Lime juice, capers, and red onion turn slices of tuna into something spectacular. This tuna carpaccio 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!). It’s fresh, tasty and doesn’t take very long to make. Perfect for these sweltering summer days.
I first tried this dish back in 2012, while on vacation with my parents. It was our first visit to the island of St. Maarten, and my first Caribbean vacation.
Which, honestly is kind of sad. My family is Trinidadian, so you’d think I’d have grown up with Caribbean vacations being a regular thing. But we left when I was 3, and have only ever gone back for funerals, so it’s not a happy or relaxing place for us. So St. Maarten eventually ended up being our go-place for beaches and scorching hot weather.
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 enlisted my mum to help me test this recipe, as I figured between the two of us we’d remember what the dish is supposed to taste like.
We test this recipes a few times before deciding that we had successfully replicated 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.
This recipe is deceptively simple. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, so it’s important to use really fresh ingredients.
If the limes in your fridge 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. Which is important, since you’re basically eating it raw. If raw onions are not your thing you can try soaking them in ice water to reduce the intensity of their bite. Or you can soak them in the lime juice to give 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. If you’re sensitive to them though, try the tips above.
The capers don’t need to be the fanciest brand out there. I used whatever my grocery had on the shelf.
The most important part of the recipe is the tuna. If you can get fresh, sushi-grade 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 tuna steaks and they were still very tasty. These have a mild wood smoke flavour that actually worked well with the dish, but plain tuna steaks are generally what you’re looking for.
The nice thing about these frozen tuna steaks is that I didn’t have to do any butchering. There was nothing to trim off, and no bloodline to deal with.
I let the tuna rest for about half an hour, so it wasn’t frozen solid but also not completely thawed out. The fish is easier to cut into thin slices when it’s slightly frozen.
If your knife skills aren’t great, or you’re worried about cutting yourself, you can cut the tuna into 1 inch pieces, cover them with plastic wrap, and pound flat with a mallet.
I prefer the texture of slices though.
The last important ingredient is 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.
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 no included quantities in this recipe for the salt and pepper, because how much you use is going to 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 tsp 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.
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.
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.
Be safe, and eat well!
If you want to read more about St. Maarten, check out these posts:
- Allow frozen tuna to defrost for about 30 minutes, or until just soft enough to cut through
- Stabilize your cutting board with a damp towel underneath, if needed. Set next to your serving platter.
- Use a sharp 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.