Is Barracuda Good To Eat? Why The Bad Reputation?

Barracuda have a pretty notorious reputation: ‘don’t wear anything shiny when swimming near barracuda’ may sound familiar.

And while most of us know barracuda can be aggressive and have very sharp teeth…what about their edibility?

Is Barracuda good to eat? And if so, why do they have such a poor reputation, especially in the United States?

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Are Barracudas Good To Eat?

Barracudas are rarely eaten in the United States, however they are a food source in areas of the Caribbean, South America and Africa. Meat quality tends to be firm, and somewhat oily. Ciguatera poisoning is a risk when consuming this species of fish, but when prepared properly they are good to eat.

Smaller barracuda (less than 24 inches in length) pose minimal risk to fish toxins, and the meat tends to be more palatable with less fishy taste.

On youtube, you can watch multiple videos of anglers doing blind taste tests, serving barracuda with other popular fish like mangrove snapper, and many are unable to discern a difference.

Is Barracuda Good To Eat? Why The Bad Reputation?

What Do Barracudas Taste Like?

Barracuda is medium-flavored fish, with a stronger flavor than that of grouper or snapper, but less intense than high oil content fish like mackerel or tuna.

Barracudas have a semi-firm, white meat with an above average oil content which makes them great for cutting into steaks.

Similar to wahoo, these long and slender fish are often gutted, cut vertically into steak medallions and cooked on a hot grill or over charcoal.

There is a dark stripe or ‘bloodline‘ just under the skin that runs along the centerline of the fish and while edible, it is the source of the very strong ‘fishy’ flavor, and it can be cut out to improve the taste.

Are Barracudas Safe To Eat?

The general consensus is that smaller barracuda (less than 24 inches in length) are safe to eat. However, barracuda are known to have high levels of mercury and ciguatera toxin in larger individuals.

Ciguatera is a toxin that smaller fish consume through grazing on algae that live on reefs. These smaller fish are then eaten by barracudas. 

The toxin then builds up in the barracuda over time and larger fish have enough of the toxin to make humans extremely ill and it can be fatal if left untreated.

Barracuda sharp teeth

To keep yourself healthy, only eat barracuda if you know where it came from and what its length was while alive. 

Ciguatera poisoning usually sets in within 3-6 hours of consuming contaminated fish and can last up to 30 hours.

Symptoms include severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Medical attention should be sought immediately if you think you have contracted ciguatera poisoning.

It should also be noted that there is no way to tell if a fish has ciguatera toxins. The color, texture, smell, and flavor of the fish will stay the same regardless of whether or not it has ciguatera. 

Is Barracuda Good For You?

Despite the risk of ciguatera poisoning and the high mercury levels of barracuda, the menacing fish does have some health benefits that you should consider when deciding if it’s worth the risk to eat it.

Like most fish, Barracuda are a great source of lean protein. It is also rich in Vitamin B2 which has been linked to preventing high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and insomnia, among other things.

While barracuda certainly have a moderate level of risk associated with them, they do offer a high level of health benefits as well.

How To Prepare Barracuda

To prepare a Barracuda for eating, you can either fillet the fish by removing the skin and bones or cut the long fish into steaks (after gutting).

Pay mind to the sharp teeth on a barracuda by removing the head. Cut just behind the gills and fillet off the meat on one side of the fish, before flipping over and repeating the process.

Many anglers opt to ‘bleed‘ barracuda first, by cutting the gills immediately after catching and putting them on ice. This can help ‘cleanse’ the meat and remove some fishy flavors.

All filets and steaks should be kept refrigerated up until the moment they’re cooked as they will spoil very quickly once they reach room temperature.

Note: Barracuda meat does not freeze very well. After its been frozen and thawed out, it turns very mushy. If you do decide to eat Barracuda, be sure its fresh!

How To Cook Barracuda

Many of the recipes that work well for Wahoo or Snapper, work well for Barracuda.

Fresh barracuda does well grilled or fried, and it’s often made into soups or stews in the Caribbean and Africa.

Spices such as turmeric, mustard seed and chili pepper provide a tangy flavor to this medium-textured fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Barracuda Raw?

I do not recommend that you eat barracuda raw. This is because of the high mercury content and risk of it having ciguatera poisoning. 

Do Barracudas Have Worms?

Barracuda are known for having Nematodes or roundworms that live in their intestines but escape into the surrounding flesh once the fish has been killed. Roundworms are harmless and will be killed when you cook the meat.

Unfortunately, some barracuda can also carry additional worms including tapeworms, flukes, and fish lice in addition to roundworms.

While barracuda is still considered edible, the presence of worms will likely be a turnoff for some people.

Final Thoughts

Child holding a small barracuda

So, are Barracuda edible? Yes, they are most certainly edible, but I would strongly advise only eating smaller individuals (less than 24 inches in length) and limiting your overall consumption.

In my opinion, there are much better tasting fish out there but, when caught from clean water, iced right away and prepared properly, barracuda has a similar texture to snapper and a flavor profile that yields well to grilling, frying or sautéing.


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