In this 20-minute recipe, Ahi tuna steak is quickly seared in a hot skillet, then sliced and served with a spicy dipping sauce.
It's a fancy restaurant-quality meal that you can easily make at home, provided you use sashimi-grade tuna.
This tuna recipe is ready fast, making it an ideal choice for a delicious weeknight dinner. Served with a simple homemade dipping sauce, it's an impressive restaurant-style dish that's actually very easy to make.
If you enjoy the bold flavor and meaty texture of fresh tuna, I think you are going to love this easy recipe for seared tuna steak!
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this 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.
- Fresh lemon juice: It's best to use freshly squeezed juice and not bottled juice.
- Minced garlic: I often use jarred minced garlic, but in this recipe, I do highly recommend mincing fresh garlic cloves. The flavor is much more pronounced.
- 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:
- Ahi tuna steaks: They should be 1.5-inch thick and they should be sashimi-grade since we will keep the middle rare.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the fish could end up being too salty.
- Avocado oil: An oil with a neutral taste, very suitable for frying because of its high smoke point. If using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, you can skip the oil.
Seared ahi tuna is a dish that seems fancy when served at restaurants, but it's actually very easy to make at home. The only challenge is to avoid overcooking the fish. Overcooked tuna becomes dry and tasteless.
Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. The basic steps are simple:
- Make the sauce. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Season the fish with salt and pepper.
- Cook the fish for 1-2 minutes per side. The idea is to sear the outside while leaving the inside rare.
- Cut the fish into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices and serve it with the dipping sauce.
How long you cook the fish depends on how thick it is and on how hot your stove/pan gets.
As a general rule, a 1.5-inch-thick steak should be cooked for about 2 minutes per side over medium-high heat. A thinner steak (¾ to 1 inch) will need just 1-1.5 minutes per side.
This is the type of recipe where there's no escaping the need to be flexible, loosely follow the recipe but stay very aware of what's happening in your own kitchen with your own ingredients and equipment.
Ideally, tuna steak should be cooked to rare or medium rare, although I should note that the CDC advises us to cook fish to an internal temperature of 145°F.
Frequently asked questions
Ahi is the Hawaiian name for yellowfin tuna. It has a deep pink color and a fairly strong flavor. Sashimi-grade ahi tuna is what you're typically served in a restaurant when you order poke, tuna tartare, or seared tuna.
Canned tuna is a culinary compromise. It's typically made from either albacore or skipjack tuna and it's boiled until well-done. It has a strong flavor and a fishy smell and it's only edible with generous amounts of mayonnaise or if it's canned in pure olive oil.
Canned tuna has its place, and recipes such as tuna salad and tuna cakes are very good indeed. But it's nothing like the super-fresh, flavorful-yet-not-fishy taste of a good, sashimi-grade tuna.
You could use the dipping sauce as a marinade if you wish, and marinate the fish in it (in a resealable bag) for 2 hours, in the fridge, before cooking it.
Personally, I prefer the flavor of the tuna to be the star of the show, so I like to simply sear it without any marinade, then serve it with a dipping sauce.
It is barely cooked. It's seared on the outside, leaving the inside rare or medium-rare (but not completely raw). So the center is red and slightly warm to the touch. Though admittedly, the USDA advises us to cook fish to 145°F.
You should be able to buy it at Whole Foods, but I usually get it at wildforkfoods.com.
Their tuna steaks are excellent. They have zero fishy smell when you open the package and when you cook them. They're typically huge - around 1 lb. each, so I use just one of them for two people.
Here are a few ways for you to vary the original recipe:
- In the dipping sauce, you can use rice vinegar instead of lemon juice.
- You can omit the honey or use a sugar-free substitute.
- Add a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger.
- When cooking the fish, you can use ghee (clarified butter) instead of avocado oil. Refined sesame oil (marked for high cooking temperatures) is another good option.
I serve this dish with a simple dipping sauce made from soy sauce and lemon juice.
Although this dish is usually served as an appetizer in restaurants, I like to make enough for serving it as a main course, alongside Asian cabbage salad. And sometimes I serve it on top of mixed greens, drizzled with the above-mentioned sauce.
I don't recommend keeping leftovers of this dish, mostly because the inside is not fully cooked. Try to make only as much as you'll eat immediately.
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Seared Ahi Tuna Steak
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (or a gluten-free alternative)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 (8 oz) Ahi tuna steaks 1.5-inch thick, sashimi-grade
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil for frying; can skip if using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet.
- To make the sauce, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature while you cook the fish.
- Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
- Place the fish in the hot pan. Cook until a golden crust has formed and the fish is medium-rare (red warm center), about 2 minutes per side.*
- Transfer the tuna steaks to a cutting board. Cut them into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices and serve with the sauce for dipping.