I love fusion recipes like this spicy tuna crispy rice. The crunchy, crispy texture of the rice together with its slightly charred sesame oil flavor is actually so interesting! On top of that, quite literally, is a combination of spicy, savory, and tangy toppings.
This bite-sized appetizer recipe is inspired by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who invented the spicy tuna crispy rice. If you’re not ready yet to fork out money to try the real Nobu restaurant-level spicy tuna crispy rice, why not try making it at home?
This recipe tastes like the real deal and is more wallet-friendly. Enjoy! If you like trying TikTok viral recipes, this TikTok Grinder Salad Sandwich should be next on your list!
This spicy tuna crispy rice recipe is a phenomenal appetizer. We like serving it at parties along with other finger foods like Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls.
You will be able to get all these ingredients in your local Japanese or Asian supermarket.
For the crispy sushi rice:
- Sushi rice – Prepare 1 cup of sushi rice. It should be plump and somewhat oval and be able to clump together.
- Rice vinegar – Any type of rice vinegar will work.
- Sugar and kosher salt – For flavoring the rice.
- Olive oil – Prepare ⅓ cup olive oil or any neutral oil for frying the rice.
- Sesame oil – Also for frying the rice, but adds a nutty flavor.
For the spicy tuna:
- Ahi Tuna – Find 1 lb. of ahi tuna, diced small. Be sure to find sushi-grade tuna that’s safe to be eaten raw as we will not be cooking them.
- Mayonnaise – You can use the Japanese Kewpie mayo or any American variety like Hellmann’s mayo.
- Sriracha – Hot sauce to mix with the mayonnaise.
- Sesame oil
- Tamari – This is a thicker version of soy sauce that does not contain wheat, but if you cannot find it in stores, regular soy sauce can be a substitute.
- Ginger – Freshly chopped is preferred but you can also get a store-bought jar of minced fresh ginger.
- Avocado – 1 ripe avocado, sliced thin.
- Sesame seeds – I prefer to toast them.
- Green onion – Sliced thin.
- Lime – Cut into wedges. This is an optional topping but definitely zings up the dish!
- Pickled serrano – This green pepper soaked in vinegar adds a tangy kick to the crispy rice and is extremely easy to make. See the ingredients below.
To make pickled serrano:
- Serrano pepper – 1 serrano pepper, sliced thin.
- Hot water, sugar, and kosher salt
- Rice vinegar – Use rice vinegar or any other type of vinegar.
How To Make Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice
Step 1: Cook the rice. Place the sushi rice in a fine mesh strainer and run under cold water until the water runs clear. Cook the rice according to the package directions, adding a large pinch of salt.
- Pro Tip: An electric rice cooker lets you do this in a breeze, but you can also cook the rice in a pot if you haven’t invested in a rice cooker yet. See the Expert Tips section below for how to cook Japanese sushi rice on a stove.
Step 2: Stir rice vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl.
Step 3: Once the rice is done cooking, stir in the vinegar mix. Spread the rice onto a baking sheet or plate in an even layer (about ½ inch thick). Set it in the fridge for several hours or up to 24 hours to cool.
Step 4: Pickle the serrano peppers. Dissolve sugar and salt in hot water in a medium bowl. Stir in the vinegar then add serrano peppers until they are fully covered in liquid.
Step 5: Make the spicy mayo. Add all mayo ingredients to a medium mixing bowl then whisk until combined.
Step 6: Add the small diced tuna to the spicy mayo and mix to combine. Set aside to marinate.
Step 7: Make the crispy rice. Cut the layer of rice into small 2-inch rectangles (or larger sizes if you’d like).
Step 8: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until the pan is hot. Add both the olive oil and sesame oil then give the pan a swirl. Add rice rectangles, being careful not to crowd the pan. Sear for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Repeat for all the rice. Remove the rice and place them on a paper towel-lined sheet tray.
Step 9: Assemble the spicy tuna crispy rice. Top each rice cake starting with avocado slices, followed by the spicy tuna and pickled serrano peppers. Sprinkle sesame seeds and green onion.
Step 10: Serve immediately with lime wedges if using.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best type of tuna for this spicy tuna crispy rice recipe is ahi tuna, also called yellowfin tuna.
Going to a fresh market or a local fishmonger is your best bet, but most Asian or Japanese supermarkets also sell raw tuna for sushi. While there isn’t a particular organization that indicates if a fish is “sushi-grade” or not, some telltale signs will indicate if that tuna you’re eyeing is high-quality raw consumption.
Fresh tuna should be a bright red or pink color. All fish give off a seafood smell, so give your fish a whiff and if it smells sour or rancid, put it away and keep looking. Read more about handling raw fish in my Poke Bowl recipe.
Absolutely! Simply reduce the amount of sriracha used in the mayonnaise mix. And replace the serrano peppers with thinly sliced Japanese cucumbers.
Use Japanese sushi rice. They stick together better and make for more firm rice cakes that won’t fall apart so easily.
Rice won’t stick if the skillet and the oil are hot enough. Better yet, use a non-stick frying pan with some oil.
If your rice is too dry, the rice cakes may fall apart just as you pick them up. So go back to the drawing board and mix in more water. Then, flatten them out. Before placing the rice in the fridge to cool, wrap the rice with plastic so it doesn’t lose moisture.
Switch up this Japanese-inspired appetizer by using your own favorite protein or using different toppings.
- Seafood alternatives – Sushi-grade salmon, imitation crab sticks, and shrimp tempura.
- Canned tuna – Can’t find ahi tuna? Open a can of tuna and mix in the spicy mayo.
- Vegan protein – Make this appetizer vegan-friendly by using fried tofu or tempeh instead of tuna.
- Japanese cucumber
- Ebiko (tiny shrimp eggs)
- Jalapeno flakes
- Seaweed flakes
- Furikake seasoning – A Japanese savory condiment that is sold in packets, consisting of bonito flakes, nori flakes, sesame seeds, and more
- How to wash sushi rice – There are a few ways to wash sushi rice. One is to use a fine mesh strainer as I mentioned above. Another way is to put the rice in a big bowl, fill it with water, and swish the rice around with your fingers. You’ll see the water turn milky. Pour the water away and repeat two times.
- How to cook Japanese rice – If you don’t have a rice cooker at home, you can cook rice on a stove. Place the rice in a pot and add water (1:1 ratio). As a precaution, add less water first. You can always top it up if the rice is too dry, but not the other way around. Boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
Spicy tuna with crispy rice is best eaten fresh. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Serve chilled or room temperature. If tuna mixture is separated from rice then you can warm rice up in the microwave for 30 seconds and top with tuna.
What To Serve With This Recipe
Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice is an appetizer that would go well with other light apps. Some of these could include: Crostini, Edamame, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Oysters Rockefeller and Smoked Salmon Deviled eggs.
Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice is a great appetizer to serve before a Poke Bowl. A tuna lovers dream dinner. Serving Salmon Rice Bowl with Chimichurri as your entrée with Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice as the appetizer is another fun seafood combo!
Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice
- 1 large frying pan
- 1 set of mixing bowls
- 1 medium sauce pot
- 1 sharp knife
- 1 cutting board
- 1 whisk
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ⅓ cup olive oil or any neutral oil for frying
- 1 tbs sesame oil used when frying
- 1 serrano pepper sliced thin
- ½ cup hot water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 1 cup kewpie or hellmans mayo
- 3 tbsp sriracha
- 2 tbsp honey
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp tamari
- ½ tsp minced fresh ginger in a jar or freshly chopped
- 1 lb ahi tuna small dice
- 1 avocado sliced thin
- 2 tbsp pickled serrano
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- ¼ cup green onion sliced
- 1 lime cut into wedges, optional
Make the Rice
- Place the sushi rice in a fine mesh strainer and run under cold water until water runs clear. This may take up to 1 minute. Cook rice according to package directions, adding a large pinch of salt
- Stir rice vinegar, sugar and salt together in a small bowl
- Once the rice is done cooking, stir in the vinegar mix. Spread the rice onto a baking sheet or plate in an even later about ½ inch thick. Allow to cool in the fridge for several hours or up to 24 hours
Pickle the Serranos
- Whisk the hot water, sugar and salt in a medium bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved. Stir in vinegar then add serrano peppers
Make Spicy Mayo
- Add all mayo ingredients to a medium mixing bowl then whisk until combined
Making Spicy Tuna
- Add the small diced tuna to the spicy mayo and mix to combine
Assembling the Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice
- Cut the rice into 2 inch rectangles (or larger sizes if you'd like)
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until pan is hot. Add both the olive oil and sesame oil then give the pan a swirl. Wait 5-10 seconds then add rice, being careful not to crowd the pan
- Sear for 2 minutes, undisturbed, until golden brown. Flip over and repeat. Remove rice and place on a paper towel lined sheet tray
- Repeat with remaining rice
- Top each piece with avocado slices, spicy tuna mix, pickled serrano peppers, sesame seeds and green onion. Serve immediately with lime wedges