What Does Rainbow Trout Taste Like? [Tips From A Pro Chef]

Rainbow trout can be one of the most challenging species to target but that challenge is worth it for the rewards that come with landing such a big fish.

One of these rewards is the possibility of making a delicious meal out of rainbow trout.

So, what does rainbow trout taste like? Rainbow trout has a mild nutty flavor that’s similar to that of salmon but less intense. It’s not fishy at all and can even be considered a little sweet. Rainbow trout’s meat is usually white, pale pink, or orange in color with a flaky tender texture that can be cooked in various ways without losing its quality.  

Keep reading to learn more about rainbow trout fish, how to properly clean them, and the best ways to cook them.

Basic Facts You Need to Know About Rainbow Trout

rainbow trout to show what do rainbow trout taste like

Rainbow trout are popularly the most popular out of all trout species. Learning some basic facts about their physical features, habitat, behavior, and diet might help increase your chances of landing.

Physical Appearance

They are quite large in size and can often grow up to 4 or 6 lbs. They have a very unique color as they have distinctive silver and pink stripes on the side of their bodies as well as several brown and black dots all over their body.


They are native to North America and can be found in various streams, rivers, or lakes as they prefer clear freshwater.

You can target them in areas where the water depth transitions from deep to shallow or in areas with cover and current breaks such as rock piles and trees as this will be where they usually hunt their food.


Rainbow trout prefer living in cold water and tend to feed more when the temperature drops.

It’s best to target them when the weather is ideal for them to feed as they would be more active and more likely to bite.

The best time of the year to target rainbow trout is during late spring or fall when the water temperature ranges between 34 and 67 degrees.

The best time of day to target rainbow trout is during the early morning hours, from dawn until about 2 hours after sunrise. You can also target them by late afternoon hours, at about 3 hours before sunset until dusk.


Rainbow trout are opportunistic feeders.

They mostly feed on aquatic insects including midges, caddisflies, dragonflies, mayflies, and aquatic larvae at the early stages of their life.

As they grow, their diet will become more varied and they will start feeding on small baitfish such as minnows, shiners, and sunfish. They also might feed on worms and crustaceans like shrimp and crawfish. I have a complete guide on using shrimp for trout that you should check out.

Are Rainbow Trout Good to Eat?

Rainbow trout are good to eat as they have a distinctively delicious flavor as well as various health benefits.

Their flavor is mild compared to that of other trout species and it’s similar to that of salmon. The flavor is often described as nutty and sometimes almost sweet.

Their meat is usually white, pale pink, or orange in color with a flaky tender texture that will melt in your mouth.

They can be cooked in various ways without losing their quality and they offer many health benefits such as being low in calories and rich in nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins B and D, iodine, phosphorus, and iron

How to Clean Rainbow Trout?

It’s very important to make sure your rainbow trout catch is thoroughly cleaned and deboned before cooking as this can have a great effect on how it will taste and will also help keep the fish fresh for a longer time.

The longest you can wait to clean your trout after catching it is about 24 hours depending on how you store it. It’s best to store it in a cooler or a bucket of ice to preserve the meat.

Now let’s take a look at how to efficiently clean your rainbow trout catch with these simple steps:

  • Cut the rainbow trout’s gills and let it bleed out to remove any unpleasant flavors in the blood and preserve the good flavors in the meat.
  • Wash the rainbow trout fish thoroughly using cold water to remove any blood or slime on its skin.
  • Cut the rainbow trout’s head off just before its pectoral fin. This can be optional as some prefer to cook the trout with the head.
  • Hold the rainbow trout with its belly in an upright position then use a sharp knife to make a cut from its anal fins towards its head. Try to keep the blade shallow to avoid damaging the meat.
  • Use pliers to spread the trout’s body open so you can remove all of the entrails.
  • Use a soft clean toothbrush to clean out the blood vein that runs along the fish’s spine. 
  • Wash the trout again from the inside and outside to remove any remains of blood.

Here is an excellent video showing you how to clean trout:

How to Descale Rainbow Trout?

It’s usually recommended to remove the skin from the rainbow trout before cooking it, however, if you prefer to keep the skin you will need to remove all the fish scales.

To descale rainbow trout, you need to hold the fish firmly by its tail then scrape over its skin several times using a sharp knife. Repeat the process on both sides of the fish’s body until all the scales are removed.

How to Fillet Rainbow Trout?

If you’re going to fillet the rainbow trout, you need to remove its head first.

After removing the head, make a cut across the fish’s tail on both sides, then another cut across its spine. Start cutting through the bones to separate the meat and try to remove as many bones as you can because they will make it difficult to cook and eat the fish.

Here is a good video illustrating how to fillet trout simply:

How to Cook Rainbow Trout?

It can be difficult to cook rainbow trout because of how many bones they have in their bodies, however, once they’re properly cleaned and deboned, they will be a lot easier to cook.

Rainbow Trout can be cooked in various ways but the best and simplest ways to cook them are by frying them or baking them in the oven.

Take a look at these two easy-to-follow recipes to prepare a delicious trout meal

Fried Rainbow Trout Fillets


  • Olive oil or butter
  • 2 Rainbow trout, cleaned and filled
  • All-purpose flour or Cornmeal
  • Salt and black pepper


  • Heat the oil or butter in a large frying pan over medium temperature.
  • Mix the flour or cornmeal with salt and pepper in a shallow dish.
  • Coat the rainbow trout fillets in the mixture and make sure they’re completely thoroughly covered on each side
  • Add the rainbow trout fillets into the heated skillet then raise the heat to a higher temperature
  • Fry the rainbow trout fillets for about 4 to 6 minutes on each side. Wait until meat flakes slightly before taking them out.
  • After taking the rainbow trout filets out of the frying pan, dab them with some paper towels to reduce their oiliness then serve them with a fish-friendly side dish.

Oven-Baked Full Rainbow Trout

oven baked rainbow trout


  • Aluminum foil sheets
  • Olive oil
  • 2 small rainbow trout fish, cleaned with head and tail on
  • Sliced lemons
  • Fresh herbs like parsley or dill sprigs
  • Salt and black pepper


  • Preheat your oven to a temperature of 350 degrees F.
  • Cut two large sheets of aluminum foil, then place the rainbow trout fish on each sheet.
  • Brush some oil on both sides of the rainbow trout fish and season them thoroughly with salt and pepper.
  • Add some herbs and lemon slices down the middle of each fish’s body or inside the fish.
  • Fold up the foil sheets firmly to make a packet then place the packets on a baking sheet.
  • Bake the fish packets in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Take the packets out of the oven and let them cool for 2-3 minutes.
  • Place each packet on a plate and serve them with a fish-friendly side dish as well as more fresh herbs and lemon slices.

Related Questions

How to Keep Rainbow Trout Fresh Longer?

To keep trout fresh longer, you need to kill it quickly after catching then put it in a cooler or a bucket full of ice. Also, make sure to clean the fish as soon as possible as it can remain fresh for about 6-12 hours depending on the temperature. If you want to keep it fresh for more time, you will need to store it in a refrigerator after cleaning it.

Check out this full guide to keeping trout fresh.

What Are the Main Species of Trout Fish?

The main species of trout include Rainbow, Steelhead, Cutthroat, Brown, Brook, Lake Trout, and Speckled Trout. While some of these trout species might look similar, each of them has very distinctive features that make it easier to tell them apart. Some of them also live in different water conditions.

Can You Eat Rainbow Trout as Raw Sushi?

You can eat rainbow trout as raw sushi as long as it has been cleaned and frozen at 35°C for at least 15 hours beforehand. That is because freshwater species like rainbow trout are prone to carrying parasites that can be killed by freezing the meat. You can prepare the trout sushi by leaving the meat to marinate in soy sauce and lemons then cut into small pieces.

You can learn more about eating raw trout here.

What Causes the Muddy Taste in Some Trout Fish?

The muddy taste in some trout is caused by a chemical compound in the water called geosmin. This muddy taste can be unpleasant to eat so in order to remove it, it’s recommended to soak the trout in clean cold water with vinegar for over a day. That is because acidic conditions and cold temperatures will break down the geosmin compound.

You can learn how to remove the muddy taste from trout here.

What Are the Regulations for Trout Fishing?

You need to obtain a fishing license to catch trout in all American states. These fishing licenses can be purchased for an affordable amount of money and they’re valid for certain periods of time. Make sure if there are any restrictions on the amount of trout you can catch and the gear you can use in your area before you go fishing.

Make sure to check out how much do fishing licenses cost and where to get them here.

Helpful Resources 

Oven-Baked Trout recipe

Level Up your Trout Fishing

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