Types of tuna: everything you need to know

Fished for thousands of years and on our tables for just as long, it’s the key feature in a wide variety of recipes and it never fails to excite the palate.

We’re talking about tuna: a fascinating and long-living inhabitant of our seas, as well as an ingredient in a variety of dishes and delicious recipes.

Fished since the times of ancient Greece and Phoenicia, today tuna is a commonly found food in all Italian households: according to the latest research, it’s eaten by 99% of the population and one in three Italians (36%) eat it more than twice a week.

Opening a can of tuna is almost a part of our daily routine. It was the Romans who first had a hunch this fish was perfect for experimenting with the first food preservation techniques: tuna was put in brine or oil and preserved in a special amphora. It wasn’t until 1810 that tuna was first preserved in sealed glass jars with the method of preserving tuna in hermetically sealed cans becoming widespread after 1850.

But what’s the real secret to tuna's success? Versatility in the kitchen. This fish is actually ideal for a multitude of meals, from lunches and quick snacks, to more sophisticated dishes.

Tuna varieties and their characteristics

The wide range of culinary uses for this fish and its success are definitely down to its characteristics, which differ according to the type of tuna living in our seas. There are actually four varieties of tuna used for cooking, each with different characteristics and unique features. Let's take a closer look at these four types of tuna.

- Bluefin Tuna has a distinctive dark red meat and is recognizable by its half-moon tail. It's largely fished in the Mediterranean Sea, where fine specimens with valuable meat live. As an endangered species, it is “under special surveillance” because of its risk of extinction.
- Albacore or Longfin or White Tuna is considered highly valuable and can be found in the Mediterranean Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. This species gets its name from its distinctive appearance: its white color and pink tones of its meat, as well as its long, saber-shaped fins. White Tuna meat stands out for its highly regarded nutritional profile, which has a high protein content as well as a lower fat percentage than Bluefin Tuna.

Its nutritional value and the quality of its meat are some of the reasons we chose this species to create our White Tuna Fish in Olive Oil.

- Yellowfin Tuna, named for the yellow tips on their fins, has white meat that’s similar in appearance to Albacore, but much less valuable. It’s the most well-known species as it’s used for producing the majority of canned tuna on the market.
- Lastly, Little Tunny, or False Albacore, is a very common variety of tuna in the Mediterranean and it’s one of the most fished in the world. It’s characterized by its pink flesh and it’s also often used for producing canned tuna.

Tuna in brine and tuna in oil: the differences

When we talk about tuna, the first thing that comes to mind is, naturally, canned tuna or tuna in glass jars. Renowned for its convenience, its unmistakable taste and because it’s long been a staple in our cupboards. There are different types of canned tuna on the market, using different species of fish and different preservation methods. There are two main types of canned tuna: tuna in brine and tuna in oil. Let's take a look at the key features.

After being cooked, tuna in brine is preserved in a water and salt solution, without adding other ingredients. While tuna in oil, once cooked, is preserved in olive oil, extra virgin olive oil or seed oil.

In both cases, we're talking about natural products with no added artificial preservatives, because oil and brine are naturally preserving in themselves. Plus, packaging for both tuna in brine and tuna in oil, once filled and hermetically sealed, is thermally sterilized so it’s guaranteed to be preserved safely and healthily.

How many calories are in canned tuna?

Let's take a look at the nutritional values per 100 grams of drained tuna.

Canned tuna has, on average, 25 grams of high biological value protein, rich in amino acids. The proportion of fat can vary from 0.3 grams to 15 grams, depending on the preservation method and the type of oil used. All types of tuna have a good percentage of essential fatty acids, particularly Omega 3. They provide plenty of minerals, such as sodium, potassium, phosphorus and iron, as well as micronutrients and essential vitamins such as B12 and B3.

Tuna in brine and tuna in oil contain no carbohydrates making them an excellent source of protein for making snacks, lunches or dinners.

Tuna in brine has around 100/150 calories, while tuna in oil has around 200/250 calories, corresponding to 5% and less than 10% of the recommended daily intake of calories respectively.

Carli Tuna

Our products using White Tuna in Olive Oil have an unmistakable, unique flavor and tender texture. These characteristics are the fruit of careful, sustainable choices made all along the supply chain, from selecting tuna fishing areas to catching tuna with traditional fishing methods, aiming to not stress the fish. We also pay utmost attention to the subtle phases of meat processing, cooking and selecting and preparing the finished product.

Our White Tuna Fish in Olive Oil and White Tuna Filets in Olive Oil are produced according to precise procedures and with full respect for the raw ingredients. After initially cleaning and gutting the fish by hand, separating the abdominal part which we make our Tuna Belly from, it undergoes a long, slow and gentle cooking process in water and salt. Once the fish meat has been cooled, the Steaks and Fillets are carefully hand-selected for our two different products. This is where differences emerge: the Steaks, taken from the dorsal part of the fish, are mechanically packed in cans; while the Fillets, the leanest part of the tuna, taken from the abdomen and sides, are carefully hand-packaged into our glass jars, so as to preserve them intact. Only at the end is the olive oil added, which keeps their taste perfectly intact.

Our White Tuna Belly in Olive Oil, characterized by a captivating, unmistakable flavor, requires even more careful and thorough treatment because of the delicacy of its meat. That’s why it’s processed separately with particular care and always by hand.

Uniting sustainability and tradition in our tuna fishing and processing practices, as well as fully respecting the raw ingredients at all stages of our product preparation, plays a key role in their high quality and unique taste.

Recipes using tuna in oil

Tuna is a truly versatile ingredient that can be used in countless recipes, from the more elaborate ones for special occasions to the speedier ones for an improvised lunch. Here are some creative ideas.

Tuna in oil can be the star ingredient of a mouth-watering appetizer: Tuna and Potato Ramekins.  Just a few ingredients and a little bit of skill are need to make these ramekins: after boiling and mashing the potatoes, mix them with our White Tuna Fish in Olive Oil crumbled by hand and some Anchovy Fillets in Olive Oil. After gently mixing them together, use small amounts of the mixture to form small balls and place them in ramekins. Let them rest in the fridge for a few hours, and your appetizer is ready to serve.

When you're short on time, but want to make a tasty, filling lunch, why not make a Tuna Steak with Sesame Seed and Balsamic Vinegar Salad. Simply mix a handful of lettuce, spinach and some ripe tomatoes in a bowl, place the White Tuna Fish in Olive Oil on top and garnish with a spoonful of sesame seeds, our Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and a drizzle of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil Delicato.

If you want to impress your guests with something unique, try your hand at making Tuna and Whitebait Ravioli, a starter that brings the Mediterranean to the table and is sure to please everyone’s palate. Check out the full recipe on our website’s recipe section.

You really can make infinite recipes with canned tuna. The secret to it is letting its distinctive notes guide your imagination. Using our Tuna in Olive Oil products, no dish will ever be bland, not even for the most demanding palates.