Know Your Tuna: A Guide to Different Types

Mild to Strong, Find the Best Tuna for Your Taste

Hawaii, Fresh Sliced Ahi (Tuna) Fish Sashimi On Banana Leaf.
Kyle Rothenborg / Getty Images

There are a number of varieties of tuna, with flesh ranging from light to dark. Tuna types include albacore, tunny, ahi, bonito, skipjack, bigeye, bluefin and yellowfin.

Varieties of Tuna

Bluefin tuna: This is generally the variety of choice for fresh tuna connoisseurs. It has a bit more fat, thus more flavor, than the other varieties. When it's mature, the flesh is dark red, with an appearance similar to raw beef.

This variety is the largest, with the biggest growing to about 1,600 pounds. Most of the bluefin harvest is exported to Japan and sold at a premium price for sashimi.

Yellowfin tuna: Also known as ahi tuna. Less expensive than bluefin, this variety is nearly as good as bluefin and also more common and easy to find in the grocery store or fish market. It is pale pink, with flavor a bit stronger than albacore. It is also often canned.

Skipjack tuna: Also known as arctic bonito and aku. As you can surmise from its name, this fish likes to jump and skip over the surface of the ocean. This variety is usually canned and is known as chunk light tuna. It generally has the strongest flavor and highest fat content. It is also the smallest variety, seldom growing larger than 25 pounds. Dried bonito is known as katsuobushi and is used in Japanese cuisine.

Albacore tuna: This is the variety with the lightest flesh and mildest flavor.

It's usually canned as white tuna and sold at a higher price than light chunk tuna. The mercury level in albacore tuna is nearly three times as high as that of skipjack tuna, the Environmental Defense Fund reports.

Ways to Use Tuna

Everybody knows about the tried-and-true tuna sandwich: Mix tuna with mayonnaise and pickles or olives, garlic or not,  and pepper and spread on white bread of choice.

But there are so many ways to use tuna that it's hard to get bored with this cheap and easy way to put seafood into your diet.

  • Salad nicoise
  • Pasta salad -- substitute tuna for chicken in your favorite recipes
  • Tuna salad stuffed tomato -- make tuna as for a sandwich but serve inside a cut-up homegrown tomato
  • Tuna croquettes or burgers
  • Tuna melts -- tuna salad sandwich topped with cheddar cheese and grilled panini-style or broiled open face
  • Tuna casserole -- quintessential comfort food 
  • Avocado and tuna salad sandwich
  • Stuffed tuna peppers -- topped with cheese and broiled
  • Tuna and curry macaroni and cheese

Seafood Cookbooks

  • "In the Kitchen With the Pike Place Fish Guys"
  • "Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook"
  • "Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking"
  • "Fish Market: A Cookbook for Selecting and Preparing Seafood"