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Ahi tuna, also known as yellowfin tuna, marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, green onion, and lime juice, then pan seared.
Photography Credit:Elise Bauer
After completing graduate school in the late 80s, I spent a year studying martial arts at Kyoto University in Japan.
The school cafeteria served many things that one would never encounter in the states (natto spaghetti for example), but one thing they did serve that I couldn’t get enough of was seared ahi tuna, prepared fresh to order.
It was usually served with white rice, a little shoyu, some radish sprouts, a few slivers of nori, and some toasted sesame seeds. One ample serving may have cost as much as 200 yen (~$2) but I think it was probably less.
Inspired by a recipe for seared ahi in the South Beach Diet Cookbook, I found some gorgeous ahi tuna steaks at Whole Foods. The South Beach recipe called for the ahi tuna steaks to be seared with peppercorns, but I was looking for a more Asian twist, so I made up my own marinade with tamari, sesame oil and ginger.
The Best Tuna to Buy
Ahi tuna is also known as yellowfin tuna. To make seared ahi, you need to start with very fresh, sushi-grade ahi, as you will only be lightly searing the outside, leaving the inside raw. Not even rare, but raw. The freshness and the quality of the fish make a huge difference with this dish, so don’t even attempt it with a lower grade of fish.
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How To Cook Tuna Steaks
This recipe follows a very basic method:
- Marinate the tuna at least one hour.
- Sear over medium high to high heat.
- Slice and serve.
This preparation leaves the tuna raw in the middle, which is why buying high-quality tuna is crucial. Overcooking results in tough, dry tuna.
What's in the Marinade?
The marinade for this tuna is made with dark sesame oil, soy sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, green onion, and lime juice. If you're gluten-free, it's fine to substitute tamari.
Swaps and Substitutions
So many of you have made this recipe over the years (thank you!) and added your own spins. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Add something spicy to the marinade, like sambal oelek, gochujang, wasabi, or even hot chili oil
- Sprinkle the tuna steaks with white sesame seeds for some crunch
- Serve with aioli (garlic-infused mayonnaise) drizzled over top
- Add some pickled onions as garnish
- Grill your steaks instead of searing!
Pro Tip: Make Extra Marinade for Dipping
Several of you suggested this over the years, and we agree! Make some extra marinade, set it aside before you add the fish, and then serve it as a dipping sauce with the seared tuna.
More Ideas for Fresh Fish
- Seared Tuna with Avocado
- Ginger-Soy Steamed Salmon
- Baked Cod with Ritz Cracker Topping
- Fish Tacos
- Sole Piccata
Updated June 11, 2020 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.
Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe
- 2 (6-8 ounce) ahi tuna steaks (3/4 of an inch thick)
For the marinade:
- 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or 2 teaspoons of wheat-free tamari for gluten-free option)
- 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 green onion (scallion) thinly sliced (a few slices reserved for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
1 Marinate the tuna steaks: Mix the marinade ingredients together and coat the tuna steaks with the marinade, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
2 Sear the tuna: Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high to high heat. When the pan is hot, remove the tuna steaks from the marinade and sear them for a minute to a minute and a half on each side ( even a little longer if you want the tuna less rare than pictured.)
3 Slice and serve: Remove from pan and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with a few green onion slices.
Serve plain, with white rice, or over lettuce or thinly sliced cabbage or fennel. Shown served over sliced fennel salad.
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Healthy and Delicious Simple Seared Ahi Tuna
I've got a couple of "fancy" back pocket meals for when I really want to impress guests. This Simple Seared Ahi Tuna just happens to be FULL of protein and atop a tangy veggie salad.
Seared Ahi Tuna is one of my husband's favorite meals that I make. So when I want to have a fun date night in, I'll whip this up and it's done in less than 10 minutes!
Fish is a staple dinner in this house because you know I love to cook healthy! Healthy fish recipes like this seared ahi tuna, salmon spinach pasta, coconut lime shrimp curry, and more are perfect 30-minute weeknight dinners.
How to sear tuna
Seared tuna is one of the first quick dinner ideas Alex and I used to make when we first started cooking together! If you’ve never had ahi tuna, it’s time to start. NOW! Seared ahi tuna does not tasty fishy at all. So if you’re looking to convince someone ambivalent about seafood, seared tuna is a great place to start. The flavor? Seared tuna is so, so delicious. It tastes buttery on the inside and salty savory on the outside. It’s one of both Alex and my favorite foods and contains a ton of nutrients, especially for people who eat mostly vegetarian and vegan like us.
How to sear tuna? It’s so quick and simple:
- Heat a skillet to medium high heat with a small drizzle of olive oil. Add the tuna and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
- Remove the tuna and slice it against the grain into half-inch thick slices. After it’s cut you’ll see that the inside is a beautiful pink color (raw) and and just the edges are browned. That’s what you want! Our tuna was sashimi grade and intended for sushi or sashimi, it was pre-cut–which was helpful.
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 4 (6 ounce) tuna steaks
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- wasabi paste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, mirin, honey and sesame oil. Divide into two equal parts. Stir the rice vinegar into one part and set aside as a dipping sauce.
Spread the sesame seeds out on a plate. Coat the tuna steaks with the remaining soy sauce mixture, then press into the sesame seeds to coat.
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Place steaks in the pan, and sear for about 30 seconds on each side. Serve with the dipping sauce and wasabi paste.
Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe
Seared Ahi Tuna with Sesame Seeds and Ginger Sauce
Seared Ahi Tuna with Sesame Seeds and Ginger Sauce
Ahi Tuna is also known as Yellow Fin, or Big-Eye tuna. It is usually used for sashimi (raw fish) dishes, and perfect for sushi. This Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe utilizes fresh, sushi-grade tuna. When purchasing your seafood for a dish such as this, make sure you are working with a knowledgeable fishmonger.
1-2 Ahi Tuna steaks, 1 pound 8 ounces total
1/2 cup black or regular toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coarse Kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
Cut the Ahi steaks lengthwise so that they are equal in size. Rub a few tablespoons of sesame oil on all sides of the tuna. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
Put the sesame seeds on a flat plate. Press each side of the tuna on the sesame seeds until all areas of the fish are covered with the mixture.
Place a large non-stick pan on the stove over medium-high heat- add the sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, sear the tuna for 1 minute a side until all surfaces of the tuna are cooked. Remember only cook the tuna for 1 minute a side- it’s going to be served rare.
For the Ginger Sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoon Teriyaki sauce
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
Place all of the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepot over medium heat. Stir the sauce continually for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl. The sauce should cool slightly before it is served with the fish.
Cut the cooked Ahi Tuna steaks in thin strips against the grain crosswise.
Fan the tuna in a decorative manner. Place a small amount of sauce over, or under the fish. Garnish with cut scallions, orange slices and wasabi.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 (6 ounce) fillets ahi (yellowfin) tuna steaks, sushi-grade if possible
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ jalapeno or serrano chili pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons minced ginger
- ¾ cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 48 haricots verts (thin, French green beans), trimmed
- 16 baby carrots, greens trimmed to 1/4-inch
- 16 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 16 Nicoise, Gaeta, or Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chervil sprigs
Stir together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon parsley, and red pepper flakes. Toss tuna with marinade, and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
Pour vinegar, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, and soy sauce into the bowl of a blender. Add shallot, 1 tablespoon parsley, thyme, dill, honey, Dijon mustard, jalapeno, and ginger. Blend on high until smooth, then add 3/4 cups olive oil in a slow, steady stream with the blender running. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill another large container with half ice, half cold water, and set aside. Add the haricots verts to the boiling water, and cook until just tender, 35 to 40 seconds. Remove from the water, and immediately plunge into the ice water to cool. Next, blanch the carrots until just tender, about 1 1/2 minutes chill in ice water until cold.
When the vegetables are cold, remove from the ice water and pat dry. Place into a large bowl, and toss with the halved tomatoes, olives, onion, and chervil set aside.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until very hot. Remove tuna steaks from marinade, and wipe off excess marinade. Season the tuna to taste with salt and pepper, then sear in hot skillet to desired doneness, about 1 minute per side for rare.
To assemble, toss the vegetable salad with enough dressing to lightly coat. Divide the salad among 4 plates, and place a seared tuna steak on top of each. Drizzle with additional dressing to serve.
The ingredients you'll need
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this seared tuna recipe. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
For the sauce:
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce: Or you can use a gluten-free alternative, possibly adding extra salt.
- Fresh lemon juice: It's best to use freshly squeezed juice and not bottled juice.
- Minced garlic: Mince it yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar.
- Honey: Just 1 teaspoon to balance out the other flavors.
- Crushed red peppers: They add subtle heat and an extra layer of flavor to the sauce.
For the tuna:
- Tuna steaks: They should be 1-inch thick.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
- Avocado oil: An oil with a neutral taste, very suitable for frying because of its high smoke point.
Marinated, Seared Ahi Tuna
The best part of this recipe is that you can prepare the fish the night before and let it marinate overnight before pulling it out to sear the next day. This’ll save you a ton of time and leave less room for post-workout snacking while waiting for your dinner to cook.
Get creative with this one—try sprinkling cilantro or sesame seeds on top, or drizzling Sriracha mayo for added flavor.
Recipe and photo courtesy Amy at Chew Out Loud.
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- 2 Tbsp regular-strength soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp Asian toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 -2 1/2 lbs fresh ahi tuna steaks, about 1 1/2 in thick
- Oil for cooking
In a bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients to make a marinade. Towel-dry tuna steaks and place in a glass or ceramic dish. Pour marinade over the fish, turning to coat well throughout. Cover tightly, and chill several hours to overnight turn fish over at least once in the middle of marinade time.
Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large, heavy skillet (aluminum or stainless steel not non-stick) until oil is smoking. Sear ahi steaks 1½ minutes per side on high heat, taking care to flip carefully with a flat, steel spatula. (If your tuna is less than 1½ inches thick, sear for only 1 minute per side.)
Transfer seared ahi to a large cutting board and let rest/cool 10 minutes. Use a very sharp (serrated works well) knife to slice thinly across the grain.
Serve chilled or at room temp, over your favorite salad greens. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro or green onions, if desired. Drizzle with Sriracha mayo if desired.
How to Make Seared Ahi Tuna
This sauce is super flavorful and adds the perfect complement to this dish.
To prepare the dipping sauce, add chopped cilantro, grated ginger, garlic, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and sesame oil to a small bowl.
Whisk until combined. Set aside while you prepare and sear the tuna!
Spice-Rubbed Seared Tuna Steaks With Balsamic Reduction
When seared on the outside and left rare in the middle, ahi tuna has a delicious meaty flavor and rich, buttery texture that will make even the most hardcore steak lover smile. This recipe takes just a few minutes to cook and is a wonderful dish to serve guests who might be apprehensive about fish, since it has very little fishy flavor if prepared correctly.
Ahi is the Hawaiian name for yellowfin and bigeye tunas. Both of these types of tuna have flesh that ranges in color from pink—usually found in smaller fish—to a deep red found in larger fish that live deeper in the ocean.
When choosing your tuna steaks, you may have the option to buy ahi tuna that is "sashimi" or "sushi" grade. This simply means that the fish has been frozen to kill any parasites before it is consumed or prepared. There are no official standards for labeling fish sushi or sashimi grade they're really just marketing terms.
Serve your tuna steaks with a salad, baked sweet potatoes, or green beans.
Seared Ahi Tuna Sandwiches
In a large sauté pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Set bacon on paper towels and remove all but 1 tbs of the rendered bacon fat. Add red onion and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium low and sauté until lightly browned, roughly 15-20 minutes.
Add sherry and cook until mostly evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper tuna on both sides. Add one of the tuna steaks and sear for 30-45 seconds on each side. Repeat with the second tuna steak. After searing, allow tuna to cool for 2-3 minutes &ndash seared tuna is easier to cut when cold. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. The inside of the tuna should be quite pink.
Quarter avocado and cut each into thin slices.Apply some lemon juice to the avocado to prevent browning. Cut buns in half and warm in the oven.
Assemble sandwiches in the following order: bottom bun, thin layer of spicy sriracha sauce, 1/4 cup arugula, 6-8 slices of tuna, 1 tbs caramelized onion, 2 pieces of bacon, 1/4 avocado, 1/4 cup arugula, thin layer of spicy sriracha sauce on top bun. Enjoy!