Quick Answer: What Does Swordfish Taste Like?
A swordfish is identified by its exceptional, sword-like bill. It is a popular fish due to its mild taste and firm texture, which is more like a steak than a fish. Because of its “unfishy” flavor, even those that don’t typically care for fish find they enjoy swordfish for its unique texture and mild flavor.
Due to the extremely mild “fishiness” of swordfish meat, it’s often a favorite of those who aren’t too keen on seafood. Ever so slightly sweet, it’s quite remarkable soaked in butter, and it pairs well with innumerable sauces.
If you’re anything like me, you didn’t even know swordfish was on the menu… any menu, so when you discovered that it is in fact an option at many restaurants, you were positively brimming with questions:
How would it be served? Are there different cuts? How much would such a delicacy cost? And perhaps most importantly of all, what does it taste like?
Well, stick with me and you’ll be a swordfish connoisseur in no time — En garde!
Swordfish On The Tongue: A Simple Yet Satisfying Flavor
The most common comparison you’ll hear people make when describing a swordfish dish is that it’s very similar to beef steak, which I happen to agree with, but that’s not to say it tastes like steak. Rather, it’s telling of the texture and cut.
Swordfish is rather fatty (in a good way) and dense, much like a typical steak, and although the pelagic flavors are quite muted, it does have a faint fishiness about it, so you would never mistake it for an actual steak if you took part in a blindfolded taste test.
However, distinguishing between swordfish and steak after just cutting them both while blindfolded would pose something of a challenge, as they have very similar density.
Swordfish isn’t like a salmon steak that flakes and pulls apart easily. It’s meat you can really chew on, again, like a steak.
In fact, so closely related are the textures of beef steak and swordfish, that if you order swordfish in a restaurant, you may well be served a steak knife to cut it with.
Mildly sweet on the tongue, swordfish begs for embellishment in the way of expert seasoning or a tasty sauce, yet, as moderately oily meat, it’s by no means dry or bland when eaten unaccompanied.
A good bit of oily fish at least once a week can work wonders for your health, but there are downsides too.
Swordfish fillets contain roughly 30% oil, so if you’re trying to cut down on your oil intake, a more suitable choice would perhaps be walleye or maybe even catfish.
What Type Of Texture Do Swordfish Have?
Unlike most other types of fish, swordfish have a dense, but moist texture. It does not share the flakiness found in other fish filets.
Like shark steaks, swordfish has a meat-like texture and is often served with a steak knife because the fish is firm, yet moist. It is always served as a “steak” and not as a fillet.
Swordfish is a unique fish in that it typically does not have a fishy taste, and has the consistency of a beef steak, not a fish. Some that don’t care about fish enjoy swordfish.
Are There Different Types Of Swordfish?
Yes, there are many different types of swordfish. They are one of 12 different species of billfish, which also include marlin, sailfish, and spearfish.
They are known for their purple hue and cylindrical bodies. Most billfish are from the Istiophoridae family; swordfish are the only living species that are part of the Xiphiidae family.
You will be able to tell a swordfish from some of its billfish cousins. This is because the bill and body of the swordfish are much longer than those of other billfish.
Also, its dorsal and pectoral fins are very rigid and broad and they have no pelvic fins. These are some of the differences between swordfish and other billfish.
Here Are Some Of The Other Types Of Billfish:
There are other types of fish from the billfish category. Most are widely fished and are prized when they are caught. Some additional types of billfish include:
- Atlantic blue marlin
- Black marlin
- Blue marlin
- Longbill spearfish
- Mediterranean spearfish
- Roundscale spearfish
- Shortbill spearfish
- Striped marlin
- White marlin
Swordfish Flavor Profile: The Essentials Condensed
|Oiliness||Moderate to High|
Comparisons For Reference
- Although it’s quite mild, swordfish has a more robust and nuanced flavor profile than tuna, as it contains much less sodium.
- Swordfish exceeds marlin in terms of both oiliness and flavor.
- When compared to mahi mahi, swordfish has a more impactful flavor profile.
The Many Names Of Swordfish
- Xiphias gladius
Where Do Swordfish Come From?
There is a wide range of places where fishermen travel to catch the prized swordfish. Some of these may be close to home.
The top five fishing spots for swordfish include Florida, Australia, California, Venezuela, and the Mediterranean.
Looking For That Perfect Spot:
Those that set out to find the perfect spot to catch swordfish may find them in these areas:
In Florida, you will find that the best place to catch a swordfish is Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Swordfish can be caught year-round, but the best chance of scoring one is from summer to fall when the water temperature rises.
Swordfish are typically found on the east coast of Australia, but can occasionally be caught in other areas.
If you intend to cast your reel out into the Australian waters, be careful as the number of fish you may catch is regulated. Also, keep in mind that the largest swordfish caught in Australia was Mallacoota, which weighed in at 962 pounds.
Catching a swordfish off the coast of California may be easier than in other areas because the water is very cold. In this case, they tend to swim closer to the surface where the water is warmer.
Their habitat extends south to Cabo San Lucas, where swordfish excursions are common. On rare occasions, swordfish have been caught off the coast of Orange County and even San Diego.
There is an old tale that says swordfish angling started in Venezuela. So, they have a very aggressive tourist industry that visits just for the chance to reel in swordfish.
Many areas throughout the Mediterranean are known for great spots for swordfish. It is a large part of the economy in Spain, Greece, and Italy.
One of the reasons these areas are so popular for fishing for swordfish is that they are close to their natural habitats.
Even those that don’t catch swordfish are sure to bring in other game fish that are plentiful in the area.
Are Swordfish Safe To Eat?
Yes, swordfish is safe to eat and you are likely to see it on many restaurant menus.
It is a very popular fish, but those that enjoy it should not eat more than 14 ounces of swordfish per week because of its relatively high levels of mercury.
It is not recommended that you eat it raw.
Swordfish is a popular fish because of its mild flavor and “meaty” quality. Unlike other fish, if you purchase it in a store or from your fishmonger, it is already cleaned and ready to be cooked or frozen.
It should be thoroughly cooked before serving, and most enjoy it grilled, fried, or with barbecue seasoning.
Is Swordfish Good For You?
Swordfish is healthy and good for you as it contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, and is high in protein and low in saturated fat.
Other Benefits Of Eating Swordfish:
There are other benefits that swordfish offer including:
- It can help reduce sleep disorders.
- It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- The nutrients in swordfish can help control blood pressure.
- It is a good source of protein.
- It can improve bone health.
Swordfish Nutritional Value – 85 GM
Serving Size: 1 piece (4-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 7/8”)
Calories: 165 (45 from Fat)
How Should Swordfish Be Stored And Can It Be Frozen?
After purchasing, put the fish in ice or a cooler bag. Rinse under cold water, dry, and place on a rack to let the moisture drain out.
Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the coldest area of the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To freeze, wrap tightly in several layers of freezer paper.
If you caught a fresh swordfish, first of all, congratulations! In most cases, tour guides will clean, cut, and wrap your fish, then freeze it until you are ready to transport it home.
Can I Buy Swordfish From My Neighborhood Grocery Store?
You should be able to find swordfish at your neighborhood market. The best days to buy specialty items like swordfish are Thursday through Sunday because those are the busiest days because the markets have fresher fish and a larger variety.
Other types of seafood, which are staples and more common, like salmon, cod, scallops, shrimp, crab, and lobster, tend to be available daily.
Because they are more common, they are more readily available than some of the specialty items, which tend to be stocked on weekends and during busy times.
How To Clean Swordfish Before Cooking?
Cleaning is an essential part of cooking and is mandatory in most dishes. However, Swordfish doesn’t require it.
Before cooking the swordfish filets, you can wash them under running water.
However, it is unnecessary since people believe Swordfish loses its flavor when washed before cooking.
Can We Eat SwordFish Raw?
Swordfish is one of many options which seafood lovers opt to eat raw.
You may have Swordfish raw and cooked both ways; they will be incredibly delicious.
However, before eating raw Swordfish, one must keep a few things in mind to ensure you will not contaminate any bacteria or invite any severe illness.
One should check out the grade on which the Swordfish has been frozen as it limits the food-borne illness caused by Swordfish.
Note: Always remember eating raw fish compared to cooked is always a risk to your health.
Do Swordfish Have Worms?
Seafood lovers should know that almost every type of seafood risks parasites or worms, and Swordfish is no different.
The parasites on Swordfish are large compared to other seafood, but they are not particularly harmful.
There is a chance that you will notice these parasites in swordfish steaks. There is a chance that you will notice these parasites in swordfish steaks. Therefore, you should remove these parasites before cooking the Swordfish.
The parasites present in Swordfish are harmless, but they still affect its taste, rendering it unpalatable.
Is Swordfish Poisonous?
Swordfish are a popular seafood choice, but many people don’t know that they are considered one of the most poisonous types of fish.
Swordfish have been known to be responsible for causing fatalities in both humans and sharks.
Like any other giant fish, Swordfish contains a higher level of mercury, and regular consumption of these high mercury levels will be poisonous.
What Is The Best Way To Cook Swordfish?
Swordfish come in light red and have a white-grayish body with a large, dark spot on their back.
Swordfish are often cooked using a marinade or sauce that contains lemon juice and garlic. It is usually grilled, broiled, or baked.
The fish is also known for its rugged, flaky meat with a rich, slightly sweet flavor.
The best way to cook Swordfish is to marinate it in lemon juice and oil, grill it, and then finish it with a sauce of lemon juice, mustard, and cream.
Are There Any Fish That Are Similar To Swordfish?
If you have a craving for swordfish and your grocery market is out, you have a few options that will calm your craving.
Purchasing meaty types of fish like shark, marlin, halibut, and tuna is probably the closest in taste and texture to swordfish.
These fish are considered the most viable options because, like swordfish, they are cut and sold as steaks, not fillets. You may also like to choose salmon steaks, but the flavor will be a bit bolder than some of these other options.
What Should You Use To Season Swordfish?
Swordfish, with its tame and versatile flavor profile, makes it a wonderful blank culinary canvas.
A favorite of chefs all around the world, it allows you to be creative with your ingredients, but keeping things simple will also go down a storm!
A light drizzle of olive oil topped with a sprinkle of cracked sea salt and ground white pepper and that steak of the sea will be an absolute delight, but if you do want to get a little more adventurous, I’d recommend experimenting with any of the following herbs or spices:
- Chives (I once had swordfish served on a chive-infused bed of mashed potatoes, topped with a leek and cider sauce — It was AMAZING!)
- Dill (especially if you’re trying to boost the fishy factor)
- Rosemary, thyme, & oregano blend
What Side Dishes Pair Well With Swordfish?
Swordfish may be understated in the flavor department, but it commands the limelight, meaning you should be subtle in your choice of side dish.
You’re not looking to overwhelm the swordfish and steal focus; the goal is to find a supporting cast of foods that complement this wonderful meat.
Use the following suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:
- Potatoes — All kinds (besides baked)
- Cauliflower cheese
- Fresh mango salsa
- Raw greens
- Roasted vegetables — Tender stem broccoli, in particular, is fantastic!
- Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”)
- Stir-fried noodles
Choose Your Weapon: Which Swordfish Is Right For You?
When it comes to swordfish, as with any seafood, fresh is best! The trick is learning how to distinguish a fresh cut from one that’s been defrosted or is a few days old.
A dead giveaway of a fresh swordfish steak is the blood marbling — Deep red is an indicator of freshness, while a brown or sometimes even black vein tells you that this fish has been out of the water for longer than you’d like.
The hue of raw swordfish differs depending on the catch location.
For instance, specimens caught along the East Coast will exhibit a more vibrant red, while those netted in the Pacific will have more of a pinkish tinge. So, keep locating in mind when selecting your cut.
The opacity and color of the cooked flesh are also pretty conclusive clues as to the fish’s freshness.
You’re looking for vaguely translucent ivory. Any solid ivory or discoloration means it’s either getting on a bit or has been defrosted.
Red spots (separate from the veining), tell you that the fish was under significant stress when caught and killed. It might taste alright, but the texture won’t be quite what it should be.
How Do You Fry Swordfish?
Much like a good steak, shallow frying swordfish in a reliable non-stick pan is the best way to cook it up, but don’t worry about seasoning the fish before frying it as you would a beef steak.
Seasoning should almost always be done after cooking swordfish.
- Step 1: If you find the red flesh unappealing, use a sharp chef’s knife to carve it away. Do bear in mind, however, that these are the most flavorful bits — I recommend leaving them in!
- Step 2: You can eat swordfish skin if there is any, but it’s typically served without it. You can remove it now, but it’s a bit easier to remove once the fish is cooked, sort of like salmon.
- Step 3: Pour some vegetable oil (or another oil with a high smoke point) into a frying pan and place it on a medium to high burner.
- Step 4: While the oil heats up, grab a paper towel and pat down your swordfish steak. Removing as much moisture as possible will give you the best sear in the pan.
- Step 5: Once you can hear the oil a-bubblin’ carefully drop your swordfish steak into the middle of the pan and sear it for 5 minutes
- Step 6: Next, flip the steak and sear for a further 2 minutes.
- Step 7: Don’t allow the fish to cook white all the way through. Some central pinkness is key (much like a steak), but use a meat probe to check it has an internal temperature of at least 145 °F.
- Step 8: Serve it 5-minute side up to show off the appetizing sear.
Alternatives To Shallow Frying Swordfish
I’d also recommend giving baked, broiled, sautéed, or smoked swordfish a try, but thanks to its robust texture, it’s a particularly wonderful addition to a BBQ, as, unlike most other fish, it won’t flake between the grates of your grill.
Swordfish can also be eaten raw, making it a shoo-in for some mouthwatering sushi servings.
Although it’s commonly served as a steak, I’d also recommend cubing some and cooking it into a lovely chowder or casserole.
This is a great way to make the most of older cuts that are no longer flavorful enough to be the star of the dish. The slower you can cook it, the fresher it will feel and taste.
The only approaches I’d advise against are poaching or frying, as this leads to an over-tough cut.
Who Shouldn’t Eat Swordfish?
Due to the high mercury content, you should not eat swordfish if you
- Are pregnant or may soon conceive
- Are currently breastfeeding
- Are a young child
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Swordfish Recipes With The Best Taste And Nutritional Value
If you are planning to make swordfish at home, here are some delicious and easy recipes for you to try.
|Citrus Marinated Grilled Swordfish||129 Per Serving||4 Hour 22 Minutes|
|Pan-Roasted Swordfish||246 Per Serving||30 Minutes|
|Herby Broiled Swordfish||333 Per Serving||45 Minutes|
1. Citrus Marinated Grilled Swordfish
Swordfish and grilling are just made to go together. With addition of classic flavors like lemon and lime juice bring out the mild flavors of the swordfish. A day of soy sauce adds an extra level of flavor.
One of the best things about this recipe is you can make the marinade ahead of time, add your swordfish and forget about it until you are ready to grill it.
Grilling is one of the best ways to prepare swordfish. The grill imparts a light smoky flavor, without being overpowering and best of all, you will have very little clean up afterwards.
If you are new to preparing swordfish, this is a great recipe to try. Chances are you will be hooked!
Calories: 129 Kcal
Preparation Time: 4 Hours 22 Minutes
2. Pan Roasted Swordfish With Cherry Tomatoes And Capers
While you may not think of tomatoes and swordfish together, you will think again after your first bite of this delectable dish.
This recipe offers a quick, healthy and delicious way to serve pan seared swordfish steaks. The tomatoes, capers and herbs together create a wonderful dish, which is high in flavor. Not to mention the amazing smell your kitchen will have while it’s cooking.
This dish is cooked on high heat to sear in all the deliciousness of the swordfish and seal in the juices. It will be ready in less than 30 minutes, making it great for a midweek meal.
Calories: 246 Kcal
Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
3. Herby Broiled Swordfish With Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Broiled Swordfish is one of the easiest ways to prepare this delicious, flaky fish. It takes just 20 minutes to prepare the marinade and only 20 minutes in the oven.
Best of all, there are only four ingredients in the marinade, and they are all items you likely have in your house, lemon juice, olive oil, white wine, and green onion.
This swordfish recipe is sure to become one of your favorites, because it is quick, super easy, and tastes like you spend hours slaving over the stove!
Calories: 333 Kcal
Preparation Time: 45 Minutes
If the mere thought of fishy foods such as anchovies or sardines leaves you feeling a little queasy, but you’re still intrigued by seafood, I’d highly recommend giving swordfish a taste.
The mild, sweet flavor makes it incredibly palatable, and the texture is unlike any seafood you’ll have ever eaten before.
I often say that swordfish exists in a culinary limbo between typical meat and seafood, giving it a wide appeal, and the fact that it’s really easy to cook well is a lovely bonus!
Frequently Asked Questions
Swordfish are known as predators and enjoy eating almost as much as they enjoy putting up a fight for fishermen. Here are some facts you may not know about swordfish.
Do Swordfish Stab Their Prey With Their Sword?
No, swordfish prefer to slice and dice their prey. They use their sword bills to slash their prey to stun and injure them before they consume them.
This is primarily for larger fish; the smaller prey they eat whole. Older swordfish have no teeth, so they need to have food in pieces they can swallow whole.
Are Swordfish Fast Swimmers?
Yes, they are extremely fast. Their impressive speed has been clocked at up to 60 mph when they are aggressively hunting their prey. They are the 2nd fastest fish in the ocean after the sailfish.
Do They Ever Breach The Water?
Yes, on occasion you may see a swordfish breaching out of the water. When swordfish breach, many believe it is because they are trying to get rid of parasites on their body.
Do Swordfish Have Any Predators?
Because swordfish grow very large, have dangerous swords, and move extremely fast, they don’t have too many predators. The only predators that present a danger to them are killer whales and mako sharks.
Where Do Swordfish Prefer To Live?
The preferred habitat for swordfish is in the oceans, where the water ranges from 41 to 81 degrees. They are found in water depths around 1,800 feet.
They have been known to be in shallower water when the water temperature below is cold; other times they can be found as far as 9,422 feet deep.
This can make it difficult for sports fishermen looking to catch a big swordfish, as they need to take into consideration the temperature of the water when angling for swordfish.
What Do Swordfish Eat?
Swordfish are piscivores because they prey on other species of fish. They enjoy a wide range of other fish, like mackerels, barracudas, squids, rockfish, tunas, and other fish around the same size.
When they come upon a larger-sized fish, they use their sword to stun and injure their prey before they consume them, since they have no teeth.
It is interesting to note that many fishermen that catch and clean swordfish often find a wide variety of whole fish, squid, and other prey still in their original form, because the fish has swallowed them whole.
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