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What are usually in poke bowls?

Poke bowls have become increasingly popular in recent years as a fresh, customizable, and healthy meal option. But what exactly goes into a poke bowl? Here is an overview of the typical ingredients found in poke bowls.


The star ingredient in a traditional poke bowl is raw, diced fish. The most common types of fish used are:

  • Ahi tuna
  • Salmon
  • Yellowtail
  • Octopus
  • Shrimp

The fish is usually seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, or other umami flavors. The cubed chunks of raw fish provide protein.


The base of a poke bowl is a bed of rice. Typically sushi rice is used. The white short-grain rice provides carbohydrates. The rice soaks up the sauces to give the bowl more flavor.


Poke bowls are topped with a colorful medley of fresh vegetables and fruits. Popular ingredients include:

  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Edamame
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Radish
  • Jalapeno
  • Seaweed salad
  • Kimchi

The vegetables add crunch and nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also contribute aesthetic appeal.

Sauces and Seasonings

The sauce is what brings all the ingredients together and gives the poke bowl its distinctive flavor. Common sauces and seasonings include:

  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Sriracha
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Green onions
  • Chili flakes
  • Sesame seeds

The sauces usually contain a blend of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy elements.


In addition to fresh produce, poke bowls often feature crunchy toppings for texture. Some favorites are:

  • Roasted sesame seeds
  • Fried onions
  • Fried garlic
  • Toasted coconut flakes
  • Crushed nuts like macadamia nuts or peanuts
  • Tempura crispies
  • Rice crackers
  • Nori seaweed strips

Mix and Match Ingredients

One of the best aspects of poke bowls is their versatility and customization. While there are some standard ingredients, you can really tailor a poke bowl to your own taste preferences. Don’t like certain ingredients? Leave them out. Have a favorite veggie or sauce you want to add? Throw it in.

When ordering at a restaurant, you’ll often get to build your own combination bowl. When making poke bowls at home, you can experiment with different proteins, veggies, and flavors.

Types of Poke Bowls

While most poke bowls feature raw fish over rice, there are some variations to know about:

  • Vegetarian poke bowls – Replace the fish with marinated tofu, chickpeas, edamame, or mushrooms.
  • Vegan poke bowls – Use vegan protein options and avoid ingredients like mayonnaise and fish sauce.
  • Meat poke bowls – Substitute chicken, steak, pork, or other cooked meats for the raw fish.
  • California poke bowls – Contain brown rice, avocado, cucumber, crab meat, mango, and creamy sauces.
  • Korean poke bowls – Have kimchi, seaweed salad, sesame oil, chili paste gochujang, and bulgogi beef or tofu.
  • Hawaiian poke bowls – The original version with cubed ahi tuna, green onion, soy sauce, Hawaiian sea salt, and sesame oil.

Health Benefits

One reason for the popularity of poke bowls is their reputation as a lighter, more nutritious option compared to other fast casual choices. Here are some of the touted health benefits:

  • High in lean protein from fish and plant-based sources
  • Contains fiber-rich vegetables and fruits
  • Less processed than fried foods or burgers
  • Can be lower in carbs when served over greens instead of rice
  • Fresh and nutrient-dense ingredients

Of course, not all poke bowls are created equal. Loading up on sauces and fried toppings will add calories. But overall, poke bowls can be a balanced meal when customized thoughtfully.

How to Eat a Poke Bowl

Poke bowls are typically eaten with chopsticks or a fork. The cubed ingredients make it easy to gather some fish, rice, veggies, and sauce in each bite. The bowls are meant to be stirred together to allow the ingredients to mingle and the sauces to coat everything.

From the bottom up, you’ll get the rice, fish, vegetables, fruit, and toppings in each bite. The toasted sesame seeds and seaweed salad on top add flavor, crunch, and texture contrast. It’s a colorful, fresh, tasty way to enjoy a meal.

Making Poke Bowls at Home

Want to get in on the poke bowl craze from your own kitchen? Here are some tips for DIY poke bowls:

  • Buy sushi-grade fish from a trusted source. Opt for fattier fish like salmon and tuna that won’t dry out when marinating.
  • Cut the fish and vegetables into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes for easy eating.
  • Marinate fish 10-30 minutes in soy sauce, oil, and seasonings.
  • Choose 1-2 bases like rice, greens, quinoa, noodles.
  • Top with 5-7 mix-ins like veggies, fruits, nuts, crunchies.
  • Drizzle with sauce. Blend mayo, sriracha, eel sauce, ponzu, etc.
  • Garnish with sesame seeds, seaweed, and herbs.
  • Keep components and dressing separate until ready to eat for best texture.

The great thing about DIY poke bowls is you can prep ingredients in batches during the week to whip up quick, healthy meals anytime.

Where to Buy Poke Bowls

Poke bowl restaurants and counters specializing in build-you-own bowls have proliferated in recent years. But you can also find pre-made poke bowls in many grocery stores, especially those with fresh seafood sections. Look for grab-and-go poke bowls at:

  • Dedicated poke restaurants
  • Hawaiian restaurants
  • Asian eateries and sushi bars
  • Gourmet grocery stores
  • Health food stores
  • Seafood markets
  • Co-ops and cafeterias
  • College campuses

The pre-packaged bowls allow you to enjoy the flavors of poke on-the-go. But for maximum freshness and customization, order a bowl made or tossed fresh at a restaurant or food counter.

Poke Bowl Recipes

Want to whip up poke bowls yourself in the comfort of your own kitchen? Here are delicious recipe ideas to inspire your bowl building:

California Poke Bowl

  • Sushi rice
  • Ahi tuna
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Crab meat
  • Mango
  • Furikake seasoning
  • Eel sauce

Mexican Poke Bowl

  • Quinoa
  • Shrimp
  • Mango
  • Jicama
  • Corn
  • Avocado
  • Cotija cheese
  • Cilantro lime dressing

Korean Poke Bowl

  • Brown rice
  • Bulgogi beef
  • Spinach
  • Kimchi
  • Seaweed salad
  • Sesame seeds
  • Gochujang sauce

Let your imagination run wild and get creative with unexpected flavor combinations in your DIY poke bowls!

Storing and Serving Poke Bowls

Poke bowls are best when freshly made and eaten right away. The cubes of raw fish don’t hold up well after too long. For best quality:

  • Serve poke bowls immediately
  • Keep fish and rice chilled separately
  • Mix everything together just before eating
  • If storing, keep up to 24 hours refrigerated
  • Don’t freeze raw fish cubes
  • Enjoy toppings and sauces on the side if storing

The vegetables and cooked proteins can keep a bit longer, but for peak texture and flavor, poke bowls really shine when assembled and devoured fresh!


Is poke raw or cooked?

The raw, diced fish at the center of a poke bowl is just that – raw fish. It is not cooked or cured. The other mix-ins can be raw or cooked.

Why should you not freeze poke?

Freezing causes the raw fish cubes to lose their texture. Thawing leads to mushy fish that disintegrates when stirred into the bowl.

Can you eat poke bowls every day?

While poke bowls can be healthy, you likely want to limit them to 2-3 times per week. Eating raw fish daily could expose you to excess mercury.

Is poke gluten-free?

Most poke bowls are naturally gluten-free, but some sauces and seasonings may contain gluten, especially soy sauce.

Are poke bowls carcinogenic?

No current research suggests raw fish or any ingredients in poke bowls cause cancer. However, limiting consumption to 1-2 times weekly is suggested.


With its origins in Hawaiian cuisine, the highly customizable poke bowl is now a mainstream menu item and nutritional rockstar. At its core, poke bowls feature fresh chunks of raw, marinated fish laid atop a base and topped with crunch veggies and zesty sauces. While menus offer chef-driven combinations, the fun is choosing your own ingredients to make an energizing meal that suits your tastebuds. Now go forth and poke!