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The Best Tuna For Sushi

Yes there are more than one type of tuna

There are so many different types of sushi that you can enjoy. But, one of the most common items served in Japanese cuisine is tuna.

This popular fish has been eaten for centuries and continues to be enjoyed by millions around the world.

Although there has been awareness raised over recent years about the way in which tuna farms operate and the risk of their population declining even further, tuna is still fished in colossal amounts.

Tuna sashimi blue fin sushi Japanese style

Most would say tuna is overfished and this is why it is important that the consumption of sustainable seafood is acknowledged.

A recent study has found that, if overfishing continues at the same rate, there will be no tuna sushi left by 2048. However, there are some positive signs that tuna populations are on the up in some regions.

Many tuna species are used in Japanese sushi, sashimi, and other delicacies from the country. But, with 9 tuna species around the world, surely some are better in sushi than others, right?

Well, we are here to find out. We have dived into the world of sushi to find out what types of tuna are used around the world for sushi dishes.

For instance, many of the top sushi restaurants around the world are probably not serving cuts of the same tuna that a local, smaller sushi joint is. Well, the truth may surprise you.

Of the five types of tuna we will discuss in today’s article, only one is currently labeled as “critically endangered.” This is according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  

So, let’s not wait any longer. Here are the best types of tuna to make any sushi dish the best you have ever experienced. 

Best types of tuna for Sushi

  1. Bluefin Tuna
  2. Bigeye Tuna
  3. Yellowfin Tuna
  4. Albacore

Bluefin Tuna 

We start our list with Bluefin Tuna, a popular species caught in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Of all the tuna species, Bluefin is the largest with an average weight between 600 and 1,000 pounds. 

You will usually find Bluefin served in some of the top sushi restaurants around the world and there is a good reason behind this.

Chutoro nigiri sushi ( Raw medium fatty bluefin tuna meat sushi )

It is simply the tastiest tuna on the planet. Its fat and protein are serenely balanced and as soon as Bluefin tuna hits your tongue, it melts perfectly in the mouth when served as sashimi or nigiri

Go to most top-notch sushi restaurants or bars and you will probably see a slab of tuna behind the glass. These are usually from the same cut of Bluefin tuna.

You will see a few shades of this cut with the darkest being akami (lean tuna), the slightly lighter shade is chu-toro (medium-fatty tuna), and the lightest, often with healthy streaks of marbleization throughout it is o-toro or fatty tuna. This is also the smoothest-looking of the cuts. 


Southern Bluefin Tuna 

Not to be confused with regular Bluefin Tuna, Southern Bluefin tuna comes from the Indian Ocean or other regions in the Southern Hemisphere.

This is why it is often referred to as “Indian tuna” throughout Japan. While similar to Pacific Bluefin Tuna, the Southern variety are smaller but the quality is not far off.

However, this species is deemed to be critically endangered by The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Therefore, the fishing of Southern Bluefin tuna is becoming more and more strict. In recent years, quotas have started to come into place for the fishing of this tuna.

However, overfishing still seems to be an issue in Australia and Japan, the two countries with the highest yearly level of catches. 

Southern Bluefin tuna is the most expensive tuna after the Pacific Bluefin kind. Compared to Bluefin tuna, the Southern type is a little smaller weighing 250kg on average with a length of around 2.4m.

These regions include Cape Town, South Africa, and the coasts of Tasmania, Australia, and New Zealand. 

If you do manage to find a restaurant that serves Southern Bluefin Tuna, you may not have many more chances to enjoy it if overfishing continues. 


Bigeye Tuna 

Surprise, surprise. The Big Eye tuna is known for having big eyes. Compared to Bluefin tuna, Big Eyes are slightly leaner but their akami tends to be of the highest quality.

Sliced raw bigeye tuna
Sliced raw bigeye tuna

When we consider its flavor, we are met with a mild, meaty taste. It has a higher fat content than Yellowfin tuna and is especially loved by Sashimi fans. 

We highly recommend using Bluefin tuna if you’re a toro lover but Bigeye tuna if you’re akami fan.


Yellowfin Tuna 

As the name suggests, Yellowfin tuna is a tuna with, you guessed it, yellow fins. When it comes to flavor, this is not like the tuna you buy in regular cans.

It has a deep red color and boasts a sweet, mild flavor. Its texture is quite dense and firm with many comparing it to beef.

Sushi tuna in white plate

In Japan, Yellowfin tuna is considered the most commonly found tuna. This is why it is frequently served in many sushi dishes and most sushi bars.

When in Japan, any menu that has “tuna” on it and is offered as seared, blackened, cooked, or marinated is probably a Yellowfin tuna. 


Albacore Tuna 

Now, we come to Albacore tuna. This is regularly used for canned or tinned tuna. When it comes to sushi, Albacore tuna pieces are easily identifiable due to their lighter, rosier colors. They also have quite a rough consistency than most other tunas. 

Albacore tuna is probably the most affordable tuna in Japan, as well as most regions of the world. This is why you will often see this type of tuna on conveyor belts at various sushi chains, especially in Japan. 

Albacore Tuna sushi white tuna

At Japanese restaurants and bars in the United States, Albacore tuna is often cheaper than all other types of tuna.

You may hope that any tuna marked as “white tuna” in sushi restaurants across the U.S. is Albacore but, most of the time, it is not.

Albacore tuna will simply be labeled with its original name.

In Summary 

Although there are 9 species of tuna, the 5 mentioned above are the most common and most popular types used in sushi.

Each possesses unique flavors and textures that go well with different sushi dishes as well as other types of Japanese cuisine.

Which one you prefer is up to you. All you have to do is head to a sushi restaurant or bar and test out the tunas. It’s a hard life! 

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Written by Brian N

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.