Sushi question: white tuna v. albacore

A few months ago I had an amazingly delicious fish on a sashimi platter… it was pale white and had a texture that seemed smoother than salmon or the other standards, a bit sweeter, too, somehow. Regardless, it was delicious. I asked my waitress and she said it was “white tuna”.

Yesterday I entered a sushi restaurant to find–joy of joys!–“white tuna” featured as a special. I ordered it but the waitress just ticked off the box for “albacore” on the standard sushi order sheet. I told her that I wanted the white tuna special, not albacore, but she said white tuna and albacore are the same thing.
The fish that arrived was greyish and didn’t have that ethereal smooth texture. It was fishier tasting than what I’d remembered from the previous restaurant. It was not the same thing that I’d had before.

So, are albacore and white tuna the same thing? Was the first fish “white tuna”? What was the second fish? What happened? I am so sad.

22 Answers

  • Joe MacBu Apr 6, 2005

    The fish you had the first time might have been “toro” (also known as “fatty tuna”). It can have a pale pinkish to white appearance due to the high fat content, and consequently has an “ethereal smooth texture.” It’s also more expensive than the other tuna.

    Do an image search for fatty tuna and see what you get.

    • Josh Mittleman Apr 6, 2005

      White tuna isn’t toro. But there’s considerable confusion over what it is: I’ve seen definitive statements elsewhere on the web that white tuna is:

      * albacore
      * a particular cut of a normal tuna
      * a different fish called “escolar”

      I suspect all three are true: White tuna is a new fad, and I’ll bet different suppliers are selling different things under the same name. Good albacore is wonderful stuff, with a nice briny flavor. The stuff I’ve been served as “white tuna” was bland and textureless, certainly not albacore.

      • Alan408 Apr 6, 2005

        I’m with Josh, especially the escolar speculation.

        • ccbweb Oct 4, 2021

          Seconding (or thirding) the escolar idea. I’ve had “white tuna” that was albacore and “white tuna” that was escolar. The better sushi bars have both or specify which it is.

        • try this Apr 6, 2005
    • QC Apr 6, 2005

      Could it have been butterfish/sable fish?

      • fatboy44 Apr 6, 2005

        it is cobia….also known as lemon fish. sweet flavor, firm texture, pinky white flesh. the belly flesh is pure white and is mostly used for sashimi. the best is from the pacific (Australia) some Japanese restaurants tell you it is butter fish but it is not. butter fish is tiny and looks like a porgy, grayish in color. go to Google and do a search on cobia and your questions will be all answered.

        • muD Apr 6, 2005

          You can call anything white tuna in a restaurant, it’s marketing. If you stick it in a can, put it on a grocery store shelf and call it white tuna, it has to be albacore.

          • gatorfoodie Oct 4, 2021

            I’m also thinking it was escolar. A sushi place down the street also serves it as “white tuna” and the taste / texture matches the OP’s description. I asked the sushi chef what it really was since reading this thread. Escolar was the response. I’d also add that the fish is so rich and buttery, it almost has a mayonaise note to it. It’s one of my favorites actually.

            • choctastic Oct 4, 2021

              I actually like escolar too. I just don’t want to be charged big bucks for it because it’s a cheap fish.

              • scubadoo97 Nov 6, 2021

                interesting that there was recent responses to this thread. My Asian market sells “sushi grade” frozen tuna, hamachi, salmon and they had escolar or white tuna. I almost bought it since it was pure white and looked good but remembered having looked up this fish when I was served as “butterfish” at a trendy restaurant. I remembered some negative information about the laxative effect it has on some people but I have never experienced this myself. I hesitated on buying this and last night we went out for sushi and white tuna was part of our sashimi plate. It was excellent. I asked the chef if it was escolar and he confirmed it was. My brother remembers having white tuna in SF. He says it was so white and soft. He was told it was albacore but albacore is more pink and not the pearl white like escolar. There is a lot of mislabeling of fish and it’s not getting any better these days. I will most likely go back to my Asian market for that block of escolar after having it raw. I think the thing is to not pig out on it as it could have a nasty side effect on some people.

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