This easy yet impressive tuna carpaccio recipe showcases thin slices of ahi tuna topped with a medley of bold flavor boosters. It’s the perfect appetizer or snack that comes together in minutes.
Seafood appetizers like smoked salmon dip and smoked tuna dip are always winners whenever I’m hosting or having a dinner party, but my tuna carpaccio recipe always leaves everyone in awe. It’s effortless to make and always one to impress.
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What is tuna carpaccio?
Similar to tuna tartare and beef carpaccio, tuna carpaccio is a popular appetizer or light snack. It’s made with thin slices of raw ahi tuna steaks that are decorated with refreshing and flavorful ingredients, like red onion, capers, fresh citrus, and extra virgin olive oil.
Here are some reasons why I LOVE this recipe:
- Not even a hint of fishy flavor. It may sound surprising, but raw ahi tuna isn’t fishy-tasting at all! Just like tuna poke, seared ahi tuna, and sashimi, every bite tastes like it came straight from the ocean (in the best way possible).
- Gourmet dining at home. I love ordering tuna carpaccio at Italian restaurants, but the homemade version is just as elegant. Its buttery-soft texture and vibrant flavors always leave me wanting more.
- No marinating needed. Hello, quick and easy appetizer! The prep time is fast and there’s no need to marinate the fish ahead of time. Simply plate the tuna slices, bejewel them with garnishes, and dig in!
Besides the freshest tuna steak you can get your hands on, there’s not much more to it! Here’s everything you need for this tuna carpaccio recipe:
- Ahi tuna steak. I recommend picking up high-quality sushi-grade ahi tuna steaks, AKA yellow-fin tuna. They’re not only safer to eat but will also make your dish incredibly delicious. Look for firm, vibrant steaks with a glossy appearance and a clean ocean-like aroma (avoid steaks that smell fishy or sour).
- Sea salt and pepper. To season the fish.
- Red onion. I prefer raw red onion because its zesty crunch has a nice contrast next to the delicate, tender tuna. Feel free to use sliced shallots or scallions for a milder option.
- Capers. For a burst of tangy, briny flavor. You only need a couple of tablespoons, but you can sprinkle the rest on smoked salmon bagels or chicken piccata!
- Olive oil. I like drizzling extra virgin olive oil over the fish. It adds a rich, almost buttery texture that’s unmatched! Avocado oil and sesame oil also work, but the taste won’t be the same.
- Lemon juice. The citrusy acidity brightens and enhances the overall flavor of the dish. I recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice here, not the bottled stuff. Lime juice works well, too.
- Lime wedges. I like serving lime wedges on the side when I need an extra drizzle of fresh citrus juice. Feel free to serve yours with lemon wedges if you want.
Can you use frozen tuna steaks for carpaccio?
I prefer to make carpaccio with fresh tuna, but high-quality frozen tuna steaks also work. You can either leave them frozen or partially thaw them in the fridge before slicing and assembling.
How to make tuna carpaccio
I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1 – Slice the tuna. Using a very sharp knife, slice the tuna steak into thin slices.
Step 2 – Season and serve. Arrange the slices on a serving platter and season them with salt and pepper. Top the fish with red onion, capers, olive oil, and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice. Serve lime wedges on the side, and enjoy!
What to serve with this
The buttery slices of tuna are delicious all on their own! I’ll serve the tuna with fresh arugula and toasted baguette slices when I want to take it up a notch.
After serving tuna carpaccio as an appetizer, follow it with elegant main dishes, like grilled salmon, shrimp, or grilled swordfish, or light seafood pasta dishes, such as linguine with clam sauce and seafood pasta.
Recipe tips and variations
- Freeze the tuna before slicing. I like to partially freeze the tuna for 1 to 2 hours before slicing. The cold temperatures help firm up the flesh, making it easier to slice without the meat tearing or falling apart.
- Use a sharp knife. I can’t stress this enough: use your sharpest chef’s knife to slice the fish! You want the thinnest, most even pieces for a consistent texture and elegant presentation, and that can only be done with a sharp knife.
- Is raw red onion too strong for you? A handy trick I learned is to first soak the sliced onion in a bowl of cold water for 10 to 20 minutes. This helps tone down the sharp flavors, making the onion much more pleasant to eat.
- Serve it ASAP. If you can, serve the tuna carpaccio immediately after assembling. I find that this is the best way to experience its delicate textures and flavors.
- More topping ideas. Mix and match the toppings as much as you like! Sometimes, I’ll add finely grated lemon or lime zest on top, as well as fresh chives, parsley, basil, or cilantro. Sliced fennel, olives, pine nuts, and celery are also delicious and add more texture. I’ll even add wasabi or diced chilies when I want a little spice!
- Drizzle more sauces on top. Experiment with the flavors by drizzling umami-forward sauces on top, like soy sauce, ponzu, tempura sauce, potsticker sauce, chili oil, or a simple balsamic vinegar reduction. They can also be served on the side for dipping.
How to store leftovers
To store: Wrap the leftover tuna slices tightly in plastic wrap and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy the leftovers within 24 hours.
I do not recommend freezing tuna carpaccio as it can negatively affect the quality and texture during thawing.
Make ahead tip
Save time before the party or gathering by slicing and arranging the sushi-grade tuna on your serving plate up to 5 hours in advance. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge.
You can also save a little time by prepping the fresh toppings and storing them in separate airtight jars in the fridge.
Tuna carpaccio can be fully assembled 2 to 3 hours in advance. Just keep it covered and in the fridge before serving. DO NOT drizzle the lemon/lime juice on top until right before serving. Otherwise, the acid will cook the fish.
More impressive appetizers
- Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese– Sweet, salty, and cheesy- what more could you want?
- Chicken lollipop– Think of these as elevated chicken wings, but meatier.
- Cream cheese stuffed peppers– Simple, elegant, and low in carbs.
- Buffalo cauliflower bites– These are baked, not fried!
- With a very sharp knife, slice tuna into thin slices. Make sure your cuts are secure, and the cut is done in one move.
- Arrange the tuna slices onto the plate and season them with salt and pepper.
- Top the tuna with red onion, capers, and olive oil, and drizzle over some lemon juice. Serve the carpaccio with the rest of the lime wedges.
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