What Does Yellowtail Taste Like?

Did you know that Yellowtail, a popular choice in Japanese cuisine, is often mistaken for a type of tuna due to its similar taste profile?

Yellowtail is also known as Japanese amberjack or buri. It has a subtly sweet buttery flavor, coupled with a firm yet flaky texture, making it a great fish everyday cooking if you can find it locally.

In this article, we’ll discuss its taste and texture to the various ways it can be prepared, and we’ll explore everything you need to know about this fascinating ingredient.

How Does Yellowtail Taste?

When you first bite into a piece of Yellowtail, you’ll notice a mild to medium flavor that’s slightly sweet. It has a really pleasant fish taste, especially if you’re used to the stronger flavors of other fish like salmon or mackerel.

What Does Yellowtail Taste Like

The taste of Yellowtail is clean and distinct, a characteristic that makes it a favorite among seafood enthusiasts.

Yellowtail is often compared to tuna, particularly when served raw.

However, it has its own unique charm that sets it apart. The subtle buttery notes and hints of banana-like sweetness add a layer of complexity to its flavor profile.

When cooked, its buttery taste becomes more pronounced, enhancing the dish’s overall flavor. However, it’s important to note that overcooking can lead to a dry texture and a loss of its delicate flavor.

Varieties Of Yellowtail

Yellowtail is a term that can refer to several varieties of fish, such as:

  • Japanese Yellowtail (Hamachi or Buri): This is the most common variety in sushi and sashimi. It has a mild to medium flavor that’s slightly sweet and a firm yet flaky texture. The taste is often compared to tuna, especially when served raw.
  • California Yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis): This variety is found in the Pacific Ocean, particularly off the coast of California. It has a stronger flavor than its Japanese counterpart and is often used in grilling.
  • Southern Yellowtail (Trachurus novaezelandiae): Found in the Southern Hemisphere, this variety has a more robust flavor and a firmer texture. It’s often used in stews and soups.

What Does Yellowtail Compare With?

Yellowtail can be compared to a few other types of fish:

Does Yellowtail Taste Fishy?

When it comes to Yellowtail, one of the first things you’ll notice is that it doesn’t have a strong fishy taste.

However, it’s important to note that the freshness of the fish can significantly influence its taste. A fresh Yellowtail will have a mild and pleasant flavor, while an older one may develop a stronger, fishier taste.

And the way Yellowtail is prepared can also affect its taste. For instance, grilling or broiling Yellowtail can enhance its natural flavors and reduce any potential fishiness. On the other hand, overcooking can make it taste more fishy.

Does Yellowtail Smell Fishy?

Just like its taste, the smell of Yellowtail is far from fishy. A fresh Yellowtail has a clean, almost neutral smell that’s indicative of its freshness.

This mild aroma is one of the reasons why Yellowtail is a popular choice for sushi and sashimi.

It’s important to remember that the smell of the fish can be a good indicator of its freshness. A strong, fishy smell can be a sign that the fish is not fresh and may not provide the best eating experience.

What Does Yellowtail Look Like?

When you first encounter a Yellowtail, you’ll notice its sleek, streamlined body that’s built for speed. The fish has a beautiful silver-blue color on the top, which gradually fades to a silvery white on its belly.

what yellowtail looks like

The Yellowtail gets its name from the vibrant yellow color that adorns its tail and fins. This splash of color adds to the fish’s overall appeal and makes it easily recognizable.

When it comes to the meat of the Yellowtail, it has a light pink to white color. The flesh is semi-firm and has a high oil content, giving it a glossy sheen. This oil content contributes to the fish’s buttery texture and enhances its flavor.

Yellowtail fillets can have a dark muscle line along the edge. This is a characteristic feature of many types of fish and is not a sign of poor quality.

In fact, this dark muscle line can add a depth of flavor to the cooked fish, making it even more delicious.

How To Eat Yellowtail

Sushi and Sashimi

Yellowtail, also known as Hamachi, is a popular choice for sushi and sashimi in Japanese cuisine. The raw fish is sliced into thin pieces and served with a dab of wasabi and soy sauce.

japanese yellowtail sushi

The Yellowtail’s mild, slightly sweet flavor pairs beautifully with the wasabi’s sharpness and the soy sauce’s saltiness, creating a balance of truly delightful flavors.

Grilled Yellowtail

Grilling is another popular way to prepare Yellowtail. The grill’s high heat sears the outside of the fish, locking in its juices and enhancing its natural flavors.

The result is a piece of fish that’s crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Grilled Yellowtail can be served with a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of soy sauce for added flavor.

Yellowtail in Stews

Yellowtail’s firm flesh holds up well in stews and soups. The fish is often cut into chunks and simmered in a flavorful broth until it’s cooked through.

The mild flavor of the Yellowtail complements the rich flavors of the stew, making it a comforting and satisfying dish.

Raw Yellowtail

Finally, Yellowtail can also be enjoyed raw in ceviche. The raw fish is marinated in citrus juices, which ‘cook’ the fish and give it a tangy flavor. The freshness of the Yellowtail shines through in these dishes, making them a refreshing and healthy choice.

How To Make Yellowtail Taste Good

Here are some tips on how to make Yellowtail taste even better:

  • Choose Fresh: The freshness of the fish plays a significant role in its taste. Fresh Yellowtail has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that’s truly delightful. So, always opt for the freshest Yellowtail you can find.
  • Proper Storage: If you’re not planning to cook the Yellowtail immediately, store it properly to maintain its freshness. Keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally on a bed of ice, and use it within a day or two.
  • Simple Seasoning: Yellowtail has a distinct flavor that doesn’t require a lot of seasoning. A bit of salt and pepper is often enough to enhance its natural flavors. If you want to add more flavor, consider marinating the fish in soy sauce, mirin, and sake.
  • Cooking Method: The way you cook Yellowtail can greatly affect its taste. Grilling or broiling Yellowtail can enhance its natural flavors and give it a delicious, crispy exterior. If you prefer a softer texture, consider steaming the fish or using it in a stew.
  • Don’t Overcook: Yellowtail has a firm yet flaky texture that can become dry and tough if overcooked. To prevent this, cook the fish just until it’s done, which is when it flakes easily with a fork.
  • Pairing: The right pairing can make Yellowtail taste even better. Pair it with wasabi and soy sauce if you’re serving it raw as sushi or sashimi. If it’s cooked, consider serving it with a side of fresh vegetables or a tangy citrus sauce.

How To Buy Yellowtail

yellowtail amberjack on ice

Here are some things to look for when buying Yellowtail:


The freshness of the fish is the most important factor to consider when buying Yellowtail. Fresh Yellowtail has a clean, almost neutral smell. A fishy smell can be a sign that the fish is not fresh.

The eyes should be clear and bright, not cloudy or sunken. The gills should be a vibrant red, and the flesh should spring back when pressed.

Color and Texture

The color of the Yellowtail can also give you an idea about its quality. The skin should be shiny silver-blue, and the flesh should be light pink to white. The flesh should be firm yet flaky, not soft or mushy.

Other Names

Yellowtail is also known by several other names, which varies depending on the region and the specific variety of the fish. Some of these names include Japanese amberjack, Hamachi, and Buri. Knowing these names can be helpful when looking for Yellowtail at the grocery store or fish market.

Buying from a Restaurant

If you’re buying Yellowtail from a restaurant, especially for sushi or sashimi, it’s important to choose a reputable place that’s known for its fresh seafood.

The restaurant should be able to provide information about the source of their Yellowtail and how it’s stored and prepared.

Yellowtail FAQs

Is Yellowtail a good fish to eat?

Absolutely! Yellowtail is not only delicious, with its mild to medium flavor and slightly sweet and buttery notes, but it’s also a healthy choice. It’s high in protein and low in mercury, making it a great addition to a balanced diet.

How does Yellowtail compare to other fish like tuna and salmon?

While Yellowtail compares to tuna due to its similar taste, it has a slightly sweeter and butterier flavor. Compared to salmon, Yellowtail has a milder flavor but shares a similar high oil content, which contributes to its buttery texture.

How is Yellowtail commonly prepared and served?

Yellowtail is popular in Japanese cuisine, where it’s often served raw as sushi or sashimi. It can also be grilled, broiled, or used in stews. Additionally, Yellowtail can be enjoyed raw in ceviche.

About Justin Micheal

Hey, I’m Justin and the home cook behind Food Meets Flavor. I have a passion for cooking and making food delicious. So, I started this blog to help others understand what different types of food taste like and how to make everyday meals taste even better.