The unique Caribbean lionfish carries a venomous toxin that makes hopeful eaters question whether consuming the species is a good idea. The good news is that, yes, you can eat lionfish if it is carefully prepared.
Can You Eat Lionfish and How?
There are some basic questions you might have when it comes to eating lionfish and the supposed risks involved.
Does Being an Invasive Species Make Lionfish Inedible?
There are several aspects of this fish that make people question whether or not they should eat it. Firstly, lionfish is actually an invasive species when it resides in the Caribbean. It is actually from the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean.
Is Lionfish Poisonous to Eat?
Another odd aspect of this fish is that it naturally carries a venom that can be toxic to humans if injected with it. They are similar to pufferfish in that you must prepare them correctly to avoid ingesting the toxins.
The nice thing about lionfish, however, is that you can’t actually get poisoned by its venom unless it is actively injecting you. Further, when you cook it, the venom becomes inactive. This means that even if you did accidentally eat some of the venom, it wouldn’t harm you.
This makes the fish an easy meal, even if you aren’t a trained chef. But, note that you should probably still be careful when cooking, as the sharp points on this fish could cut you when handling it.
Will Lionfish Give Me a Foodborne Illness?
There has been some talk of lionfish causing food poisoning. The FDA has studied it for its association with a food poisoning called ciguatera found in fish similar to lionfish.
But, ultimately, nearly everyone agrees that lionfish is not directly related to food poisoning, and it is seen as safe to eat.
And, as with any seafood, if you prepare it with safe precautions, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about getting food poisoning.
Is it Healthy to Eat?
Third, it may be worth noting the health benefits of lionfish. On top of the fact that fish is heart-healthier than red meat, we know lionfish itself has more Omega-3 fatty acids compared to other fish like tuna and grouper.
Additionally, lionfish generally contain less mercury, which puts you less at risk of mercury poisoning if you eat fish often.
What Does Lionfish Taste Like?
In addition to being a unique fish to eat, lionfish also has a unique taste. People describe this white fish as firm yet flaky. It is still tender, though, and not quite as firm in consistency as some other white fish varieties.
Some consider it to be firmer than grouper but still not as firm as fin fish like dolphinfish. It has a clean and fresh taste, and since it is a white fish, it can often take on the flavors of whatever you choose to season it with.
How to Prepare Lionfish at Home
If you happen to get your hands on some lionfish, then you may also have interest in cooking it for yourself or friends at home. It’s not terribly hard to get lionfish to eat, though.
This is because it’s an invasive species that is destroying other marine life it lives near. Because of this fact, fishermen are eager to reduce the population.
If you want to buy your own lionfish in the United States, you’d have to be in Florida. In Florida, lionfish hauls come into port from the Atlantic. Otherwise, you’d need to be in the Caribbean where you can really get it fresh to cook.
You can cook this fish in various methods, as is the case with most other fish. The beauty lies in the versatility. To prep the fish to cook, make sure you wear rubber gloves and clean it. You can trim off the fins at their base with kitchen scissors before filleting.
Grilling is a special way to add some extra flavor into your filet. According to Lionfish Central, you can easily create blackened grilled lionfish by placing your filets onto foil on your grill, then coating them with spices and seasonings.
Top the filets with butter and wait for them to blacken on both sides.
Baking is another great and simple method for cooking fish. It’s a lot less hassle and a lot less cleanup than other methods like pan-searing. Florida Insider Fishing Report has a great recipe for butter baked lionfish.
Pan-fried white fish is a classic. You can fry lionfish by coating it in seasonings of your choice, then frying it in hot oil until it’s light brown on both sides.
Or, try your hand at a fish fry batter for a new take on fish sticks.
And of course, you could always make it British by making lionfish and chips. Simply batter and fry up your lionfish to have with some freshly fried potatoes.
Ceviche – a mixture of citrus juice, spices, salt, onions, and fresh raw fish – can incorporate lionfish, too!
The citrus juice (taken from limes or lemons) acts as a curing agent on the raw lionfish, making it perfectly safe to eat without heat-cooking.
Fish tacos are a great way to take a simple white fish like lionfish and create something more interesting.
There are so many ways you can spice up lionfish tacos, from seasonings, to salsas, and more. Check out 30AEATS’s lionfish tacos recipe.
There are so many variations when it comes to lionfish pasta. You could create a lionfish scampi dish by combining reduced white wine with lemon juice and butter and tossing it into your lionfish and pasta.
Or, you could try Lionfish Central’s recipe for linguine with lionfish sauce.
Lionfish is safe to eat, and you can prepare it in a variety of fashions, including grilling, baking, and frying.
Don’t get deceived by this invasive species. It makes for a meal that’s as unique as its looks.