Tips on Shopping for Tuna Sashimi at the Grocery Store

Tuna can be one of the most delicious sashimi out there. Buying sushi at the grocery store (Korean or Japanese) market can be a cost effective alternative to buying it at the restaurant. However, the markets usually bring inconsistent quality, taste, and some cuts may leave you unsatisfied.

These markets want to get the most out of their fish, and usually they will try to sell every block of tuna they cut, no matter how delicious or chewy it is! Here’s some tips that might help you find better tuna sashimi!

Tuna can be delicious, but often chewy tuna really ruins the whole experience! It should melt in your mouth! The goal of these tips are not to direct you to stumbling upon a piece of Toro, but to try to prevent you from choosing a piece that may be chewy!

1. Judge a Tuna By Its Color!

Color is very important to all sashimi, but tuna perhaps has the strongest color variations that need to be checked. Now taste is a very subjective topic so here is a chart of colors and a description of their possible tastes:


Deep Red (above) – Metallic, usually very soft, fragile but not necessarily “buttery” and rich.

Low risk of it being chewy.


red tuna

Bright (Neon) Red – This is usually a sign of tuna that has been treated with carbon monoxide. Now while there’s not much health concern regarding this fairly common procedure, the taste will most likely be less fishy. If you like “fishy” taste then you may loose that by choosing this type of tuna. It should be fairly obvious that this tuna is treated, the bright red accompanied with some red juices should be a red flag.

Low risk of chewy sashimi,
but the “true” tuna, fishy flavor may be lost! This could be a good thing or a bad thing.

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Light Pink (With Pale Stripes) – I would suggest avoiding this as there’s a high probability that this can be very chewy and unpleasant. Pay specifically close attention to the stripes, the whiter the stripes, the chewer it can be!

High risk of chewy fish.
(Pictured above is a refrigerated piece, not frozen) 



Light Red / Pink – This is your lucky day! Some creamy, good tuna must have slipped through the cracks! It’s not like the workers who cut the fish know exactly what’s good and what’s not, these are minimum wage guys being paid to cut and package fish, it’s unlikely that they care. So when you see this good stuff priced the same as the regular sushi, it would be a good opportunity to buy!

Medium risk of chewy sushi.
(Pictured above is a refrigerated piece, not frozen. That’s paper not frost!) 

*NOTE this does not suggest that you found Toro or O-Toro, but that you found a slightly fattier piece or regular tuna.

Now these color descriptions are just generalizations, so we might not be able to judge for sure. I’ve included risk factors on the probability of chewy sashimi.



Look at the following cuts of sashimi, various colors and textures. Which one would you pick?

I know which one I would choose! #3 or #1 both look enticing and show low risk of chewy sashuimi.

#2 is too pale, it might have a slight chance of being more fatty and flavorful, but those big white stripes jetting through it is a high risk indicator of chewy sashimi!

#4 has a good shade of red the red meat will definitely be soft! Two things I notice about this piece, the awkward cut and the fact that the “grain” or stripes of the create a V shape and go in opposing directions. This is definitely chewy territory!

#3 has a great cut, taken from a deep, inner location of the fish! Stripes are minimal and the shade is light, it appears the most promising.

#1 would be my second choice, only is I was on a budget, not only is the price cheaper but the shade looks good. (compensate for the light right above) The grain appears in order.

3. Conclusion

Judge a tuna by its color! Look out for those grain! And remember the descriptions I explained out above to increase your chances of picking a good cut! Remember, these markets are out to sell ever scrap of fish they possibly can sell! That means the good stuff and sometimes the chewy stuff. Be on your guard and be observant!

*NOTE: These are just tips, I can’t guarantee results, but I do have a heck of a lot of experience shopping for sashimi! Sometimes a cut can look good while the “unattractive” site is purposely placed to face the bottom of the tray! So there’s no guarantees on any of this!

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