Sarda australis (Australian Bonito)
Sarda orientalis (Oriental Bonito)
Cybiosarda elegans (Leaping Bonito)

Other names: Bunny, common bonito, horse mackerel, little bonito, tuna (Australian); Watson’s leaping bonito (Leaping).

Family: Scombridae (mackerels).


Available wild-caught, these free-swimming, marine fish, from the same family as Tunas, live in schools in open waters over the continental shelf off the eastern, southern and south-western coasts of Australia from Cape York (Qld) to Exmouth (WA), with Australian Bonito found in the east, Oriental Bonito in the west, and Leaping Bonito in tropical and sub-tropical waters along both the east and west coasts (venturing into estuaries in winter). They often school with other Tunas near the coast. Australian Bonito, which makes up the bulk of the commercial catch, is caught using lines and purse seines and sold mostly in Sydney. Oriental Bonito is occasionally trolled off WA and a small quantity of Leaping Bonito is caught of NSW. They’re generally all marketed simply as Bonito and look very similar, with blue-green torpedo-shaped bodies fading to silver on the belly and dark blue-grey stripes covering both upper and lower body; the stripes on Australian Bonito are almost completely horizontal, while those on Oriental and Leaping Bonitos are more slanted.

Season: Available year round, with peaks from March to June, and Leaping Bonito mainly available in Spring.

Size and Weight: Commonly 35-55cm and 1-3kg, but can grow to around 100cm and 11kg, with Oriental usually smaller than Australian.

Price: Medium priced.


Albacore, Mackerels (Atlantic, Blue, Chub, Frigate, Grey, School, Shark Spanish, Spotted and Mackerel Tuna), Tunas (Bigeye, Longtail, Northern Bluefin, Skipjack, Slender, Southern Bluefin, Yellowfin), Wahoo.

To Buy:

Usually sold whole, though fishmongers will fillet it upon request; also sometimes available as sashimi. In whole fish look for lustrous skin, firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell; flesh should be pale reddish (pale pink to white in Leaping Bonito), firm, lustrous and moist without any dull brown markings or oozing water. Always buy sashimi-grade fish if it is to be served raw or rare.

To Store:

Make sure whole fish is gilled, gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC. Sashimi-grade fish should be eaten within 24 hours of purchase, or else cooked.

To Cook:

Average yield is 70-75%. Has a delicate flavour, medium oiliness and moist soft flesh, which quickly becomes dry if overcooked. The cooked flesh turns brownish-grey and breaks into large flakes; there are very few bones to worry about. Cut thick fillets into serving-size portions to allow even heat penetration. Most people prefer to remove the dark bloodline before cooking.

Cooking Methods:

Pan-fry, bake, grill, barbecue, smoke, raw (sashimi), pickle.

Goes well with:

Anchovies, balsamic vinegar, capers, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, garlic, ginger, lemon, lime, olive oil, onion, soy sauce, tomato, wasabi.


Atlantic Salmon, Marlins, Mackerels, Swordfish, Tunas, Yellowtail Kingfish.


None. ‘Bonito’ in Japanese cuisine usually refers to smoked, dried and shaved Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis, also known as striped bonito) used to make dashi (Japanese fish stock).


Barbecued Bonito Fillet with Tomato, Fennel & Capers >
Bonito, White Bean & Tomato Salad with Caper Mayonnaise > 
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Chirashizushi (Scattered Sushi) > 
Tagine of Bonito, Tomato, Chickpeas & Preserved Lemon >