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What Does Yellowtail Taste Like? How Is It Cooked?

What Does Yellowtail Taste Like? How Is It Cooked?

The yellowtail amberjack fish is a popular fish among Southern cooks, deepsea fishermen, and sushi chefs the world over. It represents a staple ingredient in many cuisines, due to its delicious flavor and texture.

It’s a fish that’s similar to tuna, but is, in fact, a different species altogether. Because it often gets confused with other kinds of fish, many home cooks wonder: What does yellowtail taste like? Is it different from tuna? If so, how so?

And because it’s such a popular fish for sashimi and sushi recipes, there is also some question about whether or not it can be cooked, and if so, how to cook it. 

Yellowtail vs. Yellowfin: What Is Yellowtail?

Yellowtail fish is a large fish — it’s 2.6 feet long and 50 to 110 pounds on average — that swims in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the Indo-Pacific Ocean, and the Southern Atlantic seas near Africa.

It’s also called amberjack or Japanese amberjack. It’s a fish species of the genus Seriola, which has nine recognized species of fish. 

It lives in warm, shallow subtropical waters in the wild, though it is also farmed in Japan. These fish like to swim in small schools when they’re young, though the adult yellowtail is often a solitary creature. 

Adults swim along reefs, kelp beds, and shorelines in waters that range from 64 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Sea Grant California, the yellowtail’s lifespan ranges from five to six years, with the oldest-living fish living to be 12 years old. Female amberjack fish are able to spawn by the time they turn two or three years old.

According to the University of Maine, the yellowtail fish is a fast swimmer and carnivorous. 

Additionally, some people erroneously believe that yellowtail fish are tuna but in actuality, the fish known as yellowtail tuna belongs to the amberjack family. They’re not tuna fish at all.

People confuse yellowtail fish with yellowfin tuna. The confusion between the two fish probably comes from the names. However, these two fish aren’t related at all, except maybe in color.

You can tell the difference between the two by looking at the meat of these fish. Yellowfin tuna has dark red meat, whereas yellowtail amberjack meat is slightly pink or sometimes, a creamy beige color.

Both fish are common ingredients in tuna sushi and sashimi.

What Other Fish Are Confused With Yellowtail Amberjack Fish?

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, there is a fish called yellowtail snapper that swims off the Gulf Coast. Its coloring is brighter than the yellowtail amberjack fish.

The yellowtail snapper is a staple in Southern cuisines around the Gulf Coast for centuries.

It’s related to the red snapper, but it’s easier to get because thus far, fishermen have not overfished the yellowtail snapper like they have its red-tailed cousin.

As far as cooking and eating it, it is a flavorful fish. Its meat is firm to the touch, and its similarity to grouper and swordfish makes it a good substitute in recipes that call for those fish.

How Can You Identify Yellowtail Fish?

Image Credit // Brian Gratwicke

Amberjack fish have some markings that give them away. Their backs usually range from a blue to an olive-green color. There will also sometimes be spots on the fish’s back.

These fish also will have a yellow streak down the sides of the body, with smaller streaks covering the fish’s undersides and belly. The dorsal and caudal fins may also be yellow in hue.

What Does Yellowtail Taste Like? Is Yellowtail a Good Fish to Eat? 

The flavor of the yellowtail is generally mild to moderate, with a buttery texture in the mouth. It’s a fatty fish, with a flavor that can be a bit sour and sometimes, savory, depending on the type of yellowtail you’re eating.

The consistency of yellowtail is less firm consistency than that of tuna when it’s eaten. It’s a very popular fish that people enjoy very much, both as a wild fish caught out in the open waters of the ocean and as well as a farmed fish.

Is Yellowtail Sushi? 

It can be. It’s raised as a sushi fish in Japan, though it is possible to cook it as well. According to the Thrillist, it’s very underrated as a sushi fish.

Sushi chefs prepare yellowtail in a number of ways. It can be sliced and laid over rice as sashimi. It’s also good to eat as sushi rolls, with some Nori seaweed and rice vinegar to flavor it.

Some sushi chefs will use yellowtail in sushi in place of another kind of fish, like tuna.

Unlike some ocean fish, it contains very little mercury. And like most fish, it’s also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

If I Want to Make Sushi From Yellowtail, What Should I Look For?

It’s important to note that the fish you use to make sushi at home should be labeled as sashimi / sushi-grade fish. You should also purchase it from a fish market that has a good reputation.

What Are Some Ways to Cook Yellowtail Fish? 

Like most fish, yellowtail amberjack meat responds to a number of different cooking methods.

According to LiveStrong, you can bake or grill the meat of the yellowtail amberjack. Grilling yellowtail with marinade and spices, like garlic, black pepper, chili powder, and curry adds to the flavor. You can also grill it with a bit of lemon. 

It’s additionally possible to poach the yellowtail in olive oil, along with some herbs and spices.

Finally, before you eat the fish, whether it’s sushi, sashimi, or cooked, be sure to gut the fish to get rid of its internal organs. It also needs to be scaled.

What Does Yellowtail Taste Like When It’s Cooked?

Yellowtail is a mild-tasting fish that has a taste that is somewhere between that of tuna and mahi-mahi. When it’s cooked, the meat of the fish flakes.

From a consistency standpoint, it feels a bit like steak; it’s similar in consistency to swordfish.

It’s also worth noting that the size of the fish you’re eating affects the flavor. If it’s a big fish, it’s going to have a stronger flavor.

FAQs about Yellowtail

Does yellowtail smell fishy? 

Generally speaking, if a fish smells fishy, it has started to go bad. That said, Epicurious points out that a fish will start to smell fishy in the fridge, even if it’s technically not bad. To prevent this, make sure that you eat fresh yellowtail if you’re going to have it as sushi. If you plan on cooking, make sure that you cook it right away. If the fish has been flash-frozen, you do have a bit of time, but usually, it’s best to eat it right away.

If you’re not completely sure, try soaking the fish in a milk bath for about 15 to 20 minutes before you cook it. The compounds in milk will pull the smelly compounds off the fish. If it’s still edible, the fish’s smell will change after the milk bath. It’ll take on a sweet, fresh scent again. The flavor should follow suit.

Lemon juice has been known to neutralize this issue as well, though the fish will take on a lemony taste following a treatment with lemons.

Can you cook yellowtail fish?

Yes. Yellowtail isn’t just for sushi. It can be cooked, and many methods for cooking it exist. 

What should I watch out for if I catch amberjack in the wild?

The fish has a number of parasites — about 40 or so — that tend to affix themselves to it. If you catch a yellowtail in the wild, check its tail for parasites. Cut off the tail before eating it.

Is yellowtail better than tuna?

This is really a matter of taste. Both are excellent fish and very popular in seafood dishes. Some chefs may like to work with raw tuna bit because its brilliant red color makes it eye-catching. However, this is a matter of aesthetics and not taste.

What do yellowtail amberjack fish eat?

Their diet consists of smaller animals, like small fish, crustaceans, and squids.

What are some other names for yellowtail fish?

Yellowtail fish are also called amberjack fish or Japanese amberjacks. People also call them jack fish or jacks. There are also Japanese names for the fish, including hamachi, hiramasa, and kanpachi or kampachi. Buri is also a nickname for the yellowtail fish.