Smoked Ahi Tuna Tacos

Overlooking the surf in Cayucos, Ruddell's Smokehouse has been a landmark on California's Central Coast for two decades. When it's time to order, guests choose smoked meat, seafood or black bean patties in taco or sandwich form. We adapted their recipe using an easy technique for smoking on the grill.

Smoked Ahi Tacos
Photo: Eric Wolfinger
Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 10 mins


Teriyaki Sauce

  • ¼ cup less-sodium tamari (see Tip) or shoyu

  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon sliced fresh ginger

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled


  • 1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped

  • teaspoon salt

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin


  • 2 cups wood chips, preferably alder or apple, soaked for 30 minutes

  • 1 pound ahi (yellowtail) tuna steaks (1 inch thick)

  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 small carrot, shredded

  • 1 small stalk celery, diced

  • ½ medium Fuji apple, diced

  • 1 scallion, sliced

  • 12 6-inch corn or whole-wheat flour tortillas

  • 1 ½ cups shredded romaine lettuce

  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced


  1. To prepare teriyaki sauce: Combine tamari (or shoyu) and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add ginger and crushed garlic; reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Discard solids. Set aside.

  2. To prepare aioli: Mash chopped garlic with 1/8 teaspoon salt into a paste in a mortar and pestle or with a fork on a cutting board. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard and cumin; mix well. Set aside.

  3. To prepare tacos: If using a gas grill, add the wood chip packet (see Tip) and preheat to high. Then turn off 1 burner and reduce the heat on the remaining 1 to 2 burners to medium. If using a charcoal grill, build a two-zone fire (coals on one side of the grill) and let it burn down to medium heat (about 350°F). Then drain wood chips and add to the coals.

  4. Oil the grill rack. Sprinkle fish with brown sugar and salt. Place it on the unlit portion of the grill. Cover and smoke until firm, brushing with half of the teriyaki sauce halfway through, about 20 minutes. (Reserve the rest of the sauce for serving.) Transfer the fish to a clean cutting board. When cool enough to handle, flake the fish.

  5. Meanwhile, combine carrot, celery, apple and scallion in a medium bowl.

  6. Oil the grill rack again and cook tortillas until slightly charred, flipping halfway, about 1 minute.

  7. Serve the fish with the tortillas, chopped salad, lettuce, tomato, the aioli and the remaining teriyaki sauce.


Less-sodium tamari, sometimes called tamari "lite," cuts the amount of salt per serving by 50% compared to the regular version—and without sacrificing flavor (we tried them side by side in a blind taste test). It even has 100 mg less sodium than low-sodium soy sauce. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use soy sauces that are labeled "gluten-free," as soy sauce may contain wheat or other gluten-containing ingredients.

To make a wood chip packet, fold a 12-by-20-inch piece of heavy-duty foil in half to create a 12-by-10-inch double-thick piece. Drain the wood chips and transfer to the center of the foil. Create a packet by folding the short ends of the foil over the chips and folding the open ends to seal them.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

423 Calories
19g Fat
45g Carbs
19g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 423
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 19g 38%
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 44mg 15%
Vitamin A 2631IU 53%
Sodium 754mg 33%
Potassium 431mg 9%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

Related Articles