Make Hawaiian poke bowls at home

Debbie Moose
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

For something so cool, poke is really hot.

The combination of chopped raw fish, rice and vegetables — pronounced POH-keh — started in Hawaii, where you can pick it up like fast food. Now poke is spreading across the country to restaurant appetizer menus and dedicated poke bars.

It’s even better to make poke bowls at home. Get the right ingredients, do a little chopping and you have a simple, satisfying meal. You can even throw a poke party and let guests fill their bowls with the base, fish, toppings and sauce they prefer.

Fish is a crucial part of a poke bowl. Tuna is traditional in Hawaii, but you can use other kinds of firm thick fish. Thin flaky fish, such as flounder, will not hold together in cubes as well. Cooked shrimp or crawfish also are good. Some poke bars offer cooked chicken or tofu for those who don’t like fish. The Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira has used roasted beet cubes to make vegetarian poke.

No matter the fish, it’s important that it’s absolutely fresh, as with sushi, because you’re using it raw. Remember that the term “sushi-grade” is not regulated, so it could mean anything. Use your eyes and nose. Ask where the fish came from and when it arrived at the store. Fresh fish shouldn’t smell “fishy,” but have a clean, ocean-like scent. Avoid fish that appears slimy or has a sheen that may indicate age or the use of preservatives.

Be sure that cutting surfaces and utensils are clean. Use a different cutting board and knife for vegetables to avoid cross-contamination from raw fish.

The key to poke is cutting the fish into small bite-sized cubes, about 1 inch. Everything about poke should be easy to eat with either chopsticks or a fork.

Because you’ll be combining it with other ingredients, 1 pound of fish should be plenty for a main dish for one person. Half a pound would do for an appetizer or as part of a meal.

Next, the question is: to marinate or not to marinate— Marinating the fish overnight in the refrigerator in a combination of soy sauce and sesame oil is traditional. However, marinating gives the fish a chewy texture. If you prefer a more sushi-like experience, don’t marinate.

Typically, cooked and cooled sushi rice is the base for the fish and toppings. Other kinds of rice or even shredded greens also are options.

Customize your poke bowl with a selection of toppings. Fresh ingredients and flavors usually work best. But whatever you use, cut it into small pieces, similar in size to the fish. The amount of toppings is up to you, but try not to overwhelm the fish, which is the star.

If you didn’t marinate the fish, add a sauce — and you can get creative here, too.

Just follow this chart and you’ll be making poke like a pro for yourself or a crowd.


1. Select one base.

2. Pick a fish and arrange on top of the base.

3. Add toppings — as many as you want.

4. If you didn’t marinate the fish, sprinkle on a sauce or two. If you marinated it, you probably won’t need more sauce.

5. Devour your beautiful poke bowl.


Here are common ingredients to assemble your bowl at home.


Cooked rice (sushi or brown)

Vegetable noodles

Shredded salad greens


Raw options:



Sea bass




Cooked options:




(use as many as you like)

Shredded nori

Seaweed salad

Shredded daikon radish or other radishes


Chopped avocado

Toasted sesame seeds

Chopped cashews

Black sesame seeds

Minced garlic

Cooked shelled edamame

Chopped scallions or green onions

Chopped jalapeno or other hot peppers

Diced cucumbers


(use alone or combine)


Sesame oil

Lime juice

Flavored oils (chili, ginger, etc.)

Soy sauce

Sriracha or chipotle mayonnaise (purchased or mix up your own)

Japanese spicy mayonnaise

Traditional poke sauce (combination of sesame oil and soy sauce to taste)

Hot sauce