Tuna of the Field

It’s not what it looks like.

No, it’s not a poorly timed April Fool’s prank and no, I have not begun eating fish (perish the thought!) What you’re looking at is in fact good old fashioned watermelon, dressed up like ahi poke, the highly prized Hawaiian delicacy. Rather than mere eye candy, believe it or not, these ruby red cubes really do taste quite fishy- And in a good way! What really seals the deal is the texture, no longer bearing the crisp bite that you would want for an average melon, but meaty and downright silky on the tongue.

The concept for watermelon-based tuna is one that I heard of many years back, created with the aid of a chamber vacuum sealer to compress the melon flesh while simultaneously infusing new flavors. Lacking such expensive equipment, the idea languished in the back of my head, until a surplus of the sweet summer fruit prompted me to go beyond standard preparations. Turns out that it only takes a simple freeze and thaw cycle to transform fresh produce into something of a more oceanic nature. This is one that requires nice firm watermelon to start with, so don’t wait until the season ends and only mealy melons remain. Act now, and keep the “fish” stashed in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy up to four months later.

Not only does it make an unbeatable poke bowl, but it’s perfectly suited to just about any other raw preparation you can imagine, such as tuna tartare. A perfectly savory appetizer deserving a place at even the fanciest affair, this mustard- and caper-spiked combination pairs well with crackers, plain, seeded, or herbed. Really, the sky’s the limit, as I enjoyed mine on top of leafy green salads as well.

Creating a delicious vegan fish alternative has long been the final frontier for meatless cooking, and I believe this brings us all one giant leap closer to that holy grail.

Yield: Makes About 1 1/2 Pounds; 4 - 6 Servings

Fish-Free Watermelon Tuna

Fish-Free Watermelon Tuna

You won't believe it's watermelon! This plant-based tuna alternative has the same satisfying bite and briny flavor as the original fish.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 10 minutes


Fish-Free Watermelon Tuna:

  • 1 Cup Mushroom Broth
  • 4 Tablespoons Reduced-Sodium Tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive or Sauerkraut Brine
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Chickpea Miso Paste or White Miso Paste
  • 1 Small Clove Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 2 Sheets Nori
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Cubed Seedless Watermelon

Ahi Poke:

  • 1 Batch Fish-Free Watermelon Tuna (Above)
  • 2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon Reduced-Sodium Tamari
  • 1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Fresh Limu or Rehydrated Arame, to Taste (Optional)

Tuna Tartare:

  • 1 Batch Fish-Free Watermelon Tuna (Above)
  • 2 Teaspoons Brined Capers, Drained and Rinsed
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Shallot
  • 2 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Parsley
  • 4 Teaspoons Olive Oil


  1. In a large, shallow container, whisk together the mushroom broth, tamari, brine, vinegar, miso paste, and minced garlic. Place the cubes of watermelon into the marinade so that all of the pieces are covered, ideally in a single layer. Arrange the sheets of nori so that they cover the melon and make contact with at least one side of all the pieces. You may need to move things around so that you have a sheet of nori at the bottom of the container and one on top to achieve this layout.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and place the container on a flat surface in your freezer. Allow the whole thing to fully freeze; at least 12 hours, but ideally 24 or longer. If you want to save the “tuna” for a later date, just leave it at this stage until you’re ready to serve it. To continue preparing your fish-free feast, allow the tuna to fully thaw either in the fridge or at room temperature. Remove and discard the wet nori, and drain away the excess marinade. You can save this and reuse it if you like, since there’s no potential bacterial contamination like you would get if using raw meat. Your watermelon tuna is now ready to eat or use in other recipes!
  3. For either the ahi poke or tuna tartare options, simply mix all of the ingredients together and gently toss in the “tuna” to combine. Let marinate in the fridge for up to a day, but at least one hour before serving. Top freshly cooked, hot white rice with the ahi poke to make a classic poke bowl, and finish with sesame seeds if desired. The tartare can be served up plain, with crackers, or tossed with salad greens.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 243Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 1032mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 15gProtein: 27g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

44 thoughts on “Tuna of the Field

  1. This is totally fascinating (and, honestly, freaky)! I kindof hate watermelon, but maybe I’d like it with this new texture and mixed with all the delicious savory flavors? I might have to try it again next year when melons start rolling in!

  2. This is an awesomely creative dish Hannah and one of the reasons I so avidly follow your wonderful blog. You are very creative and a leading force for new and interesting ways to use base ingredients and this dish is perfect for our rapidly approaching summer with it’s hot days where I am not going to want to cook. Cheers for the amazing share :)

  3. How cool! I experimented with baked watermelon a few years ago, which also changed the texture a little, but this frozen version looks amazing. I’ve never even had raw tuna but I’d love to try your interpretation of it. Watermelons never seems to last very long in my presence, though – they’re already so good on their own…

  4. Whoa! I’ve been seeing pics of watermelon tuna on social media but just assumed that it would be too complicated to make. So I would just pass ’em by thinking, well that looks lovely but I’ll never try it. But you made it accessible to us non-chefs! Thank you Hannah! Also, I was just watching an episode of Diners, Drivers and Drives (I know) and they were making a non-vegan version of this…yours definitely blows theirs out of the water!

  5. So in this preparation, does the melon lose all its usual flavor and take on the marinade completely? It looks amazing.

    1. It does still have a certain sweetness to it, but you wouldn’t necessarily taste it and think “Oh, this is a piece of watermelon.” It definitely falls more on the savory side once marinaded. Hopefully that’s a helpful way to describe it!

      1. Thanks! That does help. I wonder if you were to let the melon chunks “drain” in a colander/cheese cloth & bowl overnight in the fridge, and then put it through the freezer marinating process, would that push it even more into the tuna realm? It would seem that having lost more of its own liquid, the chunks would be capable of soaking up more of the marinade. Just a guess. Might be worth experimenting. It’s so neat to see foods prepared in new ways.

      2. That is a truly excellent idea! I might even salt them lightly to draw out even more moisture. Clearly, my work with this concept is not yet done. I’ve gotta get a new melon and try it again with your suggestions. :)

  6. Ooooh, cool idea. I would’ve just assumed the watermelon flavor would overpower everything. Have to try this, and thanks again for the reminder to enjoy summer produce while it’s still here, ha ha. :)

  7. Thank you for this amazing and creative work of art! I tried making it and it came out pretty good. I think next time I’ll make smaller pieces of watermelon and it’ll come out better. It’s a great alternative to the “real” thing. Thanks for always creating fantastic dishes and being so inspiring! I loved this so much, I cited this recipe and linked it in my blog on Vegan American Princess called “How Toxic is Fish & What Should You do About It?” Take a look…

  8. This looks so incredibly refreshing – I’m saving it for the hot weather – I love cool, delicious salads in the warmer weather. Thanks, so much!

  9. […] no fooling around with the truly impressive results from this recipe. Building upon my incredibly popular tuna poke, I sought out the powers of marinated melon once more, opting for unripe cantaloupe for subtle […]

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