If you walk into a supermarket looking for a can of tuna, it can be hard to decipher which can to pick. What’s the difference between albacore or “chunk” light? Packed in water or olive oil? Does it need to be line-caught? Tuna comes in many different varieties, each with their own unique identifiers. Let’s explore the mysterious tunaverse together….
Tuna didn’t take off in popularity until World War I, then it quickly rose to demand becoming one of the staple foods for American soldiers and households as an affordable source of protein. Prior to that, sardines were by far the most popular fish. Today, it’s the second most frequently consumed seafood in the United States. The average American consumes between 2 and 3 pounds of tuna annually!
There are four common types of tuna you’re likely to find in the supermarket—Skipjack, Albacore, Yellowfin, and Bluefin. They’re each completely unique in their size, flavor, and texture. Let’s take a look:
Skipjack: This tuna has a high fat content and strong flavor. It's counterintuitively sold as “chunk light tuna” and is generally the most affordable canned tuna on the market. It’s also the smallest tuna species, usually weighing between 6 and 12 pounds.
Albacore: Mellower in flavor and lighter colored flesh, Albacore is generally sold as “white tuna” and tends to be more expensive than Skipjack tuna.
Yellowfin: Named for the vibrant yellow color of its fins, yellowfin tuna’s flesh is a pale pink color and mild in flavor. It’s pricier than albacore and skipjack, and can be more difficult to find.
Bluefin: Fatty, deep, red flesh, and super flavorful, the Bluefin is the highest quality and most expensive tuna generally available. This species is the largest tuna in our oceans and can weigh up to 500 pounds and can swim up to 45 mph!
We carry a very special can of Ventrusca Tuna in Olive Oil from Jose Gourmet. Yes, this tuna is admittedly, ludicrously expensive, but it is also the most delicious tuna we’ve ever tasted. The crème de la crème of tuna. It’s cut from the belly of Bonito del Norte, a variety of albacore tuna that lives off the coast of Northern Spain. “Ventrusca” signifies that the tuna comes from the belly of the fish making it especially fatty and unctuous. It’s the same cut as the prized (and pricey) “Toro'” cut you’ll find in sushi bars. It has a buttery texture and complex flavor. This tuna is best left pretty untampered with. It doesn’t require much fussing to enjoy its flavor. A lemony herb salad, capers or something else briny like pickled onions followed by some crusty bread to sop everything up is all you need for a delicious #tunatreat. And don’t toss out the olive oil at the bottom of the tin! It might even be the best part.
There are plenty of other perfectly delicious and affordable brands of tuna out there. It’s an endlessly versatile staple in the kitchen good for tuna melts, pasta sauces, salad toppers, or eating straight out of the can. Sadly, like many commercial fishing industries, by-catch is a big problem in tuna fishing. Every year tuna fishing is responsible for killing large populations of sharks and sea turtles. When you’re shopping for tuna, it’s important to know where your tuna is coming from. A few buzzwords to look for are “line caught” or “troll caught,” which means the tuna was caught individually and not swept up in a huge net bringing other marine life along with it. Greenpeace has a useful guide that ranks popular canned tuna brands in the marketplace based on sustainability and ethical labor practices.
With your newly acquired wealth of tuna knowledge, we encourage you to grab a can of tuna and show us your tuna skills in the kitchen. Create a dish with a can of tuna, tag us on Instagram using the hashtag #tunatreat this week to win a can of our very special Ventrusca Tuna and a $50 gift card to the shop. We’ll pick a winner at noon EST, next Saturday, April 25th.