Closely related to salmon and char, the freshwater trout is a popular fish for both culinary and recreational purposes. That is, it’s regarded as having especially flavorful meat — and on a fishing line, it can put up a heck of a fight.
But the humble trout isn’t so simple as it may first appear. In fact, the name trout refers to any of a number of species of salmonids, each with their own distinct behaviors, ecosystems, appearances, and flavors. So when we talk about trout meat, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
That’s why in this guide, we’ll be introducing you to everything you need to know about trout meat: From what it tastes like and how healthy it is, to the different types of trout that fly fisherman like to catch and cook, to a half dozen recipes sure to make the best out of your fresh catch.
And if you’re not much of a fisher yourself, we’ll finish things up with a few resources for where to buy trout, either fresh or frozen.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have everything you need to catch (or buy) and cook up a delicious trout meal.
What Does Trout Meat Taste Like?
Fishermen have a funny term for trout: They sometimes call it “the chicken of fish”. That’s because in general, freshwater trout has a relatively mild taste and delicate texture.
There are a few exceptions to this, though. Trout that have mainly been feeding off of crustaceans will develop a fuller, richer flavor and heartier texture.
And the rare few types of trout (like the steelhead) that swim out to the open ocean before returning to fresh water to reproduce have a much more robust oceanic flavor.
No matter what sort of trout you’re eating though, it’s quite a fatty fish. Its abundant oils are well known for their health benefits (more on that in the next section).
And because it has plenty of fat, many traditional preparations of trout rely on dry heat methods or smoking to bring out the best, juiciest flavors from this fish. It makes a good exotic jerky.
Trout Meat Nutrition
Like many freshwater fish, trout is considered to be very healthy for humans to eat. Here’s the nutrition facts for an average filet of trout meat, courtesy of nutritionvalue.org:
- 117 calories
- 5.2 grams of total fat, with 0.9 grams of saturated fat
- 46 milligrams of cholesterol
- 16 grams of protein
- 16% daily value of Vitamin D
- 7% daily value of Iron
- 6% daily value of potassium
That’s all in addition to absolutely no carbohydrates, and a very significant portion of B vitamins and healthy Omega-3 fats. This last part deserves specific mention. In case you don’t know just how healthy Omega-3 fats are, here are a few of their proven benefits:
- Fighting depression and anxiety
- Heal risk factors for heart disease
- Fighting inflammation
- Fighting autoimmune diseases
- Improving mental disorders
- Improving sleep quality
- Improving skin quality
In short, the healthy oils in fresh fish offer huge benefits for us. If you’re on the fence about including trout in your diet, that’s all the more reason to do so.
Different Types of Trout for Meat
Trout show up all over North America and Europe, taking on different forms (and tastes) depending on the environment that’s given rise to them.
And while an exhaustive list of trout types isn’t within the scope of this article, we’d like to share a few of our favorite types of trout for meat, with notes on their flavor and/or texture.
Rainbow trout are native to the U.S., and they’re stocked in dozens of lakes, rivers, and ponds across the country. They’re also one of the most common trout that you’ll find at the grocery store or butcher counter. Their meat tends to be firm, with a richer flavor than standard river trout.
Sea trout spends a good portion of its life out at sea, soaking up salt water and giving it a full flavor. This makes it taste more similar to salmon or pollock than other trout species.
Steelhead also spends its life partly in freshwater, and partly in seawater. Its musculature is firm, and when cooked slowly it will take on a pleasantly flaky texture and meaty flavor.
Brook trout, though technically a char, is a favorite of fly fishermen. It has a subtly sweet flavor and tender texture, and its skin will crisp to a nice golden brown if seared in a pan.
Brown trout is a European trout that has been widely introduced around the world for sport fishing. They are known to have a stronger flavor than other species.
No matter what type of trout you get, though, you’re in for a delicious culinary experience.
You can’t have a full discussion of trout without mentioning the many ways in which fishermen try to catch them. The fish’s habitats vary widely — including lakes, rivers, ponds, and even under ice — and have given rise to specialized fishing methods.
Standard rod and reel fishing will do just fine for fishermen looking to catch trout in a pond. But the most popular way to catch trout is fly fishing.
Originally developed for catching trout, fly fishing uses specialized gear to catch fish using a lightweight lure in quickly moving water. It’s a wildly popular sport, and a contemplative activity that draws people from all walks of life.
Because trout is a cold water fish, it can also be caught by ice fishing. In this style, trout anglers will drill a hole in thick ice over a lake and catch fish with either hooks or spears. Trout caught in this way is often densely meaty and satisfying.
How to Cook Trout Meat
In the culinary world, there are two main ways to work with trout meat: Using either the whole trout (or its filets), or using smoked trout. And since the two styles give rise to such different recipes, we’ll break them up here for ease of use.
How to Cook Whole Trout or Filets
Because trout is a fatty fish, cooking it whole or in filets is easily accomplished with just about any cooking method. Cuisines across the world have baked, roasted, grilled, fried, and steamed trout for centuries, so there’s plenty of room to improvise on basic recipes.
Grilled whole trout is probably the best way to handle an entire fish, as it will take advantage of the skin’s ability to take a good char and add deeper flavor. The only trouble is, it can be hard to get a whole trout off the grill in one piece — they’re really darned flaky and tend to fall apart. The trick is to get the skin to crisp up faster, so it will release from the grill without any trouble.
To do that, make a half and half mixture of honey and butter, add a little salt to it, and slather it all over the trout before throwing it on the grill. When it’s time to flip the fish (after about 3 to 5 minutes), use two spatulas to gently roll it over. This preparation is especially delicious when served with a squeeze of lemon and a little bit of chopped parsley.
Fried trout filets are a popular option through much of the American South. And they couldn’t be easier to make. Start with skin-off filets. Beat two whole eggs in one bowl, and add a splash of buttermilk. In another bowl, mix cornmeal with a pinch of smoked paprika and two pinches of salt. Heat an inch of oil in a pan (and be sure to have a lid ready for it) until it just barely starts to smoke.
Dredge the filets into the first bowl and then cover them in the cornmeal mixture in the second one, then carefully lower them into the hot oil and cover with a lid. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to rest. Delicious when served with a side of fresh slaw.
Trout amandine is a classic French preparation that also uses a flour dredge. Pat a few filets of trout dry, then dredge them in flour on both sides. Add a splash of oil to a sauté pan and heat until just smoking. Carefully lay the filets in the pan, and sear for 2 to 4 minutes on each side. In the still-hot pan, add half a stick of butter and let it melt. Then throw in slivered raw almonds, and cook until just starting to brown.
Pour this from the pan directly onto the trout, and top with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice for a full meal. If you substitute shallots for the raw almonds instead, you’ll get a simplified version of trout meuniere.
How to Cook with Smoked Trout
Smoking trout over a low heat is a popular way of flavoring and preserving it. Depending on the person doing the smoking, the trout may also have spices or sugar added to it for even more flavor. Either way you get it, this flaky and delectable preparation makes for some quick and delicious dishes.
Smoked trout scrambled eggs taste like you’ve taken hours making them, even when they’re extremely easy to make. Just whip up a few eggs with a splash of milk or cream, and start melting butter in a pan. Break up a small chunk of smoked trout into pieces and give it a quick sauté in the butter, a minute or less. Put your beaten eggs into the pan, and stir frequently until they’re a nice scrambled texture. Top with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon, and you’ll have one of the easiest and most delicious breakfasts you’ve ever eaten.
Smoked trout salads are a fantastic way to get a little bit of protein and a lot of greens. The sky’s the limit here with how you choose to complement smoked trout. Kale, apple, and smoked trout is one of my go-to options on fall days. It pairs exceptionally well with cranberries and almonds too, usually over a bed of spinach. And you can also turn it into a quick grain bowl salad by adding cooked and cooled rice, barley, or couscous.
Smoked trout dip is a dinner party favorite, and also very easy to make. All you really need is a good portion of flaked smoked trout, a little bit of crème fraiche or sour cream to mix it with, chopped chives, and a dash of lemon juice. Mix this one by feel; it should have a spreadable texture but not be too wet. Also makes an excellent topping for baked potatoes.
Where to Buy Trout Meat
The first place you should look to buy trout meat is at your local grocery store, deli, or butcher counter. Farmed trout that’s never been frozen will have a much nicer texture to it, and hold together better while you’re cooking it. And if you’re interested in smoked trout, many grocery stores carry it in convenient sealed packages.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a store near you that stocks trout, there are plenty of options for buying online. Fulton Fish Market, from the Bronx, is my first choice; they have good prices and exceptional meat quality. Pure Food Fish Market, located in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is another good option for buying online. And Harbor Fish Market is where I go for smoked trout online.
And, of course, be sure to check with your local wildlife agency for fishing for wild trout. They are found widely across North America, especially in colder elevations or rivers with a source of cold water. Stocked trout are very popular but also well-supplied by hatchery fish stocks.
FAQs About Trout Meat
Here are a few FAQs about Trout Meat.
Is trout the same as salmon?
Trout is a cold-water fish and shares a similar taste to salmon, just richer. Some people say that it has more of a buttery flavor, because trout have been called the “Butter Fish.”
Is trout a good fish to eat?
Trout is considered one of the best types of fish to eat because it contains less mercury than most other types. They have a rich flavor and are considered to be a healthier option than other fish.
What fish is similar to trout?
Trout are members of the salmonids family and are similar to other fish in that family, such as salmon, char and whitefish. They are long, slender fish with silvery skin and a reddish brown stripe along their sides. Unlike many other fish, trout do not freshwater habitat and are found in both cold- and warm-water streams, rivers and lakes.
Are rainbow trout and salmon related?
Rainbow trout and salmon are related. They are both types of fish in the Salmonidae family.
What does trout meat taste like?
The taste of trout meat is often described as delicate, mild, and slightly sweet. Some people say it tastes a bit like chicken, while others claim it has a more earthy flavor. No matter what you think of the taste, though, there’s no denying that trout is a healthy source of protein.
Is trout similar to salmon in taste?
Yes, it’s similar in both taste and texture. They are both muscular, cold-water fish.
What tastes better salmon or trout?
There is no simple answer to this question as it depends on personal preference. Some people believe that salmon tastes better, while others prefer trout. In general, however, trout is considered to have a slightly stronger flavor than salmon.
What taste better trout or catfish?
How do you make trout not taste fishy?
One of the most common complaints about trout is its fishy taste. This can be overcome by soaking the trout in milk for 30 minutes before cooking it. The milk will help to mellow out the fishy taste. You can also override the taste with a good seasoning.