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Perfect Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe

This is the most amazing Seared Ahi Tuna recipe that you can make right at home! Infused with bold flavors from an Asian-style marinade, this dish makes a fantastic appetizer or healthy dinner.

seared ahi tuna plated and garnished.
Our secret to perfectly seared ahi tuna is in the marinade and the searing method.

1-Minute Video | Seared Ahi Tuna

What is Ahi tuna?

There are two main kinds of tuna that people like to eat, albacore tuna and ahi tuna. The main difference between these two varieties lies in the fat content. Ahi tuna has more fat, making it firm, buttery, and perfect for searing. Albacore tuna, on the other hand, has less fat, making it perfect for canning and low-fat meals.

For this recipe, we use ahi tuna to get that firm texture and rich flavor. Ahi tuna is fairly safe to eat raw compared to other kinds of fish. Be sure to buy high quality ahi tuna that looks and smells fresh. When in doubt, ask your local fishmonger or seafood specialist.

Why This Recipe Stands Out

This Marinated Seared Ahi Tuna is packed with bold flavors, super tender and juicy, and one of our favorite seafood recipes. Here’s why:

  • Healthy/Low Fat: Seared ahi tuna is packed with both protein and omega-3 fatty acids making it a great option for a healthy lunch or dinner.
  • Marinade the Tuna: An easy yet umami-rich marinade makes a huge difference in the flavor.
  • Better than Restaurants: Seared ahi tuna isn’t only for restaurant chefs. This recipe turns out so much better than what we get at restaurants.
  • 3-Minute Cook Time: It takes only 1 1/2 minutes per side to get the perfect sear. If that excites you, see our list of 30-minute weeknight dinners.
  • Make Bowls: Pair seared ahi tuna with rice and make it into a flavorful bowl, like our Poke Bowl Recipe with Sriracha Mayo.

Key Recipe Ingredients

  • Ahi Tuna – We use fresh ahi tuna steaks, but you can use flash frozen tuna and let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Do not use fish that has been defrosted and re-frozen. Buy tuna steaks that are 1.5 to 1.75 inches thick throughout.
  • Soy Sauce – If you’re gluten-free you can replace this with Tamari.
  • Asian Toasted Sesame Oil – Be sure to buy dark, fragrant Asian style sesame oil found in the Asian aisles of grocery stores.
  • Sugar – Always add a bit of sugar to marinades to balance out the salt.
  • Garlic Powder – You can also mince fresh garlic cloves.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice – You’ll need a bit of acid to help tenderize the ahi tuna.

Substitutions And Variations

Here are some delicious options for changing things up:

  • Marinade: Try using our Ginger Soy Marinade from our Baked Salmon recipe. You can also substitute fresh minced garlic for the garlic powder and honey or maple syrup for the sugar.
  • Toppings: We love Seared Ahi Tuna served with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, fresh chopped cilantro, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Sriracha Mayo and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds would be delicious.

Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions

  1. Mix ahi tuna marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.
  2. Pat tuna steaks fully dry and place in a bowl. Immerse in marinade and let sit for several hours.
  1. Place Ahi Tuna in super-hot, oiled skillet and sear for 1 1/2 minutes on first side.
  2. Flip carefully and sear another 1 1/2 minutes on second side.
  1. Let seared tuna rest on cutting board for 10 minutes, and slice thinly across the grain.
  2. Seared ahi tuna can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. Add desired garnishes and enjoy!

For full list of ingredients and instructions, see recipe card below.

Pro Tips for A Perfect Sear

  1. Buy super fresh ahi tuna steaks that are an even thickness throughout – look for about 1.5 inches thickness.
  2. Thoroughly towel-dry ahi tuna prior to marinading. Any excess water content will dilute the marinade.
  3. Use a large, heavy skillet like All Clad, as a good quality pan distributes heat evenly and allows even cooking across the surfaces.
  4. The well-oiled pan must be very hot (smoking) prior to searing.
  5. Do not overcrowd the pan when searing. Otherwise, you risk steaming versus a nice browning.
  6. Let seared ahi sit for a few minutes on cutting board prior to slicing.
  7. Slice very thinly across the grain! This greatly cuts down on any “stringiness” in the texture.

How To Prep Ahead

Here’s a few simple ways to prep Seared Ahi Tuna in advance:

  • Pre-mix the Marinade: Feel free to measure and mix all of the marinade ingredients several days in advance. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Safe Defrosting: If you’re starting with frozen ahi tuna, make sure to pull it out of the freezer and transfer it to the fridge for 24 hours to give it time to completely thaw before marinating.
  • Marinade the Tuna: Make sure to give the tuna enough time in the marinade, from several hours to overnight.
  • Sriracha Mayo: This luscious sauce can be made days in advance, covered, and chilled until ready to use. Green onions can also be chopped days in advance.
seared ahi tuna plated and garnished.

What To Serve With Seared Ahi Tuna

Rice

Salads

  • Asian Rice Salad combines a simple rice medley with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a great veggie side for this dish!
  • We love this Crunchy Asian Cabbage Ramen Salad as a side to any seafood dinner.
  • A side of edamame is the perfect pairing.

Drinks

  • If you’re making this impressive dish for a group of friends, try also mixing together this Big Batch Pineapple Margarita Recipe.
  • If you’re so inclined, enjoy your perfectly seared ahi with the perfect wine pairing. This Asian style ahi with sesame-soy flavors is crazy good with a quality Riesling.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is it safe to eat seared ahi tuna?

Ahi tuna is almost always served raw in the center, so it’s safest to use high quality, sushi-grade or grade 1 ahi from a reputable seller. A quality fish market or fish monger should be able to answer any questions you have about the quality/source of their ahi tuna.

What’s the best way to thaw frozen fish?

Thaw frozen fish in the fridge 1-2 nights prior to using. Keep it chilled until ready to cook.

Can you cook ahi tuna until it’s fully cooked?

Technically, you can serve fully cooked ahi tuna, but it will taste completely different from seared ahi tuna. Tuna that has been cooked all the way through tends to be more like canned tuna; dry and flaky. Seared is generally considered the best way to cook ahi tuna.

How do you know when ahi tuna is done cooking?

It’s important to ensure your ahi tuna is not overcooked, as overcooking creates an unpalatable texture that’s chewy and dry. For ahi tuna steaks that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick, we recommend searing on high heat for 1 1/2 minutes per side. For thinner tuna steaks, sear only 1 minute per side.

Why is my ahi tuna falling apart when I sear it?

This could be for a few reasons. One, your filets may be too thin if they’re falling apart. Two, you may be using your spatula too much. Once the fish is on the pan, don’t keep moving it around.

How do I ensure the perfect sear on my ahi tuna?

The best way is to get your cooking oil smoking hot (we mean hot) prior to laying down the tuna. It’s the sizzling hot oil that will give you a perfect sear.


Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

seared ahi tuna plated and garnished.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Marinade

4.99 from 299 ratings
This is the most amazing Seared Ahi Tuna that you can make right at home! The marinade and searing method make it even better than restaurant versions.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Amy Dong

Ingredients  

For the Marinade

For Ahi Tuna

  • 2 ½ pounds fresh ahi tuna steaks, about 1 1/2-1 2/3 inches thick
  • 3 TB canola or vegetable oil, for searing
  • Optional: freshly chopped cilantro, green scallions, sesame seeds for garnish.
  • Optional: Sriracha mayo for drizzling, really good!

Instructions

  • In a bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. This can be done in advance. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  • Thoroughly dry ahi tuna steaks with paper towels and place in a glass or ceramic dish. Pour marinade over the fish, turning to coat well throughout. Cover tightly and chill several hours, or up to overnight. Turn fish over at least once in the middle of marinade time.
  • Heat 3 TB oil in a large heavy skillet until oil is smoking. Sear ahi steaks 1 1/2 minutes per side on high heat, taking care to flip carefully with a flat, steel spatula. (If your tuna is less than 1 1/2 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. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro or green onions, if desired. Drizzle with Sriracha mayo if desired.

Notes

  • Do not marinade longer than overnight, as the acid from the lemon can affect fish texture if soaked too long. 
  • Use a heavy, large aluminum or stainless steel skillet; forgo nonstick pans here. We’ve used our faithful All Clad stainless steel skillet for many, many years, and it continues to serve us well. It’s a heavy duty work horse in the kitchen and is meant to last a lifetime.
  • Ahi may continue to cook a bit more while resting on the cutting board, so don’t overcook it in the pan. 
  • Seared ahi is best eaten on same day. However, leftovers can be tightly wrapped and chilled for up to 1 day.
  • For lower sodium version, use reduced sodium soy sauce.
  • To keep dish gluten-free, double check that your soy sauce is labeled gluten-free. Our favorite gluten-free soy sauce is Tamari.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating. We ❤️ hearing from you! 
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Nutrition (per serving)

Serving: 1g | Calories: 367kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.05g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 797mg | Potassium: 511mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 4128IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Asian American
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Lactose
Method: marinade, Stovetop

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4.99 from 299 votes (200 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




185 comments

    • Savita
    • 5 stars

    I’ve always been intimidated by cooking seafood at home, but this marinated seared ahi tuna recipe made it so simple and delicious!

    • Cathleen
    • 5 stars

    This is perfect!! I wanted something that will impress for a dinner I am hosting this week, and I think this is it! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe 🙂

    • Luke
    • 5 stars

    We loved this tuna recipe, the marinade just gave it so much flavour, it was lush 🙂

    • Liz L
    • 5 stars

    OMG this is amazing!!! Thank you so much. I’ve been looking for a marinade like this for some time. So excited!

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