Spicy Sweet Savory Seared Ahi Tuna

I would imagine that for most people the word tuna conjures up images of soggy tuna salad sandwiches made with too much mayo and pickle juice.  Or better yet, a classic Midwestern tuna hot dish (read casserole for the rest of the country) with egg noodles and potato chips on top.  And these aren’t necessarily bad images.  I’m quite fond of a properly prepared tuna melt, but one thing is for sure: tuna is a polarizing protein.  At least the canned variety is, people either like it or they hate it, until now.

Most of you have probably seen the alternate form of tuna over at the meat counter at your local super mart.  A bright red thick steak labeled tuna but bearing absolutely no resemblance to the canned version we know so well.  And most of us avoid that steak because it is so unfamiliar to us, not to mention expensive.  But maybe today I can change your mind.

Last week our local grocer was offering a great deal on Ahi tuna – 6.99/lb.  Usually this stuff is at least $13 or more dollars per pound which causes us to pass it up.  In fact I don’t think we’ve had tuna steaks for well over a year now so when we saw the circular we immediately put tuna on the menu.  Since we planned it for Friday however, we didn’t run out and buy any until Thursday night.  It is imperative to keep your fish for as short a time as possible before cooking it.

Now I had been sitting on a recipe that we wanted to try for some time but we were either going to have to wait for a special occasion or hope for a sale.  Well as luck would have it the sale came first.  It’s tuna time.

Side note: I do need to give credit to the author of this one.  Usually I start with a dish that I have had before and want to copy, then I scour the web, read about five or six different variations of the dish, and then make my own recipe based on what I have in the cupboard or to suit my personal tastes.  This recipe needed no alterations.  It is the easiest recipe I have seen, and the flavor is nothing short of perfect.  I saw this on an episode of Good Eats, so I give full credit to Alton Brown.  And to him also I say “Thank you”.

In addition to a red hot grill, you will need five ingredients (yup, that’s it).


2 lbs Ahi Tuna steaks

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup honey

¼ cup wasabi powder

Sesame seeds

That is it.


Mix the soy sauce, honey and wasabi in a zip top bag and set aside half of it for a dipping sauce.  Place the steaks into the bag with the other half of the sauce and allow them to soak for an hour or more.


I didn’t really measure the wasabi powder.  I just assumed the can I bought was a quarter cup.  Yep, I just dumped in the whole can.


After the hour is up, light your grill and crank it up to high, what we want is a good sear on the steaks and that is all.  I removed one grate from my grill and turned the other one sideways and set it right on top of the pumice rocks.  The closer you can get to the fire with this one the better.

Ok, with the grill going, remove your tuna steaks from the marinade and roll them in sesame seeds.  You want complete coverage here because you will lose some on the grill.  Pat them gently to make them stick.


Go check your grill.  My temperature needle was off the charts, and if I had to guess, I would say the temperature at the grill surface was 800 degrees.  Once you reach this point.  Stop.  Make sure you have everything close by.  Good tongs, a clean plate, some foil, and some cooking spray.  Also you should have everything else that you are eating with the tuna already prepared and waiting for you.  This is going to go fast.

Ready?  Ready.


Oil up the grate with spray, careful, you will get flames, which I think is the best part.  Quickly transfer the tuna to the grill.  Don’t worry about the lid for this one, leave it open.  Count to 40 and flip.  40?  Yes, 40, 40 seconds.  Ok maybe not 40 exactly, but trust your senses.  You should smell the sesame seeds starting to toast releasing their hidden flavors – when you smell this, it is time to flip.  Once flip repeat the same counting or sniffing routine.  When the seeds start toasting, you’re done.  Remove from the heat to a foil lined plate, cover and let them rest for five minutes (this is very important).


During the resting period retrieve the sauce that you set aside and bring it to the table for dipping.

Once the steaks have had their five minute nap it is time to eat.  Cut the fish into thin slices and serve, dip, and devour.


The simple sauce really packs a punch in the flavor department.  Sweet honey plays perfectly with the salty soy sauce but both are swiftly enhanced by the spicy kick from the wasabi, truly a perfect balance.  Just be careful not to use too much sauce or you will over power the subtle flavor of the tuna and toasted sesame seeds.


This dish is perfect for entertaining your more adventurous friends.  The fish is rare, the sauce is spicy, but the complete package, which only takes ten minutes to prepare, is a total show stopper.  Plus, if you shop the sales, you can feed a group of four for under $20.  Although this is so good, I might not wait for the sale next time.


Spicy Sweet Savory Seared Tuna
2 lbs Ahi Tuna steaks

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup honey

¼ cup wasabi powder

Sesame seeds

Combine honey, soy sauce, and wasabi. Reserve half for dipping sauce. Use other half to marinade the tuna steaks for one hour.
After marinade, coat the tuna in sesame seeds.
Sear steaks on a very hot grill cooking only about 40 seconds per side.
Remove and wrap in foil for five minutes.
Slice thin and serve with reserved dipping sauce.


  1. I just read about you at SixFeetUnder. What a great stoke of luck. My dh loves seared ahi – he just had it the other night when we went out. I’ve never been brave enough to try it at home, but I think I might just have to the next time Ahi is on special.

  2. I’ve never had ahi tuna, really I”m not that big on raw fish. I know it’s good for you but I can’t wrap my head around the texture!

  3. My family tried this and LOVED it! We added black sesame seeds in the mix as well to add to the presentation.


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