Nothing Tastes More Like Hawai’i Than Shoyu Poke!
When I visit family in Hawaii I have 3 personal objectives: soak in as much Hawaiian sun as possible, grab every gas station or supermarket musubi that crosses my path (IYKYK! 😉🤙🏼), & eat poke every single day. My dream life!
My family has been obsessively eating Hawaiian poke for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that poke became a sensation on the mainland. The thing is, the beauty of poke is the place where it comes from! Locally-caught fish, Hawaiian sea salt, & fresh seaweed are more than just ingredients – they’re flavors from the island that make the dish a true celebration of Hawai’i. To me, that’s what makes enjoying poke in Hawaii such a special treat.
Unfortunately, I don’t live my dream Hawaiian island life all year round. When poke cravings hit in Minnesota, this ahi tuna poke recipe is the next best thing. Mom & I have worked closely to honor the tradition of Hawaiian poke in this recipe while still making it easy & accessible on the mainland. It’s as close to the islands as you can get!
This ahi poke creates fresh, oceanic flavors & classic poke textures that will instantly transport you to Hawaii. A special dish from a special place. 🌺
Ahi Poke Recipe Highlights
Whether you’re in Hawaii or on the mainland, this tuna poke recipe will satisfy any poke cravings. You’ll love it because it’s…
A TASTE OF HAWAI’I AT HOME. This ahi poke is my Hawaiian family’s recipe, created to honor the spirit & traditions of this special dish. Several island-inspired ingredients create the fresh, oceanic flavor that makes poke so special, allowing you to enjoy a taste of Hawaii at home – even if you’re on the mainland!
EASY TO MAKE. Homemade ahi poke is super simple to prepare & only requires 2 steps! Most of your effort should go into sourcing the best quality ingredients possible, then letting the fish soak up all their flavors.
SUPER VERSATILE. This tuna poke recipe can easily be used with other kinds of fresh fish & is great served over rice, in a fresh poke bowl, or all on its own. Plenty of poke options!
There’s nothing more ‘ono than fresh poke! 🤙🏼 ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Shoyu Ahi Poke, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
What is Hawaiian Poke?
Poke is a staple in Hawaiian cuisine that you’ll find everywhere on the islands. Supermarkets have giant cases with endless varieties of poke & locals often enjoy it for a meal or as a snack. Shoyu poke is one of the most popular varieties – & my personal favorite!
Okay, so what is poke? ⇢ Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish, like kalua pork, that originated on the islands. It was first created by native Hawaiian fishermen who would slice up small reef fish as they caught them. After dicing the raw fish into chunks, the fishermen would season it with easily accessible ingredients like sea salt, kukui nuts, & seaweed. Today poke is made with all kinds of seafood & seasonings & enjoyed by all kinds of people around the world, but real deal, authentic poke continues to celebrate Hawaiian ingredients from both the land & sea.
Other poke FAQs…
- How to pronounce poke? ⇢ Poke is pronounced “poh-keh” (or “po-KAY” with a Minnesota accent 😉) – not “po-kee” or “poke”. 🙂
- Why is poke called poke? ⇢ In the Hawaiian language, poke means “cut into chunks” which describes the way the fresh fish is prepared.
- So what’s ahi poke, then? ⇢ Ahi poke is a type of poke made with ahi tuna. It’s probably my all-time fave, especially when it’s made with shoyu (the Japanese-style soy sauce that’s most commonly used in Hawaii).
Part of what makes Hawaiian poke so special is the use of fresh ingredients from right on the island. I often consider Hawaii to be an essential ingredient – the place is the essence of this dish!
That being said, you can still honor the tradition of Hawaiian poke here on the mainland. The key is taking the time to source traditional ingredients & the freshest fish you can find. More of your effort will go into gathering ingredients than making the dish, but it’s an essential & worthwhile step!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Here’s what you need to make this tuna poke recipe…
- Ahi tuna – In Hawaii, “ahi” is used to describe yellowfin tuna & bigeye tuna. It’s super important to use the best-quality fresh tuna that you can find since it’s the star & we’ll be preparing it raw (refer to the Ingredient Spotlight, below, for some sourcing tips!). Be sure to dice the ahi tuna into bite-sized pieces or 1-inch cubes – a dice is essential to poke!
- Onions – Poke is almost always made with Maui onion in Hawaii. For this recipe, you can use a combination of thinly sliced sweet onion (any variety will do, even yellow onion & shallots work in a pinch!) & green onion/scallion.
- Shoyu – This Japanese-style soy sauce is a staple in Hawaii & the base of the shoyu poke sauce. It has a more mellow flavor than other soy sauces, so I encourage you to seek it out. My personal favorite brand is Aloha Shoyu, which is brewed right in Hawaii. If you cannot find shoyu, feel free to use whatever soy sauce you keep on hand.
- Sesame – Both toasted sesame oil & sesame seeds!
- Chopped nuts – Inamona is a finely grated roasted kukui nut, which comes from Hawaii’s official state tree. It’s a crucial ingredient to real Hawaiian poke! Inamona can be difficult to come by on the mainland, so your best bet is to order online. If you cannot find Inamona nuts, feel free to swap them out with toasted macadamia nuts, which have a similar mild flavor & meaty texture.
- Seaweed – Ogu & limu are varieties of Hawaiian seaweed that add a crunch & briny, oceanic flavor to shoyu poke. Here on the mainland, your best bet is to order dried seaweed online & rehydrate it.
- Hawaiian sea salt – Another crucial ingredient! Hawaiian sea salt is richer in minerals & less “salty” than other varieties. I use ‘Alaea salt (a red clay salt) or this Hawaiian sea salt. Use a coarse rock-style salt if you can’t get your hands on authentic Hawaiian salt.
- Crushed red pepper flakes – For just a little heat!
This ahi poke recipe is my go-to on the mainland, but Hawaii has TONS of amazing seafood used to make poke. It doesn’t get fresher than on the islands! Some other common types of Hawaiian poke include:
- Tako – This octopus poke is a favorite in Hawaii (in the native Hawaiian language, tako means octopus! 🐙). Unlike ahi poke, which is prepared raw, tako poke is often cooked until it has a tender & pleasantly chewy texture. It pairs well with all kinds of seasoning!
- Aku – Aku poke is made with another kind of tuna – the skipjack tuna. Aku is abundant in Hawaiian waters & an extremely important food in island culture. Good quality aku meat is a deep red color & has an exceptionally pronounced tuna taste. (Fun fact! ⇢ Aku also happens to be my late Hawaiian Grandpa Clarence’s nickname! 🌺🥰)
- Salmon – While salmon are not indigenous to Hawaiian waters, salmon poke is still common on the islands. It’s also one of the easiest poke recipes to recreate on the mainland!
Sourcing tips! ⇢ While Hawaiian seafood is unbeatable, you can still make amazing poke on the mainland with whatever fresh fish is available. It’s super important to source the fish from somewhere you trust since you’re preparing it raw. A few tips…
- Many people swear by using sushi-grade or sashimi grade ahi tuna, but it’s worth noting that these designations are very loosely regulated. The U.S. does not have a national governing body that grades fish the same way we grade other proteins like beef!
- Instead, my best advice is to source raw fish from a local fishmonger – they’ll have the best knowledge about what is fresh! 👍🏼
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How to Make Ahi Poke in 2 Simple Steps!
Mom’s ahi poke recipe couldn’t be any easier to make – it’s a simple 2-step process with no cooking involved!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Mix the ingredients. Combine the diced ahi cubes with the sliced onions, shoyu, sesame oil, Hawaiian sea salt, nuts, seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, & crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Then stir gently to coat the bite-sized pieces in the marinade. Remember! ⇢ Raw fish is super delicate, so gentle handling is key.
Marinate the ahi tuna. Cover & store the bowl of ahi poke in your fridge, letting it rest for at least an hour. As it sits, the ahi soaks up tons of aromatic notes to accentuate the natural oceanic flavor of the tuna & the natural acidity of the shoyu sauce helps break down the connective tissue in the tuna. You can’t rush this!
That’s it! Making tuna poke at home is all about taking the time to gather the right ingredients & allow the fresh fish to marinate. Once you’ve done that, delicious ahi poke is a given!
This ahi poke recipe can be enjoyed in many different ways, but at my house, we tend to share the belief that simple is best. You don’t need much else when you have fresh ahi tuna & show-stopping Hawaiian ingredients!
Some of our favorite ways to enjoy ahi poke are…
- On its own. In Hawaii, we often eat ahi poke as a pupu (appetizer), savoring its deliciousness all on its own. It’s truly all you need! 😋
- On a bed of warm white rice. Sticky white rice, like short grain rice or sushi rice, absorbs the poke sauce deliciously & is an easy way to turn ahi poke into a heartier main course. If you prefer brown rice, go for it!
- In a poke bowl. Here on the mainland, you’ll find poke bowls made with all types of ingredients – mango, pineapple, veggies, carrots, peppers, edamame, spicy mayo, wonton crisps & more! At my house, we opt for simpler poke bowls that are more similar to authentic Hawaiian poke bowls, complete with crunchy cucumber or seaweed salad, furikake (Japanese seaweed seasoning), & some avocado. Learn more! ⇢ Mom’s Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl Recipe.
Other Ahi Poke FAQs
Where is poke originally from?
Hawaii! Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish treasured by locals & it’s become an icon for Hawaiian cuisine outside of the islands.
Does poke tuna need to be cooked?
Nope! Shoyu poke is all about enjoying the fresh flavors of raw fish like ahi tuna.
What type of tuna is best for poke?
Ahi tuna is my all-time fave & often the easiest to find. Aku poke is another version of Hawaiian poke that’s made with skipjack tuna.
Is tuna poke served hot or cold?
Always cold. Refrigerating is an important step in this ahi poke recipe!
How to serve ahi poke?
We love to enjoy tuna poke on its own as a pupu (appetizer), but it’s also great over warm white rice or as part of a poke bowl.
How long can ahi poke stay in the fridge?
The leftover raw fish won’t last too long – 1-2 days max.
Can you freeze ahi poke?
We don’t recommend freezing the ahi tuna once it’s mixed with the shoyu poke sauce. The shoyu impacts the texture of the fish!
I can’t wait for you to try this Shoyu Ahi Poke recipe! Poke is truly my favorite food on the face of the planet & it means a lot to share it with you. While this homemade version is amazing, we hope you get to try Hawaiian poke at least once in your life – there’s nothing more special! 🌺
If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
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Shoyu Ahi Poke (Hawaiian Tuna Poke)
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Marinating Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: serves 2-4 1x
- Category: Main Dish, Appetizer Recipe
- Method: Raw, No-Cook
- Cuisine: Hawaiian
While its exploded in popularity here on the mainland in recent years, poke is a dish my Hawaiian family has enjoyed for decades (if not longer!). The beauty of poke is the place where it comes from – locally-caught fish, Hawaiian sea salt, & fresh seaweed are more than just ingredients, they’re a celebration of Hawai’i itself!
But! When poke cravings hit at home, my Mom’s Ahi Tuna Poke is the next best thing.
Inspired by the shoyu ahi poke of her childhood in Honolulu, Mom & I have worked closely to honor the tradition of Hawaiian poke in this recipe while still making it easy & accessible for those of us on the mainland. You’ll want to take the time to source the right ingredients (we have lots of guidance included in the Recipe Notes, below!), but once you do, a bowl of ahi poke comes together really quickly.
Once it’s mixed up, you can enjoy this ahi poke on its own as a pupu, spoon it over warm rice, or build a poke bowl – these Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls are how we most often enjoy shoyu poke at home.
If homemade poke is new-to-you, you’re in for such a treat – be sure to read through the blog post, above, to learn all about poke & its delicious history in Hawaii. ♡ We hope you love this special family recipe as much as we do!
- 1 pound sashimi-grade ahi tuna, diced into ¾-inch cubes (see Recipe Notes)
- ¼ large sweet onion, thinly sliced (approx. ¼ cup)
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced (approx. ⅓ cup)
- optional: 2 tablespoons dried ogo or limu (or ¼ cup rehydrated ogo or limu made from 2 tablespoons dried placed in 2.5 cups of lukewarm water). (Hawaiian seaweed, see Recipe Notes)
- 2–3 tablespoons shoyu or soy sauce (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped Inamona or macadamia nuts (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Mix the ahi poke: In a medium bowl, combine the cubed tuna, sliced sweet onion & green onion, ogo or limu (if using), shoyu, toasted sesame oil, Hawaiian sea salt, inamona or macadamia nuts, toasted sesame seeds, & crushed red pepper. Gently stir, combining the ingredients well. Cover & transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 hour.
- Serve: In Hawaii, poke is commonly enjoyed on its own as a pupu (appetizer). If you prefer to make a meal out of it, try spooning it over warm white rice or build a poke bowl (for more info, check out Mom’s Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls recipe – the best!) Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes (+ a quick note from Mom! 🌺): Poke is traditionally made using some really interesting & special Hawaiian ingredients. If you’re a mainlander, many of these ingredients may be new-to-you, so we’ve provided detailed descriptions & some sourcing guidance below. Mom wanted to be sure to let you know that there’s no need to feel intimidated by the specialty nature of a few of these ingredients – you can still make a delicious poke at home using just fresh fish, onions, & the sauce!
- Ahi tuna: As the star of this poke recipe, it’s important to use the best quality ahi tuna you can find. Since poke is a raw preparation, it’s also important to source your fish from somewhere you trust. While some swear by using only “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” fish, these designations aren’t regulated – this is an interesting read on the matter. Rather than focusing on specific labels, I suggest heading to your local fishmonger & letting them guide you in the right direction. If you’re local to the Twin Cities Metro, I am a big fan of Coastal Seafoods – they have storefronts in both Minneapolis & St. Paul. If you cannot find ahi tuna, this is also a great base recipe – feel free to swap tuna for salmon
- Ogo/Limu: Ogo & limu are varieties of Hawaiian seafood commonly used in poke to add crunchy texture & briney, oceanic flavor. While it can be a difficult & expensive ingredient to source here on the mainland, dehydrated seaweed is something you can easily order online & rehydrate according to package directions.
- Shoyu: Shoyu is the Japanese-style soy sauce that’s most commonly used in Hawaii. Its flavor is a little more mellow & round than soy sauces readily available in conventional grocery stores here on the mainland. Aloha Shoyu, which is brewed in Hawaii, is my favorite & a staple in my kitchen. If you cannot find shoyu, feel free to use whatever soy sauce you have on hand (or your favorite soy sauce alternative, like tamari, for a gluten-free dish).
- Hawaiian sea salt: Hawaiian sea salt is a crucial element of traditional Hawaiian poke. It’s less salty & richer in minerals than conventional salt – plus, it’s as authentic as it gets! I use ‘Alaea salt (red clay salt with naturally occurring minerals & iron, pictured) or this Hawaiian sea salt – either work wonderfully in this recipe. If you don’t wish to use Hawaiian sea salt, substitute with coarse rock-style salt.
- Inamona: Inamona is finely grated roasted kukui nut (candlenut), the nut from Hawaii’s official state tree, the kukui tree (candlenut tree). (If you’ve ever traveled to Hawaii, you may have seen or worn a kukui nut lei, a traditional Hawaiian lei that symbolizes protection & peace.) Inamona is made by cracking open the dark, smooth shell of a kukui nut & roasting, seasoning, & finely chopping the softer white nut inside. Inamona is traditionally used to season fish & it’s a crucial ingredient to real Hawaiian poke. While it can be a difficult & expensive ingredient to source here on the mainland, it is something you can order online. If you cannot find inamona, the mild flavor & meaty texture of toasted macadamia nuts make for a great substitute.
- Storage: While this ahi poke is best enjoyed fresh, the day it’s prepared, you can store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days. Enjoy leftovers straight out of the refrigerator.
Keywords: ahi tuna poke, shoyu poke, Hawaiian poke recipe, Hawaiian recipes
Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.
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