Here’s how to make a poke bowl! This classic recipe stars ahi tuna marinated in a flavorful poke sauce, rice, and lots of veggie topping ideas.
How much do you love a good poke bowl? This Hawaiian bowl of seasoned raw fish, rice and crunchy veggies has caught on here on the mainland, and everybody’s doing it! Yep, there are a few poke restaurants right here in Indianapolis, the middle of the Midwest. Because poke is that good. And guess what? You can easily make poke in the comfort of your own home: it’s perfect for a weeknight meal, or even better for a showy meal for entertaining.
What is poke?
Poke is Hawaiian for “to slice” or “cut crosswise into pieces, and it refers to the raw fish that’s cut into cubes. It originated from fisherman in Hawaii who would season leftover parts of their catch for a snack! Poke is a Hawaiian-American food, but much of its flavor is influenced by Japanese cuisine: soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil. You can make poke out of any raw fish, but the most common fish you’ll see is ahi tuna.
Poke can be served as an appetizer or in a bowl as a main dish. Serve it with rice, veggies, and other sauces and it becomes a poke bowl. What does it taste like? You’ve got to taste it to believe it, but with a good ahi tuna it tastes buttery, savory, and altogether otherworldly.
What’s in the poke sauce?
This poke bowl recipe features glistening ahi tuna poke in a marinade that makes it taste like the most incredible food on the planet. You’ll cut the tuna into cubes, then stir it with these flavors and let it marinade. Here are the flavors that go into this poke sauce:
- Sweet yellow onion (has a milder flavor than yellow onion)
- Green onions
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil (plain, not toasted, to gently accentuate the flavor of the fish)
- Sriracha (just a squirt to brighten the flavor without adding heat)
Do you really have to marinade 1 hour?
Most classic poke bowl recipes call for marinading the poke for 1 hour. But do you really have to wait a whole hour before digging in? Great question. To find out, Alex and I taste tested our poke right away, at 30 minutes, and at 1 hour to see how the flavor changed. The verdict?
- You can eat your poke right away! It tastes incredible.
- Marinading even 15 to 30 minutes rounds out the flavor.
- If you have the time, marinade for 1 hour: the flavors really permeate the fish.
Raw fish? Here’s how to find the best ahi tuna
You’ll be eating raw fish in a poke bowl, so you want to make sure to get the very best tuna you can find. Here are some pointers:
- Make sure to purchase ahi tuna that is marked sushi or sashimi grade.
- Sometimes this will be in the frozen fish area, or at the fish counter.
- If you aren’t sure, make sure to confirm with the store that this fish is safe to eat raw.
Poke bowl topping ideas
There are so many ways to make a poke bowl! This bowl is built around the assumption: if you start with great poke, you’ll have a great poke bowl. The fish is the star here, so really anything you do with it will taste incredible. The poke sauce will drip down into the veggies and rice, helping to flavor them. In this bowl, we did add some light seasonings to each veggie to bring out the flavor. Here’s what you’ll find in this poke bowl, and then some other ideas:
Toppings in this poke bowl
- Short grain rice white or brown, we tend toward brown since it has more fiber and nutrients. Traditionally it’s white sushi rice. This bowl we actually used purple short grain rice, which was also tasty!
- Red cabbage flavored with a little rice vinegar and salt
- Cucumber with a few pinches of salt
- Edamame frozen and thawed, well salted
- Radishes if you can find watermelon radishes, they’ve got beautiful color!
- Sesame seeds
Other poke topping ideas
- Cucumber seaweed salad: Take 1 large English cucumber and julienne it into long thin strips (3 cups; we used a handheld julienne peeler). Mix with 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.
- Spicy mayo: Everything is better with a little spicy mayo: right? It’s an integral component in our Vegan Poke Bowl. Here’s our spicy mayo recipe.
- Carrot ribbons: Julienne carrots or slice them into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler.
- Avocado: Many poke bowls have avocado too! It adds a filling richness.
- Ponzu sauce
Other great poke recipes
Want more ideas? There are great resources from Hawaiian chefs:
- Sam Choy’s Hawaiian Style Poke A recipe from the “grandfather of Hawaiian cuisine” himself.
- Poke Recipes from Fix Feast Flair Our friend Alana of Fix Feast Flair and cookbook author of Aloha Kitchen has several great poke recipes on her website! See also: this fantastic Maki Sushi recipe she shared with us from the book.
Want a meal plan?
This recipe is included in our Pescatarian Meal Plan! Check it out for recipes for 1 month, including a meal planning spreadsheet download.
This poke bowl recipe is…
Pescatarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free.Print
Here’s how to make a poke bowl! Try this easy healthy dinner recipe with rice, ahi tuna marinated in a flavorful sauce, and lots of veggie topping ideas.
For the poke
- 1 1/2 pounds ahi tuna, sushi or sashimi grade (3 steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each)
- 1/4 cup minced sweet yellow onion
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (not toasted)
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Small squeeze sriracha
For the poke bowl
- Make the rice: Make the rice on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. When it’s done, give it a few shakes of rice vinegar and stir in salt to taste. (Or, make the rice in advance and reheat it on the stovetop with a splash of water.)
- For the poke: Slice the tuna into 1-inch cubes. Mince the onion. Thinly slice the green onions. Mix them in a bowl with the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, kosher salt and Sriracha.
- Serve immediately, but for most authentic flavor marinate in refrigerator for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Taste and add a sprinkle of salt before serving.* (Get this in the fridge while the rice boils and you prep the veggies, and you can eat when it’s all done.)
- Prepare the vegetables: Thinly slice the red cabbage. Place it in a small bowl and add a few shakes of rice vinegar and a few pinches salt. Thinly slice the cucumber and radishes, and salt them with a few pinches of salt.
- Assemble the poke bowls: Place the rice in the bowl and top with the poke and vegetables. Garnish with sesame seeds and greens.
*It tastes great either way. The traditional poke is marinaded at least 1 hour. If you’re looking for a quick meal, it’s very good right away too.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Raw
- Cuisine: Hawaiian
Keywords: Poke Bowl, Poke Bowl Recipe
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.