If you’ve ever craved the viral spicy tuna crispy rice but don’t want the sushi-grade or restaurant price tag that it comes with, this dupe is for you! With the ridiculous rising costs of goods in this economy, this is a great alternative without breaking the bank. Not only is this canned tuna version more accessible and convenient, it’s absolutely delicious!
Why you’ll love this recipe
Now, don’t get me wrong – this is by no means an exact dupe but it’s still irresistibly tasty. It’s made up of similar components to the original recipe. You have the seasoned rice which serves as the vessel to hold the tuna. It’s cut into small bite-sized pieces that are shallow fried to golden brown perfection.
Next, you have the spicy tuna salad which starts with a drained can of tuna mixed with scallions, kewpie mayo, Sriracha, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and lime juice. The addition of gochujang and gochugaru also adds spice, depth, and richness that makes this so satisfyingly good. To tie everything together, I like layering sliced avocado on top of the crispy rice before topping it with the spicy tuna salad and garnishes.
Spicy Tuna Salad with Crispy Rice Ingredients & Substitutions
Cooked rice: for sticky and starchy rice, you need short-grain or medium-grain rice. The rule of thumb for cooking rice is a 1:1 ratio of rice and water. Long-grain rice like jasmine or basmati rice will not work due to their lower starch content which will make it difficult for the rice to hold shape.
Rice vinegar: this is used to add a tangy flavor to the rice. I prefer using the Marukan brand. You can substitute this with distilled white vinegar or use sushi seasoning for rice. If using sushi rice seasoning, skip the rest of the ingredients below in this section.
Sugar: the sugar helps to sweeten the rice seasoning and balance out the tanginess of the vinegar.
Salt: salt is added to the sauce to lightly season the rice.
Neutral oil: will be used to fry the rice to make crispy rice. Opt for neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point including avocado, corn, canola, vegetable, sunflower seed, grapeseed, and peanut oil.
Tuna Salad Ingredients & Substitutions
Canned tuna: as the star of the dish, you want to use a high-quality tuna that you like. I always used the Dongwon brand canned tuna. In my opinion, they taste superior to American supermarket brands. You can find them on Amazon or at your local Korean market.
Scallion: for some freshness and extra flavor!
Kewpie mayonnaise: In my opinion Japanese Kewpie mayo is superior in taste when compared to regular but you can use what you prefer.
Sriracha: adds spiciness and tang to the salad mixture. Feel free to substitute this with any chili sauce or paste of your choice!
Gochujang: also known as Korean red chili paste. This adds depth and boldness to the salad. Gochujang comes in various spice levels (mild, hot, very hot) and I generally use the mild one so I can have better control of the spiciness added to the dish.
Gochugaru: for an extra kick of heat, I like adding gochugaru or Korean red chili flakes. You can use regular red chili flakes, paprika, or cayenne pepper as well.
Sesame seeds: for some nuttiness and texture
Sesame oil: adds richness and boldness to the tuna salad.
Lime juice: helps to brighten up the salad and balance all the rich and savory flavors. You can use lemon juice, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or distilled white vinegar. Just keep in mind that this will alter the taste slightly but it should work just fine.
Sliced avocado: the creaminess from the avocado ties everything together. You can either slice them thinly or mash them before stacking them on the crispy rice.
Sliced chili pepper: added for freshness, texture, and additional spice.
Scallion ribbons: they are also added for freshness and flavor.
How to prepare Spicy Tuna Salad with Crispy Rice
Step 1: Cook rice
Start by cooking short-grain or medium-grain rice.
Step 2: Prepare rice seasoning
In a small mixing bowl, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Slowly drizzle it into the rice and mix until well combined.
Step 3: Chill the rice
Layer a piece of plastic wrap onto a 9.5 x 6.5-inch tray or plate. Transfer the rice to the tray or plate then stack another tray or plate on top to weigh down the rice. Keep it chilled in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Step 4: Prepare the spicy tuna mixture
While the rice is cooling, prepare the tuna salad. Start by draining the canned tuna well. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained can of tuna, scallions, Kewpie mayo, Sriracha, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and lime juice. Mix until well combined. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Step 5: Cut the rice into rectangles
Remove the chilled rice from the fridge and cut them into rectangles, about 2×1 inch pieces.
Step 6: Fry the rice
In a pan, heat neutral oil over medium heat. Once hot, carefully add the rice and shallow fry for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Make sure to work in batches to prevent the pan from overcrowding. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat for the remaining rice.
Step 7: Assemble and serve
To assemble, place sliced avocado on top of a piece of rice. Add 1 tablespoon of tuna salad on top of the avocado. Garnish with sliced chili pepper and scallions. Serve and enjoy!
Cooking Tips for Spicy Tuna Salad with Crispy Rice
- The type of rice you use plays an important role in this dish. You want to use short-grain (also known as sushi rice) or medium-grain rice. These rice varieties are starchy and sticky, making them ideal for holding shape. Long-grain rice like Jasmine or Basmati rice have a lower starch content than the other rice varieties so they will end up falling apart.
- Now you can also make this like the original recipe with sushi-grade tuna. Simply, swap the same amount in weight of canned tuna with sushi-grade tuna. This could also work with canned salmon and other sushi-grade fish.
- If you want to adjust the spiciness in the tuna salad, adjust the amount of Sriracha and gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes) added. I recommend adjusting the gochugaru first because it doesn’t offer much flavor aside from spice. Whereas Sriracha is not only spicy, it adds tanginess and additional flavor to the salad.
- Be extra careful when frying the rice. The water in the rice will cause some splattering. I recommend having a splatter screen or lid on hand just in case! Also, want to note that you don’t want to fry the rice for too long otherwise, it will get really hard to bite through. Once you start seeing a light brown color, they’re ready to take out.
- I recommend slicing the avocado right before assembling it to prevent it from oxidizing or browning. If you need to prep the avocado in advance, squeeze some lime juice or any type of acid (lemon juice, vinegar) onto the avocado and that should prevent it from browning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make the tuna salad not spicy?
Yes, absolutely! If you prefer a mildly spiced tuna salad, just omit the Sriracha, gochujang, and gochugaru. You may need to adjust the ratio of the other ingredients for the tuna salad so be sure to taste as you go and make adjustments as needed!
What can I substitute canned tuna with?
Essentially anything you like! Some great alternatives to canned tuna include canned salmon or canned chicken. You can also use sushi-grade fish including tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and even scallops.
Can I make this Spicy Tuna Salad with Crispy Rice ahead of time?
Yes, this dish can definitely be prepared in advance and assembled right before serving, making it ideal for hosting parties or potlucks. The tuna salad can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use. The crispy rice should be made on the day of, but it can be made early in the day and reheated in a preheated 350F (175C) oven for 5 minutes or until they’ve crisped up. Regarding the garnish, you can have them all prepped the day before and stored in the fridge. For the avocado, I do recommend slicing it right before assembling which will prevent them from oxidizing or browning however, if you must prepare it in advance, squeeze some lime juice or any type of acid (lemon juice, vinegar) over the avocado and it will prevent them from browning.
How can I store Spicy Tuna Salad with Crispy Rice?
This dish is best enjoyed fresh and doesn’t hold well if stored after they’ve been assembled. The rice will turn soggy from the avocado and tuna salad on top and naturally lose its crispiness in the fridge. If you absolutely must store leftovers in the fridge, I recommend separating all the layers into air-tight containers and keeping them in the fridge for no longer than 3 days. The only component that will need to be reheated is the rice, so pop them in a preheated 350F (175C) oven for 5 minutes or until they’ve crisped up. Re-assemble the toppings and serve!
Looking for more easy and delicious appetizer recipes?
Here are some of my most popular dishes!
- Yubuchobap (Korean Inari Sushi) – these sweet and savory tofu pockets are stuffed with seasoned rice and served with various toppings. I’ve made mine with marinated salmon, myeong-ran (cured fish roe) mayo, and quick pickled cucumbers!
- Kimchi Cheese Rice Balls – these are kimchi fried rice turned into cheesy fried rice balls! These rice balls have everything I love in one bite and it’s the ultimate comfort food snack.
- Chive and Egg Pockets – these deed-fried pockets or ‘boxes’ are a popular Chinese snack filled with garlic chives, eggs, vermicelli noodles, and dried shrimp. They’re incredibly tasty and also great for freezing!
- Uni Toast – if you’ve never added uni to your egg toast, this is your sign! Uni toast is not your ordinary toast – it’s a combination of luxurious flavors with the comfort of a familiar breakfast staple.
- Potato Cheese Donuts – these crispy potato cheese donuts are incredibly indulgent and the best way I can describe them is like a warm hug. Filled with mashed potatoes and onions, it’s the ultimate treat!
Spicy Tuna Salad with Crispy Rice
- 2 cups cooked rice short-grain or medium-grain
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup neutral oil more if needed
- 1 (150g) can tuna
- 1 scallion chopped
- 2-3 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise substitute with regular mayo, adjust to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp Sriracha adjust to taste
- 1 tsp gochujang Korean red chili paste, adjust to taste
- 1 tsp gochugaru Korean red chili flakes, adjust to taste
- 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp lime juice adjust to taste
- sliced avocado
- sliced chili pepper
- scallion ribbons or chopped
- In a small mixing bowl, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Slowly drizzle it into the rice and mix until well combined.
- Layer a piece of plastic wrap onto a 9.5×6.5 inch tray or plate. Transfer the rice to the tray or plate then stack another tray or plate on top to weigh down the rice. Keep it chilled in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- While the rice is cooling, prepare the tuna salad. Start by draining the canned tuna well.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained can of tuna, scallions, Kewpie mayo, Sriracha, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and lime juice. Mix until well combined. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Remove the chilled rice from the fridge and cut them into rectangles, about 2×1 inch pieces.
- In a pan, heat neutral oil over medium heat. Once hot, carefully add the rice and shallow fry for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy. Make sure to work in batches to prevent the pan from overcrowding. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat for the remaining rice.
- To assemble, place sliced avocado on top of a piece of rice. Add 1 tablespoon of tuna salad on top of the avocado. Garnish with sliced chili pepper and scallions.