Are Ribbon Fish Good To Eat? Terrifyingly, Yes!

Ribbonfish, otherwise known also as cutlassfish or hairtail fish, are eel-like fish that make excellent king mackerel bait, whose appearance causes most anglers to throw them back.

Are we missing out on this toothy creature? Are ribbon fish good to eat?

Below, I’ll discuss just why you should throw that ribbon fish in your cooler and not back into the ocean!

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Can You Eat Ribbon Fish?

Ribbon fish have been considered a delicacy in Asia for years. Recently, folks in the United States have just started to understand why. Behind their hideous teeth and beady yellow eyes is white, flakey, and delicate meat. 

Ribbon fish look exactly like the sound. Their long, skinny, and ribbon-like appearance make it hard to believe this toothy eel creature, is in fact a fish, not to mention an edible one.

Ribbon fish are considered a nutrient dense fish, can be cooked in a variety of differents ways, and yield quite a bit of meat due to the length of their bodies!

Are Ribbon Fish Good To Eat

What Does Ribbon Fish Taste Like?

While the ribbon fish looks like it’s from outer space, it has a very familiar taste. 

A bite of ribbon fish uncovers a delicate, mild, and buttery taste. The meat has a very clean and slightly briny taste, that is not overly fishy.

Many compare the flavor of ribbon fish to that of flounder, speckled trout, spanish mackerel and other mild, flakey fish

The filets are bright white and have a gentle flakiness yet firmness to them.The fat content on ribbon fish makes it a perfect candidate to eat raw and enjoy it’s natural briny, clean taste. 

Because of it’s natural flavoring, you don’t need to overseason the fish and you can prepare it in a variety of ways. My first time trying the fish, it was lightly seasoned with salt and pan-fried to perfection. 

How To Prepare A Ribbon Fish To Eat

Preparing a ribbon fish to eat looks like a way more intimidating task than it actually is.

First and most obvious, be extremely careful of their razor-sharp teeth when handling these fish. Get them into the cooler as soon as possible. As with all fish, I am a big fan of bleeding them out to prevent any fishy flavor. 

Fileting these creatures are fairly simple. With a sharp filet knife, make a diagonal cut behind the pectoral fin. Because of the skinniness of these fish, you only need to make one cut. The rest should be muscle memory.

Angle your knife down and slowly let your knife slide the length of the fish, maintaining contact with the spine. You should hear a clicking noise as the knife runs along the spine. 

There is a row of bones that runs down the top half of the filet. You can cut those out and remove the red meat from the bottom half of the filet. When finished you should have two long pieces of pristine white meat. 

Ribbon fish have a ton of bones and even after removing that main line of them, there will still be bones in the meat. However, these bones are very thin and will dissolve when cooked. 

The skin on ribbonfish is super thin and is favored to keep on while cooking. If you are planning on making sushi then cut meat from the thickest part of the filet. 

How To Cook Ribbon Fish

Ribbon fish can be enjoyed raw, pan-fried, deep-fried, roasted, braised, and grilled. Its flavor profile and texture really lend this fish to a number of different cooking styles and cuisines.

Cooking the fish no matter what method you choose does not take long. As with most flakey whitefish, it will only take a few minutes. The meat turns bright white and golden brown on the outside when its ready. 

It is a great fish to serve as fish bites, tacos, or protein for a salad or rice bowl. Ribbon fish goes well with onions, broccoli, coleslaw, bell peppers, chili peppers, ginger, and root vegetables. 

Although you don’t need to, this is a fish to enhances any flavor you add to it. Citrus, pepper, cumin, chili powder, blackening seasoning, salt, paprika, you name it, and it will complement this fish oh so well. 

My favorite way to cook ribbon fish is deep-fried in oil. (That’s my favorite way to cook everything, to be honest.)

Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan. While you are waiting for the oil to heat, mix salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and tajin into a bowl.

Coat the pieces of ribbon fish in the seasoning then roll them in flour. The filet pieces should actually ball up a bit.

Put the fish in the oil for 3-4 minutes until it gets that unmistakable golden brown color. Because of some of the seasoning I use, it will be a darker brown than normal.

I like to serve these pieces on tacos with cabbage slaw, fresh jalapenos, cheese, and diced tomatoes!


Are Ribbon Fish Healthy?

Ribbon fish have high levels of protein, vitamin B, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Its combination of low saturated fat and high levels of omega-3s, help with heart health and lowering cholesterol. That being said ribbon fish are high in sodium and calories so make sure to eat them in moderation. 

What is the Best Bait for Ribbon Fish?

Ribbon fish are not picky, but definitely prefer squid, small finfish, and shrimp when it comes to using bait. If you want to catch them on artificial lures then anything shiny will do. Use the same spoons, got-Cha plugs, and lipped jerkbaits that you use for Spanish mackerel. 

Where Are Ribbon Fish Found?

Ribbon fish can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Western Pacific Ocean.

They are aggressive feeders and can be located nearshore or offshore in depths over 100 feet. Ribbon fish like current and can often be encountered near Spanish mackerel. 


Looks don’t mean everything. Despite their hideous appearance, ribbon fish have a flavorful white, flakey meat that can be cooked in a variety of different ways.

Next time you catch one be sure to throw on the grill and not overboard. 

Growing up in Florida, I’ve been surrounded by saltwater my entire life…and I love sharing my passion with others.

To learn more about why I started Saltwater Mecca, visit the ABOUT page.

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