Rainbow Trout Taste: Are They Good for Eating?

Rainbow trout taste feature image

Rainbow trout has a mild and delicate flavor. Cooked properly, rainbow trout meat is light pink, tender and flakes easily. Trout has a slightly nutty flavor and is completed by flavors such as thyme, bacon and pine nuts.

Brown trout caught from a river has a fishier, stronger taste. The meat is darker and contains more oils. Larger brown trout can be extremely gamey tasting and may need to be soaked in milk overnight before cooking to help remove excess oils.

Cutthroat trout and brook trout are milder but still have that trout taste.  The steelhead trout has orange color meat and is similar to salmon. Once cooked, the light orange meat has a delicate texture.

Lake trout, Dolly Varden, arctic char, and brook trout are actually more closely related to the salmon family. These fish are varieties of a group called char. While they come from the same family as trout, they are more salmonlike in taste and appearance.

Quick summary: Rainbow trout are great eating and have a slightly sweet nutty taste and a mild fish flavor. Cooked properly, the flesh is light pink, tender and flakes easily.

What does rainbow trout taste like?

The taste of the rainbow trout varies depending on how and where the fish was caught and by what they feed on.

Rainbow trout caught in the wild has a mild flavor. It has a bit of a fishy taste befitting of a freshwater fish, but has a more delicate flavor than other trout species.  Freshwater trout or farmed trout is found in stocked ponds and rivers. This depends on the clarity of the fresh water and what type of other fish live in the water. Like other fish, trout eat many things, including bugs, algae, smaller fish, and debris off the bottom.

Many anglers say lake trout taste is similar to eating dirt. Others say it depends on how many trout live in the water and if they have a sufficient food source with a healthy population of fish to eat. Rainbow trout eating fish will have different flavors and textures to the meat than trout dining on the algae and debris in the lake water.

Nutrition value of rainbow trout

Eating rainbow trout is recommended by doctors because of its high nutritional value. Rainbow trout contains low levels of dangerous mercury but has high values of essential amino acids including Omega-3 fatty acids. Properly cooked fish retains its nutritional value and has heart-healthy levels of Vitamins A, D, and B12. Rainbow trout is also a good source of low-fat protein.

Trout vs Salmon: Taste Differences

Trout and salmon are closely related, so it makes sense that the fish have similar tastes. Both are oily fish with pink meat. Brown trout and golden trout have flesh with more of a reddish-orange color. This meat tends to be oilier and these trout taste like salmon more than the others. Rainbow trout and speckled trout have lighter colored meat, that is softer and mushier than the meat from other trout fish.

Best Seasoning for Trout and Other Freshwater Fish

Rainbow trout can be enjoyed pan-fried, battered, grilled over a fire pit or baked.

Rainbow trout is one of the most commonly eaten trout. Raised in fish farms or hatcheries for fly fishing, rainbow trout are bred for sportsmen who want to catch and release or catch and eat trout. While they can reproduce in the wild, many of the young fish do not make it through the life cycle because they are eaten by other fish.

There are many ways to cook rainbow trout. Many anglers like to cook a whole trout over a campfire by the side of the stream after a day of trout fishing. Pan-fried in butter and drizzled with lemon juice, fresh rainbow trout offers a mild flavor and flaky white meat.


It is possible to fry fish in olive oil or vegetable oil, but butter is best when cooking trout or any delicate fish. Put the butter in the pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter begins to sizzle lay the fillets in the pan. Allow them to fry for 3-5 five minutes, basting them with the excess butter. This helps cook the fish through and keeps the side facing up from becoming dry. Flip the fish once and finish the cooking.


Thyme, a wild-growing herb from the oregano family has a minty, lemony taste that tames the gamey taste of trout. It is especially tasty when combined with lemon or garlic.


Lemon is an excellent addition to any fish dish. When fish die, their bodies begin to produce amines. Similar to ammonia, these alkaline molecules enhance smell and taste. The result is that nasty, strong, fish like smell. Adding an acid, in the form of lemon juice, affects rainbow trout taste by neutralizing the amines. The resulting trout taste is mild and meaty.


Dill using sparingly can add a little bit of bite to your fish meal. This tangy herb is just a little bit citrusy and can help reduce that fishy trout taste. It also adds a dash of bright color to your dish.


Pungent, aromatic garlic is added to many seasonings and spices. Paired with garlic and lemon, it makes rainbow trout taste tangy and flavorful without destroying the actual trout taste.


Bacon and fish are excellent partners in the pan. The crispy thin slices of bacon provide a nice complement to the mild, meaty fish fillets. The bacon grease imparts a slightly smokey, salty flavor and makes the rainbow trout taste like you just cooked it over an open fire.


Capers are small edible buds that have a sour, lemony taste with the texture of olives. Capers are made by bringing the unripened buds in vinegar. This creates a tart, acidic bite that affects fish in much the same way lemon juice does. The acidic capers neutralize the amines that create that fishy taste and smell.

Best Ways to Cook Trout


Trout can be pan-fried with the skin or without. Using butter for frying and having a hot pan allows you to produce crispy skin without burning the fish. A seasoned cast iron pan over an open campfire is the preferred cooking method for many anglers. Be sure to keep basting the fish with the excess butter when pan-frying to keep it from getting dried out.


Battered and fried fish is delicious, no matter if it is rainbow trout or some other species of fish. Make a simple batter using a packaged mix and beer or milk. Drop the battered fish pieces in boiling hot oil and cook until it floats to the top and is lightly browned.


Like salmon, trout fillets or fish steaks can be grilled. Firm trout like browns or lake trout hold up best to grilling, but it is possible to prepare rainbow trout on the grill. For best results, the grill needs to be preheated to medium heat and the grill grates should be well greased or buttered because the fish will stick. After gutting the fish, stuff the cavity with butter and spices and grill the trout for 4-6 minutes on each side.


Baked rainbow trout is healthy and easy to prepare. Line a baking sheet with foil squares. Place the trout skin side down and brush it with melted butter. Sprinkle seasonings on top and add a thinly sliced lemon. Loosely close the foil around the fish. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

My favourite trout recipe

  • Ingredients
  • Butter
  • Bacon (chopped)
  • Thyme – small bunch. Strip the leaves off the stem and use leaves only.
  • Lemon slices
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  1. Take one or more medium sized rainbow trout (approx 13” or 1lb) cleaned and scaled
  2. Take out a 14”piece of aluminum foil – one for each trout
  3. Place the each trout in the centre of the foil
  4. Put a chunk of butter, the bacon, thyme and a couple of lemon slices into the gut cavity of the fish
  5. Rub the olive oil into the flanks of the fish and season with salt
  6. Close up the aluminium foil wrapping up the fish to seal in the ingredients
  7. Cook on medium heat on the grill (or in a pan) for 20 minutes
  8. Unwrap and serve

How to Clean Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout has many tiny pin bones and deboning it would make it easier for you to enjoy the fish.

Rainbow trout can be prepared for cooking in several ways. The skin of the fish is completely edible, although some people do not like the way the cooked skin of rainbow trout tastes.

The simplest method of cleaning is to simply gut the fish and give it quick rinse in cold, fresh water. You can then grill, pan fry, or bake the whole fish.

How to Debone Cooked Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout, like other trout, have many tiny pin bones. These small bones should not be eaten. After cooking the fish, you can remove the bones by lifting the entire skeleton out in one piece.

Cook the whole fish after gutting it.  Remove the fins. Use a sharp knife to split the skin along the spine. Use a fork to gently press the meat down while you lift up on the tail. The fish will split into halves. You can then lift the entire skeleton by lifting it carefully.

Final thoughts on rainbow trout taste

The final thing to remember about trout is their taste is influence by what they feed on. In general, lake dwelling fish have a higher proportion of crustaceans in their diet – such as crawfish – and as a result have pink flesh that tastier and more appealing than their river-dwelling cousins.

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Teresa Taylor is a keen kayak fisher and lover of all types of fishing. She writes about a range of fish species for Tackle Village and reviews lures and gear.
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