Types of Tuna Explained: Taste, Cost, and More
Mar 12, 2021 | 5 minute read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Prized by foodies and loved by nutritionists, Tuna are among the ocean’s most remarkable foods. Amazing as they are, there are many types of Tuna, and they’re all very different to each other. So how do you make a good Tuna food choice? That’s exactly what you’ll learn today.

two Tuna steaks grilled rare with lemon on the side

Contrary to popular belief, Tuna are not a single species, but an entire group of fish containing over a dozen different fish. However, out of all the types of Tuna in the sea, only five make for a regular food option, at least in Western countries. These are Skipjack, Albacore, Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Bluefin Tuna. 

Each of these five Tunas boasts a different texture of meat, a different color, and different taste. Thanks to these characteristics, certain species are better suited for meals like salads, while others are perfect for steak or sushi. 

The variety doesn’t stop there, however. Some types of Tuna are harder to come by than others. This, can cause some wild price differences between them. Let’s see how these five Tuna species stack up.

Skipjack Tuna

Tinned tuna in a bowl, with a tin and herbs next to it

Small in size, and dark in meat color, Skipjack Tuna are your most commonly canned Tunas. In fact, over 70% of the US canned Tuna market comes from Skipjacks. Their meat texture is tender, allowing for small chunks, perfect for canning. The taste of Skipjack Tuna is strong, and often described as “fishy.” When you see “Chunk Light” on the can, chances are that you’re looking at a can of Skipjack.

Thanks to their relatively short life cycles, Skipjack Tunas reproduce very early (one year old). This means that when they are caught, it’s likely that they’ve already spawned at least once in their lives. Because of this, Skipjacks are an abundant species, with no foreseeable risk to their stocks.

Albacore Tuna

white canned Albacore Tuna on a white plate

Albacore are the second most canned variety of Tuna in the US, taking up around 20% of the market. Often dubbed White Tuna, Albacores boast light flesh and a very mild flavor. They come in larger chunks in comparison to Skipjacks, and are generally a more pricey option. Their meat holds together nicely, which makes them a good choice for grilling, as well.

One concern with Albacore Tuna is that their mercury levels are three times higher than that of Skipjacks. For this reason, the Environmental Defense Fund suggests a limited intake of White Tuna. Conservation-wise, Albacores are still found in good numbers globally.

Yellowfin Tuna

Two grilled tuna steaks on a plate with some salad

Pale pink and mild in flavor, Yellowfin Tuna are probably the most versatile Tuna food choice. You can find these fish in cans, as well as in the form of steak and sushi. In the US, Yellowfin is a popular sushi option for a couple of reasons. One, it doesn’t come with the premium price tag of Bluefin Tuna, but still offers plenty of value for the money. Two, its meat is a lot leaner and milder tasting than Bluefin and Bigeye, whose fat content contributes to a much more pronounced taste.

In most cases, Yellowfins come in the form of Tuna steak, and you can often find them in restaurants for a relatively fair price. If you prefer to cook Yellowfin on your own, you’ll have no trouble finding them in a supermarket or seafood store. 

Our suggestion? Go out and catch your own Yellowfin! Not only will you experience an adventure on the water, but you’ll also have a fresh, sustainably caught fish to enjoy afterwards.

Bigeye Tuna

Fresh tuna sahimi, one of the most popular types of tuna, laid on a plate with chopsticks holding one piece

Large and stout, Bigeye Tuna boast bright, firm meat, with loads of flavor. These fish are a great option for people who prefer fatty, flavorful fish, but don’t want to shell out a ton of money to get it. That’s not to say that Bigeye are cheap: a good piece of restaurant Bigeye sashimi can go for over $20. 

Still, when you consider that Bluefins often cost four times as much, paying for a Bigeye sashimi sounds like a bargain. In recent years, Bigeye Tuna have come under risk of overfishing, and as a result, the IUCN has listed them as “vulnerable.” If you do choose to buy a Bigeye steak in the supermarket, make sure to check the label to see if it’s been caught in a sustainable manner.

Bluefin Tuna

A chef cutting a large piece of bluefin tuna, the most expensive type of tuna in the world

Bluefins are widely regarded as the Kings of the Tuna family, and rightfully so. Thanks to a number of physical attributes, Bluefins boast a richness of flavor you just won’t find in another fish.

Bluefin Tuna are almost exclusively found in the form of sashimi. You can find them in high-end restaurants, where a single piece can go anywhere from $20 to $200. These fish are especially popular in Japan. So popular, that local restaurants are willing to pay millions of dollars to get their hands on a single Bluefin!

For all their remarkable qualities, Bluefins are a species in decline. Southern and Atlantic Bluefins have been overfished to the point that they’ve become critically endangered. If you love a good sashimi, but would like to see Bluefins live another day, make sure to avoid the Southern and Atlantic Bluefin. Instead, go for Pacific Bluefin – they taste just as good! 

Different Types of Tuna: One for Every Occasion

A table showing the size, characteristics, and cost of various types of tuna

Tunas are a fantastic source of nutrition, as well as an awesome tasting food option. Packed with protein and omega-3s, these fish should definitely be on your menu.

Whether it’s a refreshing salad, a sandwich to go, or an indulging steak or sashimi, Tuna are as delicious as it gets. Now that you know the differences between the Tuna varieties, you’ll know exactly which Tuna to have next!

And now, we turn it over to you. What Tuna species is your favorite to eat? Which Tuna food would you like to try next? Let us know in the comments below.

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