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Easy Tuna Piccata

This recipe for tuna piccata is a delicious way to enjoy tuna steak. The dish is quick and easy to make, so it’s perfect for a weeknight meal. And, if you’re looking for an impressive dish to serve to guests, this one will impress.

Piccata sauce is a rich, flavorful sauce made with lemon, capers, and butter. It is a zesty, bold sauce that pairs well with tuna.

Drizzling lemon caper sauce over a tuna steak.

Ahi Tuna feels smooth and buttery yet it is a mild-flavored fish that takes on other flavors well and blends with a variety of dishes. It is a high-quality protein that is very low in fat but feels like a sinful splurge.

If you want more ideas for fresh tuna, try our grilled tuna steak served with lemon dill aiioli. For more adventurous eaters, try our tuna poke bowl, tuna sushimi salad, or tuna crudo.

Here is Why This Recipe Works

  • Selecting thick tuna steaks makes it easier to cook the tuna to rare or medium-rare doneness. 
  • Watching the color changes on the sides of the tuna steaks helps you determine the doneness level without using a thermometer. 
  • Ahi tuna is a versatile meat that tastes great, served warm, cold, or at room temperature. 
  • Using both lemon juice and lemon zest gives the sauce a vibrant lemon flavor. 
  • A splash of white wine adds a more complex flavor to the lemon caper sauce, but you can use extra broth if you don’t cook with alcohol. 
  • Adding chicken broth to the sauce helps temper the sharpness of the lemon and wine. 

A tuna steak topped with lemon slices and piccata sauce.

The Ingredients

Here is a list of the ingredients you will need for this tuna piccata recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

  • Tuna steaks. Try to find tuna steaks 3/4 to 1 inch thick if possible. 
  • Salt. You don’t need a lot of salt in this recipe since the capers add plenty of salt.
  • Olive oil. Combining olive oil and butter in the sauce adds extra richness and depth of flavor. 
  • Butter. You can use salted or unsalted butter. Most brands of salted butter do not have enough salt to impact the recipe. 
  • Shallots. Use either two small shallots or one large shallot. 
  • Garlic cloves. Fresh garlic is preferable over dry garlic in this recipe. 
  • Flour. The flour adds a small amount of body to the sauce, but you can omit it if you are gluten-free. 
  • Chicken broth. The broth helps lighten the sauce. 
  • White wine. If you don’t cook with alcohol, you can increase the amount of chicken broth. 
  • Capers. Capers add a punch of salty, briny flavor. 
  • Lemon. You will use the zest and the juice. 
  • Parsley. Parsley adds a fresh, bright flavor. 

Two fresh Ahi tuna steaks.

How to Cook Tuna Steaks with Sauce

Here is a brief overview to get an idea of what to expect with the recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details.

We like to sprinkle the tuna with a bit of salt a few minutes before cooking. The salt will give the tuna a firmer texture and a better flavor.

Sautéing onions and garlic in a skillet.

Saute the shallot until soft then add the garlic and cook briefly. Adding a bit of flour is an optional step that gives more body to the sauce.

Adding lemon zest to piccata sauce.

Whisk in the chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, capers, and lemon zest. Cook until it reduces slightly.

Set the caper sauce aside while you cook the tuna steaks. Keep it in the skillet so you can warm it up just before serving the fish.

Cooking tuna steaks in a skillet.

Sear the tuna steaks to your personal level of doneness.

Adding parsley to lemon piccata sauce.

Warm the sauce back up and add chopped parsley. Serve the lemon caper sauce with the tuna.

Tips for Success

  • The piccata sauce shouldn’t be too thick like gravy. However, if you like your sauce thicker, you can double the flour. 
  • We used two shallots in this recipe, but just use one if you have large shallots. 
  • We used Ahi tuna in this recipe, but Albacore tuna is also excellent. 
  • Purchase tuna steaks that are close to 1-inch thick. If they are too thin, they will over-cook easily. 
  • The color of cooked tuna changes dramatically and makes it easy to use your eye to guide doneness. 
  • If you want to be precise with the cooking time, use an instant-read thermometer. 
  • To get a perfectly rare tuna steak, you only need to sear it for 45 seconds to 1-minute on each side. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is piccata?

Piccata is an Italian term that refers to a way of preparing meat. Typically, the meat (usually veal or chicken) gets pounded or sliced thin, then dredged in flour before cooking. It gets served in a buttery lemon caper sauce.

This tuna piccata recipe uses the lemon caper sauce from a traditional piccata recipe. Instead of dredging the tuna in flour, we add the flour to the sauce which gives it extra body.

Can I sear tuna in butter?

Since you need to sear the tuna steak at a fairly high heat, we do not recommend using butter. Butter burns and smokes if you use the higher heat needed to sear tuna.

Is it safe to eat rare or raw tuna?

Although it is common to eat tuna raw or rare, there is still a risk for foodborne illness. The FDA recommends selecting fish that has been previously frozen to reduce the risk. Keep in mind that freezing does not eliminate the risk entirely. If you are in a high risk group, or have concerns, you should cook your tuna completely.

Slices of tuna steak with lemon caper sauce.

We hope you love this tuna piccata recipe. The lemony, briny sauce tastes great with tuna (and other seafood like salmon) and the whole dish comes together quickly.

Check out more recipes from Savor the Best:

This grilled Mahi-Mahi is served with a fresh Mango Salsa that is out of this world delicious! The sweetness of the mango pairs perfectly with the savory flavors of the fish.

Our creamy salmon picatta is a deliciously rich dinner. A splash of cream elivates the picatta sauce and gives it a lovely, silky texture.

This tuna pasta casserole is made from scratch just like grandma used make. Serve it with a green salad and some crusty bread for a complete meal.

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Drizzling piccata sauce over tuna steaks.

Tuna Piccata

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes

This tuna piccata is a simple recipe for tuna steaks with lemon caper sauce.

The dish is quick and easy to make, so it's perfect for a weeknight meal. And, if you're looking for an impressive dish to serve to guests, this one will definitely impress.

Piccata sauce is a rich, flavorful sauce made from lemon, capers, white wine, and butter. It is a zesty, bold sauce that pairs well with tuna.

Ingredients

  • 2 Ahi Tuna steaks, about 1 inch thick
  • 1/2 teasoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons flour, optional
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Season both sides of the tuna with salt and set them aside while you make the lemon piccata sauce. The salt will act as a quick dry-brine and give the tuna a firmer texture. 
  2. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter in the saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until the shallots are soft.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute to get the raw flavor out. The flour is optional but it will add some body to the sauce.  
  4. Whisk in the chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, capers, and lemon zest. Cook for 1 to 3  minutes until slightly reduced. For a thicker sauce, reduce it for a few more minutes. Set the sauce aside but keep it in the skillet so you can warm it up later. 
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Place the tuna steaks in the hot fry pan and cook for 1 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on desired doneness (Tuna will become dry if cooked well-done and is best cooked rare to medium).
  6. Heat the lemon butter sauce over medium heat until heated thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve promptly.

Notes

If you have exceptionally large shallots, only use one so it doesn't overwhelm the piccata sauce. 

You can make the lemon caper sauce in advance and store it in the fridge. 

If you make the sauce in advance, don’t salt the tuna steaks in advance. Salt draws moisture out of the fish and can dry it out if it sits on the tuna too long. However, seasoning tuna within 5 to 15 minutes prior to cooking it will improve the texture and flavor of the fish. 

Tuna is rich, moist, and buttery if it is cooked to rare or medium-rare doneness. If you cook tuna well-done, it gets dry and flakey like canned tuna.

It is easy to use your eyes as a guide for doneness on tuna steak. The flesh of rare tuna looks bright red and it turns white when it is well-done.

If you want to be absolutely precise you can use a thermometer. Rare is 110°F to 113°F, medium-rare is 114°F to 120°F, Medium is 122°F, and well done is over 130°F.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 437Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 351mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 34g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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This recipe was originally published on April 28, 2014. We updated the photos and we added chicken broth to the sauce to help temper the sharpness.

An Ahi tuna steak with lemon caper sauce.

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Lucy

Saturday 4th of August 2018

Excellent recipe — my family loved it. Thanks!

Dahn

Monday 6th of August 2018

Thanks Lucy, isn't it amazing how delicious a simple dish can be!

Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)

Sunday 4th of May 2014

Fantastic recipe. Thanks for sharing. Pinned.

Dahn

Monday 5th of May 2014

Thanks Lea Ann

Marie

Tuesday 29th of April 2014

Hi Dahn - I love tuna too! Our neighbors often go fishing and sometimes we are lucky enough to get realllly fresh tuna. your recipe looks great! My husband loves capers.

Dahn

Tuesday 29th of April 2014

Thanks Marie, sounds like you have some great neighbors, lucky you!!

nancy at good food matters

Tuesday 29th of April 2014

your ahi looks perfectly prepared!

Dahn

Tuesday 29th of April 2014

Thank you Nancy, we enjoyed it.

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