Albacore vs Tuna: What’s the Difference?

Fastest Sea Animal: Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
© lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

Written by August Croft

Updated: October 12, 2023

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If you have always wondered about the differences between albacore vs. tuna, you’ve come to the right place. It is important to note that all albacores are tuna, but not all tuna fish are albacores. Albacore tuna is one of many different types of tuna fish found in the wild as well as in canned form on our grocery store shelves.

In this article, we will discuss many of the key differences between albacore and its tuna cousins, both in terms of their commercial culinary uses and their physical differences. If you’ve always wanted to learn more about the different varieties of tuna fish out there swimming in the sea, let’s dive in and learn more about them now! 

Comparing Albacore vs Tuna

albacore vs tuna
The Atlantic bluefin tuna can reach nearly 15 feet in length, and over 1500 pounds, making it much larger than the average albacore tuna.
AlbacoreTuna
FamilyScombridaeScombridae
Lifespan10-12 years5-9 years, or over 30 years, depending
Flavor ProfileMild fishy taste; firm textureFishier taste; more tender texture
SizeAlmost 50 inches long and over 75 poundsUp to ten feet long and over 500 pounds, depending on type of tuna
AppearanceShiny silver body, streamlined fins and spinesFound in a wide variety of colors including yellow and blue; fins and spines range in size and length

The Main Differences Between Albacore and Tuna

albacore vs tuna

 It is important to note that all albacores are tuna, but not all tuna fish are albacores.

©lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

There are a surprising number of differences between albacore vs. tuna. While all albacore fish are technically tuna, not all tuna fish are albacores. There are many different types of tuna fish ranging in size and uses, with albacore ranking as a common fish for canned tuna fish uses. However, there are even more differences between albacore and other tuna types, so let’s dive in and learn more about these differences in detail. 

Albacore vs Tuna: Lifespan

A key difference between albacore vs. tuna lies in their lifespan. Albacore fish live an average of 10 to 12 years, while many different tuna species live far less than this or far more, depending. For example, yellowfin tuna live an average of 5-9 years while Atlantic bluefin tuna live anywhere from 25-50 years!

Out of all of the different tuna species and varieties, albacore tuna tend to live less than the majority. This life span could be due to their smaller size, making them easy food for some oceanic predators. It could also be affected by their use in many commercial businesses, including canning around the world. 

albacore vs tuna

Albacore fish live an average of 10 to 12 years, while many different tuna species live far less than this or far more, depending.

©lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

Albacore vs Tuna: Appearance

Another difference between albacore and tuna fish is their overall appearance. While each type of tuna looks different from the other, albacores are unique in their shiny silver coloring. Their underbellies are a whitish silver, while their upper half is an attractive dark blue. Some tuna fish share the albacore’s unique dual coloring, but few fish are as distinct. 

Albacore tuna also has smaller, more streamlined fins when compared to many other types of tuna fish. For example, the yellowfin tuna has long and elegant fins on its body, while albacore tuna fins are closer to their body, making them more streamlined and capable swimmers

albacore vs tuna

Some tuna fish share the albacore’s unique dual coloring, but few fish are as distinct.

©jurgal photographer/Shutterstock.com

Albacore vs Tuna: Flavor Profile and Culinary Uses

While you may not consider this a difference between albacore vs. tuna, the flavor profile and overall culinary uses differ between these fish varieties. For example, albacore tuna is almost exclusively used in a canned setting, while many other varieties of tuna can be eaten raw as part of a luxury cuisine experience. 

While albacore can be used in a sashimi or sushi setting, there are many other types of tuna that are better suited for this application. Albacore has a much lighter flavor then other tuna varieties, making it ideal for canning or wherever tuna is not used as the primary ingredients. Atlantic bluefin tuna, for example, is ideal in a raw application, given its firm texture and clean flavor. 

albacore vs tuna

While albacore can be used in a sashimi or sushi setting, there are many other types of tuna that are better suited for this application.

©David Vogt/Shutterstock.com

Albacore vs Tuna: Size

A final key difference between albacore tuna versus other types of tuna can be found in their overall size and weight. Albacores are among some of the smallest tunas in the sea, but this does not mean they are small by any means. The average length of an albacore is roughly three to four feet long and they weigh less than 200 pounds. 

However, many other varieties of tuna fish can reach double this size, if not more! The Atlantic bluefin tuna can reach nearly 15 feet in length, and over 1500 pounds, making it much larger than the average albacore tuna. While most albacore and tuna fish varieties don’t reach their maximum length or wait due to predation and fishing, it is still a key difference between albacores and other types of tuna fish. 

Are There Nutritional Differences Between Albacore and Tuna?

Yes. The issue is about the mercury level in tuna, which causes people to question whether to buy white or light tuna.

White tuna is albacore only. While albacore and other tunas have about the same calories and protein, since albacore is a larger fish it has higher levels of heart-healthy Omega-3 fats. It also has Vitamins D and B-12, selenium, and iron. However, albacore has three times the mercury of skipjack, which is used in canned light tuna.

Skipjack tuna is considered the healthiest tuna by the FDA, which gave it a “Best Choice” rating, but yellowfin and albacore are listed as “Good Choice,” so they are still acceptable, and in fact, are nutritious. As long as you don’t eat massive amounts of albacore (white tuna), you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. (By the way, bigeye tuna has the highest mercury level.)


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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