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What Does Halibut Taste Like? Is It Good?

Halibut is a popular fish that is enjoyed by seafood lovers around the world. This flatfish is prized for its firm, meaty texture, and delicate flavor. What does halibut taste like?

In this article, we’ll explore the unique flavor and texture of halibut and provide you with some ideas on how to prepare and enjoy it in your meals.

Whether you’re a seasoned halibut enthusiast or a newcomer to this delicious fish, keep reading to discover what it tastes like and how you can incorporate it into your diet.

White plate served with cooked halibut

What Is Halibut Fish?

This flatfish is native to the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

The name of the halibut fish comes from two words: “haly” and “butte.”

“Haly” is another form of the word holy, while “butte” is the middle English word for flatfish.

That said, halibut is the modern version of the word “halybutte.” It translates to holy flatfish.

This name makes sense because back in the Middle Ages, people ate this fish in place of meat during holy days.

Halibut is the world’s largest flatfish. The largest halibut ever caught weighed 513 pounds and measured 9 feet long.

A halibut can belong to the genus Hippoglossus or Reinhardtius. It comes from a family of flounders called Pleuronectidae.

This family is more commonly known as right-eye flounders.

Right-eye flounders are asymmetrical fishes.

They start as regular-shaped fish and swim vertically with eyes on both sides of their heads.

As they mature, their left eye slowly migrates to the right side of their head.

They then start to swim horizontally, like a stingray.

Their right or upper side becomes darker than their left or lower side.

This way, they can lie on the seabed and hide under the sand undetected.

This mutation is important, as halibuts are demersal fish. They are bottom feeders.

A halibut appears to lack scales, as they have smooth skin.

However, small scales are embedded in their skin, so you can’t see them.

The skin of the halibut is tough and chewy. For this reason, halibut is best cooked and eaten without the skin.

Common Types of Halibut Fish

Atlantic Halibut

Atlantic halibut is Hippoglossus hippoglossus. As the name suggests, this fish comes from the Atlantic.

In the US, you will likely find Atlantic halibuts in the Gulf of Maine.

It can measure up to 4 meters, making it the largest flatfish worldwide.

You can tell it apart from the Pacific halibut by its concave tail.

Sadly, the population of Atlantic halibut is below target. That said, fishing limits are in place as the Atlantic halibut stock is under a rebuilding plan.

Pacific Halibut

The Pacific halibut is Hippoglossus stenolepis.

This halibut is native to the north Pacific and is common in the Gulf of Alaska.

For this reason, they are also called Alaskan halibut.

They can get as heavy as 300 kg and as long as 2.7 meters.

You can easily identify a Pacific halibut through its square tail.

Weird as it is, a square tail looks like a triangle attached to the fish’s body.

Pacific halibut are commercially fished, and its population is above the target level.

That said, Pacific halibut is a more sustainable choice than Atlantic halibut.

Paralichthys californicus, also known as California halibut, is usually marketed as Pacific halibut. However, the former is not a true halibut, so beware.

Greenland Halibut

The Greenland halibut is Reinhardtius hippoglossoides.

It is the only halibut that comes from a different genus and is also called Greenland turbot.

The Greenland halibut has its other eye resting on its forehead, like a cyclops.

This eye position enables it to swim vertically like most fishes and makes it a unique halibut.

The Greenland halibut is also the smallest of the three. It can only measure up to 1.2 meters and weigh a maximum of 45 kg.

What Does Halibut Taste Like?

Halibut has a mild flavor. Its sweet-tasting white flesh is often compared with tilapia.

The taste of halibut is also linked to the flavor of clams.

This subtle flavor profile means that halibut is not overwhelming and off-putting.

For this reason, halibut is a good choice for people wanting to eat fish for the first time.

Halibut’s mild taste enables it to absorb marinades and spices.

That said, depending on your preference, you can use any spice or seasoning.

You can do this without worrying that it might not blend well with the fish’s flavor.

Ways To Cook Halibut

The most important thing to remember about halibut is not to overcook it.

Doing so will give you a tough fish and make eating halibut less enjoyable.

Pan Sear

One of the easiest ways of cooking halibut is to pan-sear it.

All you need to do is ensure that your halibut fillet is dry, as wet fish does not sear well.

Remember, as well, that the key to a perfect sear is not moving the fish around once you’ve set it to sear.

Here’s how to pan-sear a halibut fillet:

  1. Thaw the halibut.
  2. Pat it dry with a kitchen towel.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet.
  4. Place the fillets and sear for around 4 minutes.
  5. Flip and sear the other side.
  6. Remove from pan and serve.


You can bake halibut and have a meal ready in just 20 minutes.

Using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature periodically is best to avoid overbaking.

Again, patting the fish dry yields the best results.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to baking halibut:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Grease a baking dish with oil.
  3. Pat the fish dry.
  4. Rub halibut fillets with salt and pepper.
  5. Arrange the fillet in the baking dish.
  6. Top each fillet with butter slices.
  7. Bake until halibut reaches an internal temperature of 145F.


Grilling is another surefire way to enjoy halibut.

Ensure that the grill is hot before putting your fillets, or you’ll end up with butchered fish.

Follow these steps for a great grilled halibut:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
  2. Brush both sides of the fillet with oil.
  3. Rub with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill the halibut for 5 minutes on each side.

How To Eat Halibut

As mentioned, the halibut’s skin is almost always discarded before cooking. For this reason, you’re more likely to see halibut eaten as a fillet.

Eat As Sashimi

Did you know that you don’t have to cook halibut before you can enjoy it? Halibut is a great fish to eat as sashimi.

Just remember that raw fish is not for everybody, and there are precautions before you can eat raw fish.

Include It in An Onigiri

Another creative way to enjoy halibut is to make onigiri.

These Japanese rice balls are a quick treat you can enjoy making and eating.

This particular recipe calls for cold-smoked halibut.

It’s easy to follow as it uses common ingredients like mayonnaise and scallions.

Use As Taco Filling

Yet another way to eat halibut is to make halibut tacos.

Pan-seared or grilled halibut fillets work best for this purpose.

Throw in the usuals: tomatoes, cheese, salsa, or lettuce, and you’re in for a treat.

Make Seafood Casserole

Incorporating halibut into your meals is easy—case in point: seafood casserole. Arrange halibut and shrimp in a baking dish.

Drizzle with lemon juice, melted butter, and white wine.

Season with salt and pepper, and bake!

Add other kinds of fish or scallops to the mix for a more indulgent seafood experience.

How To Make Halibut Taste Good?

Mildly flavored, halibut is a good-tasting fish to begin with.

If it tastes rather bland, there are ways to make it taste better.

Soak in Marinade

An excellent way to impart flavor to your halibut recipes is by marinating.

Let the fillet soak in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, and enjoy a better-tasting halibut.

You can make a simple marinade from salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Another version can include herbs like basil and garlic.

Soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and ginger are also great ingredients for a halibut marinade.

Use a Dry Rub

If you prefer not to add moisture to your fillet, then a dry rub is another way to make halibut better tasting.

A simple recipe for dry rub includes salt, pepper, and garlic powder. For a smoky touch, you can use paprika and ancho chili powder.

Is Halibut Fishy Tasting?

Yes, halibut tastes fishy but very mild and subtle at that. After all, it is a fish. However, most of the fishy taste comes from the fish’s fats, and halibut is a lean fish. That said, halibut is one of the least fishy-tasting seafood out there.

Does Halibut Smell Fishy?

No. Fresh halibut does not have a fishy smell. Instead, halibut smells ocean-like. If your halibut smells fishy, it is not fresh anymore.

What Does Halibut Taste Similar To?

Aside from tilapia, halibut tastes comparable to cod and mackerel. The sweet taste of this white fish is also reminiscent of clams.

Why Is Halibut Expensive?

Halibut is expensive because of its high demand and slow reproduction rate. Before they can reproduce, male halibuts must be at least 7-8 years old. On the other hand, females have to be 8-12 years old to lay eggs. Authorities have imposed fishing limits to cope with these conditions. These restrictions result in low supply and higher prices.

Halibut Vs. Tilapia Difference

Halibut and tilapia come from different fish families. They differ in appearance as tilapia is a symmetrical fish. Therefore, it does not look as unique as halibut. The flesh of tilapia is firmer, and tilapia is a lot more affordable than halibut. Lastly, the skin of halibut is typically removed before cooking. Meanwhile, it is normal to cook and eat the skin of the tilapia, especially when fried.

Halibut Vs. Cod Difference

Cod is milder-tasting than halibut, and halibut is thicker and firmer than cod. Plus, cod is usually fried skin-on, while halibut almost always lands on your pan without its skin.

Mahi-Mahi Vs. Halibut Difference

Mahi-mahi and halibut come from different fish families, so they look very different. However, the biggest difference is in the color of their flesh. Halibut’s flesh is white, while mahi-mahi’s flesh is pinkish. Regarding taste, mahi-mahi has a stronger flavor and is more “fishy” than halibut.


Halibut is a flatfish with both eyes on the upper side of its head, giving it a unique look. It has a pleasant meaty texture, but its price might have you thinking twice about buying it. Even frozen halibut is expensive!

So, what does halibut taste like? Does it taste fishy? No, halibut does not have a strong fishy flavor. Instead, it is sweet and buttery, so many people prefer it to other kinds of fish. This flavor profile makes halibut flexible, as it can blend well with almost any spice.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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