Harvesting Nature

Justin Townsend




Recipe Name:  Seared Tuna Burgers with Spicy Mayo

Serving Size: 6 patties

Time to make: 30 minutes

Special Equipment: Stove top, cast iron pan/non stick pan, spatula

Beer/Wine Pairing:  IPA, pilsner, sake, or white wine

Also works with: most larger saltwater fish

On a recent fishing adventure, here in Key West, we targeted blackfin tuna, which is known for superb table fare. Unfortunately, we did not catch any blackfin tuna, but we did get several tunny fish which are also known as false albacore and bonita. Most people toss this fish back or use it for bait. That day we got 12 of them and I didn’t want to waste the meat.

People toss them back because they claim the meat is very “fishy”. I dislike the word “fishy” almost as much as I dislike the word “gamey” when referencing wild game meat. The usage of both words usually indicates improper field care, processing or preparation. The tunny fish should be bled out just like other, more popular, tuna species. Bleeding will help reduce the amount of blood in the meat which is where some of the off flavors will come from. Another trick is to soak the meat in a couple of ice water baths. I did the latter with this meat and was happy with the result.

After pulling the fillets out of the ice baths there was zero “fishy” taste in the meat. We used the first couple of pounds to make poke which was phenomenal. The next few pounds went into this recipe which is a burger form of the poke recipe. I would normally grill any burger patties, but I think that the use of the cast iron pan helped keep the meat together. I also normally use egg as a binder within the patty, but I wanted to cook these patties a little less well done, thus skipping the egg. The addition of the spicy mayo was a great spicy layer to the flavor of the tuna.


2 lbs tuna, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp + 1 tsp teriyaki

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp sesame oil

¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp Cajun seafood seasoning

½ cup panko

1 tbsp oil


Shredded cheese


Spicy mayo


How to make it

  1. Combine all ingredients (except the oil) in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Allow the mixture to set for 5 minutes. This allows the panko to moisten and bind to the fish.
  3. Bring a large cast iron pan or nonstick pan to medium high heat.
  4. Form the tuna mixture into 4”-5” wide patties. Make sure they are pressed together to prevent breaking up in the pan.
  5. Add the patties to the pan and press lightly with a spatula. Allow the patties to cook for two minutes and then carefully flip with the spatula.
  6. Sprinkle shredded cheese on the top and allow the patties to cook for an additional two minutes.
  7. Remove from the pan and plate using the sides above or your favorites.

About the Chef:

Justin Townsend has been a hunter and angler since he was a child. As a classically trained chef, he infuses his passions for the outdoors and cooking to create delicious wild game meals. After joining the Coast Guard in 2015, he moved to Key West, FL, where the island serves as a lily pad for his many adventures on land and sea. He is the author of the cookbook, Eat Wild Game, and hosts Harvesting Nature’s Wild Fish and Game Podcast, which focuses on the technical side of cooking wild fish and game while also incorporating adventures and lessons learned from his pursuit of wild meat. You can purchase his cookbook, listen to the podcast, and get more information at HarvestingNature.com.