vegan watermelon tuna poke bowl

Vegan Watermelon “Tuna” Poke Bowl

When life hands you a fresh watermelon, make a vegan “tuna” poke bowl! This imaginative dish is light and refreshing, yet bursting with a vivid intensity of vibrant flavours – part sweet, part salty, part savoury and a tad nutty. Serve it over a bed of sushi rice (or quinoa), topping off with your favourite trimmings from a medley of fresh veggies and garnishes to a drizzle of spicy mayo!

Hold, up! What’s a Poke Bowl?

For the unfamiliar, poke (pronounced poh-kay) bowls are a traditional Hawaiian dish. Think of them as a deconstructed sushi bowl with chunky slices of marinated fish (typically tuna) assembled on a bed of rice along with a medley of fresh fruits, veggies, garnishes and a delicious drizzle of a flavourful sauce to finish.

Today, vegan and vegetarian versions of poke bowls are just as common, with raw fish swapped out for plant-based proteins and/ or other creative options such as this vegan “tuna” made with watermelon!

How To Make Vegan Watermelon “Tuna”

We start by marinating wedges of watermelon overnight, so that the melon can absorb the sweet, savoury and salty flavours integral to this recipe. The key ingredients for the marinade include:

  • Coconut Aminos. A salty and savoury seasoning made from the fermented sap of coconut palm and sea salt, coconut aminos is a much healthier (not to mention, gluten-free) swap for light soy sauce! If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to use light soy sauce instead.
  • Sesame Oil & toasted sesame seeds. This imparts a subtle trace of nuttiness!
  • Rice vinegar & mirin: The combination of rice vinegar and mirin balances the flavours of this vegan watermelon tuna with a mellow sweetness.

All my key ingredients for this recipe are from Urban Platter and are linked in the recipe notes below.

Once marinated for long enough, the watermelon wedges are grilled or pan-seared until juicy and softly charred. The resemblance with real tuna is uncanny!

How To Assemble Your Poke Bowl

  • A poke bowl typically starts with a bed of rice. I’ve used the sushi rice from Urban Platter, but you could use any rice you prefer or even quinoa or a millet.
  • Add your cooked watermelon vegan tuna to the centre of the poke bowl, followed by fresh vegetables and/ or other substantive accompaniments. Some options include:
    • Diced cucumber
    • Cubed mangoes
    • Avocado slices
    • Coloured bell pepper strips
    • Pickled vegetables
    • Edamame beans
    • Cubed tofu
    • Crushed seaweed
  • Next, in go the garnishes such as:
    • Toasted sesame seeds
    • Chopped spring onions
    • Toasted peanuts (for a crunch!)
  • Finally, season the poke bowl with a drizzle of an umami-rich sauce. I have used the vegan Sriracha mayo from Urban Platter, which rounds the flavours off with a spicy touch! You could any hot sauce of your liking or even a peanut-based sauce instead.
vegan watermelon tuna poke bowl

Vegan Watermelon “Tuna” Poke Bowl

Ayushi Gupta-Mehra | The Foodie Diaries
This vegan take on tuna is as imaginative as it is flavourful, made by marinating watermelon with a medley of umami-rich seasonings. Once cooked, the watermelon "tuna" is the star of the show in a light and refreshing poke bowl, bursting with a riot of colours and textures!
Prep Time 1 d
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Contemporary, Hawai
Servings 2


For the watermelon tuna

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes/ wedges
  • 3 tbsp coconut aminos (alternatively use light soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

For the poke bowl

  • ½-1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ¼ cup pickled veggies (optional)
  • spring onions (for garnish)
  • sesame seeds (for garnish)
  • chopped nuts of choice (for garnish)
  • Sriracha mayo/ hot sauce of choice (for seasoning)


Marinate the watermelon

  • Add the watermelon wedges/ cubes to a mixing bowl. Add the coconut aminos, sesame oil, rice vinegar, mirin and sesame seeds, using your hands to gently toss the watermelon pieces until evenly coated with the marinade.
  • Refrigerate for as long as possible/ overnight preferably so that the watermelon absorbs the flavours of the marinade.

Cook the watermelon "tuna"

  • Once marinated for a sufficient length of time, heat some sesame oil in a cast iron skillet/ grill and pan-fry the watermelon slices (flipping in between) until soft and slightly charred. Remove from heat.

Assemble the poke bowl

  • Add the sushi rice/ rice of choice to a bowl. Place the watermelon "tuna" steak in the centre, followed by the diced cucumber, mangoes, pickled veggies and/ or your choice of add-in's (see above for a full list for inspiration!). Garnish with chopped spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and nuts of choice. Finally, finish with a drizzle of sriracha mayo or your hot sauce of choice. Mix it all in and enjoy!


Keyword easy asian recipes, Easy Vegetarian Recipes, vegan poke bowl, vegan watermelon tuna

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