In this 20-minute recipe for seared tuna, Ahi tuna steak is cooked in a hot skillet, then sliced and served with a spicy dipping sauce.
It's a fancy restaurant-quality meal you can easily make at home using sashimi-grade tuna.
Served with a simple homemade dipping sauce, seared tuna is an impressive restaurant-style dish that's easy to make at home.
If you enjoy fresh tuna's bold flavor and meaty texture, you will love this easy recipe! It's ready fast, making it ideal for a delicious weeknight dinner.
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 I highly recommend mincing fresh garlic cloves in this recipe. The flavor is much more pronounced.
- Honey: Just 1 teaspoon to balance out the other flavors.
- Crushed red peppers: Add subtle heat and an extra layer of flavor to the sauce.
For the tuna:
- Ahi tuna steaks: They should be 1.5 inches thick and 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 by half, or the tuna could become 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.
- You can use rice vinegar instead of lemon juice in the dipping sauce.
- You can omit the honey or use a sugar-free substitute. I often skip the honey, and the dipping sauce is excellent without it.
- Add a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger to the dipping sauce.
- 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.
Seared Tuna Instructions
This dish seems fancy when served at restaurants, but it's 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. (Photo 1).
- Season the fish with salt and pepper. (Photo 2).
- Cook the fish for 1-2 minutes per side. The idea is to sear the outside while leaving the inside rare. (Photos 3-4).
- Cut the fish into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices and serve it with the dipping sauce. (Photos 5-6).
How long you cook the tuna steak depends on how thick it is and how hot your stove/pan gets.
Generally, 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 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 kitchen with your 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.
Ahi is the Hawaiian name for yellowfin tuna. It has a deep pink color and a relatively strong flavor. Sashimi-grade ahi tuna is 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 when canned in pure olive oil.
Canned tuna has its place, and recipes such as tuna salad and tuna cakes are delicious. But it's nothing like the super-fresh, flavorful-yet-not-fishy taste of a good, sashimi-grade tuna.
If you wish, you could use the dipping sauce as a marinade and marinate the fish in it (in a resealable bag) for 2 hours in the fridge before cooking it.
I prefer the tuna's flavor to be the star of the show, so I like to simply sear it without any marinade, then serve it with a dipping sauce.
Unlike other fish recipes (such as grilled mahi mahi), where the fish is cooked through, in this recipe, it is barely cooked. It's seared on the outside, leaving the inside rare or medium-rare (but not completely raw). So, the center should be red and slightly warm to the touch.
I will note that the USDA advises us to cook fish to an internal temperature of 145°F.
You should be able to buy it at Whole Foods, but I usually get it at Wild Fork Foods.
Their tuna steaks are consistently excellent. They have no fishy smell when you open the package and when you cook them.
They're typically huge - around 1 pound each, so I use just one for two people.
They come frozen, so you'll need to defrost them completely in the fridge before cooking them. I typically place them in the fridge the day before I cook them, in the morning. By evening the next day, they are thawed.
I serve this dish with a simple dipping sauce made from soy sauce and lemon juice. It's also excellent when drizzled with sriracha mayo.
Although this dish is usually served as an appetizer in restaurants, I like to make enough to serve it as a main course alongside Asian cabbage salad, Asian cucumber salad, Asian Brussels sprouts, or cabbage stir-fry.
Sometimes, I serve it on top of mixed greens, drizzled with the sauce mentioned above, or sesame oil.
Since the inside of the tuna steak is not fully cooked, I don't recommend keeping the leftovers. Try to make only as much as you'll eat immediately.
More Fish Recipes
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Seared Tuna Recipe
- 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 of any other 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 for about 3 minutes. Add the oil and swirl to coat.
- Place the tuna 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.
- 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 tuna 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.
- The CDC advises us to cook fish to an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Since the inside of the tuna steak is not fully cooked, I don't recommend keeping the leftovers. Try to make only as much as you'll eat immediately.