Bonito: did you know you can eat it dried & fresh?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  May 12, 2022

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Bonito is a type of medium-sized ray-finned predatory fish often used in Japanese cuisine.

They belong to the Scombridae family, which also produces mackerel, tuna, and Spanish mackerel fish, as well as the butterfly kingfish.

They closely resemble skipjack tuna and can be used as a substitute for skipjack in recipes.

Favorite Asian Recipes
Favorite Asian Recipes

There are 7 species across 4 genera that comprise the bonito tribe. 3 of the 4 genera are monotypic genera, having a single species each.

Bonito what is it and how do you use it

Bonito is often incorporated into food dishes. It has a firm texture, a dark color, and a moderate fat content.

Many say it can be used with light seasoning because they say its taste is delicious. It can be eaten grilled, pickled, or baked.

Now that you have some background as to what bonito is, read on to find out how it can be enjoyed in dishes.

But first, check out this video that user Way of Ramen made of homemade bonito flakes:

Popular bonito recipe dishes

Bonito recipes

Bonito is quite delicious and there are several ways to incorporate it into your recipes. Here are some examples of how it can be prepared:

  • Grilled bonito: Bonito benefits from high-temperature cooking. Hence, it’s quite tasty when grilled. If you’re grilling bonito, make sure the grill is clean and the fish is well-oiled.
  • Pan-seared bonito (also called bonito tataki in Japan): A smoke point oil such as canola, grapeseed, or sunflower should work well to pan sear bonito over high heat. When cooked, the outside should be seared and the inside should maintain a pink color.
  • Pressure-canned bonito: This will give bonito a taste that’s similar to chunk light tuna. To get the taste, put the fish into pint cans with a pinch of salt and a spoonful or 2 of olive oil. Pressure can at 10 psi for 90-100 minutes to get the desired results.
  • Smoked bonito: Bonito tastes great smoked after sitting in a brine of brown sugar, salt, and water. Fruitwood makes a great choice in adding to the flavor of the fish as it’s being smoked.
  • Greek baked bonito with herbs and potatoes: This well-known Greek dish requires seasoning the fish and potatoes, then baking them together in a casserole to make for a delicious meal.
  • Skipjack tuna steak with Japanese-style sauce and garlic chips: This recipe requires cooks to pan sear the bonito, cover it with a soy sauce variation, and add garlic chips for flavor.
  • Teriyaki glazed bonito with vinegared wakame salad: For this recipe, you’ll need to cover the bonito in a teriyaki glaze. Char-grill and serve it with a side of wakame and vinegar salad warmed to perfection.

Bonito nutritional information

Bonito Nutritional Information

Bonito is a low-fat, high-protein fish that’s rich in omega-3s. Although it tastes like tuna, it doesn’t contain high mercury levels. It’s also high in potassium, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

Dried bonito broth is particularly recommended as a health food. It’s known to reduce fatigue and improve blood pressure.

It’s also been studied for its potential to reduce oxidative stress and lower blood pressure.

FAQs around bonito

Now that you know a bit about bonito, here are some FAQs that may answer any other questions you have.

Can you eat bonito raw?

Yes, you can eat bonito raw. However, the fish spoils easily, so it’s best to eat it when it’s very fresh.

What’s bonito in sushi?

what is bonito in sushi

Since bonito is similar to tuna, it can be eaten in sushi and many say it’s quite delicious in this application. However, since bonito can only be fished in summer and spring, it’s a rare treat.

Are bonito and skipjack the same?

Bonito has a similar color and taste to skipjack tuna and they’re often substituted for one another in recipes.

In fact, for canning purposes, bonito can be sold as skipjack. However, they’re 2 different fish.

Can you eat bonito skin?

No, bonito must be skinned before it’s eaten.

The bloodline must be removed as well. Bleeding it will improve the flavor dramatically.

How do you catch bonito?

How to catch bonito

Bonito fish aren’t easy to catch. They’re aggressive in nature and will fight back when baited.

If you choose to fish for bonito, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of having a successful outing. Here are some suggestions:

  • Trolling: Trolling is a good way to catch a lot of bonito. To use this method, take a net and drag the ocean floor. That way, you’ll catch multiple schools.
  • Line fishing: With this simple method, you can drop a line in the water and wait until you get a catch. Lines that are 4 – 8 feet will work best.
  • Fishing rod: Most people use a fishing rod to fish, but they may not realize it takes some skill. The rod should be sturdy and flexible so that it holds up well when you’re battling with your prey.
  • Other tips: Bonito will be most attracted to frozen fish, so it’s best to use these as bait. Chum, pilchards, and sardines are recommended, but you can experiment to find which works best in your location. Vary the bait’s position so it floats both at the bottom of the water and near the surface at times. This will make for optimal bonito catching.

Also read: these are the best vegan substitutes to make dashi without bonito

Can you freeze bonito?

Bonito won’t freeze well raw; it’ll get soft and mushy. However, if you freeze bonito after it’s been cooked, it can last for up to a year.

What do bonito fish look like?

Bonito fish are fast predators that can be found all over the world. They have striped backs and silver bellies, and can grow to about 75 cm (30 inches).

Like tuna, they have a streamlined shape with a narrow tail base and a forked tail. They also have a row of small finlets behind their dorsal and anal fins.

What do bonito fish eat?

Bonito fish eat a diet of mackerel, menhaden, alewives, silversides, sand lances, squid, and other fish.

What is Atlantic bonito?

Atlantic bonito is bonito fish found in the shallow waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Dead Sea.

What’s the difference between bonito and bonita?

At first, one might think these are simply the masculine and feminine forms of the word “bonito” in the Spanish language. While that may be true, they also refer to 2 different types of fish!

Bonita is also called false albacore or little tuna. It resembles bonito, but it’s smaller.

Many consider it to be a trash fish because it has a stronger taste than other tunas and is often used as bait for shark.

However, it’s commercially important in the West Indies where it’s sold in frozen, fresh, dried, and canned varieties.

Enjoy bonito flakes

Now that you know all there is to know about bonito, will you be adding this fish to your recipes?

Whether you eat it fresh or dried, it’s sure to add tasty flavors to your dishes!

Also read: these are the best bonito flakes you can buy

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.