By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Bumble Bee Seafoods and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

A lighter take on the traditional meatball sub, this healthy tuna version is simmered in a smoky barbecue sauce, and is a family favorite!

My husband LOVES meatball subs, and has requested several times that I make them.  Unfortunately for him, I don’t think I’ve ever actually made him one.  Poor guy!  When Recipe Redux and Bumblebee shared they were hosting a recipe contest, these came to mind.  My kids and husband love meatballs, and tuna meatballs sounded good. And boy were they!  You’ve gotta try this!

I love canned tuna because it is convenient, affordable and packed with nutrients.  It is a great source of protein, and also is high in Selenium (important for the immune system), Niacin, and Vitamins B6 and B12 (helps your cells make energy).  I’m always looking for ways to get more seafood into our diet, and my kids aren’t always open to eating a piece of grilled fish, so I love that this recipe uses tuna in a different way that is kid-friendly.  I used Bumble Bee® Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water, combined it with onions, seasonings, oats, and flaxseed meal, formed the meatballs, and baked them in the oven.  After that I threw them into a pot of simmering BBQ sauce and built the meatball subs.  Super simple, this was an easy weeknight meal!

I love that tuna is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which has been shown to help with brain performance and cognition.  As a new mom, I know how quickly my baby’s brain was growing during pregnancy, and now while breastfeeding, so I try extra hard to incorporate fish into my diet (at least 2 servings a week).  Also I’m secretly hoping eating more fish will help with my mommy brain. 🙂  I really do feel like I have completely lost my marbles at times, and my brain can use any extra help it can get!!!

Aside from all the health benefits of tuna, this recipe is simply scrumptious, and is one the whole family will love. The meatball sub route is SUPER delicious, but you could also serve these meatballs as a tailgating snack, or at a holiday party. I hope you are able to try them! 🙂

Table of Contents


  • Author: 
  •  Prep Time: 30 mins
  •  Cook Time: 30 mins
  •  Total Time: 1 hour
  •  Yield: 2025 meatballs 1x



  • BBQ Sauce
  • 1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T dry onion flakes (or 1 tsp onion powder)
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
  • Meatballs
  • 6 (5oz) cans Bumble Bee® Solid White Albacore in Water, drained
  • 3 T flaxseed meal
  • 9 T water
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • For the Subs:
  • Whole wheat hoagie rolls (//www.thecrowdedtable.com/whole-wheat-hoagie-rolls/)
  • Monterrey Jack cheese, sliced or shredded


  1. Start with the BBQ sauce: In a medium saucepan, whisk all the ingredients together and bring them to a boil. Simmer the sauce until the meatballs are finished cooking, stirring occaisionally, about 45 minutes.
  2. To make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the “flax eggs” first by combining the flax meal and water together and allowing them to sit for a few minutes to thicken. In a food processor*, process oats until they are a powder, and pour the oats into a mixing bowl. Next, process tuna and onion together in the food processor until finely chopped. Don’t puree it completely! Pour tuna mixture into the bowl with the oats, and add salt, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, and flax/water. Mix it all together using your hands, making sure it is well incorporated. Once it is all mixed, it should hold together in one big ball. If it is too dry, try adding a little more water (1T at a time) until the mixture holds together. Form the tuna mixture into 1 inch balls and place them on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, then turn the oven up to 375 and bake 5 minutes more, until the outside of the meatballs is crispy.
  3. Toss the meatballs in the BBQ sauce until coated. Layer them onto a hoagie roll, top with cheese, and serve! Enjoy!


*If you don’t have a food processor, finely dice the onion and tuna. Use the oats as is.