Tuna Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw – A Couple Cooks


These ahi tuna tacos are bursting with flavor! They pair seared ahi tuna with cilantro lime slaw and creamy chipotle crema.

Tuna tacos

Love a good fish taco? Here’s a new spin that you’ll fall for just as hard: Ahi Tuna Tacos! Meaty tuna steak is the ideal filling for a taco, contrasted with fresh cilantro lime slaw. Top it off with chipotle sauce and another sprinkle of cilantro, and it’s a little bit of everything: savory, spicy, fresh, cool, and creamy. It’s ideal for an easy weeknight meal, but impressive enough for entertaining. If you’re a tuna steak lover like we are, you’ll love this unique way to serve this versatile fish.

Elements in tuna tacos

These tuna tacos are a spin on the fish taco, invented in the 1950s in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. In fact, both the cities of Ensenada and San Felipe, Mexico claim to have invented the fish taco! The idea then quickly spread across the border to San Diego, where they became popular in America in the 1980’s (much in part to a restaurant called Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill).

This recipe seeks to honor the traditional Mexican flavors, using seared tuna instead of the typical breaded fish and pairing it with a zingy fresh slaw. Here are the elements in these ahi tuna tacos:

  • Ahi tuna steaks
  • Spices: Cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder
  • Cilantro lime slaw
  • Chipotle crema (or alternative sauce; see below)
  • Tortillas
  • Red onion (for garnish)
Ahi Tuna Tacos

Tips for buying ahi tuna steak

Ahi tuna, aka yellowfin tuna or bigeye tuna, is a mild, lean fish commonly served as sushi, in poke bowls, or cooked rare or medium-rare. Here’s what to look for when buying tuna steaks for these tuna tacos:

  • Make sure it’s sushi or sashimi grade. There are no specific regulations around the label “sushi-grade,” but it means it’s a high quality fish that is safe to be eaten raw.
  • Check at the fish counter. You should be able to find ahi tuna steaks at your local grocery counter.
  • Look for frozen steaks. Or, it’s possible that your grocery might have frozen steaks. These can be even fresher than fresh tuna if they’re flash frozen right when they’re caught. You’ll just need to thaw the night before in the refrigerator.
  • Find wild caught. Fish that is wild caught is usually a sustainable choice. There are also quality options in well-regulated farms; see Seafood Watch Consumer Guide.

How to cook tuna steak

Once you’ve got a great piece of fish, the hardest part of this recipe is searing the tuna. Here are a few tips on how to cook tuna steaks:

  • Allow it to come to room temperature first! This is important: otherwise the inside is still cold when the exterior is cooked! Allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes prior to cooking. You can use this time to prepare the slaw and sauce, then sear the fish right before serving.
  • Use a food thermometer to assess temperature (130 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the steaks to a skillet and cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned on the outside but still rare the inside. For a medium-rare tuna steak, the internal temperature should be 130 degrees Fahrenheit when measured with a food thermometer at the thickest point.
  • Rest for 2 minutes. This helps it to set and become easier to cut.
Cilantro Lime Slaw

For the cilantro lime slaw

A great fish taco often has a creamy slaw, and this one is no exception! The cilantro lime slaw in these tacos is so good, you’ll find yourself continually sneaking bites. This recipe has a bit of a shortcut so you’re not spending too much time chopping. Use a bag of coleslaw mix, then combine it with shredded red cabbage! It makes for a lovely mix of color and texture.