Seared Tuna With Sesame Seeds and Piquillo Peppers

Adapted from Made In Spain by José Andrés with Richard Wolffe.  Published by Clarkson Potter in 2008.

Seared Tuna With Sesame Seeds and Piquillo Peppers

Adapted from Made In Spain by José Andrés with Richard Wolffe.  Published by Clarkson Potter in 2008.

This recipe is adapted from one by José Andrés in Made in Spain, a splendid cookbook co-written with author Richard Wolffe.  Published in 2008, the subtitle for this flavor-packed small volume is "Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen."  That means you can easily find the ingredients -- the flavors are authentic but the ingredients aren't exotic -- and that you can easily create in your own kitchen the many regional flavors of home cooking throughout Spain.

This recipe was originally written to use fresh tuna belly.  But tuna belly, also called "toro," is hard to find -- most of it seems to be sold to Japanese and other restaurants -- and when you do find it, it's costly.  So we've adjusted the recipe to use tuna loin, the steak-like pieces of tuna that are commonly sold in our fish stores.  If you prefer to do the search for tuna belly, one fishmonger in New York City that often sells it is The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market in Manhattan.  But call first because they don't always have it available.

Back to the recipe.  This dish is easy enough for a weeknight but special enough for company.  What makes it successful is buying the best quality tuna you can find, plus using piquillo peppers, the small, sweet red peppers from Spain and other Mediterranean and Latin countries.  If you want to know more about piquillo peppers, see our link to our separate article.

You can also make the sauce and use it with pan roasted shrimp and any kind of sautéed fish.

Finally, remember to use recently purchased sesame seeds. Sesame seeds can become rancid quickly so buy them in small quantities and if you're not going to soon use them, store them in a sealed plastic bag in your freezer.

Serves 4.


1 jar or can of piquillo peppers, approximately 15.0 ounces will contain about 12 peppers
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 6-ounce pieces of tuna steak
2 cups white sesame seeds
Optional: whole chervil or flat leafed parsley to garnish


  1. In a blender or food processor, purée half of the piquillo peppers along with 1/2-cup of their liquid.  Process until completely smooth.
  2. Transfer the puréed peppers to a bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.  Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Season the tuna pieces on both sides with salt.  Spread the sesame seeds on a large plate and press the pieces of tuna into the seeds, turning on all sides to coat (the seeds should easily adhere).
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat until hot and the oil is shimmering.  
  5. Place the tuna pieces in the pan, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes a side until the sesame seeds are browned.  Watch to make sure it doesn't burn, lowering the heat as necessary.  The fish should be medium rare -- cooked on the surface but still red at its interior.
  6. Transfer the tuna pieces to a plate and keep warm.
  7. Keeping the heat under the sauté pan, add the remaining 6 or so peppers and sear, about 2 minutes in total.  
  8. Serve by dividing the seared peppers among 4 plates, slicing the peppers as necessary to make equal portions.  Place the tuna on top of the peppers.  Drizzle the pepper purée around the peppers and fish and garnish with the chervil or parsley.
  9. Serve immediately.



Tuna (fresh)Piquillo PeppersSpanish


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