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Dried Aku

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Perfectly seasoned and dried to perfection, dried aku, a Hawaiian fish jerky, is a delicious treat that’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy.

dried aku strips

Why You’ll Love This Dried Aku Recipe

Dried aku, also known as dried tuna, is a beloved snack in Hawaii. It’s packed with flavor, high in protein, and makes for a perfect on-the-go snack or a savory addition to your favorite dishes. 

Here’s why you should give this recipe a try:

Simple & Straightforward: Just a few pantry staples and some patience are all you need.

Healthy & Nutritious: Dried aku is a great source of protein and healthy fats.

Kid-Approved: These tasty bites are a surefire hit with kids of all ages.

Perfect for Busy Lifestyles: Stock up on this shelf-stable snack for a quick and satisfying pick-me-up whenever you need it.

fresh aku slabs on a cutting board

What is skipjack tuna?

Aku or skipjack tuna, scientifically known as Katsuwonus pelamis, is a small, fast-swimming fish found in tropical and subtropical oceans around the world. It’s known for its distinctively strong flavor and firm texture.  Skipjack tuna is a popular choice in various culinary traditions, especially in Hawaiian cuisine.

skipjack tuna or aku
Image from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/pacific-skipjack-tuna

Here’s what you need to know about this versatile fish:

Flavor Profile: Aku has a stronger, more pronounced flavor compared to other types of tuna, like yellowfin or albacore. This robust taste makes it ideal for drying, smoking, and canning, as it holds up well to various preservation methods.

Nutritional Value: Skipjack tuna is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals. It’s known for its heart-healthy benefits and is a great addition to a balanced diet.

Culinary Uses: In Hawaiian cuisine, aku is often enjoyed dried, but it’s also delicious fresh, grilled, or seared. Its strong flavor pairs well with bold seasonings and marinades, making it a versatile ingredient in many dishes. In Japanese cuisine it is used to make katsuobushi or dried bonito flakes.

Sustainability: Skipjack tuna is generally considered one of the more sustainable options among tuna species, as it matures quickly and has a relatively high population. However, it’s always a good idea to check for sustainable sourcing labels to ensure environmentally responsible choices.

aku strips on a cutting board

The Story Behind Dried Aku

In Hawai’i, dried fish has been a staple for generations. Traditionally, Hawaiian fishermen would preserve their catches by drying them in the sun, ensuring a long-lasting and portable source of nutrition. This method not only enhanced the flavor of the fish but also created a delicious snack that has stood the test of time. 

Revered as ‘Hawaiian Gold,’ this form of Skipjack tuna has etched its mark on the hearts and palates of those who savor it. The secret to its delicious taste lies in the embrace of the ocean’s essence – salt. Salt acts as a guard against bacteria and enhances flavors during the drying process.

dry aku marinade

I’ve grown up enjoying fish jerky, like sakura boshi,  at family gatherings, beach picnics, and on long hikes through the lush Hawaiian landscape. It’s a taste of home, and I’m excited to share this ‘ono recipe with you.

Ingredients needed to make dry aku

Aku (skip jack tuna): The star of the dish, providing a rich, meaty flavor.1 cup granulated sugar

Sugar: Balances the saltiness with a hint of sweetness.

Shoyu (soy sauce): Adds a depth of umami flavor.

Sesame seeds: For color, texture, and flavor.

Garlic: Infuses the fish with a subtle, aromatic flavor

Miso paste: Adds additional umani flavor. I prefer white miso as the taste is milder, however you can use red if you prefer. I would suggest using a little less if you choose to use red miso.

Ginger: Adds a fragrant zest.

aku in marinade

How to Make Dried Aku

1. Prepare the Fish: Slice the fresh aku into sticks.

2. Marinate: Add ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. Marinate the fish sticks in this mixture for a few hours or overnight for maximum flavor.

3. Dry: Lay the marinated fish sticks on a rack and let them dry under the sun or  in a dehydrator until they reach your desired level of dryness. You can also complete this step in the oven.

4. Store: Once dried, store the aku in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

dried aku in a dehydrator

Tips for Perfect Dried Aku

Use Fresh Fish: The fresher the fish, the better the final product.

Uniform Slices: Ensure the fish strips are of even thickness to dry evenly.

Patience is Key: Don’t rush the drying process. Properly dried aku should be firm and slightly bendable, not rubbery or brittle.

Flavor Variations: Experiment with additional spices or a touch of chili pepper for a spicy kick.

Store it Right: Once your dried aku is cool, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It will keep for several weeks. Place in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

hand picking up dried aku strips

Frequently asked questions

Can I use other types of fish for this recipe?

Yes, while aku is traditional, you can totally use other firm fish like ‘ahi, salmon, or ‘opelu (mackerel).

How long does dried aku last?

When stored properly in an airtight container, dried aku can last for several weeks.

Can I dry the fish in an oven?

Yes, set your oven to 225F and dry for 4-5 hours or until dried to your desired liking.

Other delicious fish recipes

dried aku strips

Dried Aku

Relle Lum
Perfectly seasoned and dried to perfection, dried aku, a Hawaiian fish jerky, is a delicious treat that’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Marinating time 8 hours
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 8
Calories 244 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Cut aku into strips about 2 inches in thickness and set aside.
  • To a bowl, add sugar, shoyu, sesame seeds, garlic, miso, and ginger. Mix until well combined.
  • Add aku in a single layer to a shallow baking dish. Pour over the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator to soak overnight.
  • After the overnight marinade, remove the aku from the pan and shake off excess liquid. Place the fish onto the racks of a dehydrator. Dehydrate for 8-10 hours or until firm and slightly leathery.
  • Once dehydration has completed, allow fish to cool completely, and remove from racks. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. ENJOY!

Notes

Tips for Perfect Dried Aku
Use Fresh Fish: The fresher the fish, the better the final product.
Uniform Slices: Ensure the fish strips are of even thickness to dry evenly.
Patience is Key: Don’t rush the drying process. Properly dried aku should be firm and slightly bendable, not rubbery or brittle.
Flavor Variations: Experiment with additional spices or a touch of chili pepper for a spicy kick. Or stick to the basic Hawaiian salt seasoning. Have fun and make it your own.
Store it Right: Once your dried aku is cool, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It will keep for several weeks. Place in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 244kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 23gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 1812mgPotassium: 365mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 25gVitamin A: 1857IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 2mg
Keyword aku, dried aku, dried fish, fish jerky
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© Relle Lum for Keeping It Relle. Please do not copy and paste or screenshot recipes online or on social media. I’d love it if you share a link with a photo instead. Mahalo!

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dried aku pin

By on June 6th, 2024

About Relle

Aloha, my name is Relle and welcome to my little home on the internet where I like to share all my favorite Hawaiian recipes (and local ones too).

I am a wife, mom of two, and nurse practitioner here in the beautiful state of Hawai’i. I was born and raised in Hawai’i and I am of native Hawaiian descent. In my spare time I love to cook and bake and I have compiled many of my favorite recipes here for you to enjoy.

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