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Can You Eat Kingfish?

Kingfish, a type of mackerel, are plentiful along the coast of Florida and other southern states. It is a game fish that really gets anglers excited when they have one on their hook.

closeup of kingfish face

They can grow to be almost six feet in length and weigh in at up to 100 pounds. A fish this size always begs the question: can you eat kingfish?

After all, you’ll definitely have a lot of meat if you’ve reeled in an older specimen.

Do People Eat Kingfish?

Kingfish is edible, and you’ll find plenty of recipes that feature this incredible fish. You’ll get several steaks from a single kingfish, but they tend to be oily, so they’re an ideal choice for a cooking preparation that takes a while to complete.

person catching a kingfish

For example, smoking kingfish brings out the natural flavor in a way that can’t be obtained through baking, frying, or grilling. However, you can prepare kingfish in any of those ways and still have a wonderful meal.

Other popular ways to prepare kingfish include poaching, deep-fat frying, and turning it into a dip. Be aware, though, that because of the oil content, deep-fat frying this type of fish can make your meal extremely greasy.

fresh kingfish for eating

While it’s a popular way to eat mackerel in the South, it can hide the natural flavor of the fish, which is delicious on its own. If you can’t smoke your kingfish, the best alternatives are grilling or poaching to maintain the flavor.


What Do Kingfish Look Like?

This is the largest fish of the mackerel family, averaging two feet in length and 20 pounds in weight.

man holding king mackerel on a boat

These fish are spectacular both in the water and out, especially with their mouthful of razor-sharp teeth. They put up quite a fight when a fisherman manages to hook one, which is why they are popular sport fish.

You can often see them leap out of the water in pursuit of their prey, which has only contributed to their legendary status.

How Do Kingfish Taste

These game fish are different from other sport fish in that their meat is usually not very fishy. It has a rich, sweet flavor that is preferred by even those who are not seafood lovers.

fresh cuts of kingfish

The texture of the meat is firm, but flaky, which is exactly how consumers imagine fish should be. Due to its mild flavor, you’ll find this fish in soups, chowders, dips, salads, and other dishes where the fish is not the star.

freshly prepared dish of kingfish

Can You Eat Kingfish Raw?

The kingfish is very popular as a raw dish. One of the reasons for this is that the meat is so firm that it stands up well as sushi and sashimi.

fresh steaks of kingfish for sashimi

Often, in restaurants, only the cheeks are cooked and the rest of the fish is served raw. In fact, Japanese sushi chefs hold kingfish up as one of the top three fish for sushi, along with tuna and salmon, so eating kingfish raw is extremely common.

Mercury Levels

Despite their popularity as a cooked and raw meal in the U.S. and elsewhere, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions against eating kingfish because they contain high levels of mercury.

raw kingfish ready to cook

They also grow very slowly, so if you pull one of the bigger fish out of the water, it will take many years to replace this magnificent creature. Therefore, it is recommended you only keep smaller kingfish for food and release the bigger ones.

Final Thoughts

You’ll be in good company if you decide to eat kingfish, as they are common on menus in the U.S. as well as around the world.

Whether you decide to smoke your kingfish meat, grill it, or serve it in a soup or stew, you’re going to love the mild, sweet flavor of this fish.

Just take care not to eat it too often due to the mercury content, and pregnant women should avoid it altogether. Also, make sure your fish is within the legal limits if you’re planning to take it home with you.

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