Pan-Seared Tuna Burger Recipe

We've all been there: a pantry full of tuna cans and mayo, and a tight enough budget that the third tuna salad sandwich of the week will have to do for today. What if we told you, though, that there's another way to use canned tuna that transforms it into a warm and delicious meal? Better yet, what if we told you there was no mayo needed? Nothing against mayo, by the way.

We aren't here to deceive you. These burgers are still budget-friendly and use pantry ingredients you probably already have, especially if you're keen on making burgers and stir fry. The soy sauce and white pepper offer a deep, peppery umami, and the cilantro gives an unexpected refreshing taste. Best of all, the burgers stay moist, thanks to the addition of eggs and breadcrumbs. The patties alone are delicious, but where the burgers really start to shine is the fresh and creamy cucumber yogurt sauce. Don't be discouraged by a cabinet full of tuna cans; with this easy recipe shared by developer Michelle McGlinn, canned tuna is far from boring.

All the ingredients needed for pan-seared tuna burgers

Most tuna cans are about 5 ounces, so you'll need 3 cans for this recipe. You'll be draining them, and it won't matter if you have oil or water-packed tuna. Next, you'll need soy sauce, cilantro, white pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, and eggs. White pepper is a little more earthy than black, but in a pinch, the differences won't be noticeable. If cilantro tastes like soap to you, we recommend leaving it out entirely.

For the sauce, grab a cucumber, Greek yogurt, fresh dill, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. From there, you'll only need the buns and the toppings, which we recommend being red onion and alfalfa sprout. You can also top with feta cheese, avocado, arugula, or spinach if onion and sprouts aren't your thing (or you just want to switch it up).

Making the patties

You have to be a little intuitive when making any kind of burger patty. In general, you want the mixture to be firm enough to form a ball easily, but moist enough to be pliable. The mixture should never flake apart in your hands, but it should also not be so mushy that it looks wet. With beef, it's pretty easy — especially with fatty chuck, the beef is perfect on its own. As you work with different, drier proteins like turkey, chicken, and tuna, though, you'll have to play around a bit.

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to mix well (we recommend using gloves for easy cleanup). Form a small ball in your palms. If the mixture sticks together without flaking apart, divide the mixture into four parts and form large balls of tuna. Flatten them into patties, then place them on parchment paper. The patties should hold together and be slightly sticky.

Whisk together the cucumber sauce

Also known as tzatziki, this yogurt sauce is a creamy mixture of strained cucumber, garlic, lemon, dill, and oil. It may sound daunting to grate and drain cucumber, but it takes less than 5 minutes to do. Using a cheese grater, shred about half a cucumber into tiny pieces. Wrap the grated cucumber in several paper towels, then squeeze the cucumber until all the liquid is drained out. The paper towels will break as they dampen, so double up and make sure you squeeze gently. With the cucumber grated, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until very well combined.

Sear the burgers

Even though the tuna is already cooked, we still want to sear these patties so that they form a brown crust and warm through. Besides, there's egg in there that needs to be cooked. Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the patties to the skillet. Cook until deeply browned, then flip, quickly reshaping the patties as needed (you have a small window to fix any broken patties). Brown again, then remove from the heat.

Serving tuna burgers

Using any kind of bun, serve up the patties with a heaping spoonful of cucumber sauce and several onion slices. Top with a handful of alfalfa sprouts, then finish the burger with the top bun. These flavorful tuna burgers go well with homemade potato chips, roasted carrots, and spicy cabbage salad

They save well, too, and make an excellent and versatile meal prep. Save the patties in airtight containers and reheat in the microwave to use on sandwiches or on top of salads. The patties alone pair well with leafy greens, so if you're avoiding carbs, this recipe can definitely still work for you.

Pan-Seared Tuna Burger Recipe
5 from 26 ratings
With this easy recipe for pan-seared tuna burgers and tzatziki sauce, canned tuna is far from boring.
Prep Time
Cook Time
tuna burger on a table
Total time: 25 minutes
  • 3 cans (15-ounces) canned tuna, drained
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon pressed garlic
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup grated cucumber
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Buns, for serving
  • Red onion, sliced, for serving
  • Alfalfa sprouts, for serving
  1. In a large bowl, combine the drained tuna, soy sauce, cilantro, pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, and eggs. Mix, using your hands, until fully combined. Mixture should form patties easily and without breaking.
  2. Form the patties by dividing the mixture into four sections. Roll each section into a ball, then press into a 1-inch patty. Set aside.
  3. To make the cucumber sauce, drain the cucumber by squeezing between paper towels. Discard excess water and add cucumber to a bowl with the yogurt, dill, oil, and lemon. Mix well to combine, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To cook the patties, heat thin layer of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side.
  5. Place patties on bottom bun. Cover with cucumber sauce, then top with red onion and sprouts. Complete with the top bun to serve.
Calories per Serving 287
Total Fat 12.7 g
Saturated Fat 3.2 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 123.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 15.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Total Sugars 3.2 g
Sodium 633.6 mg
Protein 29.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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