Tuna Conserva

Tuna Conserva with Thyme, Lemon Zest, Garlic, Marjoram and Black Peppercorns It’s been so oppressively hot lately I just want to stay inside with the air conditioner set at high.  Our usual trade winds have been absent and sorely missed.  So the thought of turning on the oven to roast a chicken, which I love, or simmer a meat sauce for hours on end, is pretty much out of the question.  So with the thought of a dish less dependent on a hot oven, I finally decided to try my hand at tuna conserva.

Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna conserva is a classic dish found on many eclectic Italian menus. I’ve always wanted to make it, yet had never found quite the right recipe.  I never imagined how good it could be!  My mistake for taking so long.  With a combination of the best elements from several recipes, I came up with my own version.

Sashimi Grade Ahi

Olive Oil & Herbs Good canned tuna in olive oil is a pantry staple in my kitchen.  I love it in salad Nicoise, on toasted whole grain bread, or in a simple tuna sandwich.  Homemade tuna conserva is a notch higher on the culinary scale.  I love how the tuna turns out so tender and moist and flakes up beautifully.  The herbs, lemon zest, crushed garlic and peppercorns lightly infuse the oil with a subtle and refreshing flavor.

Tuna in Olive Oil & Herbs

Tuna Conserva with Thyme, Lemon Zest, Garlic, Marjoram and Black Peppercorns Eat it alone with a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt, in a salad, on toast or pasta, tucked between good bread with a sliced hardboiled egg and briny olives or capers.

Tuna Conserva Salad NIcoise

Tuna Conserva on Whole Grain Toasted Bread

Tuna Conserva

Serves 4


1 pound sashimi grade ahi block, cut into 1-inch slices (about 5 pieces)

6 sprigs fresh thyme

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 sprigs fresh marjoram, optional

zest of 1 lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler, without the white pith

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

olive oil


Put the olive oil in a saucepan that will hold the fish snugly in a single layer.  Add the thyme, garlic, marjoram, lemon zest, peppercorns and red pepper flakes and gradually warm on the stove top over low heat to 150° F for about 8 – 10 minutes (check the temperature with a kitchen thermometer).

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Add the fish to the saucepan. The temperature of the oil will reduce slightly.  You want to maintain a temperature of about 130° F.  Confirm the temperature with a thermometer.  It will take about 10 minutes for the tuna to be done.  The fish should be just opaque throughout.  Let the tuna cool in the oil.

Serve on salad, in a sandwich, on pasta, or on toasted hearty bread.  I like to season the tuna conserva with flaky sea salt and a few grinds of pepper just before serving. Transfer any leftover tuna, oil, and herbs to a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate.  The tuna conserva will keep well for at least 4 days.

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6 Responses to Tuna Conserva

  1. Bev says:

    Looks amazing!

  2. Kiyo, I saw this post and thought “I need this for lunch. Today.” No more expensive tuna from cans for salads when I can make a huge batch on my own! :-) Reading your description and pairings, I am reminded that we have very similar food tastes. The salad components look outstanding. You did not miss out on the eggs or white/green beans, a match made in heaven with tuna! Your nicoise salad elevated. Of course, tuna paired with grilled bread or any “briny” condiment, such as capers, olives or marinated artichokes, is superb.

  3. Kiyo says:

    It’s nice to have a couple of cans of good canned tuna in olive in your pantry for those days when you want a quick salad Nicoise. However, homemade tuna conserva is fantastic. Though we pay a dear price for sashimi grade tuna, it is worth it. I bought a pound of tuna and it provided us with five meals! That being said, I’m sold on making my own tuna conserva. In less than 1/2 hour you will have the best tuna in olive oil imaginable. Mahalo Shanna!

  4. Robin says:

    I love your site Kiyo!!!

    I like the intros that provide a joyful humanistic element. By just reading a couple of your recipes, it’s obvious that you have gourmet tastes, but focus on excellence with real food and fresh ingredients, not some overly processed culinary absurdity.

    I tried the tuna conserva and I will never, never buy canned tuna again. The combination of flavors from the peppercorns, zest, red pepper and thyme were so well balanced. Even though I mistakenly used an oven, the dish was so easy to make, quick and absolutely amazing!!!

    I can’t tell enough people about your site and even bought more ahi … can’t get enough! I’m planning on bringing this dish to our next work staffing and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from my coworkers.

    I’m so appreciative of your cooking passion for it saves me the time of having to do the research, now I just check your recipe list.

    Much appreciation and mahalo Kiyo!


    • Kiyo says:

      Hi Robin! I’m happy you enjoyed the tuna conserva recipe. I updated the post to clarity the steps of preparation. I hope your co-workers enjoy the dish as much as you did. Thanks again for your kind comments. Aloha, Kiyo

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