This impressive Ahi Tuna Tower recipe will take your at-home dining to the next level! With a few pantry staple ingredients from your local grocery store and Asian food market, you can skip the takeout and have fun making your own wallet-friendly tuna tower in the comfort of your home.
This post was first published on Aug 19, 2020 and was last updated on April 30, 2021
Forget Take-Out! Make Your Own Ahi Tuna Towers at Home
A great tuna tower is one of those menu items I love ordering at an Asian restaurant. It's as delicious as it is gorgeous! But with the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent quarantine of 2020, I found myself hunkering down and cooking at home every single day. I can't say that I minded this too much, but every once in awhile I wanted to enjoy a restaurant favorite like this impressive dish without having to go to an actual restaurant. Thus, this homemade Ahi Tuna Tower recipe was born!
This is a great project meal for creative home chefs. Serve as a traditional tower, or break it down as an Ahi tuna poke bowl. However you eat this, this dish is sure to be a hit!
Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top of the post, or scroll to the bottom of the post to see the full recipe card with ingredient measurements and instructions.
This homemade Ahi tune poke recipe is broken down into four components — the sushi-style rice, the the spicy mayo, the crab salad, and the tuna:
- For the sushi rice, you'll need rice wine vinegar, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and dry sushi rice.
- For the spicy mayo, you'll need mayonaise (I recommend Kewpie Mayonnaise. It lives up to the hype!) and Sriracha. That's it! Mix most into the crab salad, but save a couple tablespoons for plating.
- For the crab salad, you'll need one 8-oz package of imitation crab sticks (It's honestly the best option for a true tuna tower!), the reserved spicy mayo, Asian-style fried onions, and red lumpfish caviar. (Optional, but highly recommended for a restaurant-quality tuna tower.)
- And lastly, the star ingredient — the tuna. Don't skimp here! Quality is key. You'll need one 8-oz. tuna steak, fresh chives, half of an English cucumber, and a dressing made from soy sauce, mirin, chili flakes, sesame oil, and ginger. YUM!
Prepare the Tuna Tower Ingredients
Make the spicy mayo first, as you'll use it throughout the recipe. Plus, the longer it sits, the better it tastes! It only requires two ingredients, and if you can find the good Asian mayo, GET IT! It's just a little thinner and more creamy version of mayo, and it keeps this as authentic as possible.
After a quick blend of the mayo and sriracha, you have a perfect sushi condiment and the flavor base for the crab salad. The best part about this recipe is if you like it extra spicy, add more sriracha till it reaches your desired heat. Simple and customizable!
Next, shred the crab sticks like you would a cheese stick (into long ribbons).
Reserve some of the spicy mayo for the base of your plate, and mix the rest with the shredded crab as the base of the salad.
Mix it all together, and top with a couple of dollops of caviar if you are using it. Cover and refrigerate until needed. This can be made up to a day ahead of time.
You then want to marinate your fish. I made two versions of this ahi tuna tower recipe — one with tuna steak and one with salmon. The tuna is a little more on the pricey side, but the salmon is about ⅓ the cost. Once marinated, they're both great!
In a large bowl, whisk the marinade, and add the fish and some diced cucumber to the bowl.
Mix everything together, cover, and refrigerate until it's time to assemble and serve the tuna towers. This can be done up to 2 hours ahead of time, and it will hold up in the fridge for 24 hours. (This is the poke for the Ahi tuna poke tower or bowl!)
Lastly, cook the sushi rice according to the package directions then season with a rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt mixture. This adds flavor to the rice and makes it a little sticky. Flatten the rice out and let it cool completely before building the towers.
Build the Ahi Tuna Towers
Now that all of our ingredients are prepared, we're ready to make an Ahi Tuna Tower or Spicy Salmon Tower! The way you layer your tower is crucial for its structural integrity. (Get the cup to build your tower here!) You'll pack everything down in the order of rice, avocado, crab salad, and tuna or salmon on top.
Admittedly, I didn't pay attention the first time I made these. I did rice, then tuna, and my tower crumbled because the marinade from the tuna dripped into the rice. Learn from me, people! You need to build a strong foundation with the most stable elements first.
You can then garnish with a little extra crab salad and some caviar to make it pretty. Food is half about the way it looks anyway, right? I then top with a generous sprinkle of the crispy onions, I like using them because they help make this a cross between my favorite crispy California sushi roll and a classic tuna tower.
Build in the same order if you choose to use the salmon. It is equally great and can be made for about $5 per serving, vs $7 per serving for the tuna.
My Cost-Effective Grocery Shopping Strategy
I am sharing this Ahi Tuna Tower recipe as an installment in a series of posts explaining how I only grocery shop 20-24 times a year. I push myself to plan for about 14 meals at a time, and then shop for each of them all at once. It takes an entire day to shop, organize, separate and freeze proteins, and unwrap and wash all fruits and vegetables, but it is 100% worth it to only shop 1-2 times a month.
If you visit my Instagram and look at the "Grocery Haul" highlight, you'll see a first-hand account of my shopping day. When I did this, I shared the meals I planned to cook with the groceries I purchased and the price breakdown for each. So, here it is, the nitty-gritty of how much this Ahi Tuna Tower recipe costs to make from start to finish.
The Total Cost Breakdown
This tuna tower recipe makes so much sense to me to make at home when you crunch the numbers. Most restaurants charge anywhere from $15 to $25 and up per serving. So, if I can make 4-6 servings for that price or less with this homemade tuna tower recipe, I'm all in! Plus, if I buy a little tiny bit extra, I can stretch this into lunch the next day as a deconstructed Ahi tuna poke bowl or into a couple of sushi rolls for later in the week.
Now, full disclosure ... The "pantry ingredients" were already in my pantry, but I have broken down the amounts I have used and included them in the price of the final product. (Yes, I dug out my old grocery receipts to give you these numbers.I'm dedicated!) While I know the grocery tab is a little higher if you have to purchase these things on the spot, you still have them in the pantry the next time a recipe calls for them, and that's money you don't have to spend again later. Ingredients like sesame oil, Japanese-style mayonaise, sriracha, and sushi rice go a long way and last, too!
Total Cost for Homemade Ahi Tuna Towers
- $15.24 8oz Big Eye Tuna Steak
- $5.98 8oz Salmon Fillet
- $1.29 Cucumber, used half
- $2.99 Crab Sticks
- $1.75 Eel Sauce 1 ea. (Buy from the sushi section at the grocery store.)
- $3.00 Avocados 3 ea.
- $5.99 Kewpie Mayonnaise (1/10 of bottle $0.59)
- $1.99 Sriracha (1/12 of bottle $0.16)
- $5.99 Fried Onions (1/12 of can $0.49)
- $3.49 Soy Sauce (⅙ of bottle $0.58)
- $5.64 Sushi Rice (⅓ of bag $1.88)
$5.99 Caviar 1 ea. (I used half.)
Tuna-Only Tower Breakdown
$33.96 for 4 total servings
$8.49 per person with caviar ($6.99 per person without caviar)
Salmon-Only Tower Breakdown
$24.70 for 4 total servings
$6.18 per person with caviar ($4.68 per person without caviar)
Why You Should Eat Take Out-Style Food at Home
I love eating at home because I can customize the flavor, make sure my food is served HOT, and can save TONS of money. It takes more time to cook restaurant-quality food yourself, but it is always more tasty, and I'm hardly ever disappointed. (Even if I am, I seize that as a learning opportunity for next time.)
These homemade Ahi Tuna Towers came out just the way I imagined, and I loved the end result! It hit the spot and satisfied my sushi craving. This recipe requires some time and patience, but it's a special treat I like to enjoy every once in a while.
In the end, towers are built to be toppled, so knock it down, dig in, and enjoy!
P.S. — I love an Ahi Tuna Tower, but you could totally turn this into a deconstructed tuna tower if you want, aka an Ahi tuna poke bowl!