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What are the Best Tasting Saltwater Fish You Can Eat?

The ocean’s majestic scenery, white sandy beaches, and impressive coastal cliffs are just its visual bounties.

an assortment of delicious saltwater fish

The ocean’s true bounty lies below its waves, where thousands of species of colorful fish create a lively marine world.

Even if you’re not lucky enough to live on the coast, you can easily get a taste of the ocean by dining on a delicious saltwater fish meal.

Saltwater fish are among the most flavorful and high-quality proteins and a key ingredient in nearly every culinary culture.

a perfectly cooked fillet of saltwater fish and potatoes

From Japanese sashimi to Italian Branzino, saltwater fish make stunning dishes that stand up to a wide variety of flavors and cooking techniques.

Due to their saltwater habitation, saltwater fish have a briny and fishier taste than their freshwater counterparts. 

That said, the brininess is only a fraction of their diverse flavor profile. The following list explores the best tasting saltwater fish to enjoy for your next meal.

Best Tasting Saltwater Fish

  1. Cod
  2. Mahi Mahi
  3. Salmon
  4. Halibut
  5. Yellowfin Tuna
  6. Swordfish
  7. Sea Bass
  8. Flounder
  9. Red Snapper
  10. Wahoo

Cod

Cod is a widespread Genus of fish with two main varieties: Atlantic cod and Pacific cod.

2 cod fish swimming

Both species are grey to brown in color, with a white line running along the length of their body and a single barbel or whisper hanging off their lower lip.

They range in size from 11 to 25 lbs, and Atlantic cod are larger than Pacific cod. Both cod species are wildly popular fish for their mild flavor and flakey white meat. 

It holds up well to any form of cooking, from frying to grilling to searing, and is the mainstay protein in many coastal countries.

One of the most popular dishes using cod is the British Fish and Chips dish, which is now globally popular. 

Mahi Mahi

Inhabiting tropical waters around the globe, Mahi Mahi are beautiful, vibrantly colored fish that are popular for game fishing and for their delectable meat.

a mahi-mahi fish swimming

They average between 15 and 30 lbs. and have golden bodies with bright green and blue backs and fins. The males have a prominent chin.

Their pink flesh is flakey yet firm, with a perfectly balanced taste that is both briny and sweet. It’s versatile meat for cooking and tastes amazing fried, baked, or grilled.

It is also a very light fish, so you can eat a giant fillet of it without feeling overly full.

Salmon

Perhaps the most popular or well-known fish on the list, salmon has always been a high-end protein to savor as a special meal.

salmon trolling with flashers

Salmon are endemic to both saltwater and freshwater because they mate in saltwater and hatch their offspring in freshwater.

They are agile and fast fish, so they’re a challenge for recreational fishermen. Make sure you bring the right gear to catch these fish!

The popularity of their meat has created massive fish farming industries. However, when purchasing salmon at the store or a restaurant, make sure they are wild-caught to ensure freshness and quality.

Their deep pinkish-orange flesh is sweet and flakey, tasting amazing pan-fried with lemon, grilled, poached, or baked. 

Halibut

The world’s largest flatfish species, halibut, inhabit both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and have one eye facing upward while the other faces outward.

man holding a halibut

They are white or off-white with brown- or earth-colored backs to blend in with the ocean floor.

They can get enormous, reaching 200 lbs or more. They’re popular game fish and a popular food industry fish for its buttery, sweet, and flaky meat.

Halibut has lower fat content than many other large saltwater fish species, so they require short cooking times whether you fry, bake, or grill them to safeguard against drying out their meat. 

Yellowfin Tuna

Named for their bright yellow fins, Yellowfin Tuna are a beautiful and large tuna species that inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans around the globe.

yellowfin tuna caught with a hook

They can reach over 400 lbs and have become a sought-after gaming fish. Their bodies have a bright blue coloring that fades into a silver underbelly. 

Their high-quality meat is one of the most common ingredients in Japanese cuisine, a top seller for sashimi and other rare tuna steak dishes.

They are a wild species, and their scarcity has warranted restrictions on commercial and game fishing.

Consequently, yellowfin tuna is an expensive fillet. But its amazing taste is worth the expense.

Swordfish

Named for their unmistakably prominent sword-like bills that are nearly the same length as their bodies, Swordfish are large, carnivorous fish inhabiting tropical and warmer regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

fresh swordfish at a market

They average around 10 ft. in length and were such a popular game fishing catch that they were endangered for a time.

Luckily, restrictions on game fishing and commercial fishing have restored their populations, and now you can enjoy their dense, hearty, and flakey meat in restaurants or grocery stores worldwide.

Their meat has a high oil content and is thus always moist and flavorful. They are the steak of fish entrees. 

Sea Bass

Sea bass has only recently risen to culinary fame in North America over the past decade.

4 chilean sea bass being cooked

Endemic to Atlantic, southern Pacific, Antarctic, Indian, and Patagonian waters, sea bass is cold-water fish encompassing various species.

The most popular sea bass for eating is the Patagonian native Chilean Sea Bass.

Chilean seabass is black with blue eyes. They can live up to 50 years, the longest of most saltwater fish on this list. Their meat is sweet, mild, and substantially meaty.

They are among some of the most nutrient-rich fish with a high omega-3 fatty acid content. They taste wonderful whether steamed, fried, grilled, or poached.

Flounder

Another flatfish species, flounder, are oceanic bottom feeders with spikey fins lining their bodies’ upper and lower lengths.

a fresh caught flounder fish

As bottom feeders and flatfish, their eyes are located on the same side of their head facing upward.

Their bodies are highly camouflageable, ranging in colors from olive to grey with speckled spots depending on the color of the surroundings they want to blend it with. They are carnivorous fish and are found in oceans worldwide.

Since they are flatfish, flounders have thin fillets, but they are white and flakey with a mild flavor.

They taste wonderful steamed or sauteed, and if you want them to stay intact, you can lightly bread them or coat them in flour before pan-frying them. 

Red Snapper

Red Snappers are one of over 100 species of tropical fish in the Snapper family. They are reddish-pink and can grow to lengths of up to 3 ft., weighing on average around 4 lbs. They exist in warm waters around the globe and offer moist, oily meat.

a fresh red snapper ready to cook and eat

They have a decadently sweet and mild flavor with very little fishiness or brininess that usually characterizes marine fish fillets.

They are an expensive fillet, offered in elaborate dishes such as sushi or whole grilled fish in Vietnamese or Thai seasonings. Their flavor works well with spicy and tropical citrus flavors.

Wahoo

Found in tropical and subtropical waters around the globe, wahoo are long with bright blue tiger stripes lining their grey-silver bodies.

a wahoo caught with live bait

They are incredibly fast and a highly sought-after gaming catch for anglers looking for a challenge.

They’re hard to fish commercially since they do not swim in large schools, making their meat an expensive delicacy.

They have whitish-grey flesh that is the perfect balance between firm and flaky, with a mild flavor and characteristic circular flakes.

They have a low-fat content and are thus more susceptible to drying out when grilled or baked—pan-frying or marinading before baking is advisable.

Final Thoughts

Saltwater fish come in all shapes, colors, and sizes from bright blue and yellow tropical tuna to flat bottom feeders that change colors to camouflage.

Many saltwater fish bestow a saltier and stronger flavor than the freshwater fish that people enjoy eating. It works well with robust spices and sauces.

The above list of the best-tasting saltwater fish offers a variety of flavor profiles, textures, and affordability for your next delectable home-cooked or restaurant meal.

Rocco Smith

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