Looking to eat healthier? Maybe you want to do your part to reduce your carbon footprint. Or are you simply in search of new delicious foods? If any of these are true, it might be the perfect time to start eating saltwater fish–or to expand your palate!
Whether you’re new to fish cuisine or are a salty sea dog, there is a fish out there to whet your appetites. We’ve searched the seven seas for the best marine life out there, and the twelve results here are the best saltwater fish out there.
To learn what should be on your plate for your next seafood dinner, read on!
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, this site earns from qualifying purchases. Thank you!
How To Stop Worrying About Fishiness and Love Fish
Before we begin, it’s worth noting why many people don’t eat as much seafood as they could. Many are intimidated by the possibility that seafood might taste “fishy,” by which they mean briny or metallic.
The truth about “fishiness” is that the unpleasant taste is usually not inherent to any one fish. Most of the time, a “fishy” taste comes from fish that is mishandled or not fresh; the unpleasant flavor emerges as the natural compound trimethylamine oxide converts to trimethylamine.
This taste is far less pronounced in fish that are extremely fresh, which means that you should always aim to buy fresh fish and eat it the day you purchase it. If this is unavoidable, you can also soak the fish in lemon juice or milk for about 20 minutes to neutralize the smell.
With this in mind, we’re going to dive into the fish on this list without paying mind to whether they are “fishy” or not. Some fish have a stronger flavor than others, it’s true, but if you get fresh fish, this should be a pleasant flavor instead of a negative one.
Best Saltwater Fish
Let’s look at nine delicious saltwater fish you’ll want to include in your next meal.
Triggerfish is an especially good meal choice if you want to find a bridge between whitefish like cod and firmer fish like tuna. Triggerfish doesn’t have tuna’s distinctive fatty flavor, but it is similarly dense, and its firm flesh holds flavors quite well.
The flavor is unique, with a sweet taste akin to crab and none of the briny flavor you’d expect from whitefish since the triggerfish diet consists of shellfish like mussels and urchins.
If you’re interested in experimenting with triggerfish, you have a lot of options at your disposal for cooking it. Blackened triggerfish made in a pan or on the grill is scrumptious, but you could also have decadently deep-fried or bodacious baked filets.
If you’ve ever fished or eaten seafood in the Southeastern United States, you’ve probably come across the delightful fish known as the drum.
Red drum, which is also known as redfish and channel bass, are a reliable catch for both commercial and recreational fisherfolk. The red drum is the official state fish of three states (North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas).
Thankfully for seafood lovers, red drum lives up to the hype. They have an ever-so-slight sweetness and a flaky texture, which makes them ideal for blackening, deep frying, or grilling.
If you want to go local, consider using the “half-shell” method for cooking red drum, which entails cooking fish filets that still have their scales and cooking them skin-side down. Doing so allows heat to seep up through the skin, cooking the meat without drying it out by direct contact with flame.
You might not buy a fish based on its visual attractiveness, but even so, you would be hard-pressed to say that monkfish is anything other than hideous. However, dear reader, if you can look past the monkfish’s gnarly appearance, you can enter a world of deliciousness the likes of which you’ve never known.
Like triggerfish, monkfish taste like shellfish–in this case, lobster. Like meat from that eminent crustacean, monkfish portions are firm and meaty, with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth sweetness.
If you’re interested in preparing this monstrous morsel, you can take a simple path like pan frying. But you are in for a real treat if you use monkfish in stews, tomato sauces, or tacos since its firm texture can absorb plenty of flavor without falling apart.
When talking about the best saltwater fish, it’s impossible not to mention the king of all delicious: tuna.
Tuna is beloved by the world. Its dense ruby flesh has a meaty flavor with a slight touch of butteriness. Due to this dense texture, tuna can withstand hot temperatures and slow-cooking arrangements that would make other fish crumble.
Since tuna travels throughout the world, there are as many ways to prepare it as there are seafaring cultures. You could sample Japanese tuna sushi, munch on a marinated tuna steak, slurp Spanish tomato-tuna stew, or have a good old-fashioned tuna salad. The world is your oyster (or your tuna, more aptly).
Love tuna but need a break from time to time? Amberjack is the fish for you!
Like tuna and salmon, amberjack has a buttery flavor and a fairly dense texture, though not so dense as tuna. The fish’s robust texture means that, like triggerfish and monkfish, it is a practical sponge for flavor.
Smoked or baked amberjack is always a treat, but our special secret is that this fish might be the best option out there for fish tacos. Simply cut an amberjack portion into cubes, mix the cubes with your taco seasoning of choice and some vegetable oil, then throw them on the grill or pan. Once you’re done, flake the fish with a fork and add to warm corn tortillas.
If you’re looking at whitefish for your next meal, it’s hard to beat fresh red snapper. Snappers are immensely popular in the southeastern United States. If you’ve eaten one, it’s easy to understand why–in addition to their distinctive crimson scales, they have a distinct nutty flavor.
To capitalize on this rich and distinctive taste, try cooking your red snapper with either spicy ingredients, as in blackened snapper, or with sweet condiments, as you’d find in a Caribbean snapper meal.
For those who are eco-conscious (which, when it comes to fresh fish, should be everybody), red snapper is an especially good choice. Fisherfolk must harvest snapper according to strict rules for sustainability, preventing overfishing, and ensuring healthy fish populations.
Black Sea Bass
If you or a loved one want a safe introduction to the world of seafood, look no further than black sea bass. These obsidian marvels are a good choice for beginners because they have a fairly neutral taste, with neither the richness of salmon nor the briny taste of mackerel.
Another reason to choose black sea bass is that they can absorb various flavors. You might give them a nice pan sear, cook them whole with ginger and scallion, or pair them with classic Italian flavors like mushrooms and rosemary.
The next fish on our list is a veritable American classic, a fish so popular they named a whole Cape after it: the cod.
Cod has an extremely mild, even neutral taste, which means that it is extremely versatile. Massachusetts fishermen have fried cod and stuck it in sandwiches for generations, but you can also bake it, throw it into some fish tacos, or saute it in compound butter.
Another of the best saltwater fish out there is halibut. This prized coldwater fish has a delicate flavor and gentle, flaky texture, making it very receptive to various flavors and an especially good choice for those unfamiliar with fish.
If you want an easy, low-cost recipe, try this pan-seared halibut with a lemon butter sauce.
Also known as rockfish or striper, striped bass is the cream of the crop for whitefish.
Now, technically, they’re only partially saltwater fish–they spend much of their time in the ocean but also venture into sounds, which tend to mix freshwater with saltwater. Regardless of their origin, though, striped bass is downright delicious.
They have tender skin and a rich, sweet flavor, not to mention a beautiful appearance that makes them pop on the plate. If you’re a cook who cares about presentation, striped bass is for you!