Love sushi? Then you’ll love this easy-to-make and popular Hawaiian dish. Learn how to make an Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl at home with simple, fresh ingredients and with gluten-free options.
What is a Poke?
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Well, first of all it’s pronounced po-kay (like “okay”). Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a Hawaiian is a Hawaiian dish made with raw fish (usually ahi tuna or salmon), sesame oil, Maui onion, and Hawaiian salt. In a nutshell, it’s like a raw fish salad. There are a lot of variations – some with soy sauce (shoyu) and spicy mayo, others with local delicacies like limu, a type of seaweed. Poke means “cut into small pieces”, which is exactly how the fish is prepared – cut into bite-sized pieces.
I grew up in Hawaii, and often went to local poke shops or supermarkets to grab my favorite Hawaiian poke with limu in the deli section. The variety of poke in Hawaii is definitely something you need to experience for yourself. Be sure to check out my locals guide to Oahu. Locals in Hawaii will eat poke all the time. Whether you’re going to a tailgate or a birthday party, every occasion calls for poke. It’s sold at Costco, convenience stores and pretty much every grocery store on the islands.
What is a Poke Bowl?
Now here in the mainland, there’s a twist on poke… it’s called the poke bowl. In Hawaii, poke is enjoyed straight from the container sometimes with a side of rice. In the mainland, poke is served in a bowl with rice and other toppings like a deconstructed sushi roll. In fact, here in San Diego there are Hawaiian poke bowl shops all over and served up Chipotle-style where you can choose your base (rice or salad greens), type of poke (ahi, salmon, octopus), toppings, and sauces.
While it’s not quite like the traditional poke in Hawaii, a poke bowl is easy to whip up with healthy ingredients. My personal favorite is an ahi poke bowl, and I have a recipe below you can follow to make it.
Poke Bowl Ingredients
There are so many options for a healthy poke bowl. You can easily change it up to suit your dietary needs (e.g. low carb, gluten-free, etc.).
- Base: The best poke bowl base is sticky white rice, sticky brown rice, or salad greens. Personally, I like half white rice and half salad greens as my base. The marinade from the poke and sauces will season the base well. You could even do cooked, cooled soba or zucchini noodles too.
- Protein: Sushi-grade fish such as fresh tuna or salmon, cooked shrimp (peeled and deveined), cooked chicken (boneless thighs or breast), cooked octopus tentacles, and firm tofu are popular choices. If you decide to use ahi tuna, be sure to follow my recipe below on how to marinade it.
- Vegetables: Add vegetables for texture and color, such as fresh sliced cucumber, cubed avocado, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, and edamame. If you have the option to add pickled vegetables like radishes or even kim chee, it can be delicious. Another great option is seaweed salad, which you’ll typically find in Japanese restaurants and can buy it at an Asian grocery store.
- Sauces: There are so many options for a poke bowl sauce. I find the marinade from my poke recipe (see below) to be enough flavor, but you could add a drizzle of spicy mayo (made with sriracha sauce and mayonnaise), ponzu sauce, sesame oil, eel sauce, or teriyaki sauce.
- Garnishes: The best poke bowl toppings are sesame seeds, green onions, crispy fried shallots, crispy fried garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, or furikake (a Japanese seasoning blend). They help to add texture and a burst of flavor.
As you can see, there are so many options to make your own poke bowl. You could make a low-carb poke bowl, tofu poke bowl, vegan poke bowl, salmon poke bowl, or any delicious poke bowl with the perfect combination of your favorite ingredients.
You could serve up a poke sushi bowl bar for family and guests. Serve different types of protein (sushi grade ahi or salmon), cubed firm tofu, cooked chicken breast cut into slices), along with sticky white rice, salad greens, and toppings like sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, edamame, green onions, sesame seeds, and sauces like spicy mayo and sesame oil. It would be a great party idea to serve up to a crowd.
Can I use frozen ahi tuna for my poke bowl?
The ahi tuna is the star of this recipe. Opt for sushi- or sashimi-grade ahi tuna (or yellowfin or bluefin tuna) from the market. This means it is meant for raw consumption. You may even want to look for sushi-grade ahi tuna that was previously frozen to cut down the risk of parasites (which are common in fish). Here’s more information on how to choose sushi-grade ahi tuna. You could use raw, sushi-grade salmon as an alternative as well.
Can I make my poke bowl vegetarian or vegan?
Absolutely! If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can substitute the ahi tuna with tofu, tempeh, or even marinated mushrooms. The base (rice, salad greens), vegetables, toppings, and even sauces lend are primarily vegan and vegetarian.
Can I make my poke bowl gluten free or low carb?
Yes! Use Coconut Aminos – a soy sauce alternative that’s derived from coconuts and both soy free and gluten free – and Organicville Sky Valley Sriacha hot sauce – a gluten free and preservative free Asian hot sauce. Both sauces serve as a base for many of my own Asian meals as well as those below. Check out other ideas for gluten free swaps for other favorite foods.
To make a low carb poke bowl, eliminate the rice and toppings with carbs such as fried shallots and garlic.
Can I meal prep poke bowls in advance?
Yes, you can! Meal prepping poke bowls can be a convenient option for busy weekdays. However, it is best to store the components separately and assemble them just before consuming to maintain the freshness and texture.
Are poke bowls healthy?
Poke bowls can be a nutritious and balanced meal option, especially when you add a variety of vegetables and protein. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the portion sizes and the sauces used, as some can be high in sodium or added sugars.
Can I customize my poke bowl toppings?
Yes! The beauty of the poke bowl lies in its customization. Feel free to experiment with different toppings, sauces, and garnishes to create a poke bowl that perfectly suits your taste.
More Recipes You Might Like
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke Bowls
- 2 cups mixed salad greens
- 1 cucumbers sliced
- 1 avocado chopped
- 1 carrot shredded
- 2 tbsp furikake (sesame seed and seaweed seasoning) or dried seaweed
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- In a mixing bowl, add tuna, sesame oil, rice vinegar, Tamari or Coconut Aminos and sriracha. Stir well and leave on the side to assemble poke bowls immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready.
- To assemble poke bowls, add 1/2 cup rice to a bowl, then top with salad greens, 1/4 poke mixture, green onions and your favorite toppings.
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