Home Ingredients Fish What Does Orange Roughy Taste Like?

What Does Orange Roughy Taste Like?

Orange roughy on ice

Are you sitting at a restaurant trying to decide whether to order orange roughy? Maybe you spotted this fish at your local grocery store? Wherever you are, if you want to know what orange roughy tastes like then keep reading. We’ve created an in-depth guide on this seafood’s flavor, texture, and how to cook it.

What do orange roughies taste like?

When cooked correctly, orange roughy has a delicate, slightly sweet, mild flavor that is similar to tilapia or pollock. Its texture is moist with large flakes that hold together once cooked. The flesh is a pearly white shade when raw, but transforms into an opaque white after cooking.

People compare orange roughy’s mild, sweet taste and white flesh to lobster. Some go as far as nicknaming it “poor man’s lobster”, but we think that title should go to the monkfish. Orange roughy is a pleasant-tasting whitefish, but it could never replace lobster.

Orange roughy flavor infographicOrange roughy has moderate levels of oil content which means that the fish doesn’t overcook easily. It isn’t as oily as other popular fish varieties like salmon or anchovies so you’ll find a serving is lighter. At the end of a meal you’re unlikely to feel bloated or queasy.

Clean, white looking meat is a sign that you have a nice cut of fish. If it has a darker shade, that usually means the orange roughy is of lower quality. The fillets retain their flavor and texture well, even after freezing.

Summary of an orange roughy

TextureLarge flakes, delicate

What flavors complement orange roughy?

Seasoning: garlic, thyme or lemon thyme, paprika, black pepper, basil, oregano, dill.
Sides: grilled vegetables, rice, pasta, garden salad.
Wine: Choose a lighter white wine variety like Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc.

Interesting reading:
Arctic char vs salmon – how are they different?

Sustainability and Substitutes

The United States imports around 80% of New Zealand’s orange roughy export volume. In NZ, fish numbers are monitored closely and there are strict quotas in place to maintain healthy stock levels. In 2016, the Marine Stewardship Council certified that NZ now has sustainable fisheries of orange roughy. We suggest checking the origin of where your fish comes from. If it’s from New Zealand, then you can eat without a guilty conscience. Source.

Orange roughy harvested in other parts of the world is not yet considered sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. If unsustainably caught orange roughy is your only option, then we suggest choosing an alternative. Some good substitutes include tilapia, red snapper, pollock, blackfish, haddock, ocean perch, or sole. You could also try domestic catfish or yellow snapper for a similar texture once cooked.

How to cook

Orange roughy is a forgiving type of meat that will tolerate a wide range of cooking methods and recipes. Its moderate levels of oil content help it retain moisture without drying out during cooking.

Popular options for cooking this fish include baking it in a crust of breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan and dill. It is also delicious broiled, poached, sautéed, or steamed. If you’re interested in roasting your next fish then be sure to take a peak at our guide to the best fish roasters.

High heat cooking like grilling or deep frying isn’t advisable for orange roughy – if you still want to cook it using one of these methods then watch the fish closely to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

Nutrition facts (4oz fillet)

Total fat0.8g
Saturated fat0g
Protein 18.5g
Omega 30.02g


Common questions

Is orange roughy fishy tasting?

Orange roughy is extremely mild tasting, a lot like tilapia or sole. It is an excellent choice if you are cooking for kids or those that don’t like strong-tasting fish.

Is orange roughy round or flat?

The orange roughy is a bright orangey red fish that is slender and round-shaped with an appearance that is similar to a snapper. They have spiky fins with a bony head and the average fish weighs around 3½ pounds.

Is orange roughy the same as tilapia?

Although the tilapia and orange roughy are both whitefish with a comparable flavor, they are different species. The tilapia prefers freshwater while the orange roughy is a saltwater fish.

6 fast facts about the orange roughy

  1. Its scientific name is Hoplostethus atlanticus, but it’s also known as deep sea perch or slimehead.
  2. The species is slow-growing and can live up to 130 years. They are vulnerable to fishing from around 15 years of age. The average age of commercially caught roughy ranges from 30 to 50 years.
  3. The fish have bright orangey-red fins and skin with blue-tinged scales on the belly. Once the fish dies, it turns orange all over.
  4. When orange roughy reaches a restaurant plate or your table at home it has probably been frozen twice. Initially, on the boat and a second time after filleting the fish.
  5. They are a deepwater species caught by trawls as deep as 700 fathoms.
  6. The fish was formerly called slimehead until the New Zealanders convinced the FDA to allow a name change for marketing purposes.

Summing up

Are you looking to make a seafood dish using an ingredient that won’t have any pungent, overly fishy flavor? Orange roughy is a great option and is easy to cook. Like cod, it’s a super-versatile fish that will work in practically any recipe. Its mild taste and moderate levels of oil mean it retains its moisture well without drying out.

If you’re looking for a fish with plenty of pungent flavor then orange roughy isn’t the best option for you. Instead, we suggest a full-flavored mackerel or barracuda.

Are you looking to buy orange roughy at the store or is it on a restaurant menu? Please let us know in the comments below.