Tuna & Avocado Poke

Tuna & Avocado Poke

As much as I love to cook, sometimes I feel stuck in a rut. Throughout the year, I rotate through my repertoire of favorites–depending on the season, that could be seared halibut with fava bean puree (spring), slow-simmered Coq au Vin with roasted potatoes (fall), a perfectly ripe Caprese salad (summer), or rigatoni with broccoli rabe and lamb sausage (winter). I love eating with the seasons and getting inspired by what’s in the market, or at the Bowery Whole Foods. But some days, especially when I’ve been on a big cooking/entertaining kick, nothing sounds good. Recently, I was having one of those uninspired, burnt-out-on-all-my-usual-food days. I wasn’t in the mood for takeout–I wanted something really light and fresh–but didn’t feel like spending lots of time in the kitchen. I wanted to try something new.

Some friends of mine recently went to Hawaii for their honeymoon and, based on their Facebook pictures, it seemed like nearly all they ate there was a delicious-looking dish called poke. Now, for those of you that have never heard of this dish (I hadn’t until recently), it doesn’t rhyme with “joke,” it’s pronounced POH-kay. It’s basically the Hawaiian version of sashimi, and can be made with all sorts of seafood. After doing a little research, I discovered that there are many, many variations on this dish, but there are a few pretty standard ingredients: soy sauce, sesame oil, onion, and often dried seaweed and sesame seeds. I’ve never been to Hawaii, but this looked and sounded so fantastic (and seemed so easy to make) that I headed to the store, propelled out of my food funk. I love tuna, so I ordered some deep red Ahi, and decided to add some avocado (another of my favorite ingredients). Just an FYI: it’s important to buy the best quality tuna possible for this dish–you’re eating it raw, so make sure to ask for sashimi grade tuna.

I looked at several recipes online, and by trial-and-error created a version that is sort of halfway between tuna poke and tuna tartare. I wasn’t trying to go completely authentic–I just wanted nicely balanced flavors, and an end result that looked as good as it tasted. This dish could not be any easier to make–you just dice the tuna, mix it with all the other ingredients, and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours. I added the avocado just before serving so it would stay bright green, but you could try marinating it with the tuna if you like. Serve the poke on Bibb lettuce leaves to make cute little wraps, or sprinkle with black sesame seeds and spoon it onto rice crackers for an elegant party hors d’oeuvre.

Food dilemma solved–with minimal prep, minimal clean-up, and maximum flavor. Not to mention, I learned how to make a super-healthy dish in the process. This was the perfect light dinner served with some brown rice and sliced mangoes, and Brandon loved it. Though it’s a splurge buying Ahi tuna, half a pound is more than enough to make poke for two (the recipe below feeds four). Hope you enjoy a little trip to Hawaii around your table sometime soon!


Serves 4

1 lb. sashimi-grade tuna, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeno chile, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Bibb lettuce leaves, for serving

Combine the tuna, shallot, ginger, jalapeno (if using), sesame oil, soy sauce, and cilantro in a medium bowl and toss gently to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Just before serving, fold in the avocado. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I found that it was flavorful enough without salt and pepper, but season according to your taste.)

Serve with Bibb lettuce, to make lettuce wraps.


• For an appetizer, serve spoonfuls of the poke on rice crackers or toasted pita chips.
• Add diced mangoes to the tuna avocado mixture.
• Serve with a squeeze of lime juice.
• Substitute 2-3 tablespoons finely sliced green onions for the shallot.
• Sprinkle the poke with black sesame seeds.
• For a heartier meal, serve with brown rice in lieu of the lettuce.

  • Flora Feng

    Great recipe! Added mango and it was fantastic! THANKS! My husband and in-laws loved it. I’m going to experiment with different types of fish.

    • annabwatson

      Hi Flora,
      Thanks so much! Mango is a great addition – I’ve made it like that as well and it is delicious. Let me know how it turns out with different types of fish. Cheers!

  • jojomojo

    Thanks for the recipe! It was so delicious! I put it on top of a layer of rice with smashed avocado drizzled with wasabi mayo.

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My name is Anna Watson Carl. In a word, I love food, I love France, and I love throwing dinner parties. Over the years, I've worked as a personal chef, taught cooking classes, edited cookbooks, written for magazines, tested and styled recipes, and traveled whenever opportunity has arisen. But at heart, there's nothing I love more than sharing a meal with friends around the yellow table.

For me, cooking has always been a way of life. As a (mildly precocious) ten-year old, I planned and prepared a four-course Valentine's dinner for my parents, birthing a lifelong passion for dinner parties. That was just the beginning. I've been cooking ever since, whipping up souffles at a chateau in Burgundy, searing filet mignon for a wealthy client's dog (bizarre, but true), butchering ducks for confit de canard in Paris, baking the night shift in Nashville, and bathing the floor of my NYC apartment in turkey brine...the story continues.


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