Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl is a riot of flavor! And it’s an incredible summer dish. This classic Hawaiian recipe is healthy, and so much easier to make at home than you’d think. Learn how to make the BEST poke bowl with ahi tuna, or even salmon!
You can make restaurant quality Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls right at home, with this delicious and versatile recipe!
The origin of Poke Bowls
Poke (pronounced poh-KAY) comes from Hawaii, where fresh tuna and other fish are available all year round, and are in abundance. Ahi Tuna Poke is the most popular, as a main dish or even as a snack. Poke did not however originate as “bowls” in Hawaii. Native Hawaiians often eat raw fish that is seasoned simply with salt, seaweed, and candlenuts. As these things tend to go, poke “bowls” have now grown as a culinary trend across North America. Salmon, octopus, and even shrimp poke are now common, with a variety of different spices and flavors mixed in.
You can read more about Poke here.
My Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl recipe
My recipe for making ahi poke at home is super versatile, and it’s something that I’ve tweaked to our tastes over several years. Here I share the more traditional poke sauce and bowl additions, plus some of our favorite additions, so that you can adjust the recipe to your preference as well!
A Poke Bowl contains marinated raw fish, served over warm rice (sushi, jasmine, or brown rice). You can add other raw vegetables to the bowl as well. My Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls often contain a few (colorful) raw vegetables and fruits, a crunch factor, and some type of pickle.
Type of fish to use for poke bowls
I used ahi tuna for my poke bowl here. I’m lucky enough to have access to sushi grade ahi tuna steaks from a local seafood market here in Ottawa. Since I don’t live near the sea, the tuna steaks I have access to are frozen and vacuum packed. But I have made poke so many times with sushi grade (sashimi grade) frozen tuna, and they’ve always been so fresh and delicious!
You can also make poke with raw salmon. Make sure the salmon is sushi grade as well. Salmon is fattier than tuna, so the flavor is a little different. But guaranteed to be flavor-packed!
The fish is cut into bite-sized cubes, roughly about 1/2 x 1/2 inch. Place the fish in a bowl before you add the sauce.
Can I make vegan poke bowls?
While poke and raw fish are pretty much synonymous to me, “poke” actually means to “cut crosswise into pieces”. You can of course make similar rice bowls with other proteins, such as tofu, tempeh, and seitan being great vegan alternatives. Another vegan “poke” bowl that I’ve come across on the internet was made with watermelon. It looked so much like tuna though because of that vibrant red color.
The poke sauce recipe
Ooh boy, this poke sauce is AH-MAZING! The base is very traditional, but I add a few extra ingredients to make the sauce an absolute home run. Seriously, this sauce alone would beat anything you could get at the finest restaurant!
Ingredients to make the sauce for your tuna poke bowl,
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil (preferably roasted)
- Sweet onions, or red onions, or green onions
- Chili pepper (I prefer to use shichimi togarashi)
- Sliced red chili
- Roasted sesame seeds or black sesame seeds
- Candlenuts or macadamia nuts
- Finely shredded nori sheets
Once you make the base poke sauce, you can add all or some of the extra additions, and then toss the tuna with the poke sauce. You can use the poke immediately at this point, but I do like to let it sit for at least 15 minutes (or up to one hour in the fridge) before using. This allows all the flavors of that glorious sauce to coat and get inside the poke!
Making the poke bowl
The great thing about making homemade poke bowls (or anything homemade for that matter), is that you get to decide what goes into it. If you like avocado, then add avocado. Don’t like edamame? Leave it out. Want some seasoned seaweed on the side, go right ahead!
You could even change the rice. I used sushi rice here, which I seasoned with rice wine vinegar, salt, and sugar. But you could use jasmine rice, brown rice, or even cauliflower rice if that’s what you prefer. I like to use a sticky rice, which is why I avoid basmati. But if that’s what you have at home, you can absolutely use that. In this ahi poke bowl, the indisputable star is the tuna poke.
My preferences for my poke bowl are,
- Keep it colorful with raw veggies,
- Add something crunchy,
- Add something sweet, a fruit preferably,
- Something pickled,
- Add another sauce or seasoning for the veggies.
Ideas for additions for your tuna poke bowl
I love to add classic vegetables such as carrots, cabbage (purple or green), and cucumber. But you can also add other veggies like,
- Radishes (watermelon radishes are gorgeous AND delicious!)
- Shredded lettuce
- Leafy greens
I always like to add something crunchy such as nuts or chips or wasabi peas or even shrimp / pork crackers. Fried shallots are also a great addition. Traditionally, nuts like candlenuts or macadamia nuts are also sprinkled on top for a creamy, nutty, crunchy addition.
If you have wonton wrappers at home, you could cut those into strips, and fry them for some wonton chips. I LOVE the crunchy contrast these ingredients add to the soft tuna poke in the bowl.
Whenever possible, I add fruits like mango that are sweet, which perfectly complement the fatty tuna in the ahi poke bowl (the good omega 3 fat!). Other great fruit additions are pineapple, watermelon, kiwi fruit, or ripe jackfruit. Another great way to add sweetness is to make a simple sauce with a tropical fruit like passion fruit!
Pickled ginger is also one of my favorite additions. When I don’t have pickled ginger, I might add pickled radishes, or Korean pickled radish, or even kimchi.
Finally, the sauce / dressing on top. This is optional of course. But since the poke sauce is a light sauce, a creamy mayonnaise based sauce on top for the veggies and other additions is a great contrast to the salty and sweet poke sauce. I like to mix mayonnaise and sriracha to make a tangy, spicy sauce, which I then drizzle on top.
If you’re not a big fan of mayonnaise, you can make a creamy sauce with avocado too.
How about a passion fruit and olive oil dressing? Not traditional, but it’ll still be very delicious. Passion fruit is a lovely pairing with the tuna poke.
The poke mix (tuna or salmon) can be stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Don’t put any lemon / lime in the poke sauce if you’re going to store it for that long. Because it’ll cook the fish.
If you’re not a fan of tuna poke bowls, or cannot find sushi grade tuna, then you can use sushi grade salmon, octopus, shrimps, or even scallops.
Sushi grade fish (sashimi grade fish) is a label attached to fish that is deemed safe and recommended to be eaten raw. If you’re unsure if the fish that you’re buying is safe to eat raw, always ask your fishmonger if the fish is “sushi grade / sashimi grade”. And do buy your sushi grade fish from a trustworthy seller. However, if you’re pregnant or immunocompromised or elderly, raw fish is not recommended.
Absolutely. You can add some chili oil, or sriracha, or chili flakes, or extra shichimi togarashi to the poke to make this dish spicier.
Yes! This dish is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids because of the fish. And the vegetables (and fruits) add a lot of nutrients to the meal too. The more colorful, the more nutrients typically in the meal!
Why I love this recipe
You could probably tell just by looking at these pictures that this is an incredibly flavorful and healthy meal! And these ahi poke bowls are deceptively easy to assemble too. Every time I’m lucky enough to get my hands on sushi grade tuna or salmon, these poke bowls are 100% inevitable.
We first ate poke bowls when we visited San Francisco several years ago. We had some kick ass poke from a Hawaiian food truck, and the flavors were truly mind-blowing. Soon after, we were in Seattle for a few days, and you better believe that we ate poke bowls the whole time we were there!
Luckily, we do have a few restaurants that serve poke bowls here in Ottawa as well. But I’ll be honest, my homemade salmon or ahi tuna poke bowls are just so much better!
And this recipe is super versatile. You can adapt these poke bowls to whatever veggies, fruits, and other ingredients you have at hand, and incorporate whatever flavors you enjoy. It’s a healthy meal, with lots of nutrients, and very satisfying and filling. Apart from the rice, there’s no cooking involved, so it’s perfect for summer, and hot tropical weather (like in Hawaii).
Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl Recipe
For the poke
- 455 g sushi grade tuna
- 3 – 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil preferably toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp chili flakes I use about 1 tsp of shichimi togarashi instead, add more if you want it spicier
- 2 -3 green onions sliced
- 1 red chili sliced and seeds removed, optional
- Toasted sesame seeds
- 2 cups cooked sushi or jasmine rice or brown rice, more if needed
- Pickled ginger optional
- Fried wonton chips optional (or crushed chips, fried shallots, wasabi peas)
- Chopped macadamia nuts optional
- Finely chopped nori optional
Assorted raw vegetables / fruits (use as much or as little as you like)
For the poke
- Cut the tuna steak into bite-sized cubes (about 0.5 x 0.5 inch). Place the cubed tuna in a bowl.
The poke sauce
- Add 3 tbsp soy sauce with the rest of the ingredients (except green onions and chili flakes). Whisk to combine well.
- Add the poke sauce, green onions, and chili flakes into the bowl with cubed tuna. Toss well to coat the tuna pieces with the sauce. Taste and add the remaining soy sauce if needed.
- Keep it refrigerated for at least 10 – 15 minutes (if possible), or up to an hour. (Prep the vegetables while the poke is briefly marinating in the fridge.)
- Place warm sushi rice (or your choice of rice) in 2 serving bowls.
- Place the prepped vegetables in the bowl over the rice. You can add as much or as little as you like.
- Divide the marinated poke between the 2 bowls as well.
- Optional – top the poke with extra sesame seeds, nori seaweed, and/or chopped macadamia / candlenuts.
- Serve immediately.
Tips & Tricks
A note about the ahi tunaMake sure to use sushi grade tuna (sashimi grade tuna). You will need about 200 – 225 g per person (generous portion). If you cannot find sushi grade tuna, you can use sushi grade salmon instead as well.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”