Perfectly seared ahi tuna sitting atop a light and crunchy cabbage carrot slaw. Drizzle a homemade ponzu sauce for extra zest. A quick and easy fish taco packing delicious flavor! Naturally gluten-free, lighter, healthier tacos for any time of year.
You know I'm a huge fan of tacos! Vegan al pastor tacos, barbacoa tacos, but nothing beats fish tacos! While I love grilled swordfish in tacos, Ahi tuna is probably my favorite fish to eat. It tastes so flavorful and takes minimal time! It’s a light meal that feels restaurant quality but is EASY! Serve seared ahi tuna steaks in a corn tortilla, over rice, or with a salad!
This ahi tuna taco recipe is actually inspired by two places near and dear to my heart: SoCal and Nashville. Now, Nashville might seem out of the blue, but my family actually lives there! When I first visited, we went to a taco restaurant, bartaco.
Bartaco shares a similar influence as I do - the beach culture of Brazil, Uruguay and my fave: Southern California! They serve upscale street tacos and great cocktails. I had their ahi tuna lettuce wrap tacos and knew immediately I had to do an Elise Tries to Cook version!
Tips & Tricks to perfectly sear ahi tuna
1. Quality Ahi Tuna
Make sure to look for sushi-grade ahi tuna! Because seared tuna is typically served at Medium-Rare, you really want to make sure it’s of high quality.
Ahi tuna gets more flavorful as it sits in a marinade. You can go as simple as cracked peppercorns or sesame seeds, to marinating in your favorite sauce.
This seared ahi tuna recipe has a homemade ponzu sauce that doubles as a marinade!
3. Hot Skillet
The trick to perfectly seared ahi tuna is a hot skillet. You really want to preheat your pan and make sure it’s hot! I like to use my cast iron pan, but you can use a non-stick pan too.
TIP! If you’re not sure your pan is hot enough, drop a small amount of water (think a teaspoon). If it sizzles right away it’s good to go!
4. Quick Sear
It doesn’t take long to cook ahi tuna - that’s the best part about it! Don’t let the tuna steak sit on the pan for too long, it really should only be 1-minute. That is why it is better to do a quicker, hot sear.
5. Know your Cooking Temperatures
Searing ahi tuna only takes a few minutes at most! Typically, seared tuna is served at Medium-Rare temperature.
- Rare: 30 seconds per side
- Medium rare: 1 minute per side
- Well done: 2 minutes per side
Ingredients & Substitutions
Ahi Tuna Steaks
Corn Tortillas - substitute for paleo tortillas or flour tortillas if not gluten-free
Quick Cabbage Carrot Slaw
- Red Cabbage - substitute for green cabbage or even thinly shaved Brussels sprouts
- Shredded Carrots - I love purchasing shredded carrots to make prep quicker!
- White Wine Vinegar - substitute for red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Ponzu Sauce / Marinade
The homemade ponzu sauce adds a bright and fresh taste to the perfectly seared ahi tuna. The best part is that it doubles as a marinade! I used half to marinade and half after the fact to top off my tacos.
- Coconut Aminos - substitute for low-sodium soy sauce
- Orange Juice - use fresh squeezed or pre-made jugs of orange juice
- Honey - substitute for agave or maple syrup
- Sesame Seeds - omit if you prefer but I like the crunch it adds!
- Sriracha - omit or substitute for your favorite hot sauce
The ~BEST~ Toppings for Ahi Tuna Tacos
- Fresh Cilantro
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Fresh Avocado
- Fresh Heirloom Tomato Salsa
- Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Salsa
- Creamy Guacamole
- Jalapeño Peach Salsa
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I don’t want to make a homemade marinade?
If you don’t have time to make the homemade ponzu sauce, you can use any of your favorite marinades. Teriyaki sauce is an easy one!
Where do I purchase ahi tuna steaks?
In-Person: Trader Joe’s has frozen ahi tuna steaks. Whole Foods typically has ahi tuna steaks as well, or try your favorite grocery store. (I will personally say I have not been impressed with the quality of ahi tuna from Trader Joe's and will not purchase ahi tuna from there in the future. I currently purchase all of my ahi tuna from Thrive Market only.)
- Thrive Market sells frozen ahi tuna steaks (that is what I used for this recipe).
- Catalina Offshore Products, based in San Diego, CA, is one of SoCal’s premier fresh and frozen seafood. They deliver to almost anywhere in the United States.
What should I look for when purchasing ahi tuna steaks?
The color will range from deep red to pink. Tuna steaks should be moist, shiny and almost translucent.
Avoid steaks that are dull, matte or brown. Also avoid any large gaps between the muscles of the steak where it seems to be flaking off.
How do I store leftover seared ahi tuna?
Place leftover ahi tuna in the refrigerator almost immediately in an airtight container. It can last in the fridge for 2-3 days. While you can reheat properly stored seared tuna, it is better to eat at room-temperature or cold.
Can I refrigerate leftover slaw?
Yes! Coleslaw can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days before it gets too watery. Store in an airtight container.
What to serve with Ahi Tuna Tacos
- Vegan Mexican Rice
- Fresh Mexican Avocado Salad
- Asian Cucumber Salad
- Skinny Margaritas
- Blackberry Margaritas
- The Best Ranch Water Cocktail
Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos & Cabbage-Carrot Slaw
- 16 OZ Ahi Tuna Steaks
- 2 TBSP Oil of preference
- 8 Corn Tortillas
Ponzu Sauce / Marinade
- ½ Cup Coconut Aminos
- ¼ Cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 TBSP Honey
- 1 TBSP Sriracha
- 2 TSP Sesame Seeds
Simple Cabbage-Carrot Slaw
- ¼ Thinly Sliced Red Cabbage (about 2 cups)
- 1 Cup Shredded Carrots
- ¼ Cup Water
- ¼ Cup White Wine Vinegar
- ¼ TSP Salt
- ¼ TSP Red Pepper Flakes
- Mix together all sauce/marinade ingredients and stir together until fully combined.
- Pour half of the sauce into a ziplock bag or air-tight container. Place the tuna steaks inside. Marinate in the fridge for at least 20-minutes and up to overnight. Leave the other half of the sauce for pouring over the completed tacos.
- While the ahi tuna marinates, put together the slaw. Add all cabbage-carrot slaw ingredients into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly and leave to the side or in the fridge up to overnight.
- When ready to prepare the tacos, heat the cast iron or pan on the stove with the oil. Let the pan get hot (about 2-4 minutes).
- Take the tuna steaks directly from marinating onto the scorching hot pan, large flat side down. (Make sure to have a vent fan on, it helps!)
- Let tuna steaks sear for 1-minute on the original side. Using tongs, flip to the second side and let cook an additional 1-minute. Turn off heat.
- Remove seared ahi tuna steaks from the cast iron pan, and place onto a cutting board. Allow to sit for 5-minutes.
- While tuna steaks rest, heat the corn tortillas in a large pan on the stove at medium-heat. Let warm for 1-minute each side and then stack on a plate lined with paper towels or regular towel.
- Slice the tuna steaks in ½ inch thick slices.
Build the Tacos
- Add a handful of the cabbage-carrot slaw to each corn tortilla.
- Add 1-2 slices of seared ahi tuna to each taco.
- Top with extra ponzu sauce.