The Scientific Reason Tuna Has A Meaty Flavor

Whether you enjoy eating tuna on a mayo-slathered sandwich or prefer to savor it in a protein-packed salad, you may have noticed that compared to other seafood, tuna is a bit of a fish out of water. Because while salmon and mackerel are known for their more fish-esque flavor, tuna is beloved for its meat-like taste. In fact, Steak Society reports that this fish's similarity to beef has made tuna steaks an ideal swap for the beef cut. So this may leave you wondering — why does tuna taste like it came from the farm and not the sea?

Well, there's actually a scientific reason people who usually don't like fish may find they can't get enough of the meat-like taste of tuna. While HyVee reports more "fishy" flavored seafood's strong taste is a result of their high omega-3 fat content (which also makes them good for your heart), tuna fish's beefy flavor all comes down to a protein called myoglobin (per Foodiosity).

How myoglobin makes tuna fish taste like a steak

A protein that ensures muscle tissue is getting enough oxygen, Foodiosity reports myoglobin is what makes the meat in cattle and commonly hunted animals red. And to have a lot of myoglobin (and red meat), an animal must move at an almost never-stopping pace.

Enter tuna. Despite the smiling picture of the friendly fish on your can of Starkist, MasterClass reports that tuna is actually one of the ocean's most prevalent predators. And myoglobin is what allows these formidable beast's muscles to constantly swim at a steady rate to catch their unfortunate prey. And so, like beef, tuna is also made of primarily red meat, making it taste more like a beef burger and less like a piece of freshly caught salmon.

In fact, while you may be hesitant to eat a tuna filet with a dark center, the darker red your tuna is, the more flavor it will have. So if you really want to make certain you're putting the meatiest-tasting catch of tuna on your sandwich, check the filets in the store's color to ensure you're biting into a truly meaty tasting serving of beef's more aquatic cousin.