Fish and seafood make a great addition to a weekly meal plan and one of my all-time favorites is rainbow trout. It’s such a versatile fish to use in the kitchen—you can roast it, pan fry it, poach it, and steam it for a delicious result every time.
While you might be more familiar with pink fish like salmon or white fish such as haddock, cod, or tilapia, rainbow trout is perfect for those looking for a more flavorful fish, without the expensive price tag of salmon.
So, what does rainbow trout taste like? It has a mild, fresh, somewhat nutty flavor that is much less intense than salmon. It is usually a pale pink, whiteish, or orange color and the flesh is flaky, soft, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth amazing.
Keep reading to discover everything you could ever want to know about what rainbow trout is, what it tastes like, and how different preparations can give you a uniquely delicious experience.
What Is Rainbow Trout?
Rainbow trout are a beautiful little fish that are found in lakes and rivers across North America. They are related to salmon, but are generally much smaller, clocking in at around 20-30 inches and weighing 8 pounds on average.
With that being said, they have been known to grow up to 4 feet and weigh up to 53 pounds. However, this is an exception, not the rule when it comes to rainbow trout.
You also aren’t likely to find them in the ocean, unlike their salmon cousins, aside from a few adults which are then called steelheads.
Rainbow trout are also sometimes called redband trout.
They have color patterns that are impacted by their age, region, and spawning conditions, which means two of the same breed of fish can look completely different depending on where they are caught and how old they are.
To identify a rainbow trout, however, there are a few distinct patterns or markings you can look for that include:
- A torpedo shape
- A silvery blue-green or yellow-green coloring
- A pink streak along the sides
- A white underbelly
- Small black spots on their backs and fins
The rainbow trout is a perfect fish to add to your menu since it is readily available and affordable. It also has a healthy population worldwide, making it an ocean-friendly choice for those looking to up their fish intake.
What Does Rainbow Trout Taste Like?
So, what does rainbow trout actually taste like? While it is related to salmon, it has a much milder flavor that is nutty and a little sweet.
They don’t have a strong fishy flavor at all, which makes it a perfect fish for those who are looking to try something new.
I find rainbow trout to be a decadent-tasting fish for an economical price. The texture of the flesh is super soft and flakes delicately when properly cooked.
It has a luscious texture and feels really rich, but the fat comes from anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats that are great for the body.
Rainbow trout is fattier than white fish such as haddock, cod, tilapia, pollock, flounder, and halibut.
That fattiness gives it a richer flavor and helps it hold up well to different styles of cooking. I personally love to pan-fry my rainbow trout to get crispy skin. Just make sure you add some salt to bring out the unique flavor of the trout.
When you buy a rainbow trout, the flesh can range from a pale orange-white color to pink to a deep orange.
This coloring can depend on where the fish was raised, what it ate, and other environmental conditions. Regardless of the color, the flavor will be similar across the board.
Rainbow trout makes a great choice for folks who are looking to add a fattier fish to their menu that want a mild flavor, delicate flaky texture, and a decadent-tasting fish for an economical price.
What Does Roasted Rainbow Trout Taste Like?
A simple and delicious way to prepare your rainbow trout is to roast it in the oven. Since it has such a mild flavor this is an opportunity to add your own spin on a blank canvas.
The texture holds up well to an oven roast and this process gives it a deeper flavor.
I like to roast my rainbow trout whole.
- You will want to score the skin of both sides of the trout.
- Then take some butter and lemon slices and stuff them in the belly. Season it liberally with salt. I’ll then lay some more butter and lemon on the top side of the trout with more salt.
- Roast it for about 15-20 minutes at 400°F, depending on the size. You want a fork to easily slide through the flesh and for it to flake apart. The inside should still be glossy.
- Once roasted to your preferred doneness, take it out and remove the bones (they should slide out easily), and enjoy! I like to squeeze some roasted lemon on top before eating.
What Does Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout Taste Like?
Pan-frying rainbow trout is the method I use most often because it takes such a short amount of time and it gives it a crispy, crunchy skin and super soft center.
You can easily cook your fish to your preferred doneness this way since you are watching the whole process.
When you pan-fry your trout and eat the crispy skin, you get a savory, nutty flavor from the browning of the skin combined with the soft and delicate flakiness of the cooked fish.
I will often eat it plain, but you can add it to fish tacos, drizzle it with sauce, or throw it in a salad.
- Heat your frying pan to medium-high.
- Pat your rainbow trout filet dry and season both sides with salt.
- Add a liberal amount of butter- about 1/2-1 tablespoon.
- Place the rainbow trout skin-side down in the frying pan and gently press it into the pan with your spatula. You might pick up the pan to swirl the butter around the sides.
- When the bottom edges of the rainbow trout filet start to look crispy golden brown (about 2-3 minutes), flip it and place it in the butter to cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how done you like the fish.
- Remove the rainbow trout from the frying pan and place skin side up on a plate. Enjoy!
What Does Poached Rainbow Trout Taste Like?
Poaching fish is an amazing way to create an incredibly soft and luscious texture and delicate flavor.
You can use olive oil or water to poach your rainbow trout and if you add seasonings to the poaching liquid, like herbs, spices, garlic, or onions, it will impart the flavor into the fish.
Whether you use an oil or water poaching method, you will want to make sure you place the fish into the liquid when the liquid and the fish are both cold and allow them to slowly heat up together.
When it comes to poaching, the slower the better!
If you heat the fish up too quickly, then the proteins will seize together and you will end up with a tough and rubbery filet. Slow and steady wins the race!
You also never want to bring your poaching liquid above a gentle simmer, so keep an eye out for a few bubbles, but nothing more.
Finally, make sure you add salt to your poaching liquid. A lot of folks skip this step, but salt is what awakens your taste buds.
Otherwise, while the texture will be nice, if you don’t season your liquid the rainbow trout won’t taste like much at all.
What Does Smoked Rainbow Trout Taste Like?
Because it has such a delicate flavor and tender texture, cold or hot smoked rainbow trout is absolutely delicious. Some of the best woods that complement the flavor of the fish are:
You can use other types of wood, but these choices will impart a deliciously sweet and unique flavor to your fish.
If you are smoking your own, make sure you season it with some salt before smoking. You can also add maple syrup for a smoky-sweet flavor.
I don’t like to add too much else to my smoking mix since you want the fish and the smoke to be the star of the show.
As you can see, the mild, slightly sweet and nutty flavor of rainbow trout is the perfect vehicle for all kinds of delicious preparation methods.
Pick up some filets or whole trout at the store this week and start getting creative in the kitchen. Your tastebuds will thank you!