With more than 40 species of triggerfish in tropical and subtropical locations across the globe, these fish are plentiful enough that you may be wondering can you eat triggerfish? Well, in most cases, the answer is yes, but as with other types of reef fish, triggerfish can be toxic, so you must be careful before consuming this brightly-colored tropical fish.
Do People Eat Triggerfish?
Yes, most of the time, you can eat triggerfish safely, but there are some exceptions. First, of the 40 known triggerfish species, the Clown Trigger fish is the only one that is always unsafe to eat. Other triggerfish can safely be eaten, but you have to be aware that larger trigger-fish are susceptible to ciguatera, which is a seafood-related disease that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, numbness, and tingling in the extremities. In most cases, ciguatera is not fatal.
Is Triggerfish Safe to Eat?
Ciguatera is a toxin that is found in the algae in some tropical reefs, where triggerfish hang out. This toxin cannot be detected by just looking at a fish, and it cannot be removed by cooking or freezing a fish. The only way to avoid this toxin is to only eat small triggerfish and to avoid reefs that are known to be contaminated with ciguatera. A good rule is to never eat a triggerfish that is over five pounds.
Triggerfish are popular for their clean, white meat that tastes a bit sweet, like crab. The fillets that you can get from triggerfish are light and thin, meaning they’ll be a welcome addition or substitution to any white fish recipe. You’ll find the sweet flavor to be reminiscent of a grouper and a little sweeter than a sheepshead. You won’t find any fishy flavor at all to triggerfish, so you won’t have to hide the flavor under other ingredients.
Of all wild-caught fish, triggerfish is one of the best for eating raw. It is delicious in sashimi, ceviche, and sushi, but again, remember that larger triggerfish should be avoided. Raw triggerfish is considered a delicacy in Japan, and you’ll often find it at fresh fish markets cut specifically for sashimi or sushi. You don’t even have to add a lot of sauces or seasonings because the fish is delicious all on its own.
Since triggerfish fillets are so thin, they are ideal for baking, frying, or grilling. No matter which way you decide to cook your triggerfish, be sure not to overcook it. You want the flesh to be firm, but not rubbery so that you do not lose any of the sweet taste. If you’re going to overcook triggerfish, you’re better off not cooking it at all so that you can enjoy all the wonderful flavor this fish has to offer.
Triggerfish are one type of seafood where bigger is not better, so if you’re catching a bunch of little ones, you have the makings of a perfect meal! Their tough skin can be tricky to get through to clean your fish, but once you do, you’ll have some nice fillets that are ready to be cooked and eaten. If you take time to clean these fish well, you’ll be rewarded with some of the sweetest fish meat you’ll ever taste!
About the Triggerfish
You’ll usually find triggerfish in warmer, offshore waters like the Mexican Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean reefs, and the southern part of the U.S. East Coast. These fish boast a mouthful of teeth and can be aggressive at times, particularly if a female is guarding its eggs. Larger triggerfish, like the Titan Triggerfish, have been known to bite divers, but typically, they do not attack unless they feel threatened. The biggest triggerfish are only about three feet in length.