Spicy Tuna Poke

4.94 from 15 votes
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Tuna poke is a specialty of Hawaii, and it is something you need in your life. But, me being me, I make mine spicy tuna poke. 

More casual and easier to make than Japanese sashimi, as well as more open to freestyling in the kitchen, poke has very few rules. Pronounced Poe-Kay, poke means “to cut” in Hawaiian, which is the first rule: poke is diced raw fish… although I’ve seen chopped, cooked octopus, too.

A bowl of spicy tuna poke
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Yes, raw. This is one reason why tuna is very commonly used — tuna poke is safe because these species rarely harbor internal parasites. Here is a run-down on food safety for ceviche and other raw fish dishes, if you are interested.

Poke with most other fish needs to be made with previously frozen fish, and yes, you can use frozen tuna for poke. Proper freezing kills the parasites that can make you sick. Regardless, you want to start with very fresh fish you’ve either caught yourself or bought as “sushi grade” from a reputable fishmonger.

If I have to buy it, I like to get the vacuum sealed blocks of tuna in the freezer section of Asian markets, which are usually of very high quality.

A basic, traditional Hawaiian poke bowl is tuna, soy sauce, seaweed, Maui onions, often green onions as well, plus either the local candlenuts, or the easier-to-find Macadamia nuts. You will often see sesame oil and avocado, too.

I like to use a healthy shake of either furikake, a Japanese rice seasoning mix with sesame seeds and dried seaweed, and, for spicy tuna poke, togarashi, which is the Japanese equivalent of Cajun seasoning — a little spicy, very flavorful. You can buy both online, but my local supermarket has both. You can skip them if you want, but you definitely want some heat in there. 

Beyond the basics, you can play with tuna poke however you want. Just think about color, texture and flavor. Make every bite fun and interesting.

Close up of a tuna poke bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

As for the tuna, yellowfin is most common, but I am using bonito here. Bonito are a smallish tuna very similar to skipjack and blackfin tuna. They are also a species of Least Concern according to the various sustainability organizations, so you can use it as much as you want.

Spicy tuna poke should be served soon after it’s made; it is not like ceviche, where you marinate it a while before serving. And it really needs to be cold. That’s why poke is such a treat for lunch or dinner on a hot day.

If you want another variation on Hawaiian poke, here is my recipe for halibut poke. I have several other raw fish dishes I like a lot, from Italian tuna crudo to salmon ceviche.

A bowl of tuna poke
4.94 from 15 votes

Hawaiian Spicy Tuna Poke

Use this recipe as a guide, not as gospel. One of the best things about tuna poke is your ability to have fun with it. Any high-quality tuna will work here. 
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 small sweet onion, like a Maui or Vidalia, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 to 2 pounds high-quality tuna, cut into dice
  • 3 to 5 thin green onions, or chives, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup Macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado (slightly underripe), cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon furikake seasoning (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons togarashi seasoning, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne


  • Slice the onion thinly and soak in the lime juice while you chop and cut everything else. Mix everything together gently in a large bowl, then serve in individual bowls. 


If you can't find togarashi seasoning, cayenne is an easy substitute, but I prefer it with small, hot, fresh chiles like habaneros or Thai chiles or something similar. 


Calories: 467kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 867mg | Potassium: 758mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2639IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 3mg

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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Recipe Rating


  1. A classic fresh fish recipe, we’ll make this tonight w/2 decent skipjacks we caught this afternoon trolling on the Mexican pacific coast.

  2. Just FYI, freezing does kill the parasites on tuna, but it’s actually the toxins the parasites produce that make you sick… and those don’t go away with freezing or cooking. If you wait a little too long to freeze tuna it can still give you scombroid poisoning (speaking from personal experience)

  3. Just made this from the Newly released Hook Line & Supper book using some blackfin tuna. I didn’t use avocado because I’m not super crazy about them, but the outcome was awesome.

  4. This recipe was an absolute hit with a yellow fin tuna my wife caught in the morning off Kauai. This is a spectacular starting place to riff from, you can go spicier or more acid to bend it towards ceviche. Just phenomenal stuff. It made the grade with some poke snobs I served it to.
    If you have a tuna, make this!

  5. Just one recommendation to use Mac Nut oil instead of Sesame Oil. Its more presentation related, but Mac Nut Oil doesn’t cloud up your fish like Sesame and also adds a nice flavor. I guess with the Avo it doesn’t really matter though.

  6. Bonita or bonito? I know the science field guides and commercial canned product call it bonito, but the fishermen I’ve caught them with and friends that catch them between Santa Barbara to San Diego call them bonita. Not sure why but it seems like it’s only bonita if you catch it yourself. I’ve caught plenty and never thought to try it in poke, but I will now.

  7. Hank, I know you fish both coasts and the term bonito has always confused me. The fish you refer to in the recipe, is it pacific bonito, atlantic, or the much maligned false albacore/little tunny? I occasionally get to Florida and have caught “bonito” there and was told by locals they are inedible, which of course I find hard to believe and have always thought of trying them in poke. Any thoughts?

    1. Frank: They are all basically the same fish, maligned for no apparent reason other than that people treat them poorly. Bled and iced properly, they are every bit as good as a blackfin or skipjack. And yes, I’ve done this with little tunnies.

  8. Your poke looks good, but has a little too much stuff in it, IMHO–but not as much as most of the stuff posing as poke at local (Sacramento) poke places. I like red hawaiian salt, sesame oil and ogo–that’s it!

  9. This sounds absolutely wonderful! I’ll be trying this out very soon. And thanks for the tip about going to Asian markets for the best frozen fish. I’ve told many of my friends about you. The best of luck in all you do!

  10. Gosh, that sounds good–except for the macadamias…(I am deathly allergic to them, darn.) What could I substitute for them?