How to make vegan tuna from watermelon as sushi or steaks – This recipe is a healthy fish alternative that is incredibly delicious and has the texture and taste of real tuna. Perfect for plant-based sushi, sashimi, and as a topping for a delicious Hawaiian Vegan Poke bowl!
Amazingly good Vegan Watermelon Tuna
It might sound strange to read about turning a sweet, juicy fruit into a mock fish recipe, right? But, before you let your skepticism get the better of you, I really encourage you to try it first!
The watermelon cuts are baked then marinated in a spiced soy-vinegar mixture with nori flakes and chili powder. The result is a briny, savory, and sea-fresh flavored treat that packs quite a punch! It has a tender yet chewy and slightly fatty texture that feels and looks a lot like tuna! This is one of those recipes that will pleasantly surprise you with its ingenuity and simplicity.
What’s in the recipe?
Who’d have thought that you can use a sweet fruit to replace salty, ocean fish? When you bake and marinate the watermelon, it undergoes a complete transformation that will astound you. Here are the ingredients you need to make it:
- Watermelon: For this recipe it’s best to pick a seedless watermelon or one with as few seeds as possible. Also, it should be slightly under-ripe or just ripe, but not mealy.
- Sesame or peanut oil: the mild, nutty flavor of these two oil works best for this recipe. However, feel free to use other types of oil you like.
- Tamari or soy sauce: Gives the watermelon pieces a great umami flavor! If you are following a gluten-free diet, tamari is your best option.
- Rice vinegar: adds tanginess to the dish with Asian flair.
- Chili powder: for a touch of spiciness without overpowering the fresh, briny taste of the vegan tuna cuts. You can also use chili flakes or Sriracha as alternatives.
- Nori: or other seaweed give the vegan watermelon tuna an indispensable sea flavor without being overly fishy!
- Ginger and Garlic: for more flavor and aroma!
How to make Watermelon Tuna
As always, I recommend checking out this step-by-step instruction first. Then you can find the full recipe with the exact measurements in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Cut and bake the watermelon
Start by cutting the melon into dices or “steaks” and place them in a large baking dish, leaving enough space between the pieces. Sprinkle the pieces with a pinch of salt and bake in the oven for 1 hour, flipping once after 30 minutes (depending on the size, the steaks can bake 10 minutes longer). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Step 2: Marinate the watermelon
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the baked watermelon pieces in a bowl with the marinade and nori flakes and gently toss to coat. Then transfer to a freezer bags (or leave it in the bowl and cover with a lid) and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
Step 3: Pan-fry watermelon steaks (optional)
Remove the pieces from the marinade and either eat them raw or dip in sesame seeds and fry in a hot pan with some oil for about 2-3 minutes per side until crispy.
Tip: the marinade also tastes great as a dressing or “seasoning sauce” for the rice.
Step 4: Assemble your poke bowl
If you want to serve the watermelon tuna in a vegan poke bowl, you can find the instructions for putting it together in this post. In the video animation below, I’ve added some diced mango and skipped the tofu. Enjoy!
Tips when making Vegan Watermelon Tuna
- Make sure not to slice the watermelon pieces too thinly or too small as they will shrink during the baking process because of their high water content. The recommended sizes are: 1.1 x 1.1-inch (3×3 cm) if you prefer diced watermelon for vegan poke bowl, or 2.8 x 1.6-inch (7×4 cm) if you want to cut them as steaks for your vegan sushi and sashimi.
- The baking time recommended is for the sizes mentioned above, but can vary depending on the size of the cuts, and the oven used. If you prefer bigger slices, bake them 10 minutes longer.
- The longer you marinate the vegan tuna, the more flavorful it becomes.
- Do not throw away the marinating sauce after removing the vegan tuna pieces. You can still use it as a dressing or seasoning sauce for the rice.
Serve it raw or make Vegan Tuna Steaks
You can serve and enjoy this delicious treat in two ways:
- Once done marinating, you can directly place them on a serving dish and serve them raw and chilled with some daikon, soy sauce, and wasabi on the side. They will make the perfect appetizer for your next party
- Coat the sides with sesame seeds and fry for about 2-3 minutes per side until they are crispy. Place them on top of a bed or rice while still warm and add your preferred fruits and veggies to make your very own vegan Poke bowl.
How to store leftovers?
Keep the “vegan tuna fish” refrigerated for 3-4 days in tight-lidded containers. The longer it sits in the marinade, the more flavorful it becomes. I haven’t tried freezing it yet, but if I do, I’ll share my experience of course.
This Vegan Watermelon Tuna recipe is:
- Deliciously Briny
- Perfectly textured
- Flavorfully marinated
- Can be served chilled or warm
- Can be served fresh or fried
- Absolutely delicious!
- Taste like real Tuna
- The perfect homemade vegan fish alternative!
MORE VEGAN ASIAN, CHINESE OR THAI INSPIRED RECIPES TO TRY:
- Crispy Yaki Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
- Vegan Sushi
- Korean Bibimbap with crispy Tofu
- Vegan Pad Thai with Veggie Noodles and Tofu
- Chinese Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce
- Vegan dumplings with vegetable filling
- Scallion Pancakes (Chinese flatbread)
- Asian Peanut Noodles with Crispy Tofu
- Crispy Sesame Tofu with Tahini Peanut Sauce
- General Tso’s Tofu with Sweet-Sour Sauce
- Asian Chili Garlic Noodles
If you try this vegan watermelon tuna recipe, feel free to leave me a comment and a star rating! And if you take a picture of your delicious vegan fish dish and share it on Instagram, please tag me @biancazapatka and use the hashtag #biancazapatka because I love seeing your remakes! Have fun trying! 🙂
*Note: Check out the recipe video and step-by-step instructions in the blog post above!
- Preheat the oven to 392 °F (200 °C).
- Cut the melon into cubes of about 1.1x1.1-inch (3x3cm) or "steaks" of about 2.8x1.6-inch (7x4cm) and place them in a large baking dish, leaving enough space between the pieces.
- Sprinkle the pieces with a pinch of salt and bake in the oven for 1 hour, flipping once after 30 minutes (depending on the size, the steaks can bake 10 minutes longer).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the baked watermelon pieces in a bowl with the marinade and nori flakes and gently toss to coat. Then transfer to a freezer bags (or leave it in the bowl and cover with a lid) and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours (the longer, the more flavorful the "vegan tuna" will be).
- Remove the pieces from the marinade and either eat them raw or dip in sesame seeds and fry in a hot pan with some oil for about 2-3 minutes per side until crispy. (Tip: the marinade also tastes great as a dressing or "seasoning sauce" for the rice).
- Find the step-by-step instruction for assembling the vegan Poke Bowl in the blog post above or here (click). You can add your favorite veggies.
- Do not cut the pieces too small or too thin, as the melon loses a lot of liquid during baking, causing it to shrink.
- Find more information and helpful tips in the blog post above!
IF YOU HAVE PINTEREST, YOU CAN FIND ME HERE AND PIN THE FOLLOWING PICTURE, IF YOU LIKE! 🙂
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