Lime juice, capers and red onion turn slices of tuna into something spectacular!
This tuna carpaccio recipe makes a great appetizer or light lunch.
I am SO excited to share this recipe with you today. This tuna carpaccio isn't just delicious, but it's exactly the kind of food I enjoy making (and eating!).
This recipe is fresh, tasty and doesn't take very long to make.
Plus, since it's raw, it's perfect for these sweltering summer days when it's just too hot to turn on the stove.
🤔 What is Tuna Carpaccio?
The word "carpaccio" refers to an Italian appetizer made from thin slices of raw beef fillet.
The beef is either drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, or topped with a mayonnaise or mustard based sauce, and garnished with capers and onions.
Tuna carpaccio is a riff on this classic Italian dish, which replaces the beef with thinly sliced pieces of tuna.
While both versions are delicious (and there are many other protein variations out there), tuna carpaccio is my preference because it's a lighter and brighter dish than the traditional beef recipe.
🏝️ My Experience With This Dish
I first tried this dish back in 2012, while vacationing on the island of St. Maarten with my parents.
We've gone back 3 or 4 times now (I've lost count), and every time we visit we make sure to visit a restaurant called SkipJack's.
This friendly family restaurant has a really cool atmosphere (it's right on the water) and serves up tasty seafood dishes, like this tuna carpaccio.
(I have a blog post about SkipJack's that you can check out if you'd like to.)
I wanted to recreate this delicious fresh appetizer at home, so we could enjoy it more often.
My mum and I tested this recipe several times before landing on a version that tasted almost exactly like the dish we had enjoyed in St. Maarten.
Our little twist is adding lime zest, which gives an extra bit of brightness to the dish.
🥣 Ingredient Tips
This recipe is deceptively simple. It doesn't have a lot of ingredients and since everything is served raw it's important to use really fresh ingredients.
If the limes in your crisper drawer are a bit dried out, grab a fresh one on your next grocery run. You need the brightness of a fresh lime to cut through the fatty-ness of the fish.
A fresh red onion is going to give you better flavour too.
The capers don't need to be the fanciest brand out there. I used whatever my grocery had on the shelf.
Lastly, let's talk about the olive oil.
Use an olive oil that you would use in a salad dressing. It doesn't have to be too fancy, but something with a nice flavour that's not too grassy would work well here.
Save the extra light olive oil for baking, sauteing, etc.
🧅 How to Make Raw Onions Taste Better
If raw onions are not your thing, there are a few ways that you can reduce the intensity of their bite.
First, you can rinse the diced onions under cold running water (put them in a sieve so you don't lose them down the drain). You can also try soaking them in a bowl of ice water for at least 10 minutes.
Both soaking the onions and rinsing them helps to remove some of the sulphur compounds that give onions a harsh flavour, or unpleasant aftertaste.
Another option is to soak your diced onions in lime juice with a pinch of salt, which gives them a quick pickled effect.
I usually hate raw onions, but I don't mind them in dishes that have a lot of lime juice, like this tuna carpaccio or pico de gallo. So if you also dislike them, or are sensitive to them though, try the tips above.
🐟 What Kind of Tuna Should You Use?
The most important part of this recipe is the tuna.
I used yellowfin tuna because it milder in flavour, and less expensive, than bluefin or bigeye tuna. It's also easier to find at most grocery stores.
I always buy tuna steaks, because that's what's available at my local grocery store. However, you could also use a tuna loin or a tuna saku block (a rectangular portion of center-cut tuna loin).
If you can find fresh, sushi-grade (AAA) yellowfin tuna, go for it. It's going to make this dish extra special. If that's not an option though, don't worry about it.
I used frozen boneless yellowfin tuna steaks when I tested this recipe (see the image below), an it worked just fine.
The tuna steaks that I bought were actually treated with filtered wood smoke to maintain freshness and colour. Honestly, the smoke flavour was barely there so I was able to use this without issue.
Ideally, though, you'd want to use plain tuna steaks that don't have flavours or seasoning added to them.
(Since writing this blog post, I've made this recipe several times with just plain yellowfin tuna steaks that my grocery sells in their seafood case.)
🧊 The Benefit of Using Frozen Tuna
The nice thing about using frozen tuna is that it's significantly easier to cut thinly!
A sharp knife makes this job easier whether your fish is fresh or frozen, but unless you have a VERY sharp knife and great knife skills, cutting slightly frozen fish is going to make your life easier.
If you're buying tuna that's already frozen, you'll want to let it rest in the fridge for a few hours so that it's not frozen solid when you try to cut into it.
If you're using fresh tuna, you'll want to reverse the process. Stick it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This should be enough time for the fish to firm up, without freezing through completely.
If your knife skills aren't great, or you're worried about cutting yourself, you can cut your chilled tuna into 1 inch pieces, cover them with plastic wrap, and pound flat with a mallet.
(I prefer the texture of slices though.)
🍽️ Putting the Dish Together
When you're ready to assemble this dish, lay the slices of fish in a thin layer, and season them with salt and pepper as you go.
This is your only opportunity to season the fish, so add your salt and pepper with confidence!
I have not included quantities in this recipe for the salt and pepper, because how much you need to use will depend on what you're using.
I used a flaky sea salt in this recipe, and I had to use quite a bit to get the level of saltiness that I wanted.
Let's say it was about 2 tsp. If you were to add 2 teaspoon of table salt to this dish, it would probably be much too salty. The finer the grain of your salt, the less you will need to use.
The same goes for pepper. I used coarse cracked black pepper, but if you were to uses fine pre-ground pepper, my measurement wouldn't translate to yours.
So, use your best judgement and slowly season the fish until it tastes good to you.
Once the fish is on the plate, you can add all of the other ingredients except the lime juice.
The acid in the lime juice is going to "cook" the fish - turning the flesh into an opaque, light pink colour.
If you're not a fan of raw fish, you can add the lime juice and let the fish sit for about 5-10 minutes.
I know some tuna carpaccio recipes have the tuna sitting in citrus juice overnight, but I'm not a fan of that method.
The longer the acid sits on the fish, the less flavour the fish retains (and the texture changes significantly!).
So, if you want to enjoy the full flavour of the tuna, add the lime juice just before serving. It doesn't take very long for the acid to start changing the colour and texture of the fish.
If you want to prep this dish ahead of time, you can assemble everything without the lime juice, wrap it with plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge.
Once you're ready to serve, bring it up to almost room temperature, add the lime juice, and serve.
While you can certainly enjoy this tuna carpaccio on its own, I like to have it with little toasts. The bread sucks up the flavourful olive oil, and adds crunch to the dish.
You could also add fresh microgreens, baby spinach, or arugula to this dish. Treat them like salad greens, and dress them with the olive oil, salt, pepper and lime juice.
🙋🏽 Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, tuna carpaccio is a raw dish that is usually served as an appetizer.
No, while ceviche is also an appetizer made with raw fish the two dishes are actually very different.
Ceviche is a Latin American dish made from raw fish (usually red snapper or sole) that has been marinated in citrus juice, along with onions, tomatoes and green peppers.
Tartare is made from either coarsely ground or finely chopped proteins that are seasoned with salt, pepper and sometimes herbs, and paired with other ingredients.
Beef tartarte, for example, is usually paired with a raw egg yolk, capers, onions and parsley.
Tuna tartare is usually paired with avocado and a sesame dressing.
Generally speaking, it is safe to eat raw tuna if it has been handled properly. Always follow the defrosting instructions on frozen tuna products, and never leave any kind of fish on your counter for long periods of time.
Anyone who is immunocompromised (including elderly or pregnant people), should check with their doctor before consuming raw fish.
That's everything you need to know to make this tuna carpaccio!
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
🖨 Printable Recipe
- 340 gram yellowfin tuna steaks, frozen
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon red onion, finely diced
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste (coarse pepper works best)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, to drizzle
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- Defrost the frozen tuna until it's just soft enough to cut through (see notes).
- Stabilize your cutting board with a damp towel underneath, and grab a large sharp knife.
- Use the knife to cut thin slices of tuna across the grain of the fish. Arrange them on the serving platter as you cut each piece, and season with salt and pepper as you layer the pieces.
- Top the tuna with the capers, red onion, and more salt and pepper (if needed). Drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with lime zest. Add lime juice just before serving.
- Serve with crusty bread or little toasts, or dressed salad greens.
- rinse diced onions under running water (in a mesh sieve)
- soak them in ice water for at least 10 minutes
- Or soak them in lime juice with a pinch of salt for a quick pickled effect
Please read the blog post for detailed tips and explanations.
Nutrition Disclaimer: this nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed.