Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Cilantro Lime Aioli Recipe

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Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Cilantro Lime Aioli Recipe

Pan-seared ahi tuna has always been one of my favorite seafood dishes. My recipe features a sesame-crusted ahi tuna steak (yellowfin or bigeye) that is crispy on the outside and raw in the middle. If you’re a sushi lover, this recipe is absolutely for you.

I like to serve pan-seared tuna over jasmine or brown rice and top it with both spicy cilantro-lime aioli and soy sauce. It’s a fresh and flavorful dish (or poke bowl if you will) you won’t forget. While this feels like an elegant dish, it’s one of the easiest recipes to pull off! Assuming you have access to quality fresh tuna from a trusted source, this recipe will cycle on repeat.

While this recipe works nicely over plain recipe for a sushi bowl experience, you can also serve it with a side of simple fried rice and crab rangoons for a medly of flavors. If you want to mix in beef, check out my beef and broccoli recipe!

How to Pan Sear Ahi Tuna

Yellowfin tuna coated in sesame seeds

Pan searing tuna is really easy. I use a cast-iron skillet, a little canola oil, and medium-high heat. For the perfect rare tuna, sear both sides for approximately 90 seconds in a hot skillet. Remove from the heat and let rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

If you prefer tuna that is more cooked through with a slightly pink center, sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Just to note, cooking oil at high temps tends to get smokey. Be prepared to open a window or use your range hood to control the smoke.

How to Slice Ahi Tuna

Ahi Tuna is best sliced against the grain for optimal tenderness, especially if consumed raw or rare. Look for the natural lines/grain that runs through the fish prior to cooking and cut across the grain. This ensures your slices easily tear apart and melt in your mouth. It’s a small detail that makes a big difference.

What to Look for When Buying Fresh Tuna

Both bigeye and yellowfin tuna fall under the “Ahi” tuna nomenclature. Yellowfin tuna tends to be dark red (almost maroon), whereas bigeye tuna is more red/pink. Regardless, look for tuna that is vibrant in color and slightly shiny. Tuna that appears dull, matte, or browning is likely not as fresh. Color is not always going to be an indicator of freshness, but hopefully, it points you in the right direction.

Fresh tuna should smell like salty ocean air and virtually have no smell at all. Any offputting aromas are a bad sign. Always buy from trusted sources. I’m really lucky to live right on the coast and have access to ultra-fresh seafood. I bought the pictured piece from Mullaney’s in Scituate, MA.

Spicy Cilantro Lime Aioli

Seared ahi tuna is really good drizzled with soy sauce, however, if you’re looking for additional flavor and texture, try pairing it with my cilantro lime aioli. My aioli is a mix of mayonnaise, jalapeno, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, and fresh cilantro. It’s a medley of fresh flavors that pairs beautifully with raw fish. Combine all ingredients in any sort of blender you own and blend until smooth and creamy.

You can omit the jalapeno if you aren’t a fan of heat! Full disclosure, it’s pretty mild with the mayo.

Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Cilantro Lime Aioli Recipe

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5 from 1 vote

Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Cilantro Lime Aioli Recipe

Servings: 2
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna that is pan-seared and served rare over a bed of rice. Garnished with homemade spicy cilantro-lime aioli and soy sauce.


  • 2 6-8 ounce yellowfin or bigeye tuna filets, roughly 3/4- 1 inch thick
  • Jasmine or brown rice, 2 servings or 3/4 cup dry
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, for cooking
  • Low sodium soy sauce, for serving
  • Sliced jalapeno, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Cilantro Lime Aioli

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 lime, juice squeezed and zested
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, stems included
  • half a jalapeno, cored and seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • Combine all aioli ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving. Aioli can be made ahead of time. Prepare rice according to the instructions on the package.
  • Season tuna all over with salt and pepper. Place sesame seeds on a plate and mix to combine. Press filets into the seeds until completely covered. If it’s easier, you can also sprinkle filets all over with sesame seeds. I like to liberally cover.
  • Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Let the pan become hot before proceeding. Place filets face down and sear for 90 seconds. Flip and sear for an additional 90 seconds. For tuna that is pink in the center and more cooked through, sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and set on a cutting board to rest for 3 minutes before slicing.
  • Slice filets against the natural grain and serve over rice drizzled with soy sauce and aioli. Garnish with jalapeno slices and lime wedges.


Tuna will be very rare/raw in the middle if prepared as outlined above. If you prefer a slightly pink center, sear for 2-4 minutes per side.


Serving: 1filet with aioli, no riceCalories: 529kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 57gFat: 27.9gSaturated Fat: 3.8gCholesterol: 110mgSodium: 885mgFiber: 2.2gSugar: 2.1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Asian
Tried this recipe?Mention @kitchenswagger or tag #kitchenswagger!

About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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