Are Kingfish Good To Eat? Don’t Listen To The Naysayers!

Kingfish or otherwise known as King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), are a common sight in coastal oceanic waters.

Although they are common fish that can easily be caught, are kingfish good to eat? To answer quickly, Kingfish have prized fillets that are edible, meaty, and delicious, which makes them excellent for cooking!

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Can You Eat Kingfish?

Yes, you most definitely can eat Kingfish! Kingfish are not only edible, but they are an excellent ‘meaty’ option due to their oily and thick fillets.

They are a highly sought-after sport fish with an intense flavor. It is important to know that kingfish will likely not appeal to those who prefer milder-tasting fish. 

Those who do appreciate oily and soft fish will be overjoyed with the mouth-watering and sweet flavors of a smoked Kingfish.

What Does Kingfish Taste Like?

Kingfish is known to have a savory and stout flavor, which is perfect for smoking and slow cooking. Many anglers say it tastes fishy, and is best prepared when fresh or smoked.

While many fishermen prefer Atlantic Mackerel for eating, Kingfish are still a tasty option when smoked. There are even a few methods to decrease their fishy taste, making them palatable even for the pickiest of eaters.

Their texture is firm and flakey; it is comparable to other Mackerels you might have tried before. 

Are Kingfish Good To Eat?

How To Cook Kingfish

On medium heat on the grill, the fillets will cook in just a few minutes, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on them to prevent any kitchen disasters.

To be specific, for 1-2 fillets, 5-7 minutes on each side is enough. For 3 fillets around 7-8 minutes on each side will be sufficient. 4 fillets should have around 10 minutes on each side.

Make sure you keep a close eye on them while they’re grilling because if you leave them too long, they can overcook and the fillets can start to break apart. 

Things to Know About Eating Kingfish

There is a common misconception that Kingfish aren’t good for eating. While this is untrue, there are certain precautions you should take before organizing a Kingfish feast with your family.

Parasites can grow on a number of Kingfish species. These parasites are not harmful to humans but are obviously rather unappetizing. Make sure you check their body cavities for these parasites prior to preparation. 

Furthermore, like many other carnivorous fish who are opportunistic predators, there come risks with mercury load.

Eating these types of fish (tuna, swordfish, kingfish) every once in a while is totally fine, but if you happen to be pregnant or under 12, many studies suggest you avoid them. 

Current research shows that if you’re not eating more than 7 oz or 198 g a week, the health benefits outweigh any potential negative effects. 

Also, make sure you’re keeping up to date with your local fishing regulations, minimum size limits, and gear restrictions as gillnets are prohibited in most states.

How To Prepare Kingfish

Many people prize Kingfish for its oily and meaty filets, which lend themselves well to being smoked for long periods of time. Kingfish are so versatile that you can also grill, cure, roast, and boil their fillets. 

Frying the fillets is also an option, however, many people critique this method as it is regarded as the least palatable option.

Although these fish can grow quite large, catching a medium-sized Kingfish will provide you with the easiest fillets to harvest.

Kingfish anywhere from 18-20 lbs or 8-9 kg will provide you with perfectly sized tenderloins to split into four sections. 

Filleting Kingfish

After detaching the head, you will be able to see the four tenderloin sections easily as you look at the cross-section of the body. You can now cut the fish into circular cross-sections as you move down the fish lengthwise.

This method exposes four nugget fillets per section that are perfect for preparing later on in the kitchen. 

Continue this method from just 1 inch or 2.5 cm past the eye to the start of the narrowing tail. At this point, you will end up with a bunch of tasty, circular, cross-section steaks.

After rinsing your steaks, you can start removing the bones and sorting your fillets. You want to cut the fillets out of the cross-sections by running a knife between the fillet and the dark outer skin.

If you want to cut the fishy taste, you can soak your fillets in milk for a few hours prior to grilling. 

Kingfish Dip Recipe

Smoked Kingfish dip is one of the most popular ways to prepare this fish by anglers. Due to their high oil content, Kingfish smoke very well which can be served on crackers or toast (it makes a great boat snack!).

Step 1: Smoke your Kingfish fillets, and place in refridgerator to cool for 2 hours. After cooling, shred the fillets with a fork.

Step 2: Mix smoked fillets with cream cheese, sour cream, old bay, and a dash of hot sauce. The consistency should be thick.

Step 3: Place in air tight container and keep refrigerated. Garnish with fresh chives or red onion, and serve on toast or crackers. Yum!

Kingfish Dip Recipe

What Do Kingfish Look Like?

Kingfish have blue and dark grey shiny bodies with silvery tones on their underside. A distinguishing feature of Kingfish is their sharply dipping lateral line. 

These fish can grow up to 154 lbs or 70 kg when given the time and opportunity, so you may find yourself hauling up a real monster if you’re lucky! 

Where Do Kingfish Live?

Kingfish, belonging to the Scombridae family, can be found in almost every ocean in the world. Traveling fishers and sailors rejoice!

Whether you’re fishing with friends in southeast Asia, on a charter out in the southwest Pacific, or looking for a meal after weeks at sea in the Indian ocean, rest assured you can find Kingfish. 

These cunning predators are found in warm (above 68 °F or 20 °C) coastal, clear, open ocean waters in depths ranging from 115-600 ft or 35-182 m deep.

You can catch Kingfish by trolling from a boat or by casting spoons, jigs, or live bait.

Due to their tenacity, size, strength, and all-around ferociousness, catching a Kingfish is something to be proud of, and is a great way to test your angling abilities.

However, have no worries if you don’t feel like wrestling one into a boat, you can almost always find Kingfish at your local grocer or fish market and online.

Is Eating Kingfish Environmentally Friendly?

Kingfish are a great choice for those wanting to minimize their impact on the pressures of overfishing.

In the United States, Kingfish are one of the few species managed sustainably with current regulations. Their population levels are currently above target numbers and their current fishing rate is operating at recommended levels. 

By-catch is also less common with this species as fishers often opt for hook and line to catch them, a gear type with minimal environmental impacts. 

Their biology also makes them a sustainable fishing option. Since they mature and grow quickly, they reach edible sizes faster than other species.

They also can reproduce at only 2 years of age, ensuring future stocks can recover despite fishing pressures. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Raw Kingfish?

Yes, you can eat Kingfish raw, but ensure you are preparing only the freshest, sushi-grade cuts if doing so. 

How Healthy Is Kingfish?

Like many other fish, Kingfish is an excellent source of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are so good for your brain.

Kingfish also have a decent amount of amino acids, protein, selenium, and vitamin B, making them a perfect substitute for those on low-protein or meatless diets. 

What is the Tastiest Type of Kingfish?

Many anglers and chefs revere Atlantic mackerel as the tastiest option of all the kingfish, although personal taste also plays a large role in Kingfish favorability.

Can You Eat Kingfish Skin?

Yes, they are even known for their tasty skin. You can perfectly crisp Kingfish skin on a regular barbeque grill!

What Are The Differences Between Spanish Mackerel And King Mackerel?

These two species inhabit similar areas off the east coast of the United States, however they do taste and look slightly different.

King Mackerel are usually a bit larger than Mackerel. The lateral line of Spanish Mackerel slopes from gill to tail more evenly then a King Mackerel which has a steeper dip in its lateral line.

Spanish Mackerel also have a darker dorsal fin than the King Mackerel. 

Why are Kingfish High in Mercury?

Larger fish tend to have lived longer and eaten much more prey, allowing them to accumulate higher levels of mercury over their lifetime. 

Is Kingfish Expensive?

For sashimi grade Kingfish you will find fillets to be expensive, selling for around 38$/lb or 85$/kg.

However, on average Kingfish sell on average between 7-12$/lb or 15-26$/kg, depending on their quality and grade. 


If you enjoy oily and savory fish, Kingfish are a great fish to grill, smoke or bake. Due to their biology and the current fishing regulations, Kingfish make for a sustainable and tasty meal.