Spanish Tuna ‘Meatballs’

Spanish tuna meatballs

Albóndigas, meatballs, are a classic part of the Spanish tapas repertoire, usually coated in a thick tomato sauce.

They arrived in Spain with the Moors so would have originally been made with lamb. Today beef is most common, and I love this pescatarian version.

These delicious tuna ‘meatballs’ don’t taste fishy at all – most people won’t even notice they’re eating seafood rather than red meat, so they’re a great way to add a little healthy omaga-3s into the diet of folks who don’t love fish.

As the food processor breaks up any sinew, they’re also a great way to use tuna off-cuts, or at least cooking grade tuna, no need for fancy sashimi-grade cuts here.

With tapas of course we’re drinking sherry, and my pick with these tuna albóndigas is an aged manzanilla.

If you’d like to learn more about the unique wines of Jerez in southern Spain, and enjoy some delicious Spanish food alongside, check out the International Sherry Week events that are being held in Australia from 6–12 November. I’ll be co-hosting the dinner at Gilda’s in Sydney on 7 November with Firedoor’s Lennox Hastie and would love to see you there.

Serves: 4–8 as a tapas


Tuna Meatballs:

  • 400g tuna
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • extra virgin olive oil, for shallow-frying
  • crusty bread, for serving

Smoky Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • salt flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked pimentón (Spanish paprika)
  • 400g crushed canned Italian tomatoes (polpa)


Smoky Tomato Sauce

Heat oil in a saucepan, add onion and salt, cover and cook, stirring often for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Stir in pimentón and tomato, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for a minute or so then cover and set aside.

Tuna meatballs

Place tuna into a food processor and process into a paste. Transfer to a bowl with onion, breadcrumbs, oregano, salt and pepper and use your hands to mix thoroughly.

Roll mixture into 16 walnut-sized balls, dust in flour and flatten slightly. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry balls for 3 to 4 minutes each side until golden.

Drain on a rack over a plate.

Place in a serving bowl and toss with Smoky Tomato Sauce. Garnish with a little oregano if you like and serve with bread for mopping up the sauce.

You’ll find a print-friendly version of this recipe here as well as a step-by-step video of making albóndigas.

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What’s your favourite meatball recipe? Why not share it in the comments section below?

Also read: Rustic meatballs with a creamy mash

Written by Roberta Muir

Roberta Muir loves making it easy for home cooks to explore new cuisines and ingredients and sharing her passion for cooking, eating, drinking and travelling. She’s a recipe writer, cooking teacher, and author of four cookbooks including the Sydney Seafood School Cookbook. Find more of her inspiration at

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