Pepper Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Tahini


I can just see it. Chris and I floating on turquoise water, with the lush green Hawaiian coastline in the distance and a warm breeze hitting our smiling and tan faces.

We’ve been out on the water since noon trying to catch our dinner almost giving up hope, when Chris finally reels in a beautiful 70 pound Yellowfin. After gutting and cleaning the fish and making our way back to the marina, the sun is setting and I find myself perfectly tipsy Kauai Sailingfrom a couple of Mai Tais and ready to just relax. But also hungry for some tuna! And though I’m thinking about poke, crispy fish tacos and ceviche, after a long day, I know I need something easy, I need:

The pepper crusted Ahi tuna recipe I turn to for a fail proof and perfectly seared tuna steak with minimal clean up.

And as I take a bite of the freshest and most perfect melt in your mouth pepper crusted seared Ahi tuna, only one thought is running through my mind… what the heck am I gonna do with the other 68 pounds? Luckily we’ll have plenty of space in the freezer and hungry fellow sailors nearby 😉

This recipe is fast and easy, but tastes like you are at a 5 star restaurant. The key, as always, is the freshness of the fish. Look for a nice thick chunk of sushi grade Ahi tuna with a bright deep pink color. Plus, you only need 5 common pantry ingredients: oil, butter, salt, pepper and a hot pepper spice. I love Piment D’espelette (ground from the Espelette pepper which is grown in the Basque region of France), but hot paprika would also do the trick or just a pinch of cayenne.

Serve it just with the seasonings or drizzle a delicious sauce like my Lemon Tahini dressing, which you can also use as a dressing on a green salad or a vegetable side, like steamed green beans or broccoli.

So, even though I’m not sailing in Hawaii yet, I can at least make this delicious recipe whenever I come across a beautiful piece of Ahi at the market and sail away into the Hawaiian sunset with every bite.

Ahi IS Yellowfin!

This whole time I thought Ahi tuna was its own subspecies within the tuna family. Turns out Ahi is just the Hawaiian nickname for plain old yellowfin tuna. I love researching the Foodstory for my recipes! I always learn something that makes my life easier. In this case, just one less fish species to remember, because there certainly are a LOT.

Ahi or Yellowfin Tuna

Ahi or Yellowfin Tuna

The term Ahi literally translates to “a large tuna, especially as an item of food” and is used in Hawaii to refer to two species of large tuna that is available locally: yellowfin and bigeye tuna. The fish has to be large to be called Ahi. If the tuna is small, then it is called a “Shibi”.

Ahi tuna is a great healthy and low carb choice when it comes to fish. A good source of lean protein, it is also rich in key nutrients like niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, phosphorous and magnesium. It’s also very low in saturated fat and sodium, and boasts plenty of healthy omega-3’s.

Ahi tuna is a very popular choice for dishes like sushi, sashimi, poke, or tuna tartar, where it is served basically raw. But it’s also delicious when grilled (or blackened), seared and broiled. I love tuna and have some form of it at least once a week.

When purchasing Ahi at your local market, look for fish that is labeled “sushi grade”. This means that it is of higher quality and ok to be consumed raw. To be labeled sushi grade, the fish must be considered free of any parasites. This is usually achieved by flash freezing the tuna on the boat right after it is caught. While maintaining the freshness and texture of the fish, this method rids its flesh of any possible dangerous microbes.

Pepper Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Tahini

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 Servings

Carbs per serving: 1 anchor

Pepper Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Tahini

Peppercorn Crusted Ahi Tuna with Tahini Sauce


  • A thick piece of sushi grade Ahi tuna (about 1 lb) or 2 smaller pieces
  • 1/2 tbs whole black peppercorns
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp Piment D’Espelette (or hot paprika, or a pinch of cayenne)
  • 1/2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 tbs canola oil
  • Tahini Sauce


Sprinkle the tuna all over with kosher salt (about1/2 tbs), the Piment D’Espelette and freshly ground black pepper. If possible, set your pepper grinder to a thick setting and grind enough pepper to cover both sides of fish. I usually pick up the fish and dip the side edges in the spices that didn’t make it on the fish. You can also crack the pepper manually in a mortar and pestle or place in a zip log bag and smash with bottom of a pan.

Heat the oil and butter together until butter is melted, add the whole black peppercorns and cook over medium heat until peppercorns pop, about 5 minutes.

Raise heat to medium high, add the tuna and sear a couple of minutes.

Flip the fish and sear another 2 minutes.

If you like your fish to be less raw, sear 3 or 4 minutes per side. It also depends on the thickness of the tuna. Remove tuna from pan and slice against the grain.

Arrange nicely on plate, spoon some of the juices along with the whole peppercorns (they will be soft and delicious after cooking them) over the tuna and drizzle some Tahini Sauce over. The tuna is also wonderful just on its own.

Serve with a nice light side of choice. It’s delicious with a side salad, can even use the same tahini as the salad dressing. Enjoy!

Note: if you can get tuna that is cut into a square log, do it! The tuna looks stunning when sliced and you have four sides to coat with the spices and sear for even more crispiness. That’s usually how it’s served in restaurants. I’ll post some more pics next time I make one.

Instructions with photos

Slice and serve along with a side of choice. A salad with some avocado is perfect!

Slice and serve along with a side of choice. A salad with avocado is a great choice!

It's great as is, or drizzle some Lemon Tahini dressing for even more deliciousness!

It’s great as is, or drizzle some Lemon Tahini dressing for even more deliciousness!

Leave a Comment


  • Ha'a Ha' O'kalani

    Ahi doesn’t translate to “a large tuna” Ahi means “Fire” in Hawaiian. When talking about fish it translates to “Fire Fish” hence why we say “Ahi Tuna.” As far as the recipe, gonna try it tonight.

    • Thank you so much for the info! I love everything about Hawaii and especially learning about the culture and language. Hope the recipe turned out great for you! 🙂

  • Diane

    Oh my god that was so absolutely delicous, I would def make it again

    • Isn’t it a great way to make tuna?! So simple, yet so impressive. Glad you liked it!

  • Wilda in Spain

    Wow! I made this for supper, following the recipe faithfully except for garlic (as I cannot eat garlic). The results were delicious, both the sauce and the fish. I will definitely make it again.

    • Hello Wilda, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed my recipe! Let me know if you try any others, and if you are on Instagram, I would love to see a photo of how it turned out:) You can find me @blue_galley

  • Marsha

    I’m making this for dinner tonight in a matter of minutes I can’t wait to eat it!

    • Hi Marsha, I’m curious how the recipe turned out for you. Please subscribe and stay tuned to many more recipes from me this year. I will also be making videos soon 🙂