Is White Tuna or Yellowtail Better? 


white and yellowtail lg

I love both poke bowls and sushi. And tuna is my favorite with both of those. But there are so many different kinds of tuna. So, I wondered, is white tuna or yellowtail better?

Here’s what I have learned over the years:

Yellowtail, sometimes called Hamachi, is a superior flavored fish to white tuna and is widely used for sushi in Japan. However, yellowtail is not actually tuna but a type of jackfish. White tuna is most often albacore tuna and is commonly used in higher-end canned tuna. 

But we’re just getting started. 

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between white and yellow tuna, the difference between yellowfin and yellowtail tuna, what kind of tuna is most used at quality sushi bars, and how the prices compare.

Let’s dive right in.

Which tuna is the best tasting? 

White tuna (albacore) is the best-tasting canned tuna. For raw or seared tuna, the best choices are bluefin, bigeye, or yellowfin tuna. 

So there are 2 answers because canned tuna and what you might order at a sushi place or poke place are totally different.

After all, while albacore is considered the best for canned tuna, I’ve never seen it offered raw.

I did give you 3 choices for raw or seared tuna though. That’s because where you live, you might not find all 3 of those on the menu. But any of them will give you a great experience.

Having said that, when it comes to sushi, bluefin is the preferred species by many high-end restaurants. 

It is big and highly marbled (it’s got interspersed fat), and its flavor is to die for. Some bluefins weigh as much as 400 lbs. On average, bluefin from Japan could sell for as much as $200 per pound.

What about ahi tuna?

I’m glad you asked. Ahi tuna typically refers to either bigeye or yellowfin, so if that’s how you see it on the menu, go for it. It’s a good quality tuna.

And maybe you’ve noticed that Costco sells ahi tuna. Is it sushi grade? 

In a recent article, I revealed how to know if ahi tuna is sushi grade. I also spoke about the differences between sushi-grade tuna and regular tuna. And whether you can get sushi-grade tuna at Costco. 

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the difference between white and yellow tuna?

Both white tuna (often labeled albacore tuna) and yellow tuna (full name yellowfin tuna) are flavorful. Albacore is most often used for canned tuna and is white-colored and chunky. Yellowfin tuna is most often used for sushi or poke and is red in color. 

Let’s check out each species to tease out more differences. 

White (albacore) tuna

White tuna (albacore), also known as bonito del Norte, goes by the scientific name of Thunnus alalunga. It has a fusiform (spindle-shaped) body and is defined by the length of its pectoral fins. 

Its sides and belly have a silver color, while its back has a metallic dark blue color. 

Between the back and the sides lie iridescent blue. White tunas are born in the Sargasso sea. After their first year of life, they begin their migration to the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands. 

In the second year, at the end of spring, they migrate again in search of food, reaching the Bay of Biscay. At this time, they are about 1.5 feet in length. 

In autumn, they return to their place of origin. 

This migratory pattern is repeated over two more years, at which time they reach sexual maturity and become solitary.

Yellowfin tuna

Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus Albacares, also has a fusiform body. 

It’s highly attractive. Its head and eyes are small. Its anal and second dorsal fins are the longest of all tuna fish.  It is found in tropical and subtropical seas. As such, it’s available year-round. The young ones like swimming close to the surface, while older ones prefer the depths. 

They become mature when they are about 16 inches long. Some reach up to 80 inches. 

They have to swim continuously because they lack a mechanism that facilitates the flow of water through their gills. If they were to stop swimming, they would die of anoxia.

These are the key differences between white and yellow tuna. 

Trader Joe’s sells ahi tuna, but are you sure of its quality? Can you eat Trader Joe’s ahi tuna raw? Does TJ sell sushi-grade fish? And is frozen ahi tuna good for sushi? I explored these themes and more in a recent article

Just click the link to read it on my site. 

What’s the difference between yellowfin and yellowtail tuna?

Yellowfin is a species of tuna that’s most commonly used for both sushi and seared tuna. Yellowtail is not tuna but instead belongs to the jack family but is still widely served at sushi restaurants in Japan.

So despite the similar names, yellowtail isn’t actually tuna.

Yellowfins are a top predator in the food chain. The heaviest that has ever been caught weighed 411 lbs. The longest that has ever been caught was 7.8 feet! 

It breeds all year-round, and it associates with dolphins and other tuna species such as skipjack and bigeye. The largest school of yellowfin is found in the Pacific Ocean from Chile to California. They migrate a lot and can live for up to 7 years. 

The yellowtail’s scientific name is Seriola quinqueradiata. It’s known as hamachi in Japan, where its farming is a huge venture for local consumption and exports. 

They are a highly regarded delicacy over there and are the key ingredient for sushi. 

They are recognized by a yellow stripe across their body and on their tail, hence the name. The largest ever caught weighed 213 lbs, and the longest was 8 feet long. 

But on average, they weigh about 10 to 20 pounds.

Is yellowtail fish expensive? 

Yellowtail fish sell whole for approximately $10-$15 or $22-$30 per pound for fillets. Comparatively, yellowfin tuna sells for approximately the same price.

It’s important to say again that yellowtail does not belong to the tuna family.

It’s expensive because it is one of the tastiest fish. It is lean, with a mild flavor. It has a high-fat content and is abundant in Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s also a good source of vitamins and minerals. 

You can get it in most grocery stores. What about sushi-grade fish in general? Can you buy sushi-grade fish at the grocery store?

Check out a recent article of mine where I answered the question and related ones, such as whether supermarket fish is safe for sushi. I also showed how to go about buying fresh fish for sushi.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What type of tuna is used in sushi?

Bluefin, southern bluefin, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna are the main types of tuna used in sushi at higher-end sushi restaurants. Albacore tuna may be used at lower-end budget sushi restaurants.

Bluefin

Bluefin is the best when it comes to tuna for sushi. 

It’s the gold standard. Sushi, as you know, is a part of Japanese cuisine. The bluefin is supreme in sushi lore. It’s the largest and is expensive. It’s known as kuro-maguro to the Japanese. 

It can be found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

It can weigh from 600 to 1000 pounds! It is an exquisite blend of fat and proteins. Naturally, it’s the tastiest. 

And it’s almost as if it melts in one’s mouth.

The Southern Bluefin

The southern bluefin is similar to the bluefin, but it is fattier and can only be found in the Indian ocean. 

It weighs about 550 lbs and is known as Minami-maguro, “Indian Tuna”, a reference to its Indian ancestry. It’s often the go-to tuna during the summer months because India is relatively closer to Japan.

Bigeye

The big eye is the deepest swimming tuna and can be found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. 

They are leaner than bluefin and are known as mabachi-maguro.

After bluefin, bigeye is the next most commonly used tuna at high-end sushi restaurants.

It’s also worth repeating that if you see “ahi tuna”, it is most likely bigeye or yellowfin tuna.

Yellowfin

Yellowfins are named after their yellow coloring. It is light, lean, and inexpensive, and known in Japanese as Kihada. They are found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. 

They weigh between 120 to 200 pounds. 

Because it’s available in large quantities and is affordable, it’s used in a lot of restaurants and sushi bars. It’s also canned. 

Interesting facts, right? But you’ve probably wondered if it’s okay to eat salmon from the grocery store raw. 

You’re in luck because a recent article of mine answers the question and more. I explained what happens when you eat raw salmon and whether freezing salmon kills parasites.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

In the article, we checked out the best-tasting tuna fish. 

We looked at the difference between white and yellow tuna. Then, we found out the difference between yellowfin and yellowtail tuna. 

And we considered whether yellowtail fish is expensive. Lastly, we looked at the types of tuna used in sushi.


Image by louis papaspyrou from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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