Tuna Tartare with Cucumber Salad and Avocado

Wooden pedestal topped with tuna tartare with cucumber salad and avocado

This cool, elegant Japanese-inspired appetizer is great in the summer, especially if you have cucumbers, sweet red onions, and chiles fresh from your garden (or from your favorite farmers’ market). For an hors d’oeuvre party you could serve the tuna on crackers. And of course you could feature it as presented below in any small-plates meal.

It takes a bit of time for the cucumber to “weep,” and the wasabi paste needs to sit for at least 30 minutes before being used, but everything can be done ahead of time. Then final assembly will take just a few minutes.

Wasabi is a Japanese horseradish. For this dish, we mix wasabi powder with water to make the wasabi paste. You could buy a tube of ready-mixed wasabi paste instead, though you should check out the label to see if it has been loaded up with additives. Wasabi powder and paste are both easy to find at Asian markets. If you’re really lucky, you might find fresh wasabi roots, and could try grating your own paste. Fresh wasabi roots are much smaller than Western horseradish roots, dark brown on the outside, and bright light green inside.–Cindy Pawlcyn

Tuna Tartare with Cucumber Salad and Avocado

  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 6
Print RecipeBuy the Big Small Plates cookbook

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  • 12 ounces sushi-grade ahi or albacore tuna
  • For the wasabi paste
  • 2 tablespoons wasabi powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
  • For the cucumber salad
  • 1 English cucumber, unpeeled, sliced paper-thin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and julienned
  • 3 red Fresno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and julienned
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • For the san bai su drizzle
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 12 slices avocado
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds


  • 1. Cut the tuna into tiny dice, 1/4 inch or smaller. Put it in a bowl, and set the bowl over ice, in order to keep the fish well chilled. Refrigerate until needed, up to 2 hours maximum.
  • 2. In a small bowl, combine the wasabi powder with just enough of the water to make a drizzleable paste. Mix well, cover, and set aside. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before using. If it thickens too much, add a few drops of cold water to thin.
  • 3. Spread the cucumber slices over a baking sheet and sprinkle them with the kosher salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes to draw out the excess moisture. Combine the chiles, onion, rice vinegar, and olive oil in a mixing bowl large enough to hold the cucumbers, and keep refrigerated until needed. After 30 minutes, pat the cucumbers dry with paper towels and toss them into the bowl with the chiles and onions.
  • 4. Mix the ingredients for the San Bai Su Drizzle together in a small bowl. Chill 6 medium-small plates in the fridge.
  • 5. To serve, drizzle the chilled plates with some of the wasabi paste, then gently measure out 1/3-cup portions of tuna and turn them out onto the center of each plate. Place three mounds of cucumber salad about, and drizzle with San Bai Su. Cross 2 slices of avocado on top of each portion of tuna and sprinkle the sesame seeds over all.


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Recipe Testers Reviews

We frequently dine on the Hawaiian version of this recipe called poke. What makes this particular recipe so special is its simplicity, the lesser number of ingredients (compared to p oke), and the addition of avocado. The mounding of the tuna, which is helped along with the long strips of cucumber and slices of avocado, makes for a very elegant presentation. A superb and much-enjoyed recipe. The stated serving for six is just right but, due to our preference for more of the tuna, I served it for four.

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