Primal Poke Salad

Let’s start by clarifying that the “poke” in this salad is pronounced Po-keh, and refers to pieces of raw fish flavored with tamari, onions and other seasonings. Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish and the heart and soul of this salad recipe submitted by Shaleah Poster. Shaleah’s maternal family is from Hawaii, so her Primal Poke Salad deliciously combines her heritage and her Primal lifestyle.

If you’re a sashimi lover, this salad is for you. The delicate flavor and buttery texture of raw Yellowfin tuna is complimented perfectly by the bold flavors of tamari, sesame and onion and the crisp texture of carrots, snow peas and asparagus. A garnish of sesame seeds and avocado give this light salad a rich, satisfying finish.

The simple sauce that flavors the raw tuna also acts as the main dressing for the salad, although you can take Shaleah’s suggestion and also drizzle the salad with a few teaspoons of tamari thinned with water. We also couldn’t resist adding a little more oil to the tossed greens; sesame oil adds a toasted, nutty flavor and avocado oil lends its smooth, rich texture and just a hint of extra avocado flavor.

If you invest in a bottle of avocado oil for this recipe, you can use it in place of other oils for pretty much anything you cook. The high smoke point (upwards of 500 degrees) makes avocado oil a suitable choice for sautéing, grilling or other high heat cooking. However, the buttery texture and delicate avocado flavor are often lost when subjected to high heat, so you may want to save avocado oil for drizzling over salads and already cooked meat, seafood or vegetables.

Shaleah pointed out that this recipe omits two traditional ingredients that can be hard to find stateside: kukui nuts (also known as candlenut) and limu, a type of seaweed. Correct us if we’re wrong here Shaleah, but in a pinch macadamia nuts might add a similar crunch when kukui nuts are nowhere to be found… as for the limu, check Japanese markets where a similar type of seaweed is often sold as “ogo.”

Even without these two traditional ingredients, however, we’re happy that poke (remember, it’s po-keh) has found its way into our salad bowl.

Servings: 2

Poke Ingredients:

  • 1-2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup  finely chopped white onion
  • 1/2 pound sashimi grade tuna, cut into cubes
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • Plenty of limu if you’re lucky enough to find it

Salad Ingredients:

  • A handful of your favorite leafy greens (a combination of delicate and crunchy greens work well, like arugula + romaine)
  • 1-2 green onions, very thinly sliced at an angle
  • 1-2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • A half dozen or so lightly cooked asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • A generous handful of snow peas, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon tahini, thinned with 1 or 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1-2 tablespoons crushed sesame seeds
  • 1 Avocado, thinly sliced


For the poke, mix tamari and oils together.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix gently. Let chill while you make the salad.

For the salad, toss all but last two ingredients together in a large bowl. Divide the salad into individual bowls and split the poke between them. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced avocado.

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36 thoughts on “Primal Poke Salad”

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    1. I my area, Winco carries ahi tuna steaks that are flash frozen right after catch at $3.98/lb. They may also be available through Costco, Sam’s Club etc..maybe even (gasp!) Walmart. I thaw a steak in cold water for about 10 minutes and then slice it sashimi style and eat it with wasabi. They taste absolutely ocean fresh.

    2. i’ve seen poke done with salmon – actually I’ve never seen it done with tuna before

    3. I’ve done it with salmon before! Actually, last time I made it, I used some good salmon.

  1. My older sister will be salivating over this salad! I might be playing tennis with her tomorrow so I will show her what eating Primal food is all about!

  2. Hi Mark

    I’ve been pondering something and I was wondering if you would have any thoughts on it. It’s not relevant to this post, I apologize.

    I was reading an interview of Gary Taubes on the Internet a while back. The interviewer brought up a study that he had encountered. Apparently, it was found that despite a diet almost entirely comprised of fat and protein, the Inuit are not in a state of ketosis. Gary mentioned that he had read the same study and was perplexed by it.

    This must mean that the Inuit have an extremely efficient gluconeogenesis system.

    Ketosis is often touted as more efficient and primordial than the use of glucose as the primary fuel source. But if the Inuit, on a low-carb diet spanning generations, have evolved past a need for ketones to the creation of glucose from protein for energy, it is hard to believe that. Their situation would suggest that ultimately the human body does indeed prefer glucose for fuel. I suppose one could still question whether we ever evolved to tolerate a heavy carb intake as a source of glucose. And even if we didn’t evolve on such a diet, it doesn’t automatically imply it’s bad for us. We didn’t evolve taking antibiotics, but if I contracted a serious infection it would certainly benefit me to take them.

    I understand that many people thrive on a low-carb diet, and it is certainly a sensible choice for diabetics. But the central problem of diabetes is insulin resistance, not too many carbs. The heavy carb load only becomes a problem once that is established. It hasn’t been shown that healthy, unrefined carbs cause insulin resistance. There have been many cultures observed in fine health despite a heavy carb intake. The Kitavan islanders, Cretans and rural Japanese, to name a few. The more likely cause of insulin resistance would be refined carbs, refined vegetable oils, trans fats and excess fructose. There have been dozens of healthy cultures, eating whole foods diets on every point of the macronutrient spectrum. Whenever they are exposed to those refined villains they face a diabetes outbreak within 18-22 years. I’m sure you’ve read all of this before.

    If a person does not have insulin resistance, is it really necessary to rely on fat for energy in fear of unrefined carbohydrates?

  3. And i understand that many of our carbohydrate sources have unique drawbacks. Lectins, anti-nutrients, gluten, etc. And most allergies are from the plant world. I’ve never heard of a beef allergy. I guess that says a lot too.

    Food for thought, anyways.

  4. Wow, that was spectacular and super yummy! After a day of biking and playing in the sun, it was just what I was craving.

    I didn’t have any avocado oil, so I mixed olive oil (from Sciabica, the best!) and toasted sesame oil instead.

    Thank you!

    1. Glad to see someone pointed this out. Yellowfin populations are being fished out at an alarming rate. I’ll make mine with salmon.

      1. The Monterey Bay Aquarium recommended avoiding yellowfin caught using methods incurring low bycatch, especially outside of the Atlantic on the basis that *some* populations were over-fished.

  5. Wow, for a moment I thought you were talking about the Deep South variety of Poke Salad.

    Whenever my great grandmother found Poke Weed growing in the wild, she’d collect it, take it home, boil it 3-5 times, then eat it. She even did this occasionally if she saw it from the highway, stopping the car and crossing a fence to cut it from a fallen log with her pocket knife.

  6. For we southerners, poke salad is actually an herb/grass that must be cooked thoroughly before eating. Thought that was what you were writing about!

    1. So funny, I was thinking the same thing! My great-aunts (in Arkansas) used to make “poke sallet”, which meant, take a bag (a poke) to the woods and gather up edible stuff. It definitely wasn’t just poke weed, but anything they knew was edible. And they were so dang smart and knew about all the local plants and what they were (and weren’t!) good for.

    1. That OKA looks amazing too! I will definitely try that out! Thanks for sharing!

  7. lol. Poke sallet was better for fishing than it was for eating. Too bad it’s illegal to fish that way now. 🙁

  8. I wish there was somewhere I could source sushi grade fish…

  9. Does anyone know what happened to Dr. A’s Livable Low Carb blog? She had fantastic recipes and excellent research summaries.

  10. Ahi poke is our favourite dish from Hawaii! A lot of times it comes on a bowl of rice so i avoid it, but my husband eats it daily! Thanks for this great recipe, this is a great idea.