One bite of these seared ahi tuna tacos, and you’re in pure taco bliss! The seared tuna has a lovely texture; it has a lightly seasoned crust on the outside and is soft and tender on the inside.
Plus, it pairs deliciously with the jalapeno slaw and chipotle crema.
Sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice enhance the flavors even more! Grab your ingredients and get ready for a serious flavor explosion.
Seared Tuna Tacos
I’ve gotta say: these tacos are incredible.
They’re refreshing, a little spicy, creamy, crunchy, and all around so good. Everything comes together super quickly, too, because the tuna only needs to cook for a few minutes.
This is the perfect dish for a fancy-feeling but easy dinner!
The chipotle sauce for the slaw is smoky and tangy, similar to a chipotle crema or mayo that you often find on tacos. And by reserving some of the sauce for topping, we’re able to get a flavorful slaw and a fun drizzle of sauce without having to make two separate sauces.
A win-win! Because the less dishes to deal with later the better, right?
Can I buy sushi grade tuna at the grocery store?
For this recipe, we’re quickly searing the tuna rather than cooking it all the way through, so you’ll want to make sure to get sushi grade tuna.
Most tuna that you buy fresh from a seafood counter is sushi grade, meaning it’s very fresh and safe to consume raw or very rare. I usually purchase my fresh tuna steaks from the fish counter at Whole Foods and they work perfectly!
If you’re nervous, you can always double check with the fish monger and ask them to steer you in the direction of tuna you can eat raw or super rare.
Same goes with frozen tuna. Check the label for sushi grade, and make sure you thaw it completely in the fridge before using – but frozen tuna is no less safe to eat raw.
To make these ahi tuna tacos, you’ll need:
- ahi tuna steaks – sushi grade (Fresh, or frozen and thawed in the fridge. See note above about finding sushi-grade tuna at the grocery store.)
- seasonings: smoked paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder, and salt
- shredded cabbage (red, green, or a combination of both) – gotta love that crunch
- green onion
- fresh cilantro
- jalapeno pepper
- plain Greek yogurt (I recommend using whole milk/full fat for the best flavor and texture. Sour cream works too!)
- lime (for fresh lime juice)
- canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (this adds some more spice and flavor)
- taco-size tortillas (6″ size. Either corn or flour works!)
Plus, any garnishes you want! I love sliced avocado, lime wedges, and extra cilantro.
How to Sear Ahi Tuna on the Stovetop
Before cooking, we first need to coat our tuna steaks in seasoning.
Start by placing the steaks in a large dish or zippable plastic bag. In a separate bowl, mix together the spices (smoked paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, granulated garlic, and salt – all the precise measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post).
Then, sprinkle the spice mixture over the tuna steaks and press lightly on both sides to help it stick. This will help create the crispy, flavorful seared layer of the tuna.
Next, coat a large skillet with a thin layer of canola oil (or cooking spray) and set to high heat.
Once hot, sear the tuna steaks for 1-2 minutes, then flip onto the other side and sear for another 1-2 minutes. (The amount of time depends on how cooked you like your tuna – if you want to cook it fully, that’s fine, and in that case I’d shred the tuna before serving).
I seared my tuna for 1.5 minutes per side to achieve light/medium rare, which was raw on the inside but with a decent amount of crispy seared exterior and cooked edges.
One minute per side will yield rare tuna, while 2 minutes per side will be closer to medium, with a thinner strip of raw tuna in the middle.
Keep a close eye on it as it cooks, as depending how hot your pan is the tuna may cook more quickly than you expect it to!
Once cooked, remove the tuna to a clean plate and let it rest while you prepare the slaw and crema (instructions are in the section below!).
After a few minutes, slice the tuna thinly. If it’s cooked all the way through, you can flake it/shred it if you prefer.
Homemade Jalapeno Coleslaw & Chipotle Crema
Don’t forget the slaw and crema! They make these tacos.
For the homemade slaw, place all the ingredients (cabbage, sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, and sliced jalapeno) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the crema ingredients (Greek yogurt OR sour cream, lime juice, chipotle peppers, and salt).
Set aside half the crema for drizzling over your tacos. Pour the other half over your slaw ingredients and toss to coat!
Can I adjust the spice level?
You can get away with a decent amount of spice in these ahi tuna tacos because the yogurt and avocado balance it nicely. But there’s a lot of flexibility for spice level!
Using half a jalapeno and removing the seeds (or omitting it entirely) would be the mildest, while using a full jalapeno with seeds and 3 tablespoons of chipotle peppers would be the hottest.
You can always start small and adjust after tasting. You do you!
Can I make these on the grill?
These ahi tuna steaks would also work well seared on the grill over high heat (with the same timing as noted above with the stovetop method).
The key to either grilling or searing the tuna is high heat for a very short amount of time so you get that nice sear on the outside!
More Seared Tuna Taco Topping Ideas
There are endless ways to dress up these tacos! Here are some ideas:
- pickled jalapenos
- homemade salsa (like the salsa verde in this pork tacos recipe!)
- shredded cheese
- fajita veggies (sautéed bell peppers and onions)
- raw bell peppers, sliced thinly or diced, to add extra crunch and veggie volume
- pico de gallo
- sliced radishes
- avocado crema with lime (<- recipe)
Once you have all your toppings ready to go, just assemble your tacos and dig in. 🙂
You’ll find the full seared ahi tuna tacos recipe at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite taco topping? Let me know in the comments! I love anything crunchy and tangy – so slaw with a citrus-y sauce is my fave!
Looking for more taco recipes? Check these out:
- Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos (vegan)
- Breakfast Tacos Recipe with Avocado Crema
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin Tacos with Homemade Salsa Verde
Want more seafood in your life? Try these dishes:
- Orange Glazed Salmon with Honey & Ginger
- Healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Sage & Pecan Crusted Tilapia
- No Mayo Tuna Salad with Avocado
- Sriracha Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
For the Tuna
- 2 medium ahi tuna steaks, 1 to 1.5 inches thick (about 1.5 lb)*
- 1/2 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, ground coriander, granulated garlic, salt
For the Slaw & Sauce
- 3 heaping cups shredded cabbage (red or green or a combination)
- 1 green onion, white and green parts thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (depending on how much spice you like)
- 2/3 cup plain whole milk greek yogurt or sour cream
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (depending on how much spice you like)
- pinch of salt
- 12 6" tortillas (corn and/or flour)
- optional garnishes: sliced avocado, lime wedges, sliced bell peppers, additional cilantro
- Place the tuna steaks in a dish or ziploc bag. Mix the spices together in a small bowl until evenly distributed, then sprinkle on both sides of the tuna and press lightly to adhere.
- Heat a medium to large skillet over high heat. Coat the skillet with a very thin layer of canola oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray, then add the tuna. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, depending on how well done you like your tuna.
- Remove tuna to a clean plate and let rest for a few minutes while you prepare the slaw, then slice thinly.
- For the slaw: place the cabbage, green onion, cilantro, and jalapeno in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lime juice, chipotle peppers, and a pinch of salt.
- Reserve half of the sauce for drizzling over the tacos and add the remaining half to the bowl with the slaw ingredients. Toss to coat.
- To assemble, arrange the slaw and sliced tuna on tortillas. Top with sliced avocado and cilantro, then drizzle with the reserved chipotle sauce.
*If planning to enjoy your tuna on the super rare side, make sure you get sushi grade tuna. Tips for finding sushi grade tuna are in the blog post.