A quick and easy, 15-minute Korean tuna mayo rice bowl recipe (deopbap) made with garlic butter, tuna, vegetables over a bed of rice & drizzled with mayo & sweet soy sauce.
If you're looking for a quick and easy meal with minimal cooking, you will love this comforting tuna mayo deopbap recipe. This tuna mayo rice recipe has even less prepping if you have leftover white rice kicking around.
The majority of the flavor comes from the umami Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and eel sauce but if you don't have eel sauce, you can substitute the eel sauce for a thinned out gochujang or make a quick teriyaki sauce which is essentially soy sauce, sugar, corn starch slurry thickener and a bit of garlic if you want a bit of flavor.
These rice bowls are also very easy to pack for work and make a delicious lunch. Prepare everything ahead of time and store the rice and tuna/avocados/cucumbers separately in the fridge. In the morning, heat up the rice in a microwave and then let it cool slightly. Assemble it in your lunch container once the rice is slightly cooled, add in the veggies, tuna, and sauces and you’re set for lunch – no heating required to eat it! It’s important to make sure the rice is not hot to the touch before adding in the tuna because the heat will bring out the fishy smell of the tuna.
Tuna Mayo Rice Ingredients and Substitutions
- Tuna - For this recipe I use canned tuna but you can use other canned fish such as canned salmon or sardines in oil as well.
- Rice - Most of the time, I like to use sushi rice for the recipe, but you can also use jasmine rice as well.
- Kewpie Mayo - Japanese mayo really makes this deopbap recipe. I prefer it over standard mayonnaise because of the extra umami that the MSG provides. You can definitely still use regular mayonnaise as well, but try not to use Miracle Whip - it has a sweeter flavor and has less of a buttery flavor. Alternatively, you can also try it with my spicy Sriracha mayo recipe, if you want a spicy kick to this rice bowl.
- Unagi (Eel) Sauce - If you don't have eel sauce, you can substitute it for gochujang. Gochujang will be a bit sweeter and spicier but will still make a delicious sauce. You can also make a quick sweet soy sauce by dissolving 1 ½ teaspoon of sugar (or honey) with 3 teaspoons of hot water and then adding 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to it.
- Garlic - There is no substitute for garlic and I would definitely use it for the tuna. It adds a lovely flavor to the fish.
- Butter - I like to use salted butter for the flavor. A healthier alternative to using butter is browning the garlic with a high smoke point oil such as avocado oil. Do not use olive oil - it has a strong flavor that will overpower the rice bowl
- Cucumber /Avocado - For any rice bowls, I usually like to keep my vegetables simple and use only cucumber and avocado. The cucumbers give the dish a crisp freshness and the avocado provides it with satisfying butteriness.
- Green Onions/Sesame Seeds/Furikake - Usually, I just use green onions, but I have used toasted sesame seeds, furikake, and shredded seaweed from time to time as well. Switch up the topping to what you enjoy most. If you're adventurous, I also have a Homemade Furikake Recipe as well.
- Sriracha - Optional for a bit of spiciness
Garlic Butter Tuna
To give the canned tuna a bit more flavor, I like to mix garlic butter into it. Garlic butter literally takes a few minutes to make and adds a lot of extra flavor to the rice bowl and is definitely worth the extra effort.
Once the garlic butter has cooled, I mix it in with the tuna along with a bit of kewpie mayo for a bit of creaminess.
Whenever you mix anything hot with canned fish, it will bring out a fishy smell and sometimes a fishier taste - if you want to avoid that, definitely wait until the garlic butter has cooled before mixing it in with the fish. You can make this garlic tuna mayo ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to a week but personally, I find it tastes best fresh right after you make it.
How To Make Rice Bowls
To assemble the rice bowl, I like to layer it in the following order: Rice on the bottom, followed by the vegetables on top of the rice, then I add the tuna on top of the vegetables and I top it off with all the sauce and mayo drizzles and garnishes at the very top.
There is no hard-fast rule to assembling a rice bowl, you can put the ingredients side by side or layer it any way you like - have fun with it! Just remember that you usually want to add the sauce, mayo, and garnishes at the very end on top of everything so that when you eat it, it is easier to distribute the flavors.
This tuna mayo rice bowl (deopbap) recipe is very customizable, and you can definitely switch up the vegetables or starches - be creative and use your favorite ingredients!
For starches, I have used quinoa, bulgur and they both taste great with it. I have even made it without any starch when I wanted a lighter meal and just mixed it in with vegetables.
For vegetables, I like to stick to cucumber and avocado because I like the crispness from the cucumber and the creaminess from the avocadoes but you definitely can switch it up with any type of vegetable you like. On lazy days, I like to use salad mixes and throw them right on top of the rice so that there is no vegetable preparation involved.
Yup, you can! Make sure you use regular mayonnaise and not Miracle Whip. Miracle Whip has a sweeter flavor.
You can make your own quick and easy sweet soy sauce mixture by dissolving 1 ½ teaspoon of sugar (or honey) with 3 teaspoons of hot water and then adding 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to it and use that instead. You can also make a spicy gochujang sauce as well by mixing ½ tablespoons of gochujang with 2 ½ tablespoons of water and ½ tablespoon of honey.
LOOKING FOR MORE KOREAN RECIPES? TRY THESE!
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Tuna Mayo Deopbap (Korean Tuna Rice Bowl)
- Japanese mayo really makes this dish. I prefer it over standard mayonnaise because of the extra umami that the msg provides. You can definitely still use regular mayonnaise as well, but try not to use Miracle Whip – it has a sweeter flavor and less of a buttery flavor. Alternatively, you can also try it with my spicy Sriracha mayo recipe, if you want a spicy kick to this rice bowl.
- You can also substitute tuna with other canned fish such as canned salmon or sardines in oil for this recipe
- I like to use sushi rice for the recipe, but you can also use jasmine rice as well.
- If you don't have unagi (eel) sauce you can also make your own quick and easy sweet soy sauce mixture by dissolving 1 ½ teaspoon of sugar (or honey) with 3 teaspoons of hot water and then adding 1 tablespoon of soy sauce to it.
- Alternatively, if you don't have unagi (eel) sauce, you can substitute it for gochujang. Gochujang will be a bit sweeter and spicier but will still make a delicious sauce.
- If you plan to pack it for work for lunch, prepare everything ahead of time and store the rice and tuna/avocados/cucumbers separately in the fridge. In the morning, heat up the rice in a microwave and then let it cool slightly. Assemble it in your lunch container once the rice is slightly cooled, add in the veggies, tuna, and sauces and you’re set for lunch – no heating required to eat it! It’s important to make sure the rice is not hot to the touch before adding in the tuna because heat will bring out the fishy smelly of the fish.
- ½ Cucumber (¼ cucumber per bowl)
- 1 Avocado (½ avocado per bowl)
- 3 cups Cooked Rice (1½ cups per bowl)
Garlic Butter Tuna
Make the Garlic Butter Tuna
- Peel and finely mince the garlic cloves.
- Melt butter on medium-low heat in a pan. Add minced garlic and brown it for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Do not overcook, it's still cooking when you turn off the stove. Set aside to cool.
- Open a can of tuna and drain it. Set it into a bowl.
- Add the cooled garlic butter, mayonnaise and, a dash of salt to the tuna and mix well. Set aside (Make sure the butter has cooled before mixing it with the tuna else the heat will bring out the fishiness of the fish.)
Prepare the Vegetables
- Remove the seed from the avocado and chop it into small pieces.
- Cut the cucumber into small pieces and set aside
- (Optional) If you are using green onions, finely chop them and set it aside
Make the Eel Sauce
- In a small bowl, mix the eel sauce with water to thin it out. Set it aside
Assemble the Rice Bowl
- Add approximately 1½ cups of cooked rice into a bowl. If you are using leftover rice from the fridge, microwave it first and let it cool a bit before adding ingredients on top.
- Put some avocadoes and cucumbers on top of the rice
- Scoop some garlic butter tuna and place it on top of the vegetables
- Drizzle everything with eel sauce, mayonnaise
- Pick a few toppings (green onions, sesame seeds, furikake, crushed seaweed snacks) and sprinkle them on top of the sauce
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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