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Tasty Tuna Burgers: Healthy Summertime Eats for the Whole Family

hero burger

Summer is upon us, and with it comes one of the easiest, kid-friendliest dishes around: the burger! But while a classic cow patty (hah!) is always a great go-to, there’s a whole lot more to burgers than beef. Our super easy tuna burgers, for example, are simply delicious and have a satisfying firm-yet-tender texture—a perfect patty for plopping on a bun and topping with cheese and tartar sauce, or serving over a fresh veggie salad (full recipe below). 

All you need is a bowl, a skillet, and 20 minutes, and you’ll have a tasty, filling, and healthy dinner on the backyard picnic blanket.         

burger ingredients

While these tuna burgers make a smart light summer meal, we love that they’re an easy dish to whip up any time of year. The ingredients are all pantry/refrigerator staples, and the finished patties taste just as yummy warmed up for lunch or dinner the next day. Opt for multi-grain or whole wheat buns, English muffins, or pita, or go sans bread and plate them up with brown rice and steamed broccoli instead. We suggest using reduced-sodium light tuna in water to get all the great protein that tuna offers without the nutrition pitfalls canned or pouched fish can present.

burger with cheese

In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches them important social skills (like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you”) and how to listen to their own hunger cues. Allowing them to get in on the serving action can also inspire them to try new foods, like protein-rich tuna, celery, or even onions.

Invite your child to build his own “dream” burger with a bun, patty, cheese, sauces, veggies, etc., and to add whatever sides he likes to his plate—we suggest baby carrots, sliced bell peppers or radishes, fresh fruit, homemade applesauce, or baked oven fries. Sure, there will likely be some spills when children take the lead, but also lots of smiles. 

place setting with burger

Have a few extra minutes? Make your own tartar sauce! It only takes five minutes and it will give your burger just the pop of fresh, creamy, tangy zing it needs. Check out these various takes on a very simple tartar sauce from Ina Garten and Allrecipes.

Consider inviting your kiddo to help you with the measuring and mixing! Spending time in the kitchen with children actually has numerous benefits: It can help them learn and practice basic math and science concepts as well as build language skills, confidence, and a more adventurous palate. No zingier zing than that!


Total time: About 20 minutes

Serves: 4

* Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.


  • 1 pouch (6.4 ounces) reduced-sodium light tuna in water
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup dry bread crumbs
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup heart-healthy canola or olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Optional: 1–2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Optional toppings: Cheese, tartar sauce, pickles, lettuce, tomato, etc.


  1. Drain the tuna, reserve the liquid, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the egg, bread crumbs, celery, onion, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, and hot sauce (if using). 
  3. Fold the drained tuna into the mixture and taste. If it’s too dry, add a little of the reserved tuna liquid, a teaspoon at a time. Add salt and pepper if desired.
  4. Shape the mixture into four patties.
  5. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Cook the patties until lightly browned, about 4–5 minutes per side. Serve on toasted buns with your toppings and sides of choice. Enjoy!
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