A Taste of Tahiti: Making Poisson Cru

If you’ve been to the islands of Tahiti, chances are you’ve tried their signature dish, poisson cru. It’s on nearly every menu in Tahiti and its flavor defines the essence of French Polynesia – sweet, tender, refreshing and exotic. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re in for a real treat!

Poisson Cru

In French, “poisson cru” literally means “raw fish.” It consists of raw tuna marinated in lime juice and mixed with a delicious blend of diced vegetables and coconut milk. Not a fan of raw fish? Well, the acid from the lime juice actually cooks the fish just slightly. Plus, the fish in Tahiti is so incredibly fresh and tender that it’s much tastier than you might be thinking. Trust us… once you try it, you’ll love it!

The best time to try poisson cru is during a motu picnic where you’ll also see how it’s made. After spending the morning snorkeling or fishing, you’ll stop on a small islet for lunch where the locals will prepare a traditional Tahitian meal while teaching you their techniques. For example, one of the secrets to making poisson cru is to take the fresh coconut, place it inside a towel, cloth or even a loose piece of palm bark, and use this to squeeze the juice from the coconut over the mixture. Many of our full-day excursions include a motu picnic, but feel free to ask your reservation specialist before you book an activity just to make sure.

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Once you leave Tahiti, you’ll be craving poisson cru. While no one makes it quite like the locals, you can always prepare it at home to satisfy your craving. If you’re going to make it yourself, it’s important to splurge on sushi-grade raw tuna to make sure your dish comes out as fresh as possible. And of course, fresh coconut is always better than canned. Ready to cook? Here’s a sample recipe from About.com:

Takes: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 servings


  • 1¾ pounds of fresh tuna (sushi grade)
  • ½ cucumber (3½ ounces)
  • 1 tomato (1¾ ounces)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 limes (juiced)
  • 1 glass coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper


  • Dice the fish into ½-inch cubes, rinse with fresh water, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Squeeze the limes and pour the juice over the fish, mix well and chill 20 minutes in refrigerator.
  • Cut onion and green pepper into thin slices, cut tomato into small cubes, remove seeds from cucumber and cut into thin half moons.
  • Drain some of the lime juice, add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the coconut milk five minutes before serving.
  • Serve chilled. Present on a bed of lettuce or in a coconut shell.

Poisson Cru - Presentation

There are a variety of other recipes out there. For example, this college student from Santa Monica, California made it with lemon instead of lime juice and traded the green pepper for carrots, which you’ll see in the following video. Or here’s another recipe from Lonely Planet. Bon appétit!


55 thoughts on “A Taste of Tahiti: Making Poisson Cru

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  3. never thought i would like it but i tried poisson cru while in tahiti during a motu picnic and fell in love with the flavor. it never tastes quite the same at home though… you can’t find fish as fresh as what’s in tahiti.

  4. Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts!

    1. Poisson cru (simply ‘raw fish’ in French) is Polynesian in origin. It is often compared to Latin ceviche or Hawaiian poke, but differs primarily in the addition of coconut milk. The actual point in time in which Tahitians began making this signature dish is unknown. However, seafood, particularly fish, has long been the primary dietary staple and source of protein for the islands. In addition, nearly all Pacific Islanders use coconut milk as their main cooking ingredient. It is believed that new islanders from Asia around 3000 B.C. introduced the coconut; and explorers from Europe in the 1500s brought more agriculture to the islands, including carrots. Therefore, it is safe to assume that poisson cru has adapted over time. It is called e’ia ota in Tahitian; and a similar dish is called oka i’a in Samoa. You might find this article useful: http://www.foodbycountry.com/Germany-to-Japan/Islands-of-the-Pacific.html

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