Grilled Tuna Steaks Sicilian Style

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Grilled tuna steaks with Sicilian salad on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This is a simple recipe from Sicily for a nicely grilled tuna steak with an easy-to-make, summertime salad.

Tuna is a major part of Mediterranean cuisine, although they’ve hit their resident tuna populations hard. Fortunately, yellowfin, blackfin, albacore and skipjack are all good choices here in North America — hell, even bonito would work. But whatever species of tuna you choose, slice out the very dark centerline of meat: It is perfectly edible, but has a strong, fishy flavor most people don’t like.

Doneness is a personal choice. I love the “black and blue” technique with tuna, where the outside is nicely cooked but the center is still raw, even cool. Many Europeans hate this, however, and if you do too, go ahead and cook the tuna longer over lower heat.

A grill is important here, but you could sear the tuna in a pan if you had to. I just like the flavor that charcoal or wood brings to the dish. It turns humdrum tuna into something special, and the smoky flavor really completes a dish that has it all — this salad is spectacular, folks. Salty, sweet, tart, herby, savory.

What’s better is that it requires just a few minutes of stovetop time, so it won’t heat up your kitchen.

If you want to make this recipe even easier, you can skip the fresh tuna altogether and flake some high-quality, oil-packed canned tuna into this salad. It’s almost as good.

Any sort of tuna will work here; I used yellowfin I caught off San Diego. If you don’t have access to good fresh tuna, use another very firm fish. Sturgeon, shark, swordfish and monkfish would all work here. But really? Any fish you can grill will be OK. And as I mentioned in the notes above, even good canned tuna works.

Grilled tuna salad is great as it is, but if you want to freestyle a bit, start by using more or less of anything in it. Other Sicilian touches would be to add some more sweetness here, maybe a few raisins or slices of orange or tangerine. Pine nuts would be a great addition, too, if you have some lying around. (I use all of these in my recipe for Sicilian tuna meatballs.)

OTHER GRILLED FISH IDEAS

If you’re interested in grilling other types of fish, you might like my recipes for grilled pompano, simple grilled fish with basil, grilled fish on the half shell, or grilled trout.

Grilled tuna steaks with Sicilian salad on a plate
4.93 from 14 votes

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Sicilian Salad

You definitely want good bread to serve with this, but grilled potatoes would be another option, as would steamed rice. To drink, a big white wine like a Chardonnay would be good, as would the hot-weather whites from the Rhone, like Viognier. Obviously Sicilian whites are a great choice if you can get them. A dry rosé is another great choice. As for beer, this is lager or pilsner food, but a lighter bodied pale ale would be another good choice.
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients 

TUNA

  • 1 to 2 pounds tuna steaks
  • Salt
  • Olive oil to coat fish

SICILIAN SALAD

  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly from root to tip
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 or 3 Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
  • 10 to 15 black olives, pitted and halved
  • 10 to 15 green olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 or 3 roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, chopped, or 2 teaspoons fresh
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)

Instructions 

  • Salt the tuna steaks and set aside while you chop the vegetables for the salad.
  • To make the salad, saute the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until they blacken a bit on the edges, about 4 minutes or so. Add the garlic, cook another 30 seconds or so, then turn off the heat. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and roasted red pepper to the pan and toss to combine. Add the remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste; you might not need more salt, as the olives and capers are salty. When the salad has cooled a bit toss in the oregano, basil and mint.
  • When you're ready to cook the fish, get your grill nice and hot, and clean the grates well. Pat the tuna dry and coat with oil. Grind some black pepper over the fish. Using tongs, grab a crumpled piece of paper towel you have dipped in some vegetable oil and wipe down the grill grates.
  • Grill the tuna for at least 2 minutes per side, depending on how thick the pieces are and how well-done you like your tuna. Slice it crosswise and serve atop the salad with some crusty bread and a good white or rosé wine.

Nutrition

Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 640mg | Potassium: 262mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1520IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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17 Comments

  1. How would this work with Striped Marlin, I assume it would be a great recipe for that fish? Any other recipes that are a must for Marlin meat?

    1. Chris: Yes, definitely. You can sub marlin for any tuna or swordfish recipe. I have a great smoked marlin/swordfish recipe on this site, too.

  2. We did this as last minute dish so very adapted to what was around / free-styling. added toasted pine nuts (then lowered temperature for barbacoa for tomorrow) and raisins which were very tasty. I replaced some of the onions and garlic with fennel and added lemon juice. served with new potatoes. Leftover tuna probably going to be Niçoise-adapted lunch salad.

  3. I am landlocked in Oklahoma and was gifted fresh Atlantic bluefin tuna that my boss had flown in from a great supplier in Maine.

    This recipe was excellent. I used a blended greek seasoning from our local Hasty Bake Grill store that is excellent. It had the oregano, onion, garlic, bell pepper etc.

    Again, thank you Hank for expanding my menu.

    I would never have thought to do olives that way. I added a little bit of fresh squash to the salad because it’s in season and I had it to use. Soo. Damn. Good.

  4. Simple and quick, excellent meal to put together on a weeknight. Lots of different adaptations as stated by the other reviews. I’ve done this with store bought frozen tuna steaks and fresh striper fillets skin on. Capers and red peppers are key for me also a great place to use good quality olive oil that I’ve had squirreled away for the right application.

  5. We just caught skipjack tuna off Dana Point, came home and googled this recipe. AWESOME! Only thing we added was a handful of arugala under the salad. Will be making this recipe many more times. Thanks!

  6. …and you’re right. I did it this way (mostly – I added pine nuts, my ready to bolt arugula and used a torpedo onion instead) with an smallish albacore I caught. It IS much nicer than the other. I’ll definitely make again. Salut!

  7. Hmmm…I thought about doing the Sicilian Oregano marinade for bonito, but that recipe seems to have disappeared from the site.

  8. I noticed the same discrepancy as Andy but made the recipe as written and it is super simple, fresh and tasty. Had it the day after some of your venison chilindron and it made me appreciate that jarred, roasted pepper recipe all over again. They are the gift that keeps on giving- so versatile and delicious.
    Thanks again for an amazing mmeal that took only about 20 mins to assemble.

  9. Bit confused. On the home page it says that the tuna is marinated in oregano, olive oil, lemon and black pepper and that it is served on a salad containing pickled onion. When clicking ‘read on’ for the recipe there is no mention of the marinade or pickled onions. Still a great recipe and I shall be giving it a go as the salad sounds great. But did something go missing?

  10. Nice recipe. If you like really ”meaty” flavour you can choose pieces from the belly of the tuna fish which are much more soft and rich in precius omega fats. I prefere to marinate it a little in soya sauce and then grill it. Shark has firm white meat, and is good only for frying . We eat it traditionaly fried served with boiled smushed potato and garlic. Swordfish is not so tasty as tuna. Swordfish needs to be cut in thick pieces and hot coals so it remains juicy.

  11. That salad looks awesome, I could eat that all by itself. What type of fish here in Minnesota would work well with that salad?

    1. I’ve seen this recipe for years on the website but never had any tuna to make it.

      A friend just got back from San Diego and blessed me with several fresh tuna steaks. This recipe did not disappoint, I could have hammered all the salad in one sitting. The briny flavor’s from the olives and capers, the sweetness from tomatoes and peppers and onions are awesome. We added some steamed potatoes from the yard on the side to soak up the juices.

      I need to take a tuna trip one of these days.