Fish/ Lunch/ Potato

Tuna Fish Cakes

March 11, 2020 by Chris Collins

Crispy on the outside & smooth on the inside, these Tuna Fish Cakes are the perfect way to use up some cupboard staples for an easy and delicious lunch!

*This recipe has been updated for extra deliciousness! Tasty before, even tastier now*

tuna patties plated with salad on white plate with dip and more patties blurred in background

Mashed Potato Tuna Patties

I’ve tried out a few different versions of tuna cakes and in my opinion using mashed potato is essential. The mash potato not only bulks out the patties, but also helps bind together everything. Plus, who doesn’t love mashed potato?!

Leftover Mashed Potato

These are perfect for using leftover mash. I recommend using it straight from the fridge so it’s nice and cold/firm. This will help the patties form together. If you’re leftover mash is particularly creamy and smooth, I do recommend whipping up a fresh batch – the mash is the bulk of the patties and if the consistency is too wet the patties won’t form.

Fresh Mashed Potato

If you’re making the mash, it’s essential to not over boil the potatoes. You want them soft enough to just slice with a knife, otherwise the potato will absorb too much water and turn the patties sloppy. It’s also essential to completely steam dry the potatoes. You want as much moisture to escape the potatoes, again, so the patties are firm enough to form.

How to make Tuna Potato Patties

  1. Combine mash, mayo, butter and mustard.
  2. Add tuna, spring onion, parsley, lemon zest and seasoning.
  3. Mash until smooth.
If you’re using leftover mash made with butter you won’t need to add it. Also just be aware with how it was originally seasoned.

How to make tuna potato patties - 3 step by step photos

Breaded Tuna Fish Cakes

Once you’ve formed the patties, it’s time for coating. A lot of recipes just fry the patties, or at the most dredge in flour and fry. However, by doing that you’re missing out on a gorgeous crispy coating. Coating in breadcrumbs gives that awesome contrast against the smooth inside of the patties.

At this stage I HIGHLY recommend popping the patties in the freezer for 10-15mins to firm up BEFORE dredging. This will ensure the patties don’t fall apart when dredging (literally nothing worse).

Panko Breadcrumbs

These are Japanese breadcrumbs which are much bigger and lighter than regular breadcrumbs. This means they go extra crispy! You’ll find them in nearly all supermarkets/grocery stores in the Asian section. You can sub regular breadcrumbs if that’s what you have.

How to bread Tuna Patties

  1. Coat in flour.
  2. Dredge in beaten egg.
  3. Thoroughly coat in breadcrumbs.

How to coat tuna patties in breadcrumbs 3 step by step photos

Pan Fried Tuna Fish Cakes (cooking option 1)

You’ll need to fill the base of a pan with veg oil and bring it to a sizzle. Fry 3 fish cakes at a time, flipping once until golden both sides. It’s important to make sure the oil is hot before frying or the patties will absorb too much oil and turn sludgy. Test with a breadcrumb before hand.

Pros 

  • Quick
  • Not quite as dry as baking
  • Arguably more crispy

Cons

  • More maintenance
  • Higher risk of patties losing shape
  • Not as even coverage 

overhead shot of 3 patties frying in a skillet

Oven Baked Tuna Fish Cakes (cooking option 2)

Plonk the fish cakes on a greased tray and liberally spray with oil. Pop in the oven, flipping once until golden each side.

Pros 

  • Even coverage of crispiness
  • Hold shape better
  • Less maintenance 

Cons

  • Longer to cook
  • Slightly dryer than frying
  • Arguably not quite as crispy

overhead shot of tuna patties on black baking tray ready to go in oven

In summary it doesn’t make a huge difference. If your patties seem slightly on the flimsy side I’d bake them just to be safe. They just are ever so slightly more dry.

overhead shot of tuna patties on tray, half baked and other half fried

Tuna Fish Cakes FAQ

How do you keep fish cakes from falling apart?

  1. Dry Mash – When you make the mashed potato, make sure you leave the potatoes to steam before you mash them. This will allow moisture to escape the spuds and result in a less ‘mushy’ mash.
  2. Freezer – If you feel like the filling is too flimsy when you form it into the patties, pop them in the freezer before you dredge them through the egg, flour and breadcrumbs.
  3. Hot Oil – Ensuring the oil is sizzling before you put the patties in the pan is essential to them staying together. If the oil isn’t hot, the patties will just soak it up and go mushy before they get the chance to crisp up.

Can I make these ahead of time?

Sure! You can either just form the potato patties and place in the fridge until ready to bread, or, you can bread them and place them in the fridge until ready to cook. If you want to completely cook them, just cool and tightly cover in the fridge for 2-3days and bake straight from the fridge (don’t fry again, will absorb too much oil).

Can you freeze homemade tuna fish cakes?

Yep! You can freeze before cooking and bake straight from the freezer at a lower temp (add another 10-15mins) or thaw and fry. Or, you can completely cook and pop in the freezer for a month and bake straight from the freezer (add another 15-20mins).

How to reduce mess when making fish cakes?

Whenever I’m coating anything in a batter of flour, egg and breadcrumbs, I allocate a ‘wet hand’ and a ‘dry hand’. Place the patty in the flour with the dry hand and transfer into the egg. Coat with your wet hand and transfer into the breadcrumbs. Coat with your dry hand. Voila – less mess!

holding tuna pattie up to camera with salad blurred in the background

What is best served with fish cakes?

Definitely serve with a sauce (I recommend Tartare Sauce). To make a full meal you can serve with fries, mushy peas or a side salad (I usually go avocado, red onion, tomatoes). To garnish I recommend a lemon wedge and an extra pinch of parsley or dill.

➡️If you’re looking for another delicious and easy tuna recipe then definitely check out my Avocado Tuna Melts (perfect for quick lunch!)

➡️If you’re looking for more mashed potato recipes then head over to my Mustard Mash and Cheesy Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes!

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full tuna fish cake recipe shall we?!

dunking tuna fish cakes into small white pot of tartare sauce

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How to make Tuna Fish Cakes (Full Recipe & Video)

tuna patties plated with salad on white plate with dip and more patties blurred in background

Tuna Fish Cakes

Crispy on the outside & smooth on the inside, these Tuna Fish Cakes are the perfect way to use up some cupboard staples for an easy and delicious lunch! Makes 6 fish cakes
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Brunch / Lunch
Cuisine: American / English
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 6 patties
Calories: 225kcal
Cost per serving: £1.50 / $2

Equipment:

  • Medium Sized Mixing Bowl & Spatula
  • 3 Shallow Medium Bowls (for dredging)
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Pot, Masher & Colander (if making mash)
  • Zester/Fine Grater
  • Non-Stick Frying Pan & Turner (if frying)
  • Baking Tray (if baking)

Ingredients (check list):

  • 1.5 cups Mashed Potato, or 16oz/450g potatoes to make mash (see notes)
  • 2x 6.5oz/185g cans of Tuna, drained (preferably spring water, not oil)
  • 1 cup / 60g Panko Breadcrumbs (see notes)
  • 1 large Egg, beaten
  • 2-3 heaped tbsp Flour
  • 2 Spring/Green Onions, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 2 tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp finely diced Fresh Parsley
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • zest of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable Oil, as needed (frying)
  • Oil Spray, as needed (baking)

Instructions:

If Making Mashed Potato

  • Peel and dice 16oz/450g white potatoes and place in a pot of enough cold water to comfortably cover them. Add a hefty pinch of salt and bring to a boil until they are just about tender enough to slice. It's crucial you don't over boil the potatoes or they'll soak up too much water and the patties will be too sloppy to mould.
  • Drain in a colander and allow to steam completely dry. This is crucial to allow as much moisture to leave the potatoes as possible. If you have time cool them completely in the fridge, do that as well, but the main thing is allowing all the steam to escape. Mash until lump free.

Patties

  • Combine your cold mash with butter, mustard and mayo. Add in tuna, spring onions, parsley, lemon zest, garlic powder and seasoning to taste. If you're using leftover mashed potato which was made with butter you won't need to add more. Also just take into consideration how much it was already seasoned.
  • Mould into equal burger-shapes, you should get 6-8 depending on size. I find scooping with a 1/3 measuring cup gives 6 equal patties. I highly recommend popping them in the freezer at this point for 10-15mins to firm up before dredging. Or at least while you set up your bowls.

Dredging

  • Set up your stations: 1 bowl with flour and a pinch of salt and pepper, then 1 with your beaten egg and lastly breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • One by one, delicately (but still thoroughly) coat the patties in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Again, if they feel at all flimsy at this point pop them in the freezer to firm up.

Frying (option 1)

  • Pour enough veg oil in a pan to comfortably cover the entire surface. Bring to a medium-high heat and when it sizzles when a crumb is dropped in, carefully place in 3 patties at a time. Allow to fry for 3-4mins (or until golden underneath) then flip and fry until golden on the other side. It's important that the oil is hot enough to 'sizzle' when the patties hit the pan. If it's too low, the patties will merely soak up the oil, become soggy and fall apart.

Baking (option 2)

  • Place on a greased tray and liberally spray with oil. Bake at 390F/200C for 20-25mins, flipping once, or until golden and crispy all around (timings will vary depending on size of patties).
  • See recipe notes for make ahead and freezing options.

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Mashed Potato - I recommend making this in advance and storing in the fridge. Mainly so you don't have to wait for the potatoes to steam dry, but also so the potato is cold, which in turn helps the patties stay together. 16oz/450g potatoes is around 3 medium sized potatoes (before peeled) and will make 1.5 cups of mashed potato.
b) Breadcrumbs - Panko Breadcrumbs are awesome because they're very large and quite light, meaning they turn extra crispy. You will find them in almost all supermarkets/grocery stores in the Asian section. If you don't have them you can sub regular dry breadcrumbs, where 1 cup is around 140g.
c) Make Ahead Options:
i) Part Make Ahead - You can make up until forming the patties and cover in the fridge until ready to dredge. Or you could fully coat in breadcrumbs and store in the fridge and proceed with recipe when needed. You could also fully coat in breadcrumbs and freeze them. From there I recommend baking from frozen (add another 10-15mins on). Or thaw in the fridge overnight and fry as recipe states.
ii) Fully Make Ahead - You can cook the patties then allow to completely cool, cover and store in the fridge for 2-3days and reheat in the oven at 180C/356F for around 10-15mins until crispy again. Or, store in the freezer for up to a month and reheat from frozen in the oven at 180C/356F for around 20-25mins or until crispy on the outside and hot through the centre.
In all cases above they won't be quite as crispy as if they were cooked and eaten fresh, but still taste great!
d) How to reduce mess when dredging patties - Coating anything in a flour, egg, breadcrumb batter opens the possibility of mess. My advice is to have a 'dry' hand and a 'wet' hand. Use one hand to coat the dry ingredients and the other to coat the wet. Simples. I also have a bowl of warm water next to me to dip my fingers in if things get too sticky.
e) Serving Sauce - The sauce I serve with in the video and photos is my Homemade Tartare Sauce.
f) Calories - An estimate as it's difficult to measure how much flour/egg/breadcrumbs is picked up by the patties.

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Tuna Fish Cakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 225 Calories from Fat 80
% Daily Value*
Fat 8.87g14%
Saturated Fat 2.126g11%
Trans Fat 0.006g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.301g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.691g
Cholesterol 126mg42%
Sodium 207mg9%
Potassium 436mg12%
Carbohydrates 22.41g7%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1.34g1%
Protein 14.65g29%
Vitamin A 450IU9%
Vitamin C 9.9mg12%
Calcium 40mg4%
Iron 2.2mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Doryne
    August 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    Could you use instant mashed potatoes ?

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      August 3, 2020 at 7:53 pm

      I haven’t tried that, but I image if you use the same amount stated in the recipe and allow it to completely cool, it should work fine. Just make sure the consistency is nice and thick like real mash or the cakes won’t form 🙂 Chris.

  • Reply
    Rachel J
    June 8, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    This is such a great recipe! Instructions were really clear and helped me to achieve a yummy result. Cooked these for me and my elderly parents under lockdown recently and we loved them. Thanks for all the extra tips and info on how to ensure they turn out well 🙂 I’ll be trying out another recipe of yours soon.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      June 9, 2020 at 10:28 am

      That’s great to hear, Rachel! Also good to know the tips helped out, worry sometimes I waffle into too much detail, but glad to hear it helped! Thanks for popping back and leaving a review 🙂

  • Reply
    Marco
    February 26, 2020 at 12:07 am

    Excellent base recipe. Love it. I add additional herbs, a good helping of parmesan. Serve it in the winter with roasted cauliflower, peppers and tomato salsa loaded with basil pesto. Yum.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      February 26, 2020 at 9:40 am

      So glad you like them Marco! Will have to try the combo with cauliflower, peppers and salsa – sounds delish!

  • Reply
    Brit
    October 11, 2019 at 12:13 am

    5 stars
    These are so good! The breadcrumb step is key. Great recipe.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 17, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Glad they went down well! 🙂

    • Reply
      Patricia Witham
      April 23, 2020 at 5:26 am

      5 stars
      Hi Chris
      These look terrific and I will be making them tomorrow.
      Recently I discovered a technique which helps with the colour of the baked version. I made crumbed chicken this way using the panko crumbs which I love
      Th trick to crunchy golden panko coating on baked food like chicken or the patties is to put the panko crumbs into a shallow tray and spry with cooking oil and then put into 180 degree oven for only 3-5 mins until golden. They come out crunchy and coloured. Then apply as usual and bake. They retain their crispness and colour. Its a game changer!

      • Reply
        Chris Collins
        April 23, 2020 at 12:00 pm

        Hey Patricia! That’s an awesome tip, I’ll leave this comment here so others can see 🙂 Have a great day where ever you are in the world!

  • Reply
    camila
    August 14, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    5 stars
    OH MY! they look incredible!!! Seriously some of the best tuna cakes Ive ever seen!!

    • Reply
      Chris
      August 14, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      You’re too kind Camila!! Thank you so much 🙂

  • Reply
    Danielle
    August 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    5 stars
    I love tuna fish cakes and they remind me of being a kid. My daughter loves them too.

    • Reply
      Chris
      August 14, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      Yes!! They totally remind me of being a kid too! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lisa
    August 14, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    5 stars
    Thanks for sharing all these tips for making amazing tuna cakes. I can’t wait to try!

    • Reply
      Chris
      August 14, 2018 at 8:11 pm

      Enjoy, Lisa!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Shinta Simon
    August 14, 2018 at 11:51 am

    5 stars
    I enjoyed reading your recipe and the tips as well! The freezer tip is one that I follow when I make patties too, they hold up pretty well after a trip to the freezer. The patties look yum!

    • Reply
      Chris
      August 14, 2018 at 8:11 pm

      Freezers always handy for a patty recipe isn’t it! Glad you found the other tips useful!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Cliona Keane
    December 11, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    5 stars
    This sounds like my perfect lunch recipe! I love tuna fish cakes!

    • Reply
      Chris
      December 12, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Awesome for lunch! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jenn
    December 11, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Oh, this reminds me of my childhood. We had tuna patties all the time. Probably because they were inexpensive – but we all loved them. I don’t think my mom put potatoes in her though. I bet the potato gives it extra staying power.

    • Reply
      Chris
      December 11, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      Yes, had these all the time growing up for the same reason!

  • Reply
    Katie D
    December 11, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Dill is by far one of my favorite herbs to use – yum!

    • Reply
      Chris
      December 11, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Isn’t it just the best!?

  • Reply
    Adriana Lopez Martin
    December 11, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    5 stars
    This a lovely combination I prepare a similar recipe but make croquettes my mom’s recipe for lent. Thanks for bringing me so many good memories =)

    • Reply
      Chris
      December 11, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      That’s so amazing to hear! I’m glad this post brought some joy 🙂 Have a great day!

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