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

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 21, 2020
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Bonitos are a tribe of medium-sized ray-finned predatory fish. They belong to the Scombridae family which also produces the mackerel, tuna, and Spanish mackerel tribes as well as the butterfly kingfish.

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

There are seven species across four genera which comprise the bonito tribe. Three of the four genera are monotypic genera, having a single species each.

Bonito is a word used to mean ‘pretty’ in Spanish and Portuguese, but the type of bonito we are talking about here refers to a fish often used in Japanese cuisine.

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 claim 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.

Also check out these posts where we talk about using bonito and related topics:

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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.

What are Bonito Flakes?

While bonito is often used in Japanese cooking, bonito flakes are even more closely associated with the regional cuisine.

Also called katsuobushi, the fish is dried, fermented, and smoked. Then pieces are shaved to add to dishes to provide a great umami flavor.

Bonito flakes are an interesting phenomenon. Because they are so lightweight, the heat from the food on the plate can cause them to move around.

It is for this reason that many say the flakes dance. They are, therefore, an interesting addition to cultural dishes.

Bonito flakes are commonly used in combination with dried kelp to make dashi, a broth that serves as the base for miso soups and other types of Japanese soups and sauces.

It can also be used for the following culinary purposes:

Best Bonito Brands

Best Bonito Brands

Bonito can be bought fresh in grocery stores while bonito flakes can be purchased from retailers online and in brick and mortar locations.

If you are looking for high quality bonito flakes, here are a few brands to choose from.

Eden

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Eden sells bonito flakes that are imported from Japan. They are aged and dried and have a rich, savory taste.

The brand recommends you try them in noodle broth with shiitake or in French onion soup.

Yamaki

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Yamaki is the top seller of bonito flakes in Japan. Their product is low in fat and calories and high in protein, EPA and DHA.

The flavor is rich and savory and makes for a great source of umami.

Nishimoto

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This brand offers bonito flakes sold in individual .104 oz. packets. The portable packaging makes it easy to add to dishes and serving size friendly.

It is a great option for take-out restaurants.

Ducky Duddle

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Ducky Duddle makes a unique offering selling a set that includes a bag of dried bonito flakes alongside a bag of dried seaweed.

This provides you with all you need to make a great dashi. You can also use the products together or separately to flavor any number of dishes.

Kaneso

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Sold in a 1 lb. value size, Shirakiku offers bonito flakes that are extremely rich in flavor. They advertise their product as working well in a wide variety of dishes and they recommend it as a simple topping for rice.

Bonito Nutritional Information

Bonito Nutritional Information

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

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

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

FAQ’s around bonito

Now that you know a bit about bonito, here are some FAQ’s 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 is best to eat it when it’s very fresh.

What is bonito in sushi?

what is bonito in sushi

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

Are Bonito and Skipjack the Same?

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

In fact, for canning purposes, bonito can be sold as skipjack. However, they are two different fish.

Can you eat bonito skin?

No, bonito must be skinned before it is 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 are not easy to catch. They have aggressive natures and they 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.

Do Bonito Flakes Expire?

Since bonito flakes are dried food, they last a long time. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an expiration date.

In general, bonito flakes will last 6 -12 months. However, it is best to check the packaging to see when yours expire.

What an I use instead of bonito flakes?

If you are making a recipe that calls for bonito flakes but you don’t have any on hand, shiitake mushrooms and kombu are both good substitutes. They are often used in meals as a vegetarian alternative.

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

Can you freeze bonito?

Bonito will not freeze well raw. It will get soft and mushy. However, if you freeze bonito after it’s been cooked, it can last for up to a year.

What do bonitos look like?

Bonitos are fast, predator fish that can be found all over the world. They have striped backs and silver bellies. They 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.

Are bonito flakes gluten-free?

A gluten-free diet excludes foods that contain gluten such as proteins found in wheat as well as barley, oats, and rye. Bonito flakes are free of gluten and are therefore approved for gluten-free diets.

Is bonito halal?

A halal diet consists of foods that Muslims consider safe to eat. These foods are ones that are not considered harmful to their bodies.

Although halal diets usually exclude the eating of animals, there are certain fish that are considered halal. Bonito is among them.

Is bonito keto?

The keto diet calls for low carb foods and a good amount of healthy fats. Bonito is low carb and rich in healthy fats. Therefore, it is ideal for a keto diet.

Is bonito vegetarian?

There are some gray areas concerning what a vegetarian can and cannot eat. However, the eating of dead animals is never considered vegetarian.

Therefore, bonito and other fish are included in the list of things that are not considered vegetarian.

Are bonito flakes kosher?

It is acceptable to make bonito in kosher kitchens. However, the flakes are not certified kosher.

Kosher dieters who wish to make recipes that call for bonito will usually substitute the flakes for whitefish.

Do bonito flakes contain MSG?

MSG is monosodium glutamate. It is commonly used to give Asian dishes an umami flavor. Many say it can cause damage to nerve cells; however, this has never been proven.

Others say it has caused adverse reactions such as headaches and digestive issues.

In any case, you don’t have to worry about the possibility of an adverse reaction when eating bonito or bonito flakes.

They are both MSG-free. In fact, bonito flakes are often used in dishes instead of MSG to provide an umami flavor without any possible harmful side effects.

What do bonito fish eat?

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

What are Atlantic bonito?

Atlantic bonito are 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 two different types of fish.

Bonita is also called false albacore or little tuna.

They resemble the bonito but they are smaller. Many consider them to be a trash fish because they have a stronger taste than other tunas and they are often used as bait for shark.

However, they are commercially important in the West Indies where they are sold in frozen, fresh, dried, and canned varieties.

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

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.