Turn to Tuna Burgers

Tuna Burgers. I like to make left turns. I like to zig when others zag.

Which makes this Asian flavored tuna concoction the ziggiest. It has so many left turns it’s practically a circle. In fact it is a circle ‘cuz it’s a burger.

Now I realize that there is nothing typically Asian about a burger, even Tuna Burgers. In fact in traditional Asian cooking there is nothing much I know of that even resembles the all-American ground meat perfection, stacked on a bun and loaded up with condiments. So stick with me as I make a few left turns.

Tuna Burgers

This burger starts with tuna. Choose something sustainable like yellowfin or albacore. And because it’s a burger we need to grind the tuna. That’s the first left turn. Maybe you have never ground fish before. But it is easily accomplished with a chef’s knife or through a few well-timed pulses in the food processor.

Now ground tuna all on its own can be a bit sticky and hard to work with. So we need a few additions to achieve the meaty, moldable texture you are familiar with. You know, the kind that you can easily form into burgers. And if we are going to make additions we might as well make them flavorful. I chose Asian standards like ginger, chili, soy and sesame. Not exactly a daring left turn, but I didn’t want you to get lost.

I also added just a few Panko breadcrumbs. I experimented both ways– with breadcrumbs and without. A few breadcrumbs really help to hold the tuna burgers together. Don’t overdo it or you’ll get a rubbery mess. I found that as little as 3 tablespoons, but no more than 1/4 cup,  just about right. The tuna should still be a bit loose, and the burgers a bit fragile. But with some chilling it is possible to get them into the pan intact.

tuna burgers Lastly, I can’t decide if this burger is best served rare, with the tuna burgers practically raw on the inside or if I prefer the more burger-like texture that is possible when you cook the tuna nearly all the way through. So that’s your call. I found both variations satisfying.

Oh and don’t forget the condiments. I used a simple wasabi mayo as well as some crunchy Japanese cucumber slices and red onions barely pickled.

Yellowfin Tuna Burgers with Japanese Cucumber Relish & Wasabi Aioli makes 2 burgers

CLICK here for a printable Tuna Burgers recipe

  • 2 t wasabi powder
  • 1 t orange juice
  • 1 t lime juice
  • 3 T pickled ginger, chopped
  • 1 c plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, separated
  • 1 1⁄2 c japanese cucumber thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 red onion, half cut into rings and the other half cut into 1/4‑inch dice, separated
  • 1⁄4 c rice vinegar
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1⁄2 t salt
  • 3⁄4 lb yellowfin, or albacore tuna, roughly chopped
  • 1⁄2 T asian chili paste
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 1⁄4 c panko breadcrumbs, or less
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 whole wheat buns, lightly toasted
  • canola oil for saute pan
  • alfalfa sprouts, to taste


Make the wasabi aioli: Combine wasabi powder, orange juice, lime juice, 1 tablespoon pickled ginger in the bowl of a mini food processor, or mortar and pestle. Puree or grind until completely smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl. Add 1‑cup mayonnaise and mix well to combine. Refrigerate the aioli until ready to use. You will have more than you need, but it will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated.

Make the relish: Combine the cucumber slices, red onion rings, rice vinegar, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl; toss to combine. Set aside at least 1 hour. Or refrigerate up to 1 day before using.

Make the tuna burgers: Pulse the tuna in a food processor 12 or 15 times, scraping down the sides halfway, to create pea-sized pieces. You may alternatively use a chef’s knife. Scrape the tuna into a large mixing bowl and add the diced red onion, remaining pickled ginger, chili paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, remaining 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, Panko breadcrumbs and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Blend well and form into 2 one-inch thick patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate, covered for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Lightly oil a cast iron or non-stick skillet and then heat it over medium heat. Gently lay the tuna patties onto the heated surface. Let them cook undisturbed, about 3 minutes until browned on one side. Flip and cook an additional 3 or 4 minutes until barely cooked through.

Make the burgers: Lay the buns out on a work surface. Put a small amount of sprouts on the bottom halves, then some of the Japanese cucumber relish. Top each with a tuna burger, then spread a bit of the wasabi aioli on top of them. Cover with bun tops and serve.

Tuna Burgers


Greg Henry

Sippity Sup