Bigeye versus Yellowfin Tuna

Ancient Hawaiians used handline and longline methods to catch ahi from canoes. They named yellowfin tuna ahi, which means "fire," because handlines went over the edge of the boats so fast that they would smoke and leave burn marks.

These days, in Honolulu, ahi refers to both bigeye and yellowfin tuna. There is a difference in the flavors but it’s so slight that most people can’t taste it. Both are sold without distinction simply as ahi, meaning that if you prefer one over the other, you’ll have to ask.

Some differences:

Bigeye costs more. Larger and with slightly more fat, it’s a more lucrative catch and is the species many Hawaii fishermen target. Usually, it’s more plentiful than yellowfin in our markets, but under certain conditions, such as in the summer, yellowfin may be more available.

Yellowfin has a firmer flesh. “I actually prefer yellowfin, both for poke and for cooking,” says Nico Chaize of Nico’s Pier 38. “It’s a firm fish with a nice bright color.”