Aquarium owners know that the triggerfish is a beautiful animal with a somewhat potent temper. However, anglers also appreciate the triggerfish as a challenging and enjoyable game variety, one that is commonly eaten throughout many parts of the world.
Understanding triggerfish taste can help you decide whether or not to try this somewhat underrated species. It can also give you a better understanding of what seafood meals they may replace.
Triggerfish taste may surprise many seafood fans due to its unique potency and underlying flavors.
In this article, we’ll discuss triggerfish taste, highlight its overall texture, discuss its unique species, and provide three recipes that should suit many preferences.
This information can help you turn this common aquarium fish into your next big seafood meal!
What Are Triggerfish?
Triggerfish is a term given to over 40 different species in the Balistidae family. They are common tropical and subtropical fish found throughout many oceans.
Most prefer shallow and coastal regions around coral reefs, while others may enjoy deeper living environments.
Triggerfish are typically between 8-20 inches long, though the large stone triggerfish can be up to three feet long.
Their oval body is highly compressed, which creates a unique look that helps them feed heavily on things like shellfish. Their fins are typically sharp spines that run along their back.
As bottom-dwelling fish, they are noted for their aggression and carnivorous diet. Aquarium owners know that triggerfish often attack other fish species, even if they don’t eat them.
They are also known to be highly intelligent fish, one that learns from previous mistakes and behavioral errors.
Do Triggerfish Have a Shellfish Taste?
Triggerfish are one of the more potent fish on the market and have a taste very similar to sweet crab meat. That gives them a different flavor than most white fish, which are typically rather mild.
Triggerfish typically does not taste much like chicken, unlike its white fish relatives.
Some people compare triggerfish favorably to grouper, though with a more shellfish taste. If you’ve ever eaten a sheepshead fish, they are also compared to them.
That makes triggerfish a bit of an acquired taste but one that crab fans are sure to love.
What Do Triggerfish Look Like?
A triggerfish is a rather compact fish with a larger head and an oval body. Their colors are often quite bright and make them very attractive aquarium fish.
They’re usually fairly small as well, which is why they’re usually found in shallower coastal areas.
Triggerfish meat is typically white and looks similar to other white fish in its overall feel. It tends to have fairly compact and thin fillets due to its smaller overall size.
However, these fillets may brown slightly when cooked, particularly on the cooked sides.
What Texture Does Triggerfish Have?
Triggerfish have a thin and light texture that is surprisingly firm. It lacks the chewiness of shellfish and other types of seafood but isn’t soft or mushy.
Instead, its fillets are thin and firm but with an overall light feel that makes them easy to cook in many ways.
The texture should stay firm under a finger press, with minimal give in the fillet. The fingerprint may stay in the fish for a few moments before bouncing back and regaining its shape.
Only spoiling triggerfish will be soft or mushy, though thawed triggerfish may also lose some texture.
Types Of Triggerfish?
Over 40 different triggerfish species are spread across the planet’s oceans. All but one of these species is suitable to eat, though it is important to pay attention to which you catch.
Here are a Few of the Most Common Triggerfish Found on the Market:
- Frostbite Clownfish – Clownfish are typically not suitable for dining and should probably be avoided by most people. However, this popular aquarium fish is found throughout many parts of the Pacific and is one of the most unpredictable and aggressive triggerfish.
- Niger Triggerfish – Niger triggerfish are found throughout many Pacific regions and have an animal-based diet that includes shrimp. They are very placid triggerfish and have brought blue and green colors. Their diet gives them a fishier overall taste than some other species on this list.
- Boomerang Triggerfish – The best word to describe this species is antisocial. They usually prefer living by themselves and may attack other species in the aquarium. Their brighter colors make them quite attractive, though they’re not eaten as often as other safe triggerfish.
- Picasso Triggerfish – These territorial triggerfish have yellow markings along its face and are surprisingly slow swimmers. Amusingly, they often make grunts in an aquarium, which makes them a popular pet fish. Their taste is rather mild compared to the Niger triggerfish.
- Clown Triggerfish – While this clownfish may look very cute, it is one of the most aggressive of all triggerfish and shouldn’t be put in with other fish. Their darker overall patterns make them easy to see. Like other clown triggerfish, they should not be eaten.
- Orange-Lined Triggerfish – Common throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans, this triggerfish is incredibly aggressive and rarely does well in an aquarium setting. They have independently-moving eyes that make them an interesting fish to own, regardless. They’re edible though not eaten often.
These species, along with other triggerfish varieties, have distinctively small mouths with powerful jaws. Aquarium owners know that triggerfish have very strong jaws and aren’t afraid to bite.
They should be carefully handled if you plan on owning or catching one.
Where Do Triggerfish Come From?
Triggerfish are tropical and subtropical fish that are found primarily throughout southern regions in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
However, they can also be caught in the Gulf of Mexico, throughout the Caribbean, and even in many parts of the Atlantic Ocean.
Their surprisingly hardy bodies can resist warmth very well and even thrive in a variety of water conditions.
Few triggerfish are on protected species lists due to their tough nature. Anglers must look to coastal regions to increase their chance of catching this fish.
Is Triggerfish Healthy? Or Dangers Of Eating Triggerfish? Are They Poisonous?
Triggerfish is one of the most calorie-dense fish species with a surprisingly high-fat level. However, they also have a strong concentration of protein and are considered heart-healthy proteins.
It is best to avoid eating more than one or two servings per week to minimize mercury risks.
The biggest danger of triggerfish is ciguatera, a foodborne illness that can cause heart and neurological problems.
Clownfish should be avoided entirely to minimize the danger of this sickness. However, all other triggerfish are safe as long as you eat fish below five pounds and aren’t considered poisonous.
How Do You Eat Triggerfish? What’s The Best Way To Eat It?
Triggerfish is eaten in many ways, including grilled, baked, broiled, fried, smoked, and even pickled.
Sushi restaurants often use triggerfish in various rolls because it is safe to eat raw when handled and prepared properly. Its taste is also adaptable to many different serving situations.
Triggerfish serves well with most types of fish-friendly side dishes, such as rice and potatoes. Garlic-seasoned roasted potatoes are particularly good with this meal.
However, rich green vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and even artichokes may go very well with triggerfish when steamed.
We strongly recommend eating triggerfish grilled to bring out its flavors more fully. Grilled fish tend to be among the best-testing options and triggerfish is no different.
Can You Eat It Raw?
Triggerfish is almost never eaten raw because it may cause intestinal distress. That’s because some triggerfish species may have worms that can spread through your stomach and cause serious health dangers.
How Can I Store Triggerfish?
Store triggerfish in an airtight plastic container in your refrigerator for up to three or four days.
Wrap the fish in plastic before storing it to keep oxygen out and minimize its spoilage risk. Pay attention to signs of spoiling to ensure that you don’t eat bad fish.
You can store canned or smoked triggerfish in a cool pantry or even your refrigerator for extended periods. Even these methods don’t preserve triggerfish indefinitely.
As a result, it is important to carefully track these foods to ensure that they don’t spoil you unexpectedly.
Can You Freeze Triggerfish?
Freezing a triggerfish can help it stay fresh for far longer than its purchase or preparation date. Start by wrapping the fish or meal in plastic wrap and placing it in a freezer container.
Put this container towards the back of your freezer to ensure it gets intense cold.
Freezing your triggerfish should help it stay safe to eat for 3-6 months. After about three months, check the fish to make sure it doesn’t have any freezer burn.
If you find triggerfish frozen for over six months that somehow doesn’t have freezer burn, throw it away anyway.
How To Tell If Triggerfish Is Bad?
Smell your triggerfish after three days of storage in your refrigerator. If you notice a potent odor that smells far fishier than when the fish was fresh, throw it away.
This odor only worsens as more time passes and can stink up your whole fridge if you aren’t careful.
Spoiled triggerfish also loses its firmness and becomes softer and mushier. Note that soft or mushy flesh is also a sign you froze your triggerfish too long.
Throw this meat away if you notice softness or any signs of molding, such as black flesh across the fish.
Triggerfish vs. Crab
Triggerfish and crab have very similar tastes but slightly different textures. Triggerfish is firmer than crab and less chewy, which can make it more palpable.
Crab also has a slightly more potent flavor that may work well for people who love rich seafood.
Both have fairly similar nutrient levels, but triggerfish often have more fat and calories. That makes crab a good option if you enjoy triggerfish but want a lower-fat option.
Note that many crab dishes are prepared with rich creams and sauces that can affect its taste and health.
How Do You Cook And Clean Triggerfish?
Cooking triggerfish may start by cleaning it to remove its bones, skin, and internal organs. This process should take 10-15 minutes, depending on your skill level.
After removing the fillets, make sure that you clean them in warm water to rinse away any debris.
Typically, most recipes ask you to coat the triggerfish with a simple topping. For example, some may use eggs to stick flour to its surface, while others use melted butter.
This step lets you add various herbs and spices to the fish that make it even tastier.
Now, you can grill, fry, bake, or even broil your fish based on what your recipe asks. Baking or broiling your fish helps to soften it up and preserves most of its nutrients.
Frying or grilling keeps it firm and adds extra flavor, but it can also add grease and fat to your fish.
Most recipes call for light ingredients when cooking triggerfish, such as a sprinkling of salt or pepper.
That’s because it’s easy to accidentally hide the flavor or smother it and miss its subtle textures. The recipes we included here try to keep your fish as light as possible in this way.
Nutritional Value Chart
|Nutritional Value of One Ounce of Triggerfish|
Triggerfish Recipes: Quick Table
|Sauteed Triggerfish Fillets||203||25 Minutes|
|Pecan Butter Triggerfish||267.91||25 Minutes|
|Basil Crusted Triggerfish||140||30 Minutes|
This sauteed triggerfish recipe is very simple and adaptable to many tastes. That makes it perfect for people who want multiple meal types.
Cook it by seasoning the fish with your favorite herbs and spices and then sauteing in a pan for 2-3 minutes on each side and flavoring it with lemon juice and garlic.
We strongly recommend this option to those who have some experience with cooking and who want a healthier meal.
Try to season it with salt and pepper and other toppings, such as red peppers, to give it even more flavor. Tomatoes also go perfectly with this meal and help it retain a keto-friendly feel.
Total Preparation Time: 25 Minutes
This dish requires you to layer chopped pecans on a baking dish and cook for five minutes before mixing together flour, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a separate dish.
Coat your fish with milk and then add them to the flour mix before sauteing for 4-5 minutes on each side and flavoring with the toasted pecans.
This delicious meal is a great option if you tried sauteed triggerfish and want something a little more advanced. Note that the pecans do add a little more fat to this meal, which may be concerning to some.
However, it is a keto-friendly dish and one that may make triggerfish more palpable for younger children and pickier eaters.
Total Preparation Time: 25 Minutes
Here’s another delicious sauteed triggerfish meal that brings out the best in this fish.
Add light pepper and salt to the fillets, and then add basil to the flesh. Push down on the fish to help press these ingredients further into its flesh.
Cook the fish on both sides for five minutes in a butter-coated pan and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to add even more texture.
This meal is great if you want a healthier triggerfish recipe that will blend well with many tastes. The basil crust is healthier than other saute options and is subtler in its overall flavor.
That makes it easier to mix with many other meals, including a rice pilaf and roasted potatoes.
Total Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Triggerfish Eat?
Triggerfish feed heavily on invertebrates, particularly those with hard bodies. They particularly enjoy urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish, crabs, and shrimp.
While they will also eat algae, they primarily eat other sea animals. This gives their meat a rather protein-dense texture.
Should I Stay Away From Triggerfish?
While triggerfish is very tasty, the dangers of infection can be high if you aren’t careful.
Most triggerfish species are safe beyond clownfish, meaning it is important to know exactly what type you catch before eating. If you aren’t sure, don’t take the risk and simply avoid eating it.
Could I Eat A Pet Triggerfish?
It is possible to cook and eat a pet triggerfish, but it is not advisable. That’s because food-based triggerfish are cleaned and tested to ensure they are safe from disease.
It is also challenging to clean a triggerfish if you don’t know what you’re doing, and it may cause bacteria to spread.
How Do I Know A Caught Triggerfish Can Be Eaten?
The scary thing about triggerfish is that you can never be sure which are infected.
It is best to stick to triggerfish below five pounds because they have a lower risk of this disease. Clownfish should never be eaten because they are at the highest risk of spreading this condition.