Seared Ahi Tuna

JapaneseGluten-FreeLow CarbFish and Seafood

Ahi tuna, also known as yellowfin tuna, marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, green onion, and lime juice, then pan seared.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

After completing graduate school in the late 80s, I spent a year studying martial arts at Kyoto University in Japan.

The school cafeteria served many things that one would never encounter in the states (natto spaghetti for example), but one thing they did serve that I couldn’t get enough of was seared ahi tuna, prepared fresh to order.

It was usually served with white rice, a little shoyu, some radish sprouts, a few slivers of nori, and some toasted sesame seeds. One ample serving may have cost as much as 200 yen (~$2) but I think it was probably less.

Seeing a recipe for seared ahi in the South Beach Diet Cookbook got me thinking again of this delicious fish, and I found some gorgeous steaks at Whole Foods. The South Beach recipe calls for the steaks to be seared with peppercorns.

I was looking for a more Asian twist, so I made up my own marinade with tamari, sesame oil and ginger.

Ahi tuna is also known as yellowfin tuna. To make seared ahi, you need to start with very fresh, sushi-grade ahi, as you will only be lightly searing the outside, leaving the inside raw. Not even rare, but raw. The freshness and the quality of the fish make a huge difference with this dish, so don’t even attempt it with a lower grade of fish.

Seared Ahi Tuna Recipe

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes


  • 2 (6-8 ounce) ahi tuna steaks (3/4 of an inch thick)
  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (or 2 teaspoons of wheat-free tamari for gluten-free option)
  • 1 Tbsp of grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 green onion (scallion) thinly sliced (a few slices reserved for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice


1 Mix the marinade ingredients together and coat the tuna steaks with the marinade, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2 Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high to high heat. When the pan is hot, remove the tuna steaks from the marinade and sear them for a minute to a minute and a half on each side ( even a little longer if you want the tuna less rare than pictured.)

3 Remove from pan and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with a few green onion slices.

Can serve plain, with white rice, or over lettuce or thinly sliced cabbage or fennel. Shown served over sliced fennel salad.

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Inspiration from The South Beach Diet Cookbook. The South Beach Diet Cookbook version seasons the tuna with salt, pink peppercorns and olive oil.

Showing 4 of 52 Comments / Reviews

  • lowandslow


  • jen maiser

    This is probably against all kinds of safety recommendations, but I really like to take my tuna out of the fridge for a bit before cooking — it sears so briefly that the inside can be totally cold if it is taken right from the fridge into the pan.

    I love ahi tuna at home … it has become such a cliche in restaurants here (being one of Michael Bauer’s favorite dishes and thus on every menu in town) but it’s such a treat when made correctly. We usually serve it with cold soba noodles, but that salad looks delicious.

  • friedapplepie

    Yum! When I make it I also add a little chinese cooking wine to the marinade. It’s also great over arugala.

  • The Chef

    Great sounding, and not too much acid in the marinade (a thing to be cautious of when dealing with tuna).

    By the way, AHI is Hawaiian for ‘tuna’ comprising Yellowfin, Bluefin and BigEye. Bonito and Skipjack tunas are not as common in Hawaii, and Albacore is not included in the common vernacular.

    When slicing raw tuna, it is easiest to work with the grain rather than across it. It will hold together better both while slicing and serving.

    Keep up the great work!

    Note from Elise: Thanks for the tips!

  • Dave

    How do I know if I have “sushi quality Ahi Tuna”? I bought a couple of nice tuna steaks a couple of weeks ago and froze them. I want to try to make Ahi Tuna but I don’t want to get sick. Help!

    Note from Elise: You need fresh tuna, not frozen, for this dish.

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