What is Albacore?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Albacore are large marine fish in the tuna family. They prefer warm to temperate waters as a general rule, although they will range further in offshore waters. The fish are of high economic value to several nations, and are sold both fresh and canned around the world. Many consumers favor the creamy white flesh of the albacore over some other tuna species, which tend to be darker and more oily. Most fishmongers and stores carry this fish in both fresh and canned forms, with fresh albacore usually coming in the form of tuna steaks.

An albacore's diet might include small squid.
An albacore's diet might include small squid.

The name originates from al-bakura, an Arabic word used to describe the fish historically. The scientific name is Thunnus alalunga, and albacore is also known by a variety of other colorful names, including pigfish, tunny, German bonito, and bastard albacore. The extremely long pectoral fins of the fish have contributed to another common name, longfin tuna or simply longfin. Generally, the fish is clearly labeled as either albacore or white meat tuna, especially when it is canned.

Albacore tuna can contain relatively high levels of mercury.
Albacore tuna can contain relatively high levels of mercury.

The back of an albacore is metallic blue, helping it to blend in with the ocean when viewed from above. The fish have silvery white bellies for camouflage from below. The tail is deeply forked, and resembles a crescent moon. Allowed to mature, the fish can get as large as 132 pounds (60 kilograms). Its diet consists of crustaceans, squid, and other fish. Unlike some species of tuna, albacore do not intermingle with dolphins very frequently, making it a much more dolphin-friendly fish to consume.

Albacore are large fish in the tuna family.
Albacore are large fish in the tuna family.

The fish are abundantly distributed in the world's oceans as well as the Mediterranean. Many nations fish for albacore, both with nets and long lines. It is generally viewed as a sustainable fish option, although more information about global populations is needed to confirm the sustainability of albacore fishing. Some populations appear to be declining due to overfishing, raising concerns about regulation of the albacore industry.

Some populations of albacore tuna appear to be declining due to overfishing, raising concerns about regulation of the albacore industry.
Some populations of albacore tuna appear to be declining due to overfishing, raising concerns about regulation of the albacore industry.

Unfortunately for consumers who favor the fine flesh of the albacore tuna, the species is highly prone to bioaccumulation. They have much higher levels of mercury than other fish, including other species of tuna. Mature albacore caught on long lines can carry dangerously high levels. Pregnant women and children should avoid consuming more than one serving per week, and even this may later prove to be excessive.

Pregnant women should not consume an abundance of albacore.
Pregnant women should not consume an abundance of albacore.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


No one. I repeat, no one has ever gotten mercury poisoning from albacore. As an albacore fisherman myself, there were lean times when I ate it 3 times a day for weeks. I am healthy because the fish are healthy. The bad press is from industries with lobbying dollars.


I remember my mom using albacore tuna to make some great tuna patties. She always kept tuna on hand and used it when she was looking for something quick and easy.

She would usually make these tuna patties when my dad wasn't going to be home for dinner. All she did was mix a can of albacore tuna, an egg and some crushed saltine crackers and make patties out of them.

It would only take a few minutes to cook them on the stove and it was a hot meal that all of us kids loved.


There have only been a couple times in my life when I had fresh tuna. Most of the time I buy the canned tuna because it is convenient and easy to keep on hand.

Once I tasted albacore tuna I never went back to the regular tuna again. I really prefer the white albacore over anything else.

I make a great tuna casserole with albacore tuna, noodles, peas and cream of chicken soup. I will mix in some cheddar cheese and french fried onions, sprinkle some on top and bake in the oven.

This makes a great summer meal that is light and quick to fix. It is nice to have tuna for something different once in a while.


When I buy canned tuna, white albacore tuna in water is the only thing I buy. I don't like to eat most kinds of fish, but albacore tuna is one thing that I don't mind the taste of.

If I am hungry for a tuna salad sandwich, I will take a can of albacore tuna and mix in some mayonnaise with it. I will add some sweet pickles and lemon pepper to this.

This tastes great spread on bread with some fresh, crisp lettuce. The pickles really give it some crunch and extra flavor.


I ate an albacore tuna steak on a cruise ship once, and it was absolutely delicious. I’m guessing that it was fresh caught, since we were right there on the ocean.

I’m not exactly sure what it was marinated with, but I think that I detected hints of brown sugar and honey. They served it with a lemon wedge, and I believe I saw some butter dripping off the bottom of the fish.

This large steak was more than I could eat. Tuna has a way of filling you up fast. This might because of its extremely powerful yet yummy taste.


@OeKc05 - I like to buy canned tuna because it’s cheap, but like you, I wanted to spice it up somehow and eat it for dinner. I came up with a recipe that’s easy and delicious, and you might want to try it.

First, I chop up some onions and put them in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray. I pour in a small amount of teriyaki sauce and cook them on medium low for a few minutes.

Then, I put the tuna in the skillet and add some more teriyaki sauce. I stir it all up until everything is coated with the brown liquid. Once the onions become tender, it is ready to eat.


I have eaten tuna straight from the can on crackers for years. After I got married, I was constantly looking for easy and quick things to cook. I wanted a way to heat the canned tuna for supper and make it more appetizing and special.

My first experiment proved successful! I took four big pieces of thickly sliced white bread and buttered them. I sprinkled them with parsley and put them in a 350 degree oven for about five minutes.

Then, I removed them and scooped tuna on top of them, dividing it evenly between the pieces. I put it back in the oven and toasted it for ten minutes. It turned out to be delicious!


Albacore tuna is the most extremely smelly type of fish I have ever eaten, but I love it. When I throw away an empty tuna can, I have to rinse it first, because otherwise, the smell will permeate the whole house.

On that note, I never microwave tuna. It intensifies the odor, and it takes days to get the house smelling nice again. I had a coworker who put his tuna in the microwave, and the boss told him to never do that again!

It’s amazing how something that tastes so good could smell so bad! If I had never eaten tuna before and I sniffed it, I would not put it in my mouth.


Another nice thing about canned salmon is that it's wild-caught, which makes it more nutritious in some ways than farmed fish. Wild-caught fresh salmon is prohibitively expensive for my family, so we try to eat some canned salmon when we can.

I think you were smart to cut out the albacore altogether. Consumer Reports, I think it was, did a piece recently about how canned tuna has more mercury than you would think. I didn't eat any albacore or tuna when I was pregnant or nursing, but now that I'm "between babies" I sometimes eat it myself. Albacore tuna steaks, yummy for grown-ups. (Only light tuna, and only a little, for the little kids.)

Even light tuna does contain a surprising amount of mercury, so it surprises me that you still get tuna through WIC (which is, by definition, for pregnant and nursing moms and young kids). At least they dropped albacore from the program a few years back!


For pregnant women, a nice alternative to canned albacore is canned salmon. My wife used to love her homemade tuna salad with albacore, but now she's pregnant. We decided to cut it out completely. Then she'll be breastfeeding, and then we'll be cooking for our child as well as ourselves, so it will be long time before we can just eat all the tuna we want!

So we've learned some nice canned salmon recipes. It's more expensive than tuna, but it's still pretty cheap and much lower in mercury.

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