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Spanish Tuna in Tomato Sauce (Atún con tomate)

Atún con tomate – or tuna in tomato sauce – is a delicious Spanish fish dish.

In this recipe, pieces of fresh tuna are cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, caramelized onions, and red bell pepper, but you can also make it with other fish such as Bonito (similar to tuna). 

You can serve it as a main dish for lunch or dinner with fried potatoes, white rice, quinoa, or some sliced rustic bread to soak all those beautiful flavors.

plate of tomato stewed tuna chunks with fork and cloth in front.
This Atún con tomate recipe is a great way to enjoy tuna!

Atún con tomate is a recipe that is eaten all year round. In the past, it was a very popular dish during Lent when meat was not allowed (but fish was).

However, nowadays, this tradition is no longer observed by a large part of the Spanish population.

Ingredients

Here are the Atún con tomate ingredients that you will need for this classic recipe:

  • Fresh tuna – Use a type of tuna of your choice, preferably tuna steaks (no matter the variety of tuna) or big tuna chunks. The key is to choose the freshest tuna possible. You can also use a different fish – see recipe tips section.
  • Tomato puree – You can use canned/jarred tomato puree or grate fresh tomato pulp. If using canned or jarred tomato puree, make sure it is unseasoned (e.g. doesn’t include herbs).
  • White onion – Or a yellow onion. Some people don’t include it, but I like to add it since it adds more flavor and complexity to the sauce. 
  • Garlic cloves – Use fresh garlic cloves, not dried or pre-minced garlic.
  • Red bell pepper – You can also add some green pepper in addition to the red bell pepper or green pepper only. Red bell peppers tend to be sweeter, so that’s why I like to include them.
  • Olive oil – Use a good quality olive oil for the best taste. If you don’t have any olive oil on hand, you can use any neutral-tasting oil (vegetable, canola, or avocado oil). Avoid using strongly flavored oils like coconut oil. 
  • Salt – To enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
  • Black pepper – Preferably freshly cracked pepper.
  • Sugar – Optional; helps balance the acidity of the tomato sauce. Use either white or cane sugar.
  • Water – For the sauce.

Recipe Tips

  • If you don’t have fresh tuna on hand, or you prefer to make this dish with a different fish, try to use fish that hold their shape well while cooking, and fish that are quite meaty. Use fillets or steaks if possible.
  • Cut the tuna (or other fish) into even bite-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Cook the onion and red bell pepper until they are soft and slightly caramelized, so you’ll get a more flavorful sauce. Don’t skip this step! Remember to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, so the veggies don’t burn.
  • The tomato sauce, whether from grated fresh tomatoes or canned tomato puree, needs time to develop all the flavors, so simmer it for at least 20 minutes. The longer the better.
  • Browning the tuna steaks before adding them to the sauce adds another layer of flavor. 
  • Tomato sauce can get a little acidic depending on how ripe the tomatoes are, so I like to add a little sugar to balance the acidity – but it’s optional.
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How to Make Atún con tomate- Step by Step Instructions

You can find the step-by-step instructions with process photos in this section so you can follow along as you cook at home.

Otherwise, if you’re not a fan of visuals, skip to the detailed recipe card at the bottom of this post!

red pepper and onion chopped up on wooden cutting board on counter.

First, prepare the vegetables. Peel and dice the onion and peel and mince the garlic cloves.

Also, wash and thinly slice the red bell pepper, removing the stem and seeds.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomato puree, cut the tomatoes in half and grate the pulp.

chunks of raw tuna cut on wooden board with knife beside.

Next, cut the tuna into bite-size pieces.

chunks of tuna frying in black pan with wooden spatula sticking out.

Now heat half of the olive oil in a pan and sear the tuna on both sides for approximately 1 minute, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Once seared, remove the tuna from the pan and set it aside.

chopped onions and red peppers in black frying pan sitting on counter with ingredients around.

Next, in the same pan, add the rest of the olive oil, followed by the garlic, onion, and red bell pepper.

Season with a bit of salt and sauté over medium heat until the mixture turns golden, fragrant, and soft.

hand pouring bowl of tomato puree into frying pan of vegetables sitting on counter.

Then stir in the tomato puree and water. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste, then cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally.

chunks of tuna in tomato sauce with vegetables in black frying pan sitting on counter.

At this time taste the sauce and, if needed, add a bit of sugar to correct the acidity.

Now gently place the seared tuna pieces into the pan with the tomato sauce. Spoon some sauce over the tuna, then cover the pan with a lid and simmer for an additional 10 minutes over low heat.

stewed tuna in tomato sauce on white plate on counter with ingredients around.

Serve the atún con tomate hot with crusty bread, fried potatoes, rice, quinoa or other sides of your choice. Enjoy!

Storage Tips

Atún con tomate can be stored in sealed containers in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

Related Recipes

Here are some other Spanish recipes that you may also enjoy:

plate with tuna stewed in tomato sitting on counter.

Tuna in Tomato Sauce (Atún con tomate)

This delicious tuna in tomato sauce is made with red bell pepper, onions, and of course tuna. Serve it with rice, bread, or fried potatoes for a relatively quick and filling lunch or dinner.
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 9 ounces fresh tuna
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 9 ounces tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions

  • Prepare the vegetables: Peel and dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic cloves. Wash and thinly slice the red bell pepper, removing the stem and seeds. If using fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomato puree, cut the tomatoes in half and grate the pulp.
  • Cut the tuna into bite-size pieces.
  • Heat half of the olive oil in a pan and sear the tuna on both sides for approximately 1 minute, seasoning with salt and pepper. Once seared, remove the tuna from the pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, add the rest of the olive oil, followed by the garlic, onion, and red bell pepper. Season with a bit of salt and sauté over medium heat until the mixture turns golden, fragrant, and soft.
  • Stir in the tomato puree and water. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste, then cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally.
  • Taste the sauce and, if needed, add a bit of sugar to correct the acidity.
  • Gently place the seared tuna pieces into the pan with the tomato sauce. Spoon some sauce over the tuna, then cover the pan with a lid and simmer for an additional 10 minutes over low heat.
  • Serve the atún con tomate hot with your side of choice.

Notes

  • If you don’t have fresh tuna on hand, or you prefer to make this dish with a different fish, try to use fish that hold their shape well while cooking, and fish that are quite meaty. Use fillets or steaks if possible.
  • You can use canned/jarred tomato puree or grate fresh tomato pulp. If using canned or jarred tomato puree, make sure it is unseasoned (e.g. doesn’t include herbs).
  • Cut the tuna into even bite-sized pieces so they cook evenly.
  • Cook the onion and red bell pepper until they are soft and slightly caramelized, so you’ll get a more flavorful sauce. Don’t skip this step! Remember to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, so the veggies don’t burn.
  • The tomato sauce needs time to develop all the flavors, so simmer it for at least 20 minutes. The longer the better.
  • Browning the tuna steaks before adding them to the sauce adds another layer of flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 403kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 1257mg | Potassium: 1106mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 5303IU | Vitamin C: 95mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 4mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Spanish
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This recipe was contributed by
Alba Luna Meyer
Born and raised in the Southeast of Spain, Alba is a photographer and a foodie. Always hungry for new flavors and recipes, but with a big passion for traditional recipes that speak about roots and family. You can always find her talking about food, photographing it, or cooking! Obviously, she is team “tortilla de patatas con cebolla”.

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