Simple Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe

"Tuna," recipe developer Michelle McGlinn tells us, "is one of my favorite things to make as a treat or special meal." She admits that it's a bit pricier that some other kinds of seafood, but says it's quite easy to prepare. In fact, she compares the texture of a properly-seared ahi tuna steak to that of sashimi, despite the fact that the tuna isn't raw. The seared tuna will still be pink inside, though, but McGlinn tells us there's no need to be afraid since this pinkness doesn't mean that it's unsafe to eat. Instead, she says the pinkness gives the fish "a soft, tender texture and rich flavor." What's more, the sear on the outside of the fish is something she feels "imparts a really great flavor on the crust" and describes it as being "packed with umami, a little bit of spice, and a lot of flavor."

One thing that sets this seared ahi tuna recipe apart from the pack, or rather, the school (since fish), is the marinade. McGlinn describes it as "spicy, sweet, and salty" due to the combination of soy sauce, jalapeños, cilantro, and ginger. If you wish to add still more flavors to the mix, though, she suggests that garlic or a different type of minced chili peppers such as Thai bird ones could also be added.

Gather the ingredients for the seared ahi tuna and marinade

For the tuna marinade, you'll need ginger (McGlinn uses fresh, but says a teaspoon of powdered could be used in its place) as well as a shallot, some cilantro, a jalapeño, soy sauce, and sesame oil. You may need a splash of water, as well.

While the marinade can be used to cook anywhere from two to four tuna steaks, here McGlinn is using three of these. For cooking the steaks, you'll need a neutral oil such as vegetable or canola or avocado — make sure it's one with a high smoke point, though, as the pan will need to get very hot in order to sear the tuna steaks.

Marinate the tuna steaks

Peel and grate the shallot and ginger, then chop the cilantro and slice the jalapeños. There's no need to be too picky about how finely you chop or grate, though. McGlinn says, "If you plan to marinade the fish for a long time, the flavors will get there," adding that "grating the shallot and ginger just helps the flavors penetrate the fish a little bit faster."

Mix the produce with the soy sauce and sesame oil, then use this to marinate the tuna steaks. McGlinn pours the marinade in a shallow pan, adding a little water if necessary to cover the bottom, but cautions "the water will dilute the marinade a bit" so advises starting with just ¼ cup if necessary. The tuna will need to marinate for at least half an hour, although you can leave it to soak up to 8 hours or overnight (in the refrigerator, of course, since fish should not be kept at room temperature for a prolonged amount of time). Halfway through your planned marinating time, flip the tuna steaks over so the other side can get some seasoning, too.

Sear the tuna steaks

Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high until it is very hot, then carefully put the tuna steaks into the hot oil. McGlinn does say, though, that "If you set the tuna in and don't hear a 'sizzle,' remove it and keep heating the skillet."

Once the pan is hot enough, cook the tuna for 1-2 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. As McGlinn acknowledges that it's hard to tell what color the bottom is when all you can see is the top, she advises, "A good way to gauge is by watching the sides of the tuna [because] you can see the tuna being cooked from the bottom up." Once the tuna has about ¼ inch of browning, it's time to flip it over and then cook it for another 1-2 minutes until it browns to a depth of ¼ inch on the opposite side.

Slice the tuna

Once the tuna is golden brown all over, it should be ready to come out of the pan. It will still be pink inside, but McGlinn assures us that this pinkness, far from meaning the fish is too raw, instead "ensures a juicy, flavorful meat." As she explains, "Tuna tends to get dry when cooked through."

McGlinn does have one final tuna trick before you dig in, though — she advises cutting it against the grain, which you can do by looking for the lines on top and cutting horizontally across them. "This," she says, "will ensure your meat is super tender." If you don't finish all of the tuna right away, she says it should be good in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Simple Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe
5 from 35 ratings
This simple seared ahi tuna is delicious on its own, but it also would work well in a poke bowl.
Prep Time
Cook Time
sliced ahi tuna on plate
Total time: 38 minutes
  • 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons grated shallot
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 ahi tuna steaks
  • ¼ cup neutral oil
  1. Mix the ginger, shallot, cilantro, jalapeño, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
  2. Marinate tuna steaks in this mixture for 30 minutes to 8 hours, flipping once halfway through. (Add water to the marinade as needed to ensure it covers the fish.)
  3. Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot.
  4. Sear the tuna for 1-2 minutes, until browning is about ¼ inch thick and deep golden in color.
  5. Flip tuna and sear on the opposite side for another 2 minutes until deeply golden brown on the outside and pink in the middle.
  6. Slice the tuna against the grain and serve as desired.
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