This Curried Spicy Tuna Dip for crackers is a deliciously savory side dish for when you've nothing in the fridge! It only requires 4-ingredients from your pantry & about 15-20 minutes to make: quick, easy and delicious!
⭐ Why This Recipe is Great
When I'm at a loss what to cook, I like to make this quick and delicious, easy, spicy tuna dip recipe:
- It only requires 4 ingredients which are pantry staples in SouthEast Asian cooking: onions, sambal, canned tuna and coconut milk. You don't need any onion powder, cayenne pepper, lemon zest, garlic powder, diced jalapeno etc that many other spicy tuna dip recipes call for! (The recipe also calls for salt and sugar but these are such basic cooking essentials, I figure they don't count!)
- The best part is that it only takes 15 minutes to whip up: It's a good recipe for holiday parties or when friends come over unexpectedly - I love easy appetizers and this hot tuna dip has always been a favourite amongst guests. (If you're looking for a no-cook starter, click here.)
- It's versatile and delicious: you can make it into a tuna curry or cook it down till there's not much sauce left, and use it as a tuna dip for crackers.
Note: If, like me, you're poor at grocery planning and always running out of 1 ingredient or another, here are some 5-ingredients-or-fewer recipes which may be helpful for you.
🥥 Ingredients & Substitutions
To make this spicy canned tuna recipe, you will only need simple ingredients:
- Canned tuna: I prefer tuna in oil, but you can also use tuna in brine. If using the latter, you will also need a neutral vegetable cooking oil such as sunflower or canola. I don't recommend using olive oil as it has quite a strong taste and you want the sambal + coconut flavors to take centre stage here.
- Coconut milk: If you only have coconut cream, you can mix coconut cream with water in the ratio 3:1 to make coconut milk. For example, ¾ Cups of coconut cream + ¼ Cup of water stirred well gives you 1 Cup of coconut milk. (If you do not dilute the coconut cream with water, the dip will be much too thick!)
- Red onion: shallots are more traditional in Singaporean cooking but I'm using red onion which is more widely available. Alternatively, you can also use white or yellow onion.
- Sambal: you can use store bought or home made sambal belacan or sambal oelek. I have even used leftover mee siam rempah when out of chili but you can also use 1 of these sambal alternatives.
- Optional ingredients, kaffir lime leaf: This is an ingredient in the original recipe and it gives the creamy dip an amazing fragrance. However, it's not a must. I used to leave it out when I was living in London as it was difficult to get!
Note: even if you like a tangier taste, I do not recommend adding lime- the flavours do not mesh well.
What is Sambal?
If you're unfamiliar with sambal (sometimes spelt sambol), it's a spicy chilli paste common in most South East Asian countries that's pretty much magic. In Indonesia alone, there are 100s of different types of sambals!
Some are fresh sambals, which have not been cooked, whilst cooked sambals have been sauteed till fragrant.
Sambal can be used as a side dip (think ketchup) which we eat with rice and dishes such as soya sauce braised pork, or tau yew bak. Alternatively, it can be mixed with other condiments such as mayonnaise (great with fries and potato chips) or even used as a stir fry sauce (hello sambal fried rice!).
Whatever way it's used, it results in a really delicious dish. (A friend even adds it to her homemade pate!)
The best sambal is homemade and almost every Singaporean, Malaysian or Indonesian home will have their own recipe- I will share 1 of ours soon- but if you're short of time, it's easily available ready-made in most supermarkets.
Origin of Recipe
I adapted this 4-ingredients easy tuna dip recipe from a Sylvia Tan recipe. (Sylvia Tan is a Singaporean Peranakan who has written several cookbooks and whose recipes can be found in local newspapers and magazines. You can access a selection of her free recipes here.)
I decided to create my own version as I wasn't able to get Asian ingredients such as kaffir lime leaf or Asian shallots in London easily.
📖 Step-by-step Instructions
1a. Saute the minced onions till aromatic on low- medium low heat.
1b. Once fragrant, add the sambal chili paste and stir-fry till fragrant and mixed.
2. Add in the canned tuna
Note: I used tuna in oil but if you use tuna in brine, drain it first. Either way, be careful of the oil sputtering when the tuna hits the pan.
3. Add the coconut milk, sugar and kaffir lime leaf.
Note: If using coconut cream and water, remember to whisk well before adding.
4a. Simmer till at your desired consistency (drier/ longer cooking time for a spicy dip and wetter/ shorter cooking time for a tuna curry.)
4b. Before serving, season to taste. Canned tuna is very salty so you may not need to add extra salt or fish sauce.
Serve with rice or bread!
🥗 How to Serve
This nice spicy dip is the perfect appetizer with crackers or spam fries.
It also works well as a side dish for pandan rice, a topping for pizzas, on toast or as a filling for bread rolls and curry puffs. (Click here for an easy no-kneading required vegetarian curry puff recipe).
Pretty versatile and a great snack, no?
What to Serve With
If you're having it as a dip, this easy, spicy, delicious dip goes well with:
- pita chips
- tortilla chips
- corn chips
- your favorite crackers
- toasted bread
- cut fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, carrot and celery sticks (crudites)
- potato patties
🥘 Suggested Sides
Alternatively, you could dial up the spice factor and pair it with something like assam fish coconut curry or mee siam. Finishing off with a chilled dessert like vegan coconut agar agar jelly is a nice note.
How to Store
If you have made too much, you can keep the extra in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
As this delicious recipe contains coconut milk, it actually tastes better the next day but it is best not to keep it for too long (coconut goes bad easily).
Tip #1: Note that different coconut milks have different thicknesses though, so if you find the final dish too thick, just add a bit of water to dilute it slightly.
I prefer not to freeze it as it contains coconut which has a short shelf life. However, I once made some for a friend who froze it.
Enjoyed this spicy Asian tuna recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY liked it, I'd love a comment. Thank you and have a great day!
Curried Spicy Tuna Dip (4- ingredients)
- Knife and chopping board
- Pan or skillet
- heat proof spatula
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil Sunflower or canola works well
- 1 Onion (peeled and minced) I usually use yellow but substitute with red onions or shallots when necessary
- 1 tablespoon sambal You can use sambal belacan tumis, sambal oelek, mee siam rempah or 1 of these sambal substitutes. Sambal is sold in jars in most supermarkets. You can also make your own if you have a mortar and pestle or blender.
- 2 cans tuna, drained weight 113g each (0.25 lb) Either tuna in oil (preferred) or tuna in brine work. If it's tuna in oil, I sieve out the tuna and use the oil in place of the vegetable oil required
- 1¼ C Coconut milk (300ml/ 10.14 oz) You can make coconut milk by mixing coconut cream with water in the ratio 3:1 (e.g. 3 tablespoons of coconut cream with 1 tablespoon of coconut milk)
- 1 teaspoon Sugar, or to taste
- Salt to taste Substitute: fish sauce
- 1 kaffir lime leaf, bruised Optional but do use it if you have it as it makes the food much more aromatic.
- Optional garnish: spring onions/ green onions or coriander For spring onion alternatives, click here.
- Heat pan and add oil. When the oil is hot, over low heat, add the onions to the pan and saute till soft and translucent but not brown.
- Add the sambal chilli and stir fry till the aroma is released
- Add the tuna, followed by the coconut milk and sugar. Note: if adding the kaffir lime leaf, add it now to simmer in the sauce.
- Saute gently till the entire mixture is well-mixed, warm and at your desired consistency. Note: for a dip, you may want it a little drier. For a curry, you can leave more sauce and asp add other vegetates such as bell peppers or tomatoes.
- Salt to taste
- Garnish and serve. See post above for serving ideas
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