Seared Ahi Tuna
This Seared Ahi Tuna with Orange Avocado Salsa is easy to make, and has tons of flavor thanks to a simple 2-ingredient marinade. It’s a delicious dinner fit for company or a special occasion, and very healthy. It only takes 25 minutes, including marinating time.
Even though ahi tuna is often thought of as fancy restaurant food, it’s shockingly easy to make at home. This is true of most seafood in general, and most people find they can make Pan Seared Salmon or Seared Scallops just as well as the restaurants but at a fraction of the cost.
Since most of the enjoyment of the fish is all about cooking it properly and not overpowering the flavor, you don’t want the preparation to be overly complicated anyway. So for this recipe, we make a simple 2-ingredient marinade for the fish, and in the meantime make a simple orange avocado salsa with flavors like mint and jalapeño. It’s really refreshing and light, and much cheaper than what you’d pay at a restaurant!
Tips for Best Results
Pat the fish very dry – After you marinade the tuna steaks, you’ll want to pat the exterior dry with paper towels to absorb the excess liquid. This will ensure you get a good sear on the outside.
Get the pan screamin’ hot for searing – You barely want to cook the fish overall, so the time in the skillet needs to be minimal. To get the best sear on the outside in the shortest amount of time, make sure you preheat the skillet well.
Step by Step Overview:
Making this seared ahi tuna dish is simple, with the following game plan: Marinate the tuna, make the salsa while the fish marinates, then quickly sear the fish and serve together.
Tips for Buying the Fish
Because the interior of the tuna steak will be served raw, you’ll want to find the best tuna steaks from a reputable store. Sashimi grade can mean it’s better quality, but know that there are no actual regulations around this labeling, so you’re really trusting the seller. Here’s what you should look for otherwise:
Cut to order or recently cut – Best case scenario is the fishmonger cutting your tuna steaks fresh from the whole loin, but this will be rare. At the very least, ask when the fish was cut, and make sure the steaks don’t look like they’re starting to brown.
Shiny and moist exterior – Look how the fish glistens with moisture in the photo below. That is how the tuna should look in the case. It should look very moist and shiny, indicating it was freshly cut. If it’s looking dry and starting to brown, pass on the fish.
Tight flesh – As the tuna starts to get old, the flesh will start to separate, particularly that muscle piece on the side. Make sure the flesh looks tightly connected.
Smell – This is an easy giveaway, but because it’s a little more awkward to ask for this versus using the visual cues, I tend look at the other aspects first. The tuna should smell pleasantly of the ocean, and not overly fishy.
Marinate the fish
To marinate the tuna steaks, we’ll be using fresh orange juice and soy sauce. It’s very simple, but gives a great balance of umami, savory, sweet, and bright.
Combine the steaks and ahi tuna marinade ingredients in a bag, then place back into the fridge:
Can you use frozen fish?
It’s fine to use a previously frozen ahi tuna steak, with a few caveats. First, make sure it’s intended to eat sashimi-style, and has been deep frozen to kill any potential bacteria or parasites. Then, either thaw it overnight in the fridge or do a quick thaw in the package, running it under cold water for 20 minutes or so.
Make the salsa
While the tuna steaks marinate, combine fresh orange segments, minced jalapeño, fresh mint leaves, shallot, salt, and olive oil in a bowl:
Here’s a quick guide for How to Segment an Orange if you’re not sure how to do it.
Mix that all together to combine, then add diced avocado and a pinch more of salt, at the end:
That way you don’t accidentally overmash the avocado while stirring.
Toss to coat the avocado in all the flavors, and the salsa is ready:
Now it’s time to put it all together!
Sear the fish
Preheat a cast iron skillet over high heat, and add about a tablespoon of high heat oil, such as avocado oil, followed by the ahi tuna steaks:
I like to keep the interior as rare as possible, only searing the outsides until golden, about 1-2 minutes on each side:
Then I make sure to rub any pink spots on the sides against the hot skillet as well, to kill any bacteria on the outside.
How to Serve
Carefully slice each ahi tuna steak very thinly with a sharp knife, and fan the slices out on the plate. Then serve with the orange avocado salsa on the side, and extra chopped mint over the sliced tuna. This dish can certainly serve as the whole meal, but if you’d like to add some extra dishes to the side, I recommend pairing other light options like a fresh Coleslaw, Roasted Beets, or Roasted Fennel.
I recommend eating it all together, with bites of orange and avocado with each bite of tuna. For more of my favorite fish and seafood recipes, try Baked Salmon, this light Shrimp Salad, or my favorite Lobster Roll Recipe. Or try my favorite appetizers, Crab Cakes and Coconut Shrimp.
FAQ and Tips:
Generally no food is completely guaranteed to be safe to eat, because you’re relying on the grocery store to have properly handled everything and humans make mistakes. You just don’t know. If you can, try to find sashimi grade tuna, but know that it’s not actually regulated.
Yes, for up to 1 day in the fridge in an airtight container.
This is not recommended.
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Seared Ahi Tuna with Orange Mint Avocado Salsa
For the Tuna:
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- 2 6-ounce ahi tuna steaks
- 1 tbsp high heat cooking oil such as avocado oil
For the Orange Avocado Salsa:
- 3 navel oranges
- 1 jalapeno finely minced (2 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 tbsp finely chopped shallot
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt divided
- 1 avocado diced
- Place the soy sauce, orange juice, and tuna steaks into a bag, and let marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the salsa. Cut the oranges into segments (see How to Segment an Orange if you don’t know how), and place into a bowl.
- Add the jalapeno, mint, shallot, oil, and 1/8 tsp salt, and stir to combine.
- Add the avocado and remaining 1/8 tsp salt, and toss gently, just enough to coat the avocado with the other ingredients.
- Preheat a skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat, until the pan starts to smoke. In the meantime, pat the fish dry with paper towels.
- Add the high heat cooking oil, then sear the tuna on each side for about 60-90 seconds, until browned. The pan should be hot enough that it sizzles loudly when you add the tuna.
- Once the bottom and top are seared and golden, rub any leftover exposed pink surfaces on the sides against the pan, to cook all exterior parts of the fish.
- Thinly slice the fish, then arrange on a plate with the orange avocado salsa on the side. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated October 2018. Originally published December 2010.