We’re always trying to eat more fish at our house, and always working on staying on budget. What could be cheaper than Tuna Cakes? Lightly browned and crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy in the center, bursting with flavor, they really are a favorite all year round. I like to make them especially during Lent when the prices on canned Tuna drop to their lowest of the year. A few vegetables and a light, crunchy breading disguise even the least expensive of canned tunas or Salmon, if you’d like to substitute.
I think I’ll go totally retro this week and serve my Tuna Cakes with an Iceberg Salad dressed with Melissa D’arabian’s Mustard Vinaigrette and fresh green beans, since both are on sale this week. Because these cakes are fairly small, a little over 1/2 cup each, make sure you serve sides everyone wants – of course, at this price, you could even make a double recipe.
Cost for my meal: The Tuna Cakes are $1.99, with the Salad and the Green Beans, $3.17 – that certainly leaves enough to add a bread or a simple dessert.
Recipe: Tuna Cakes with Red Bell Pepper, serves 4, cost $1.99
- 2 (5 to 6 oz.) cans of Tuna, drained well
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 1/2 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons dijon-style mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
- salt and pepper if desired
- 3/4 cup of toasted bread crumbs
Saute vegetables in one tablespoon of olive oil until slightly tender. Add, with oil to a small mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, egg, mustard, lemon, salt and pepper if desired and mix well. Add in the tuna and gently mix.
Place the 3/4 cup of bread crumbs on a dinner plate and scatter. Using 1/2 cup scoop or measuring cup, divide tuna mixture and place right on top of the bread crumbs. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and preferably an hour so the mixture can firm up. This will help them to hold together.
When ready to cook, place the remaining tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet and heat. Press the top of each tuna ball to flatten into a patty like shape and turn over to coat the other side. Handle very gently. Make sure each side of the tuna patty is well coated with the bread crumbs. Gently place in skillet and cook two to three minutes per side until lightly browned and crunchy.
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
Use your leftover Tuna or Salmon in this recipe – save money and time.
Tuna Cakes work much better when refrigerated before cooking, for at least 15 minutes and preferably an hour. I often double or triple the recipe and after they are firm in the fridge, I’ll transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet, freeze, bag and label. I’ll then remove them from the freezer, drop in bread crumbs and saute for a quick meal.
- Tuna: In my area, tuna is always lowest during Lent, and coupons are most often available, too. I buy a lot when it’s at it’s cheapest – it’s not unusual for my to have 20 plus cans on hand. I count on using it at least once every two weeks. Last week, I bought 8 cans for 48 cents each with a coupon, this week, it’s 68 cents so the cost for this meal is $1.38.
- Red Bell Pepper: On sale this week for 99 cents a pound, an average bell pepper weighs around 6 ounces, so costs about 37 cents each. Watch carefully for per pound or per pepper pricing. In this case, the per pound pricing turned out to be one of the best I’ve seen. I’ll stock up at these prices and freeze for later. 1/2 pepper is 19 cents.
- Onion: Usually cheapest in the fall, I’ve used up the last of my 33 cents a pound onions and am now buying at 66 cents a pound. I generally look for larger bags as they have larger onions; less time peeling. I’ll also stock up because they keep for quite a long time. Do not keep them next to your potatoes, however. Whenever I peel my onions, I save the tops and bottoms and skin for my stock. If I only need a partial onion, I’ll often just saute up the whole thing and put the excess in a zip bag in my freezer for a later use. This saves that odd 1/2 onion lurking around in the fridge, getting stronger and drying out. I used 1/2 an onion, so my cost was 15 cents.
- Celery: Last bought for $.78 a sleeve. Again, just like for carrots and onions, I’ll save my tips and ends for stock. Make sure you use the leaves as they have a ton of flavor. Cost about 5 cents.
- Eggs: On sale last week for 49 cents, one day only, I bought several as they keep for weeks and weeks. Go to the store twice when you see specials like this – send your family in! Cost for recipe: 4 cents.
- Bread crumbs: I always make my own from the crusts or leftover bread – just break it up, whirl it in the food processor and toast in the oven. Dried bread crumbs turn out much better when sautéed. Since it’s an otherwise wasted ingredient, cost is free.
- Mustard: Look for coupons for the off brands of Dijon mustard and always buy on sale. Cost about 2 cents.
- Lemon: Cheapest in late winter, I can often find bags at a very low cost. If I just need a bit and don’t have another use for the lemon in a recipe like this, I’ll omit or use a bit of bottled. If I know I’ll use the rest soon, I’ll put a fork into the lemon and give it a squeeze. Cost: negligible.
- Olive Oil: I look for a price of about 8 cents an ounce with a combined coupon and sales. Buy the smaller bottles. Cost for two tablespoons: 16 cents.
- Beans: Green beans are on sale for $1.49 a pound, a price that’s pretty close to the in season pricing. I prefer them so much to frozen that I don’t mind spending a little more than the frozen price for them. I’ll use bit of butter on them so the cost is $1.51.
- Iceberg Lettuce: It was so overused for so long, it’s gotten a bad reputation, but let’s face it, even at full price it’s cheap, kids seem to like it and it holds up well. At 78 cents a head, I can use half a head for 39 cents.
- Dressing: I’m currently intrigued by Melissa D’arabian’s Mustard vinaigrette, cost for enough to dress a salad for four: 30 cents.
Nutritional Information for Tuna Cakes:
Cal: 353, 23% from fat; tot fat 11.51g, sat fat: 2.31g; chol 84mg; sod 987 mg; carb: 34g; fib: 4g; sug: 4g; prot: 29 g.
Put Your Own Spin on It:
Both Chives and Green Onion are excellent in tuna cakes, but really, you could put almost any type of vegetables you like in them – if you use wetter vegetables like tomatoes, drain well, and add more bread crumbs to the filling if it’s too moist. You can also vary the filler from bread crumbs to cracker crumbs or even oatmeal. You could put a Caribbean twist to these, using lime and a little hot pepper and cilantro in the cakes and serve them with something like a papaya-mango or even pineapple salsa.
My PayOff: This is both kid AND adult friendly: an inexpensive dinner using fish on the table in about 30 minutes? What more payoff could I want?
Made Tuna Cakes March 2012