Tuna’s high fat content gives it a distinctly rich and meaty flavor that pairs superbly with a variety of spices, from earthy herbs such as rosemary and sage to pungent ground pepper spices. For the best results, keep the tuna variety and preparation in mind when selecting seasonings. Salads made using canned tuna benefit from the addition of fresh herbs, but the same herbs wouldn’t hold up to the heat if used to season seared tuna steaks.
Skipjack, or arctic bonito, tuna is found most frequently canned, as the variety typically does not grow large enough to produce sizable steaks. With a high fat content and strong flavor, canned skipjack may be successfully paired with bold spices such as cayenne pepper, fennel and rosemary. A Mediterranean tuna casserole seasoned with garlic powder, oregano, and basil makes a complete dinner. Add some Asian inspiration to tuna salad seasoned with ground ginger, chili pepper flakes and cilantro. A few splashes of lemon juice adds a refreshing, acidic brightness to tuna salads.
Albacore is milder in flavor and lighter than skipjack, making it a desirable addition to garden and tuna salads. Pair albacore with less pungent spices such as freshly chopped parsley and dill or a few dashes of paprika, which won’t overwhelm its delicate flavor. A garlic, lime and cilantro vinaigrette works as a topping for albacore topped garden salads. Add a welcome earthiness with ground cumin, mustard and coriander. Lemon-pepper seasoning is a refreshing addition to tuna topping garden salads.
Bluefin is prized by tuna connoisseurs for its silky, fatty flesh. Best enjoyed raw or very briefly pan-seared, bluefin pairs well with fresh herbs and Asian spices. Season tuna for tuna tataki with ginger, sesame seeds, and cracked black pepper or drizzle seared steaks with a Thai basil or lemon-mint vinaigrette. If you want to make your own sushi, add a sprig of fresh herb like chervil or sage and pair it with a garlic and cilantro soy sauce.
Yellowfin tuna is similar in quality to bluefin but is less expensive and more readily available, either fresh or canned. Drizzle a pan-seared yellowfin tuna steak with a chive and scallion vinaigrette or pair with a wasabi mustard sauce. Form canned yellowfin into patties and season with chili powder, onion powder and salt and pepper to create a tuna burger. Top tuna burgers with a garlic dill mayo, a sweet ginger mustard or a thyme tomato jam.