These portable and delicious spicy tuna cakes are sure to win over your family! Inexpensive ingredients like sweet potatoes, canned tuna, and jalapeño peppers are transformed into flavor-packed and nutritious Whole30-friendly savory seafood bites!

Two spicy tuna cakes on a white plate. There is a red banner on the photo that says paleo, Whole30, and gluten-free.

A Classic Nom Nom Paleo Recipe!

My Spicy Tuna Cakes recipe is definitely one of the most popular recipes from our first cookbook and app. In fact, I decided to post it here on the blog so more people could make them! I make these portable savory cakes about once a month ’cause I aways have the humble ingredients on hand.

Two paleo spicy tuna cakes on a plate.

What do they taste like?

You may not normally associate canned fish with sweet potatoes and jalapeño peppers, but trust me on this one: they’re tender and subtly sweet, with a wickedly peppery bite that sneaks up on you. The heat levels can be adjusted to your taste; amp it up by subbing serrano peppers in place of jalapeño, or turn it down by cutting down on the red pepper flakes. Serve these spicy cakes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or whip up an extra-big batch for your next dinner party!

Someone flattening the spicy tuna cake mixture into a muffin pan with the back of a spoon.

How do you keep the tuna cakes from sticking?

One of the most frequent questions I get about this recipe is how to keep the tuna cakes from sticking to the muffin pan. In the directions, I tell you to grease the muffin tin with melted ghee—take this step seriously! Don’t skimp on fat because it’ll make the tuna cakes slide out easier. If the tuna cakes are still stuck, use a small silicone spatula to scrape around and under the cakes to coax them out.

A person is adding parchment muffin liners to a muffin tin.

These days, I skip the greasing part and place parchment muffin liners in the pan because it makes clean-up a breeze! (p.s. Many Nomsters have told me that silicone muffin pans are a great non-stick alternative, too!)

What other protein can you use?

These savory cakes are totally adaptable and you can use a myriad of canned or leftover cooked seafood. Some of my favorite varieties include cakes made with cooked crab, canned salmon, and boneless/skinless sardines. It’s a fantastic and inexpensive way to get more healthy seafood in your diet!

Can you make them ahead and freeze them?

These Spicy Tuna Cakes can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to four days or frozen for up to 3 months. If you have frozen tuna cakes, simply thaw them overnight in the refrigerator.

How do you reheat them?

When you’re ready to eat your leftovers, skillet-fry the tuna cakes in some melted fat over medium heat. Crisp the edges, and you’re good to go. Don’t reheat them in the microwave unless you want to piss off your family members or co-workers with the fishy smell. The leftover spicy tuna cakes taste great straight from the fridge, so no need to make enemies!

Time to make Spicy Tuna Cakes!

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons melted ghee, divided
  • 10 ounces canned albacore tuna packed in water, drained
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (about ⅓ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh cilantro
  • 1⅓ cup mashed baked sweet potato
  • finely grated zest from ½ medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium lemons, cut into wedges (optional)

Equipment:

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and use a brush to grease a 12-cup regular sized muffin tin with one tablespoon of melted ghee. (Or skip this part and just line the tin with parchment muffin liners!)

Brushing grease in the muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, scallions, and cilantro. Add the mashed sweet potato to the tuna mixture, and gently combine.

The ingredients for spicy tuna cakes mixed together in a bowl.

Then, mix in the lemon zest, jalapeño, the remaining two tablespoons of ghee, eggs, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I normally use 1½ teaspoons of Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt, but your taste may vary.

A raw egg is added to the spicy tuna cake mixture in a bowl.

(Not sure if you’ve added enough S&P? Take a small portion and fry up a little pancake to see if the seasoning is right!)

I use my hands to mix everything together because that way I can make sure that the fish chunks aren’t overly broken up.

Someone mixing together the spicy tuna cake mixture with their hands.

Scoop a ¼ quarter cup of the mixture into each greased muffin tin cup, and flatten with the back of a spoon.

Flattening the spicy tuna cakes into the muffin tin with the back of a spoon.

Bake the tuna cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.

Someone checking the doneness of the spicy tuna cakes with a toothpick.

Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool. The easiest way I’ve found to get them out is to put the wire rack on top of the muffin tin…

Someone getting ready to transfer the spicy tuna cakes onto a wire rack to cool.

…flip everything upside-down, and tap them gently on the counter. Voilà!

Spicy tuna cakes on a wire rack to cool.

Grab a lemon wedge and squeeze some juice on your tuna cake before you pop it in your mouth. Now go make a mess in your kitchen!

A collage of the cooking steps to make Spicy Tuna Cakes, a classic Nom Nom Paleo recipe.

[Originally posted on July 10, 2014. Updated with new details and photos on July 19, 2020.]


Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2021).


 PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD

Spicy Tuna Cakes

4.88 from 74 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 12 cakes
These portable spicy tuna cakes filled with sweet potato and jalapeño peppers are delicious, tender and Whole30-friendly!

Ingredients 
 

  • 3 tablespoons melted ghee divided
  • 10 ounces canned albacore tuna packed in water drained
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced (about ⅓ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh cilantro
  • 1⅓ cup mashed baked sweet potato
  • finely grated zest from ½ medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium lemons cut into wedges (optional)

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F, and use a brush to grease a 12-cup regular sized muffin tin with one tablespoon of melted ghee. (Or skip this part and just line the tin with parchment muffin liners!)
  • In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, scallions, and cilantro. Add the mashed sweet potato to the tuna mixture, and gently combine.
  • Then, mix in the lemon zest, jalapeño, the remaining two tablespoons of ghee, eggs, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I normally use 1½ teaspoons of Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt, but your taste may vary. (Not sure if you’ve added enough S&P? Take a small portion and fry up a little pancake to see if the seasoning is right!)
  • Use your hands to mix everything together because that way you can make sure that the fish chunks aren’t overly broken up.
  • Scoop a ¼ cup of the mixture into each greased muffin tin cup and flatten with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake the tuna cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out cleanly.
  • Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool. The easiest way I’ve found to get them out is to put the wire rack on top of the muffin tin, flip everything upside-down, and tap them gently on the counter. 
  • Grab a lemon wedge and squeeze some juice on your tuna cake before your pop it in your mouth.

Video

Notes

  • Store them in the fridge in a air-tight container for up to four days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When you’re ready to eat the leftovers, skillet-fry the thawed tuna cakes in some melted fat over medium heat. Crisp the edges, and you’re good to go.

Nutrition

Calories: 111kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 5g | Fiber: 2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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60 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I’m curious if you might be able to offer some suggestions for sweet potato substitutions to make these keto/low carb friendly, or could it be omitted entirely?
    Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    these are sooo good. I only eat them cold but they are the perfect blend of sweet, savory and spicy. great for taking to work for lunch (as long as you aren’t reheating in the microwave lol)

  3. 5 stars
    The recipe is easy to follow and turned out well. I used skipjack tuna and lime zest instead. Thanks for sharing the recipe.