Just going to leave this here: ahi tuna poke is the best recipe I’ve developed all year (and we’re more than halfway through 2020!).
Is that high enough praise? I’m not sure I can convey how truly delicious this recipe is.
It’s unctuous, luscious, and full of umami notes that deeply satisfy. It’s all the perks of sushi, without the fuss of rolling rice and nori. A touch spicy, a bit of tang, and just a touch of sweetness. We are in love and know that after one bite you’ll be hooked as well!
What is Tuna Poke?
Poke (pronounced “poh-keh,” not “poh-kee”) is a Hawaiian preparation of raw fish that is cut into cubes and marinated with a simple sauce of soy and sesame. It’s light, healthy, and can be served as either an appetizer or a main dish.
Since the fish is eaten raw, find the highest quality, freshest piece of fish you can. And since that can be expensive, the focus (in our opinion) should be kept on the delicate flavor of the tuna or other fish. Not on an abundance of toppings.
You could 100% eat this marinated tuna straight from the bowl — no rice, no mix-ins — and we wouldn’t tell a soul!
Ingredients For the Perfect Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl
- High quality, sushi-grade ahi tuna (read below for descriptions of the different types of tuna and what to ask for at the store!)
- warm sushi rice (yes, it must be warm!)
- crunchy tempura pieces
- sesame seeds
- nori (seaweed; we like to cut ours into thin strips)
- spicy krab salad
- homemade spicy mayo
- pickled ginger
If you don’t want to eat this over white rice, feel free to substitute with brown rice, salad greens, quinoa, or forbidden rice. We are very, very traditional and always stick with warm sushi rice.
If you use a gluten-free soy sauce and omit the tempura pieces, this poke bowl is gluten-free!
Selecting Fish for Poke Bowls
This is super important: ask your fish monger if s/he would eat the fish you’re about to purchase raw. If they say no, you should too.
When you’re eating raw preparations of any type of seafood, you must insist on both high quality product, but also freshness. Who wants to eat a fish that was caught over a week ago? No one. Don’t do it.
Look for sushi grade ahi tuna.
Different Types of Tuna
When we say sushi grade ahi tuna, we are referring to bigeye tuna or yellowfin.
Bigeye tuna is what you see pictured here. It’s got an intense, deep red color and is very lean. It’s also, unfortunately, very expensive. ¾ lb of sushi grade bigeye tuna will set you back approximately $40-50.
Is it worth it? You bet it is! Bigeye tuna is beyond luxurious. Here’s the deal: we’d rather eat this 1-2x a year and splurge on the high quality stuff than eat it every week and buy cheap fish. Both from a health and monetary standpoint.
Yellowfin tuna has a mild taste and firm texture, making it another good option for poke bowls. It’s less expensive than bigeye and more accessible at grocery stores if you can’t find the higher end stuff.
What you want to stay away from for this poke bowl recipe is albacore tuna. That’s the stuff you get when you eat canned or jarred tuna. Delicious in its own right certainly, but not the type of tuna we’re using here. It’s got a light, rosy pink color and a rougher consistency. This is the least expensive of the bunch.
There’s also bluefin tuna, the crème de la crème of the tuna empire. If you can get your hands on this, please invite us over for dinner immediately!
Marinade for Poke
Other than a high quality ahi tuna, the poke bowl marinade is the most important part of this recipe and the foundation for the umami flavor bomb you’ll experience!
Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, ginger paste (or fresh grated ginger), red pepper flakes, crumbled seaweed, and scallions in a large bowl, whisking to combine.
The combination of flavors will inject so much flavor into the tuna! Add cucumber sliced into half moons right alongside. You will not regret this!
How to Make The Best Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl
- Combine all poke sauce ingredients in a large mixing bowl then whisk to combine.
- Cut raw tuna into ½ – ¾” cubes, then add to marinade along with sliced cucumbers.
- Gently toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook sticky sushi rice and spicy krab salad. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Prep or setup any toppings for serving, such as avocado, scallions, sliced nori (seaweed), tobiko (flying fish roe), sesame seeds, and spicy mayo.
- When ready, serve marinated tuna poke over war rice. Serve with any and all toppings!
How Long to Marinate Tuna for Poke Bowls
Allow the cubed tuna to marinate for at least 60 minutes to really absorb the flavor.
Leftovers should be eaten with 24 hours.
What to Serve with Poke
We keep the toppings simple to let the high quality fish and flavorfuln marinade shine.
Serve tuna poke over warm sushi rice (that’s short grain Japanese white rice seasoned with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt) with diced avocado, spicy kani salad (crab and cucumber salad with spicy mayo), some chopped nori, and a sprinkle of sliced scallions and sesame seeds Add pickled ginger if you like!
To us, that’s pretty damn near close to perfect. Could you add other toppings? Absolutely! Here are a few popular options:
- Sweet onions
- Crispy garlic
- Crispy onion
- Wonton crisps
- Togarashi – A Japanese chili pepper spice blend consisting of dried chiles, peppercorns, sesame seeds, and nori
- Furikake – Referred to by many as the ‘salt and pepper’ of Japan. Furikake is a dried seasoning blend, used to flavor everything from cooked rice to seafood to noodles and vegetables. It’s made up of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt, and monosodium glutamate.
- Seaweed salad
Other Sauces for Poke
Trust me, if you make the poke marinade above, you won’t need anything other than a drizzle of homemade spicy mayo (can totally skip this if you want a more mild heat, there’s red pepper flakes in the marinade!). Teriyaki, ponzu, and sweet chili sauce are all common options at poke shops here in the States.
Fun fact: when I worked in the kitchen at Perry Street (a Jean Georges Michelin-starred restaurant in NYC), the food we prepared was French-Asian fusion and I worked with these ingredients on the regular. Do not be intimidated by working with new ingredients! These spices are available at most Asian grocers and markets and will add huge amounts of flavor to the dishes you make!
Want to Make Other Varieties of Poke?
You can use this same marinade with other high quality, sushi- or sashimi-grade fish such as salmon or yellowtail. Ask your fish monger for recommendations on what’s freshest and best for sushi preparations!
Honestly, you could even toss cooked shrimp in this marinade and serve it over sushi rice. You do you!
We are crossing all fingers and toes that we’ve said enough to convince you to try this poke bowl recipe. It is the lap of luxury and damnit, you deserve the best!
If you make this Ahi Tuna Poké Bowl recipe, please let us know by leaving a rating and review below.
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For more Asian-inspired recipes, check out the following!
- Soy sauce eggs (shoyu tamago)
- Spicy kani salad recipe (crab and cucumber)
- Sticky sushi rice
- Whole30 Asian stuffed peppers
- Warm brussel sprout slaw with Asian sesame vinaigrette
Ahi Tuna Poké Bowls
- ¼ cup soy sauce high quality
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp seaweed crushed
- 1 tsp ginger paste or freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp mirin
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¾ – 1 lb sushi grade ahi tuna
- ½ small English cucumber halved lengthwise and cut into half moons about ¼" thick
- 2 scallions thinly sliced, plus more for serving
- Pickling ginger
- Sesame seeds
- Crunchy tempura bits
- Seaweed cut into strips
- Tobiko flying fish roe
- ½ large Haas avocado cut into ½" pieces
- Sushi rice served warm
- Spicy mayo
Make the marinade
- Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed, ginger paste, mirin, and crushed red peppers in a large bowl, then whisk to combine.
- Cut tuna into cubes about ½" thick, then add to the marinade along with sliced cucumbers and scallions. Gently toss to coat. Cover and marinate in a refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.
- Just before serving, add cubed avocado to the tuna and gently toss to combine.
- When ready, serve over warm sushi rice (recipe linked below) with any desired toppings.
- Once marinated, ahi tuna should be used within 24 hours to retain freshness.
- Check out this sticky rice recipe to serve with your ahi tuna poke bowl. Instructions included for rice cooker, Instant Pot, and stove top.
- We also recommend this simple homemade spicy krab salad, which is delicious on its own or as a topping for poke bowls!
- Make this 2 ingredient homemade spicy mayo for a little more heat!