What Is a Tuna Patty?

Henry Gaudet

A tuna patty is a shaped burger made from tuna, most often served in a sandwich. These are quick and easy to make, and they make good use of inexpensive ingredients. There are hundreds of recipes for making a tuna patty, but the typical patty is made from canned tuna and a filler such as bread crumbs or cracker crumbs. The mix is rolled into a ball and flattened into a patty shape before it is fried to a golden brown. After they have been cooked, the patties can be served hot or cold.

A tuna patty is a shaped burger made of canned tuna.
A tuna patty is a shaped burger made of canned tuna.

Tuna patties typically use inexpensive ingredients commonly on hand in many kitchens. Some recipes are even made specifically to deal with leftovers, and cooks often improvise with the ingredients they have on hand. This versatility makes the tuna patty a popular choice as a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment snack or meal.

Tuna -- fresh or canned -- can contain relatively high levels of mercury.
Tuna -- fresh or canned -- can contain relatively high levels of mercury.

Another reason for the popularity of the tuna patty is its popularity with kids. Children can often help with the preparation, and many kids enjoy squishing and shaping the ingredients. The patties are similar in shape and presentation to many familiar kid-friendly foods, a similarity that might contribute to their popularity.

Vegetables, such as bell peppers, may be added to a tuna patty to add flavor.
Vegetables, such as bell peppers, may be added to a tuna patty to add flavor.

After the ingredients have been mixed, the patties are ready to be shaped. Traditionally, a tuna patty is rolled into a ball and pressed flat. The patties are then fried until golden brown, then served.

Some species of tuna -- which provides the popular canned and fresh fish -- can grow more than six feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds.
Some species of tuna -- which provides the popular canned and fresh fish -- can grow more than six feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds.

Many people choose to serve tuna patties in sandwiches, either between slices of bread or on a burger bun. Tuna patties also can be served on their own, hot or cold, often accompanied by a dipping sauce. They make fun snacks, easy appetizers and quick meals.

The only essential ingredient for a tuna patty is canned tuna. Some recipes specifically list tuna in brine or oil, and many people will have a preference for one or the other. This is purely a matter of taste, and any available tuna can be used, regardless of how it was packed. Either way, the tuna is drained before adding the other ingredients.

Most recipes also call for some type of filler. Some recipes call for bread crumbs or cracker crumbs, and others call for flour or mashed potatoes. These fillers pad out the meal, letting the tuna stretch further. Egg is typically used as a binding agent.

Other ingredients are included to add flavor. Vegetables such as onions or bell peppers might be included. Tuna patty recipes vary dramatically in their use of seasonings. Some recipes call for simple salt and pepper, but others call for bolder flavors such as mustard or chili.

As tuna contains relatively high levels of mercury, pregnant women are typically advised to limit consumption.
As tuna contains relatively high levels of mercury, pregnant women are typically advised to limit consumption.

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