to coat both sides evenly. Transfer the patties to the skillet and cook until crisp and browned on the underside, about 4 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 4 minutes or until the other side is browned, adding a little more oil if needed.

    Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties in skillet

    Emily Laurae

  6. Serve:

    Serve immediately, with the sauce dolloped on top or on the side for dipping.

    Southern Living Crispy Tuna Patties on plate ready to serve

    Serve immediately, with the sauce dolloped on top or on the side for dipping.

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