What are the types of tuna used in sushi?

Slices of raw bluefin tuna sashimi on white dish on wood background

Tuna is a versatile and delicious fish that chefs around the world favour, particularly in Japanese cuisine. While there are around 15 species of tuna worldwide, you are most likely to encounter five types in your culinary adventures, and each type differs enormously in terms of taste, texture and colour.

Here we delve into the five different types of tuna most commonly used in sushi and sashimi: Bluefin Tuna (Southern, Pacific and Atlantic), Bigeye Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Skipjack and Albacore.

Bluefin Tuna

The largest of the tuna varieties is the Bluefin Tuna, which can reach more than two metres in length and weigh 250kg or more. Atlantic, Pacific and Southern are the three species of Bluefin Tuna and are prized for their texture, flavour and marbling.

The Southern Bluefin Tuna, however, is the most renowned of the tuna varieties and the first choice for high-end restaurants, particularly those serving Japanese cuisine.

Celebrated for its colour, flavour and texture, this variety is internationally renowned and the tuna of choice in high-end restaurants.

The three premium cuts of the Southern Bluefin Tuna are known by the traditional Japanese terms otoro, akami and chutoro.

Otoro is from the belly, or underside, of the fish and has the highest fat content — otoro translates to ‘big fat’. Because of this fattiness, the otoro falls apart easily and can quite literally melt in your mouth. It is the most sought after part of the fish because of its flavour and texture.

The akami is the largest part of the fish, covering the top loin, shoulder and tail. It is meatier in texture and brighter in colour. It is the most frequently used part of the fish because of its abundance.

Sushi placed in a Conveyor belt in a restaurant

Ahi Tuna

Yellowfin Tuna and Bigeye Tuna are the two varieties known as ‘ahi.’ Smaller than the bluefin and with a deep pink colour, culinary terminology generally classifies them as ‘sashimi grade’ and ‘other.’

Bigeye Tuna is the type of tuna you will find in sushi and sashimi offerings in supermarkets, inexpensive restaurants and sushi-train bars. Yellowfin Tuna, however, is most commonly used for canned products. Unlike its fatty relatives, yellowfin tuna has a low-fat content and a light and refreshing taste.

Albacore and Skipjack Tuna

On the smaller side of their giant relatives, the Albacore and Skipjack tuna species are most commonly used for canned products.

Skipjack Tuna, often called ‘light chunk,’ is the most abundant and widely fished of the tuna varieties. It is relatively small by comparison and is generally canned as tuna chunks and flakes, in brine or oil.

Albacore Tuna is another commonly canned tuna with a firmer texture and milder flavour than the Skipjack variety. Due to their lighter-coloured flesh, they sometime go by the name of ‘white tuna.’

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