Can You Eat Marlin? And Does It Taste Good?

Can you eat marlin feature image

Marlin are a popular game fish, and most recreational fishermen tend to release the marlin they catch.

But the answer to the question ‘Can you eat marlin’ is yes—it is both edible and tasty.

You will find marlin and its close relative swordfish in fish shops and on restaurant menus.

Do People Eat Marlin?

Yes, marlin is a popular eating fish throughout much of the world. It’s loved by cooks and diners for its flexibility—the firm steak-like flesh is good to grill, smoke, or cook in curries. And ceviche or sashimi are healthy options for those who like their fish raw.

What Does Marlin Taste Like?

Marlin is a firm-fleshed meaty fish with a rich and full flavor.

The texture and appearance of marlin and swordfish are almost like a steak, although it is a rich pink as opposed to red. Swordfish, which have a similar taste, are lighter in color with more of a cream hue.

Overall, marlin has a slightly gamey taste.

Marlin is a lean fish and is considered healthy to eat. It can be grilled or fried, or cooked in curries and casseroles.

Can You Eat Marlin Raw?

Marlin sashima tataki style eating marlin
Tataki-Style Marlin Sashimi

Yes, blue marlin (kajiki) and striped marlin (nairagi) are prized for sashimi (raw fish) and sushi (raw fish on rice) in Japan. Sashimi or sushi made from marlin tastes great.

As with all fish that is eaten raw, it must be prepared correctly to be considered safe. That normally means snap-freezing it to a temperature where any parasites present are killed.

Raw fish that has received this treatment will be labeled “sushi grade” or “sashimi grade.”

Is It Safe to Eat Marlin? Does It Contain High Mercury Levels?

Cleaning marlin eating marlin
Due to its position near the top of the food chain, blue marlin may contain higher levels of mercury.

Blue marlin is low in saturated fat and sodium and is a good source of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, selenium, niacin, and protein.

As a large predatory fish, marlin is close to the top of the food chain, so they have the potential to accumulate more mercury by consuming smaller fish that have picked up traces of it.

Large fish tend to accumulate higher levels of mercury just through their position in the ocean food chain.

That said, you would need to eat an enormous amount of marlin for this to cause an issue, and it is not something I worry about, although pregnant women might want to consult medical info to make an informed decision on whether it is safe to eat.

Are Marlin Populations Under Threat and Is It Ethical to Eat?

Marlin are typically caught as bycatch by boats fishing for tuna species using longline gear.

Marlin populations in some regions are considered at risk, although there are sustainable marlin fisheries.

The website makes the following recommendations for eating marlin.

What’s the Difference Between Marlin and Swordfish?

Both marlin and swordfish are members of what’s called the billfish family and superficially look similar from afar. Despite these similarities, the two fish are from different families: Marlin are members of the Istiophoridae family, while swordfish are members of the Xiphiidae family.

The two fish have slightly different body shapes, with marlin having a body that is oval in profile if you look at it as a cross-section, while swordfish are round in profile.

Both are ocean-going fish that reach similar sizes of 10 feet or 1400 pounds.

What Tastes Better, Swordfish or Marlin? (Marlin vs Swordfish)

In terms of taste, marlin, and swordfish have a very similar gamey flavor.

Both have a firm texture and steak-like flesh, but swordfish is much lighter in shade and is almost cream in color.

Good Ways to Eat Marlin

Here are four of our favorite ways to cook either marlin or swordfish, and you’ll enjoy eating blue marlin or striped marlin served in these ways.

Grilled Marlin With Citrus Pesto

Grilled marlin steak Japanese style
Japanese-Style Grilled Marlin Steak

Marlin is great fish species to serve flame grilled. The dense flesh won’t flake or break up on the grilled and it looks great with the grill bars on it.

Because it can be dry, be careful not to overcook it, and it is best served with a pesto with a citrusy bite to it that is well seasoned. I like a lime and coriander pesto with an anchovy ground into it to provide a salty tang. Lemon juice is an alternative if you don’t have limes.

Marlin Burger

Marlin steaks are great to put in a burger grilled. There are very few tastier fish served this way. Most other fish species will flake or crumble when grilled, so you have to deep fry them to stick them in a burger, which is a less healthy option.

Do yourself a favor and try a healthy marlin or swordfish burger – this is a great way to cook marlin. The marlin taste goes well with some capers, cheese, and tartare sauce on the burger.

Marlin Ceviche

Ceviche is another great way to serve marlin fish raw. This way, you cut it up into small chunks and soak it in lime juice with some crushed garlic and finely diced red onions. Eating marlin ceviche on corn chips (tostados) is great and a healthy choice.

Goan Style Marlin Curry

Marlin curry
Marlin Curry

Eating blue marlin or swordfish in a curry is another great way to eat this fish. The Goan curry provides an exotic taste, and the firm flesh of the marlin will hold together throughout the cooking process. This is a popular way of cooking marlin and other similar fish in India and other South Asian countries.

Smoked Marlin

Smoking marlin is a great way to infuse some great flavors into this healthy fish. It’s a popular way to eat marlin in Mexico and can be served in tacos or on a corn chip. Smoked blue marlin is also great, crumbled into a salad.

Can You Eat Blue Marlin?

Yes, for sure. You will find blue marlin available in fish shops in the US, and it has a similar taste to swordfish and striped marlin. Blue marlin caught in US waters is harvested sustainably in a way that minimizes bycatch and environmental damage.

Can You Eat Striped Marlin?

Striped marlin is not as common as blue marlin or swordfish in US fish shops but is available in some areas. Striped marlin tastes just as good to eat as blue marlin and, in some people’s view, is the superior eating fish.

Can You Eat Black Marlin?

Black marlin aren’t really fished commercially, and most game anglers who catch marlin will tag the fish and let it go after taking some pictures.

Can You Eat White Marlin?

Again, there is no established white marlin fishery in the US, and it is comparatively rare, so not a viable eating option.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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