Are Rainbow Trout Good to Eat? Delicious Recipes Included

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Rainbow trout, grilled with tomato and parsley.

Rainbow trout are delicious. It has a mild taste and contains various healthy nutrients. One meal of rainbow trout provides you with high amounts of protein and necessary omega-3s. Plus, you can prepare them in multiple ways without significant cooking skills.

A recent backpacking trip took me deep into the mountains of Colorado. We spent several days fishing alpine lakes, remote streams, and world-class rivers. Every day, we’d eat one meal of the fish we landed. After the first day, we didn’t bother keeping any other fish besides rainbow trout. Their flavor stood out far above the rest of the fish. 

What Does It Taste Like?

While the taste of your rainbow trout depends on the fish and water conditions, it generally has a mild flavor with a slight fishy taste. Some anglers claim that a perfect rainbow trout has a nutty flavor paired with the flakiness and taste of small fish. 

Rainbow trout can have strong fishy flavors. If you’re eating recently stocked fish, you’ll notice the flavor. Stocked fish don’t use their muscles as much as wild or native rainbow trout in rivers, so they don’t taste as fresh. 

Wild and native rainbow trout that must survive on whatever they can catch generally taste the best. They have a nutty flavor and a mild fish taste. You won’t get that squirmy feeling you do when you bite into a bad-tasting fish. Wild and native rainbow trout usually live in clear water most of the year.

The water turns muddy occasionally but doesn’t stay that way forever.

Is it Okay to Eat Rainbow Trout?

Yes, it’s okay to eat rainbow trout. As long as the water you’re fishing doesn’t have regulations that prevent you from keeping the fish, it’s okay to eat them. Certain states may have size limits for the rainbow trout you keep, but most have number limits. 

Avoid eating spawning fish. Spawning rainbow trout are vital to the reproduction of the resource. 

Do your research before you target rainbow trout. A quick Google search or look at regulations will tell you if it’s legal to keep rainbow trout. 

Grilled trout on potatoes, spinach, olives, eggs, and greens.

Is it Safe to Eat Rainbow Trout?

Yes, rainbow trout is safe to eat. The meat does contain mercury, so make sure you don’t overindulge. If you’re pregnant or feeding it to children, stick to one or two helpings of trout per week.

Proper Size of Rainbow Trout to Eat

I like to eat wild rainbow trout that weigh anywhere from 1 to 3 pounds. Usually, the meat is firm and tastes healthy. I also prioritize eating rainbow trout from the water below 65 degrees. Fish caught in warm water can have a muddy and fishy taste. 

While the smaller trout don’t produce as much meat, the quality is hard to beat. I’ll gladly clean 4 or 5 wild 3-pound rainbow trout because the meat is much better than one 10-pound stocked rainbow. 

Rainbow trout, roasted spuds, and  special mayo

Rainbow Trout Preparation and Recipes

There are numerous ways to prepare your rainbow trout. Whether you want it baked, cooked over a fire, grilled, or fried in a pan, there’s a recipe for you. Two of my favorite ways to cook rainbow trout are pan frying and grilling. 

The preparation process is important if you want the best-tasting rainbow trout. You’ll ruin your meal if you don’t handle and prepare them properly.

Clean Them and Get Them Cold ASAP

When you catch rainbow trout, don’t let them bake on the shore or floor of your boat. Keep them in the water so they stay alive as long as possible. Clean the fish as soon as you finish your day on the water.

Cleaning the fish saves the meat. A distressed or dead fish releases chemicals into their body that can easily spoil the meat. Removing the guts and bones and cleaning the filets allows you to keep the meat tasting as fresh as possible. 

Colorful fish, yummy spuds, and special mayo

Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout

Pan-fried rainbow trout is my favorite fish dish. For some reason, the flakiness of the fish combined with the right ingredients is exactly what I love. 

You’ll need garlic powder, ghee, salt, pepper, lemon juice, butter, and parsley. 

To prepare the filet for frying, clean it, pat it dry, leave the skin on, and season both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. 

Put butter and ghee into a pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter in the pan bubbles, it’s ready for your filets.

Place the filets skin-side-down in the pan and cook until the skin browns. It should take around 3 minutes for the skin to brown. Flip the fish over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. 

Once done, take the skillet off the heat and add lemon juice. Let the filets sit in the lemon juice for a few minutes before you serve.

To serve, sprinkle some parsley over it, and you’re good to go. I serve it with rice or steamed vegetables. 

Grilled Rainbow Trout 

Grilling rainbow trout is one of my top ways to prepare it. It’s easy, tastes wonderful, and produces phenomenal flavors in the fish. Plus, it doesn’t take long to prepare or cook. 

You’ll need to filet the fish and remove the skin. It produces some of the best flavors. You’ll need olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. 

To start, dry the filets and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Next, rub lemon juice and olive oil on both sides. You don’t have to douse them, but cover each side. 

Next, toss them on the grill and cook them for around 8 minutes. Flip the filets halfway through and make sure each side is oiled.

If you’re concerned about ensuring the filets are safe to eat, place a meat thermometer in the filets. You want the internal temperature to reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

I’ll serve the fish with grilled vegetables or potatoes. You’ll love this meal as long as you cook the fish properly. 


Rainbow trout populations are spread all across the United States. Most states allow anglers to keep a few rainbow trout every time they hit the water. They’re safe to eat and give anglers a flaky and light meal. Experiment with how you cook them, and you’ll eventually find a recipe you like. Rainbow trout are a delicious fish.

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