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Chutoro and otoro tuna slices side by side on a Japanese sushi board, highlighting their marbling differences

What’s the Difference Between Chutoro and Otoro Tuna?

05/04/2024 12:00 AM

Chutoro and otoro are two special types of tuna belly that sushi lovers can't get enough of. They both come from the tuna's belly, but they're different in some cool ways. Chutoro is called ‘medium fatty tuna’ and has a good balance of softness and richness. It looks really pretty with the fat marbled through it. Otoro, on the other hand, is the best of the best! It's super fatty and tender, making it melt in your mouth like butter. Trying both chutoro and otoro is a tasty adventure for any sushi fan.

Table of Contents

Sushi connoisseurs know that the quality and flavor of the tuna belly can make all the difference. Two sought-after grades, chutoro and otoro, stand out for their exceptional taste and texture. But what sets them apart? Let's explore the distinctions between these prized delicacies.

Chutoro and otoro are both cuts from the belly of the tuna, but they differ in terms of fat content, flavor profile, and overall indulgence. While they share similarities, each grade offers a unique experience that sushi enthusiasts can appreciate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Chutoro and otoro both come from the belly of the tuna.
  • Chutoro has less fat than otoro but still tastes great.
  • Otoro has the most fat, which makes it very rich and delicious.
  • Chutoro and otoro look different, with otoro having more marbling (fat mixed in with the meat).

Understanding Tuna Belly Grades

tuna belly grading system, showcasing the positions and fat content differences between chutoro and otoro

When it comes to sushi, the quality of the tuna belly is very important. It can make a big difference in how the sushi tastes and how much people enjoy eating it. To make sure everyone understands the different types of tuna belly, there is a grading system. This system puts tuna bellies into different groups based on things like their color, how much fat they have, and how they feel in your mouth. The two grades of tuna belly that people like the most for sushi are called chutoro and otoro.

Chutoro is sometimes called medium fatty tuna. It's a good balance between being soft and rich. It has a pretty pattern of fat marbled through it and feels like it melts in your mouth, which sushi lovers really like.

Otoro, on the other hand, is the highest grade of tuna belly. It's very fatty and tender. It's so creamy and tasty that it makes any sushi meal even better.

To help you understand the differences between these grades, look at the table below. It shows the main ways they are different:

Criteria Chutoro Otoro
Fat Content Higher than Akami (lean tuna), but lower than Otoro Highest fat content
Color Light to medium pink Deep red
Texture Luxuriously tender and buttery Extremely tender and almost creamy
Flavor Rich, delicate, and full of umami Intensely fatty, with a luxurious mouthfeel

As you can see, while both chutoro and otoro share certain characteristics, their fat content, color, texture, and flavor profiles set them apart. These distinctions make each grade unique and contribute to the overall dining experience when enjoying sushi.

The Meaning of Chutoro

Close-up of chutoro sushi on a bamboo mat, highlighting its delicate marbling and pink color

Chutoro is one of the most popular choices. But what does chutoro actually mean? Let's find out what makes this type of tuna belly so special and delicious.

Chutoro is the medium fatty part of the tuna belly, located between the lean akami and the super fatty otoro. It's known for having a balanced amount of fat, which gives it a luxurious feel in your mouth and a delicate flavor.

The word 'chutoro' comes from two Japanese words: 'chu,' which means medium, and 'toro,' which means the belly meat of the fish. This name shows that chutoro has a medium level of fat, which makes it different from both the leaner cuts and the super buttery otoro.

Chutoro has a beautiful marbled look, with strips of fat mixed into the deep ruby-red tuna meat. This marbling not only makes chutoro look pretty but also makes it juicy and melt-in-your-mouth.

Because it has a balanced amount of fat and a delicate flavor, chutoro is often thought of as one of the best choices for sushi. It has the perfect mix of lean and fatty parts, giving it a rich savory taste that's not too strong.

Whether you enjoy it as sashimi or in a nigiri sushi, chutoro gives you a delightful mix of flavors and textures that make even the pickiest sushi lovers happy. Its popularity among sushi experts shows just how exceptionally good and tasty it is.

The Meaning of Otoro

Otoro nigiri with rich marbling and soy sauce glaze, set against a luxurious dining background

Otoro is one of the most special and loved types of tuna belly. The word 'otoro' comes from two Japanese words: 'o' (大), which means big, and 'toro' (とろ), which means tuna. Otoro is known for being very fancy and delicious. People love it because it has a lot of fat, a rich flavor, and a texture that melts in your mouth.

Otoro is the best of the best when it comes to sushi. It has a lot of fat marbled throughout the meat, which makes it feel buttery and smooth in your mouth. This high fat content gives otoro a unique richness and depth of flavor that you can't find in other types of tuna belly. Every bite of otoro is a special experience that combines a savory taste, tenderness, and juiciness.

Sushi experts who really appreciate fancy and delicious food often choose otoro. The perfect mix of fat and lean meat in otoro creates a flavor that is both strong and refined. It's this special combination of features that makes otoro stand out and makes it the top choice for sushi lovers who want an unforgettable dining experience.

'Otoro is the best of the best in the world of sushi. It's a delicacy that has the finest qualities of tuna belly. Its smooth texture and rich flavor are simply unmatched.'

Whether you enjoy otoro by itself or with other ingredients, it takes your sushi meal to the next level. Its amazing qualities make it a perfect choice for nigiri sushi, where a small slice of otoro is placed on top of a small ball of sushi rice. Otoro is so delicate that it easily melts in your mouth, leaving behind a lasting taste that is both indulgent and impossible to forget.

With its exceptional features, otoro has rightfully earned its place as one of the best toro options for sushi. Its natural qualities, combined with the skillful work of sushi chefs, create a culinary work of art that shows the true artistry and dedication behind sushi-making.

Flavor and Texture Comparison

Chutoro and otoro sashimi comparison on an elegant plate, showcasing their unique textures and marbling

When it comes to chutoro and otoro, the special types of tuna belly used in sushi, there are small but important differences in how they taste and feel. These differences create unique and delicious experiences for people who eat them.

How Much Fat They Have

Chutoro has a balanced amount of fat, with a marbled look that makes it feel smooth and buttery in your mouth. The fat is spread evenly throughout the meat, so it melts in your mouth. Otoro, on the other hand, has even more fat, making it very rich and tasty. It's often called the fattiest and most delicious part of the tuna.

How Tender and Smooth They Are

Chutoro has a perfect balance of tenderness. It feels smooth and soft, but still has a nice chew to it. Otoro takes tenderness to the next level because it has so much fat. It feels velvety and almost creamy in your mouth. It practically melts on your tongue, leaving a luxurious feeling.

Their Savory Flavor

Both chutoro and otoro have a strong savory flavor, which is something people really like in sushi. However, the strength of this flavor is different between the two. Chutoro has a refined and well-rounded savory taste, while otoro has an even stronger and more concentrated burst of savoriness.

When comparing the flavor and texture of chutoro and otoro, it's clear that even though they have some things in common, each one has its own special qualities that different people might like better.

Let's sum up the characteristics of chutoro and otoro in a table:

Characteristic Chutoro Otoro
Level of Fattiness Well-balanced fat content High fat content
Tenderness and Texture Smooth and supple Velvety and creamy
Savory Flavor Refined and well-rounded Intense and concentrated

When you know and enjoy the differences in how chutoro and otoro taste and feel, you can make smart choices about which one to eat. This way, you can really appreciate the special yumminess that each type of tuna belly offers.

How Chutoro and Otoro Look

When you look at chutoro and otoro, you can see some big differences that make them even more appealing on a sushi plate. Knowing how these two types of tuna belly look and are presented can help us enjoy them even more.

Their Color and Marbling

Chutoro has a bright pink to reddish color, with some marbling (which is the fat) throughout the meat. This marbling makes the sushi look really pretty and interesting. Otoro, on the other hand, has a deep, dark red color and a lot more fat. This creates a lot of marbling that looks beautiful against the dark red color.

'The marbling in chutoro and otoro not only makes them taste and feel better but also makes the whole sushi dish look more appealing.'

How They Are Presented and Served

Chutoro and otoro are often served as nigiri sushi, which is when a small ball of rice is topped with a thin slice of fish. The way they are presented can be different, but sometimes chutoro is draped over the rice to make it look even better. Otoro is usually cut carefully to show off its fancy marbling and is often served as a separate piece. The different ways these two types of tuna belly look and are presented make them very eye-catching on any sushi plate.

How They Feel in Your Mouth

While the way chutoro and otoro look is important, it's also good to remember that how they feel in your mouth also affects how much you enjoy them. The perfect balance between the tender meat and the creamy fat makes eating sushi even better. It creates a mix of feelings in your mouth that are both visually exciting and satisfying to eat.

By understanding how chutoro and otoro look different, sushi lovers can appreciate the artistic skills and attention to detail that go into making a sushi experience that looks amazing and tastes delicious.

Sushi Suggestions

When it comes to sushi, the type of tuna belly you choose can make a big difference in how it tastes and how much you enjoy it. To help you pick the best one, we've put together some suggestions on which type of tuna belly is best for different kinds of sushi. Whether you're a sushi expert or just starting out, these tips will help you make smart choices when eating out or making sushi at home.

Chutoro: Delicate and Balanced

If you want a tuna belly that has the perfect mix of richness and tenderness, chutoro is the way to go. It has a medium amount of fat and a beautiful marbled look, which makes it feel buttery in your mouth and gives it a subtle savory flavor. This type of tuna belly goes really well with nigiri sushi, where the delicate flavors of the fish can really stand out.

Otoro: Rich and Indulgent

For those who want the ultimate sushi treat, otoro is the clear winner. With its high fat content and luxurious, melt-in-your-mouth feel, otoro offers a richness that sushi lovers can't get enough of. This type of tuna belly is best enjoyed as sashimi or served as nigiri sushi with very few other ingredients, so its amazing flavors can be the star of the show.

'The buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture of otoro is unrivaled in the world of sushi. It's a luxurious experience that every sushi lover should try at least once.'
– Chef Takahiro Yoshida

White Tuna: A Budget-Friendly Option

For those who want a cheaper choice that still tastes great, white tuna (escolar) can be a good pick. Even though it's not technically a tuna belly, white tuna has a similar smooth texture and delicate flavor that reminds people of chutoro. This option goes well with many different types of sushi, making it a flexible and affordable choice for sushi lovers on a budget.

Whether you like the delicate balance of chutoro, the indulgence of otoro, or the affordability of white tuna, the type of tuna belly you choose for your sushi is up to you. Try out different types and preparations to find your own favorite combinations and enjoy the unique flavors that each type brings to the table.

Chutoro and Otoro: How Easy They Are to Find and How Much They Cost

When it comes to finding chutoro and otoro and how much they cost, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, otoro usually costs more than chutoro because it's rarer and even better quality. The higher fat content and melt-in-your-mouth feel of otoro make it very popular among sushi lovers, which is why it has a higher price tag.

Also, how easy it is to find both chutoro and otoro can change based on what's happening in the market and the environment. The number of tuna out there can be affected by things like too much fishing, changes in the ocean, and where the tuna are swimming. These things can change how much high-quality tuna belly is available, which can make it harder to find and also change how much it costs.

Even though chutoro is usually easier to find than otoro, it's still thought of as a very special type of tuna belly and can cost a lot in the market. Chefs and sushi lovers both appreciate the perfect balance of flavor and texture that chutoro has, which makes it a popular choice for making sushi.

Now, let's take a closer look at how chutoro and otoro compare when it comes to finding them and how much they cost:

Tuna Belly Grade Availability Pricing
Chutoro Relatively more available High price, but lower compared to otoro
Otoro Rare and limited Very high price, considered a luxury

Note: Prices and availability can vary depending on location, seasonality, and market conditions.


In conclusion, knowing the difference between chutoro and otoro is really important for sushi lovers who enjoy the special qualities of these delicious tuna belly options. In this article, we've looked at the main things that make these two prized types of tuna belly different. We've learned that chutoro has the perfect mix of fat and tenderness, which makes it a popular choice for sushi fans who want a nice balance of flavors. Otoro, on the other hand, has even more fat and melts in your mouth, making it the ultimate luxury that is highly desired by sushi experts.

By looking at the flavor, texture, appearance, and presentation of chutoro and otoro, we've pointed out the unique qualities that make them different. These individual characteristics create different experiences and play a big role in the overall sushi dining experience. Whether you like the refined elegance of chutoro or the rich luxury of otoro, both types show the skill and artistry behind traditional sushi.

As you start your sushi adventure, we encourage you to explore the small differences between chutoro and otoro, enjoying each bite and appreciating the careful attention and expertise that goes into showcasing these amazing ingredients. With a better understanding of chutoro and otoro, you can make smart choices when picking sushi and fully enjoy the culinary wonders of this beloved Japanese tradition. Enjoy your meal!

Frequently Asked Questions About Chutoro and Otoro

Here are some questions people often ask about chutoro and otoro.

Q: What's the main difference between chutoro and otoro when choosing tuna for sushi?

A: The biggest difference between chutoro and otoro when it comes to sushi is how much fat they have and which part of the tuna they come from. Chutoro is considered medium fatty tuna, coming from the belly area but closer to the sides. It has a balance between the lean and fatty parts. Otoro, on the other hand, is the fattiest part of the tuna, found in the very center of the belly. It has a rich, buttery flavor that melts in your mouth. Both are very special cuts in Japanese sushi because of their unique textures and flavors.

Q: What kinds of tuna are used most often in sushi and sashimi, and where do chutoro and otoro fit in?

A: The most common types of tuna used in sushi and sashimi are bluefin, yellowfin, and bigeye. Bluefin is the most prized, especially for its fatty parts like chutoro and otoro. Chutoro and otoro are considered the best cuts of tuna. Chutoro has a medium fatty texture that's perfect for sushi and sashimi lovers who like a balance of flavor and texture. Otoro, on the other hand, is very fatty and melts in your mouth, which many people love.

Q: How do chefs choose when to use chutoro or otoro in a piece of sushi or sashimi?

A: Chefs choose to use chutoro or otoro based on the texture and flavor they want in the sushi or sashimi dish. Chutoro, being a medium fatty tuna, is picked for its balanced fat content. It gives a rich flavor without being too overwhelming, making it great for many different kinds of sushi. Otoro, with its higher fat content, is chosen for dishes where a more luxurious, melt-in-your-mouth texture is wanted. The choice also depends on what the person likes and what other ingredients, like wasabi, are used to make the overall flavor even better.

Q: How does wasabi help make the flavor of chutoro and otoro better in Japanese sushi?

A: Wasabi plays a big role in Japanese sushi by making the rich flavors of chutoro and otoro even better and more balanced. The spicy and strong taste of wasabi cuts through the fatty richness of both types of tuna. It cleans your taste buds and lets you taste the subtle flavors of the fish. It adds another layer of complexity to the sushi experience, working well with the fatty texture of chutoro and otoro. Its unique heat and smell are considered a very important part of traditional Japanese sushi.

Q: Can you explain why akami, chutoro, and otoro are important as different cuts of tuna when it comes to tuna sashimi?

A: When it comes to tuna sashimi, akami, chutoro, and otoro are three different cuts of tuna, each with its own unique texture and flavor. Akami is the leanest part of the tuna, known for its deep red color and firm texture. It has a clean, slightly sweet flavor. Chutoro, the medium fatty tuna, gives a perfect balance between the lean and fatty parts of the tuna. It's tender and flavorful. Otoro, the fattiest cut, is loved for its buttery texture and rich flavor that melts easily in your mouth. These cuts are a big part of the art of sashimi, letting chefs show off the different flavors and textures of tuna.

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zenDine blog author

Haru is a food writer from Tokyo who writes for the company zenDine. He loves to explore all kinds of Japanese food, from simple home dishes to fancy meals at top restaurants.

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