Baked Tuna Cutlet with White Beans

These tuna and bean patties are filled with onion, garlic, chilies, and Indian spices, and then baked until golden brown.

Cutlets can refer to either thin “cuts” of meat or ground meat and/or fish that is breaded and fried.

Kerala cutlets are usually made with fish or ground beef and potatoes, onions, and spices. Though my dad made both beef and fish cutlets, his specialty was definitely fish, or rather tuna, cutlets.

Unfortunately I don’t always have potatoes on hand when I get a craving for his fish cutlets, but I do always have some canned beans and tuna in my pantry.

Changes I made to my dad’s recipe

  • Substituting Potato with Beans: White or cannellini beans work as a great substitute for the potatoes and they add extra protein and fiber. If you prefer potato, boil or bake a small or medium one, then gently mash it. Leave the skin for extra fiber and nutrients. If using potatoes, eliminate the carrots.

  • Using Carrots: Not typically used in cutlet, but I added them because otherwise the mixture dries out due to the white beans. You can also use zucchini or mushrooms to add moisture and flavor.

  • Baking Instead of Frying: I love fried food, but hate wasting so much oil, and definitely don’t enjoy standing over a hot stove getting burned by that oil! Baking is less messy and scary for me, and obviously much easier. By mixing the breadcrumbs with a little oil before breading and baking the cutlets, you will still get a nice crispy & crunchy exterior. Check out my kitchen tips on other ways to use homemade breadcrumbs.

Joby's Test Kitchen tuna cutlet on plate

How to Make the Tuna Mixture

First mash 3/4 cup of canned white beans in a bowl with either a fork or potato masher. I use cannellini or white kidney beans though pinto or garbanzo beans may work. Set this aside

Then sauté 1/2 cup each of minced onions and carrots, 1/2 small green chili pepper, 1-3 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic. Sauté until they become golden and soft.

Now add the 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon of chili powder and sauté until they bloom and become fragrant.

Finally, add in 1 4-ounce can of tuna, homemade masala (recipe below), and salt.

Then add this mixture to the mashed beans. Allow the mixture to cool down a bit before adding an egg yolk. Save the egg white for later.

The mixture can be used right away or be chilled in the fridge for several hours.

Breading and Baking

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425°F. I line my baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liner, but you can also grease it with some oil.

First make fresh breadcrumbs by placing 2 soft pieces of whole wheat bread in a food processor and grind.

Now it’s time to create your breading station. Gather 3 shallow pans or plates. Set aside the first pan for the cutlets.

In the second pan, add the reserved egg white and whisk it until it’s frothy.

In the third pan, mix the breadcrumbs with a few teaspoons of oil and a pinch of salt.

Take out the tuna mixture and divide it into 8 balls, flattened slightly into an oval shape. Place them on the first pan/plate.

Next, with one hand, dip each cutlet into the egg white and then transfer to the crumb plate. Using your other hand, gently turn over the cutlets until they are completely coated in crumbs. Place on the baking sheet.

Once all the cutlets are fully breaded and on the baking sheet, place them in the oven and bake for 24-28 minutes until they are golden brown. You will need to flip them over at least once midway through baking.

These tuna cutlets can be served alongside rice for a meal or eaten alone for a tasty snack. We sometimes eat them with cilantro chutney but I prefer ketchup and pickled onions.

 

What My Kids Say:
10 year-old: “It’s salty and I like the crumbly topping. The inside is delicious.”
8 year-old: “I’m not a fan of tuna.”

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Kerala Coconut Chutney
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Joby's Test Kitchen plate of golden tuna cutlet on metal plate with cilantro.

Baked Tuna Cutlet with White Beans

Joby’s Test Kitchen
These tuna and white bean patties are filled with onion, chilies, and Indian spices, and then baked until golden brown.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 8 cutlets
Calories 147 kcal

Equipment

  • Food Processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 4oz can tuna, drained
  • ¾ cup (130g) canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 tbsps (15-30ml) oil, divided
  • ½ cup minced onion (about ¼ of medium onion)
  • ½ cup minced carrot (about 1 small/medium carrot)
  • ½ small green chili, minced, optional
  • ½ tsp salt (plus extra for breading)
  • 1-3 tsps ginger, minced
  • 1-3 tsps garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp homemade masala (use recipe below or store-bought garam masala)
  • 1 whole egg, separated
  • 2 slices white or wheat bread, ground in food processor

Homemade Masala (makes about 1 tbsp)

  • 3 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon stick or 1/4 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper or 3 black peppercorns
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, optional
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds, optional
  • 1 petal star anise, optional

Instructions
 

Tuna Mixture

  • In a large bowl mash the beans with a fork or potato masher. Set aside.
  • Heat a skillet and add 2-3 teaspoons oil, then add onion, green chili, ginger, garlic, and sauté for 5-10 minutes until lightly golden and cooked down.
  • Add turmeric and chili powder and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Take off heat and stir in the tuna, masala, and salt. (If the mixture has stuck to the pan, put a lid on and let sit for 5 minutes, then scrape it up. The steam should help loosen it).
  • Transfer everything to the bowl with the mashed beans and mix well. When mixture is completely cool, add egg yolk. The mixture can be used right away or chilled in the fridge for several hours.

Breading and Baking

  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Whisk the egg white until frothy. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish with 2-3 teaspoons of oil and a pinch of salt, if desired (optional). Mix well.
  • Divide tuna mixture into 8 balls, and flatten slightly while shaping into ovals. With one hand, dip each cutlet into the egg white, and then with the other hand place in the breadcrumbs. Turn over and make sure the cutlet is fully coated in crumbs. If there are crumbs left over, dip the cutlets again, until all the crumbs are used up.
  • Place on the baking sheet and bake for 24-28 minutes until golden brown, flipping them over once.

Homemade Masala (makes about 1 tbsp)

  • In a spice or coffee grinder, grind together the spices. Pour into a small jar and keep in the refrigerator.

Notes

Carrots: Not typically used in cutlet, but I added them because otherwise the mixture dries out due to the white beans. You can also use zucchini or mushrooms to add moisture and flavor.
Potato Version: The authentic version of cutlets uses potatoes. To make: Boil or bake one small to medium potato, then gently mash it until some whole pieces remain. I also leave the skin on for extra fiber and nutrients, this is optional. When using potatoes, you can eliminate the carrots.
Keyword cutlet, Kerala, tuna, white beans

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