Many keep some cans of tuna in the pantry as an inexpensive source of protein. But for a number of Americans, the only purpose for canned tuna is tuna salad or cat food.

Veer from the deep-rutted tuna salad trail with this easy recipe for 참치전 chamchi jeon. These little, two-bite-sized tuna cakes are seasoned simply with salt, pepper, onion and a little garlic. That helps them pair well with bolder, spicier main dishes or kimchi banchan (pickled vegetable side dishes).


I used common canned tuna in my version of this recipe. However, if you are able to get your hands on the Korean canned tuna commonly sold for making kimchi jjigae, use it. It’s pre-marinaded in spicy gochujang and will add some spice and excitement to your tuna cakes.

If you want to eat them western style, you can serve them with tartar sauce, spicy mayonnaise or tzatziki. I served them with a couple of Korean dipping sauces: vinegar spicy pepper sauce (식초 고추장 shikcho gochujang) and vinegar soy sauce (초간장 cho ganjang).

Chamchi Jeon (Korean Tuna Cakes)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 10 cakes. Serves two as a part of a main course or up to 10 as part of banchan course.

Chamchi Jeon (Korean Tuna Cakes)

Based on recipe by Naomi Imatome-Yun.


  • 10 ounces of tuna (two small cans or one large), drained and flaked
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • California olive oil for cooking


  1. Mix all ingredient together with your hands, except for, of course, the olive oil.
  2. Form small patties with your hands. I made 10 cakes with this recipe.
  3. Bring up to medium-high heat, and coat lightly with olive oil.
  4. Cook tuna cakes in batches, waiting for about two minutes before you flip to the other side.
  5. The patties are done when they are nicely browned and a little bit crisp on each side.
  6. Set aside, garnish and serve immediately.
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I'm a writer/blogger for Koreafornian Cooking (USA), the San Francisco Bay Area Editor for ZenKimchi Food Journal (South Korea) and occasionally for WineKorea.asia developing Korean and Korean fusion recipes, and writing articles on the Korean food scene in the San Francisco Bay Area and commentary on Korean food culture. I've written articles for Yonhap News Agency based in South Korea and Plate Magazine, a culinary magazine. My recipes have been featured on Serious Eats/Slice, Foodbuzz.com, New Asian Cuisine, Marxfoods.com and Korea.net.
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