American Oceans

Can You Eat Sailfish and How Does It Taste? 

The options for fish extend far beyond mainstream fish like salmon and tuna. Sailfish, for example, might be a less recognizable name, but there is a good chance you’ve eaten it in your lifetime.


A sailfish is a billfish, similar to a swordfish or marlin. Sailfish are relatively large—up to 10 feet long—and have distinctive dorsal fins. These fish also have a long, thin bill comparable to a marlin.

You usually find sailfish in warm waters. The best place to catch sailfish in the United States is along the southern Atlantic coast of Florida. Read on to learn more about, can you eat sailfish?

Do People Eat Sailfish and Is It Safe?

Sailfish is edible and safe to eat. However, sailfish isn’t the most popular fish to eat. Most people view sailfish as a game fish you catch for competitive fishing.

sailfish caught by fishmen

Since sailfish are billfish, you will need a permit to harvest them legally from the water. 

That said, people do eat sailfish. As a larger fish, sailfish are a great source of protein and omega 3, similar to tuna or swordfish.

Mercury is the only safety concern when consuming sailfish. Much like swordfish, sailfish do have a risk of containing traces of mercury. But the FDA does not explicitly warn against eating sailfish, and occasionally consuming it is unlikely to expose you to a significant amount of mercury. 

What Does It Taste Like?

The easiest way to understand what sailfish tastes like is to consider the other fish it eats, such as tuna and mackerel. Sailfish is heavy and gamy, with a slightly briny flavor depending on the particular fish and how you prepare it.

Can You Eat Sailfish Raw?

You can safely eat raw sailfish as long as it is fresh and well-prepared. Ceviche is the most common dish where you’ll find raw sailfish.

Fresh raw sailfish fillet

Since sailfish has a strong fishy taste, eating raw sailfish is a bit of an acquired taste and is best enjoyed when prepared by a talented chef specializing in seafood. 

How To Cook Sailfish

You can cook sailfish in various ways. Typically, sailfish are smoked or grilled. Sailfish also tastes nice when baked or fried.

Regardless of your cooking method, you’ll want to prepare your sailfish with plenty of seasonings. Most sailfish recipes recommend marinating sailfish in a flavorful brine to cover the fishy taste. 

grilled sailfish

Generally, since sailfish has such a strong flavor, you don’t include a large piece of sailfish in a dish. Instead, pieces of sailfish get incorporated into a recipe with other foods. Examples include a stir fry or smoked fish kabobs. 

Sailfish Recipes

If you want to cook sailfish, plan on coating it with a flavorful sauce or marinade. For instance, this sailfish recipe features tomatoes, garlic, and several herbs. Alternatively, if you want to give raw sailfish a try, a simple ceviche recipe would be a great place to start.  

Is It Safe to Eat Sailfish?

Sailfish is safe to consume, and people around the world eat it quite regularly. Although sailfish isn’t the tastiest or the most premium fish to eat, it’s good for you and works well when used in moderation for certain dishes. 

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