Spicy Tuna Tartare

Spicy tuna tartare for sure plays on the senses, with its vibrant colors, diverse textures, and orchestra of flavors. It’s fun to eat and versatile, too. Serving it as an appetizer is an obvious choice, but don’t overlook this tuna tartare as the base for some delicious spicy poke bowls.

Spicy tuna tartare, served over rice. Perfect as an appetizer or meal.

At the heart of this dish is the fresh sushi-grade tuna, bringing a subtly sweet flavor and a wonderfully smooth texture. The quality of the tuna is pivotal to the overall experience of the dish. When shopping for fresh tuna, look for a bright, almost translucent red color, a firm texture, and a fresh ocean-like smell. A dull color or a strong fishy odor is a sign that the tuna is not fresh.

The tuna is marinated in a blend of soy sauce and sesame oil, which imparts a rich, umami flavor and a hint of nuttiness. The soy sauce, with its deep, salty savoriness, enhances the natural flavors of the tuna, while the sesame oil adds a layer of complexity with its distinctive, slightly sweet, and toasty flavor.

Now, let’s talk about that chili pepper. We leave it open which to use. Sweeter chili peppers work well with the natural sweetness of the ahi tuna. But more bitter, bright flavors work here, too as a foil to that sweetness. Read: both red jalapeños (sweeter) and green jalapeños (more bitter, bright) work as the easiest choices. Though, red chilies certainly add a beautiful color splash to the dish—a nice pairing with those green scallions.

–> Learn More: Red Vs. Green Jalapeños—How Do They Compare?

It then comes down to your heat tolerance. Go as mild or as hot as you’d like. Milder Anaheim peppers work, but so does a tropically sweet habanero. Remember, there is some warmth already in the dish via the ground pepper from the peppercorn medley, so you could also opt to remove the chili pepper altogether.

Spicy tuna tartare is delicious served as an appetizer or simply layered over rice to make a meal of it. You can also get more creative by adding more vegetables and ingredients to make spicy poke bowls. Cucumbers, lima beans, edamame, shredded carrots, and tropical fruit like pineapple all work as additives, just to name a few.

Like this recipe? You’ll love these too:

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Spicy Tuna Tartare

Spicy Tuna Tartare

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 232 kcal


  • 1 pound fresh sushi-grade tuna ahi
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper medley blend white, red and black
  • 1 chili pepper your choice, both red and green jalapeños work here as a starting point
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peanuts coarsely chopped (macadamia nuts work too)


  • Chill the tuna before slicing. Put the fresh tuna in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. Once chilled, take the tuna out of the freezer and use a sharp knife to slice it into small cubes with sides about 3/4 inch in size. Be sure to cut against the fibers to get the best texture. Place the tuna pieces in a bowl for marinating.
  • Add the sesame oil and soy sauce. Stir the tuna into the marinade and then leave it for 10 minutes.
  • Chop the scallions finely. Clean the chili peppers of seeds and insides. Chop the chili.
  • In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the nuts and sesame seeds.
  • Add the spicy ingredients to the tuna, pour in the pepper mixture and stir the mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the tuna tartare marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. This dish is best not stored or prepared ahead. Enjoy!


Want to make a meal of it? Serve the tuna tartare on a bed of white sticky rice.

Other options:
1. Add some honey and rice vinegar to the marinade for extra flavor.
2. Replace the soy sauce with a mixture of fish sauce and teriyaki for an Asian version.
3. Serve Poke ahi as a stand-alone dish or combine with fresh vegetables to make spicy poke bowls.


Calories: 232kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 29gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 424mgPotassium: 387mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 2645IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 41mgIron: 2mg
Did you make this?Mention @PepperScale or tag #PepperScale so we can see what you made!

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on March 31, 2024 to include new content.
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