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Tuna Tofu Patties

Tuna Tofu Patties are a popular Hawaii home cooking dish. There are endless variations, but this is the classic, seasoned with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil.

Tuna Tofu Patties, ready to eat ^_^

We have many different type of "patties" in Hawaii...

Tuna Tofu Patties

...and Tuna Tofu Patties are the most popular. These patties are made simply with tuna and tofu (and other vegetables), seasoned with the "trinity" of soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil, then pan fried.

Tuna Tofu Patties are golden with a crisp surface, and super tender and light (thanks to the tofu). They are best hot from the pan...especially if you manage to get a beautiful, deep brown crust on them! But also delicious at room temperature (that's why patties are very popular okazuya offerings and potluck dishes).

Tuna Tofu Patties make a wonderful side dish to a larger meal, or can serve as the main course for a simple meal. For easy weekday lunches, I eat a few patties with a bowl of rice.

Ingredients for Tuna Tofu Patties

Patties In Hawaii

Patties, as a general food type, are quite popular in Hawaii. You'll find them as part of bento boxes, on the food line up at any great potluck party, and always at okazuyas.

Okazuyas are local Japanese delis that offer prepared food. Just point and select the items you desire (always hard to pick because there are dozens of dishes and everything always looks so good). The ladies charge you per piece and box it up nicely.

Popular okazuya dishes include Shoyu Hot Dogs, Mochiko Chicken, Shoyu Chicken, and much more. The okazuya culture in Hawaii is incredible, I will do a full post on this soon. Every okazuya has their own type of patties (and some have multiple types). There are patties made of fresh fish (usually ahi/tuna), and others made of *canned fish. There are patties with and without tofu, there are patties with potatoes. There are a million ways to make local patties and they are all delicious.

*Because of Hawaii's history and geographic location, canned food items have always been (and will likely always be), part of our food culture. We especially love Spam, corned beef hash, and of course, canned tuna. 

All the ingredients, together in the mixing bowl

Tuna Tofu Patties Method

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The ingredient list for Tuna Tofu Patties breaks down into four parts. 

1) The "core" ingredients:

2) The vegetable and aromatics:

  • Carrots, grated,
  • Onions, chopped
  • Green Onions, chopped
  • Ginger, minced

3) The binders (binders are important because they "bind" all the ingredients together so that the patty doesn't fall apart in the pan):

  • Egg
  • Panko (or breadcrumbs)

4) The seasonings:

Mix everything together in a bowl, form in to patties and then pan fry! 

Make the patties as big or small as you want, just make sure to pan fry on both sides till they're nicely and deeply browned. I aim for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Feel free to go longer if needed.

Some people like big and wide patties. Others like to drop spoonfuls of the tuna-tofu mixture directly onto the pan and make smaller patties. In general, the smaller the patty, the easier it is to cook (if you make it too big, it will fall apart when you flip). 

Crumbled tofu (make sure to use firm tofu)

How To Crumble Tofu?

Tofu is the most important ingredient in this patty. The tuna can be replaced with another fish, but nothing can replace the tofu. The tofu is that makes these patties super tender and light. 

You must first remove excess water and crumble the tofu before mixing it with the other ingredients. If the tofu has too much water, the patties will not stick together.

This is how to remove excess water from tofu:

  1. Start with a block of firm tofu. 
  2. Put the tofu in a colander.
  3. Put a plate directly on top of the tofu. 
  4. Weigh the plate down with something heavy (I use canned tomatoes, or a mug filled with water)
  5. Let it weigh down the tofu for 20 minutes (or longer, if you'd like). This is so that all the water gets "pressed" out of the tofu. 
  6. Remove the weight and the plate. Use your hands to crumble the tofu into the mixing bowl.

Another method if you have a cheesecloth (or nut milk bag, like the one we use for Homemade Soy Milk): put the tofu block in the cheesecloth, fold up all sides and squeeze out excess water.  

Soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil are the three main seasoning ingredients

Tuna Tofu Patties Substitutions

Patties are highly forgiving, and thus open to many substitutions. Here are a few fun ideas:

  • Add chopped chili peppers (ideally Hawaiian chili peppers!) to the mix. Alternatively you can splash Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water on top of the finished patties right before you eat.
  • Add minced garlic
  • Add chopped canned water chestnuts
  • The patties have plenty flavor on their own, but you can also make a dipping sauce of equal parts soy sauce, sugar, and water. Heat in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved. Drizzle over the patties or serve on the side for dipping.
  • Change the fish - you can use canned or fresh fish (cook the fresh fish first, let cool, and then gently flake it).

Get a bowl of rice to accompany, and dig in!

Tuna Tofu Patties Recipe

See below for the recipe ^_^

Tuna Tofu Patties

Tuna Tofu Patties

Yield: About 8-10 patties. Lunch for 3!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Tuna Tofu Patties are a popular Hawaii dish with many variations! This is the classic, simply seasoned with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Enjoy with rice for a simple lunch, or as a side dish part of a larger local meal!



  1. First you must crumble the tofu. To do that, drain as much moisture as you can from the tofu. I do this by putting the tofu block in a colander. Put a plate on directly on top of the tofu. Then put a canned good (or cup filled with water) on top of that plate to weigh it down. Let sit for 15 minutes. Then you crumble the tofu (use your hands) into a bowl.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the crumbled tofu with the tuna, egg, panko, carrots, onions, green onions, and ginger.
  3. Mix everything until it's well combined. Then season the mixture with the soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil.
  4. Gently form into small 2-inch patties. Pan fry the patties on each side for 3-5 minutes. Serve hot, with a bowl of rice or as a side dish to a larger meal! Enjoy ^_^
Mahalo for Reading!


Tuesday 29th of March 2022

Okay I still can't get these guys to hold together so I gave up. I love the taste. I don't use oyster sauce so I used ponzu instead and it's perfect. I made my own savory version of saboro don with this taking the place of the ground beef and I also made the egg a little less sweet and used sesame broccoli instead of peas and I'm going to keep making this just so I can make that again. It was delicious!

Gina U

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

@Shoshana, I think the trick is really squishing the patties together really well, then forming them in to a patty and NOT pushing on them while they cook. Mine stuck together really well with out alerting the recipe. However for some extra kick I added in a little bit of Yoshida sauce.


Saturday 19th of February 2022

Correction I used 1/2 TB sesame oil.


Saturday 19th of February 2022

I made these today and they were delicious. I made just a couple changes. I used onion powder as I don’t care for onions. I also added garlic powder. I made sure to drain tuna. Also, used only 1 TB sesame oil. And a little extra bread crumbs. I also used chopped jalapeños. After I formed the patties I put into the fridge for about an hour. Just before I put in the pan I sprinkles with corn starch and they were perfect. I placed on a bed of rice and drizzled eel sauce and Mayo sriracha and ate with seaweed. Yum!!!


Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

okay made it once but the method of pressing the tofu didn't really do the trick and it was way too watery. Tried it today with a differnt method and it worked perfectly but they still fell apart. at least they taste great. How much oil am I supposed to put? what's the texture I should be trying to go for with this? Thanks I love the recipe otherwise but it looks like it belongs in a saboro don.


Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Enjoyed this recipe. First batch crumbled and we wrapped them up lettuce cup style. I added more binder for the second batch and had better luck keeping them intact but it did change the texture a bit. Good with namasu and steamed rice. Will be making this recipe again and trying out variations. Thanks Kathy!


Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Aloha Romy - Thank you very much! I'm so happy you enjoyed the recipe, love the idea of eating it with namasu and rice :) - Kathy

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