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What Does Swordfish Taste Like? Ultimate Guide

Cooked swordfish

The swordfish certainly stands out in a crowd. This creature of the sea has a long beak, which looks like a sword. Growing up to 15 feet in length, the whole fish can weigh up to 1400 pounds – that’s a lot of meat! So what does swordfish taste like and is it worth your money? Keep reading to get an in-depth review.

Describing the flavor

Swordfish is a mild, slightly sweet fish. It has white or pinkish-orange flesh when raw, which turns beige once cooked. It offers a dense moist texture which is often compared to beef steak. This mild seafood is a good option for those new to eating fish and anyone that doesn’t enjoy “fishy tasting” fish.

Describing the flavor of swordfishSwordfish have moderately high levels of oil content as they are a pelagic oily fish. Their fillets contain almost 30% oil – this is the opposite of white fish, such as catfish or walleye, which carry much less oil in their liver.

If you enjoy a “meaty-textured” fish, then the swordfish is a good option. It is this texture that distinguishes it from many other types of fish. Salmon, red snapper, and halibut are delicate fish that come apart easily in flakes. Swordfish is almost always served like a steak and will require a knife to slice into smaller pieces.

Flavor Profile: Summary

Flavor strengthMild
  • Compared to tuna, swordfish has a significantly stronger flavor.
  • Compared to marlin, swordfish is more oil with a stronger flavor.
  • Compared to mahi mahi, swordfish has a stronger flavor.

Other names:
Broadbill, Espada, or Emperado, Xiphias gladius

Related Reading:
What does snapper taste like?
What does an amberjack taste like?
What does saltwater and freshwater eel taste like?

Pesto topped swordfish in foil
Pesto is a tasty addition to swordfish.

Recommended seasoning

Tender, fresh swordfish will taste amazing on its own or with a simple coating of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. To give it some extra depth of flavor, experiment with any of the following herbs and spices:

  • basil
  • garlic
  • cilantro
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • mint
  • chili
  • salt and pepper

Best sidedishes

Swordfish pairs with many flavors well so you can be creative with your side dishes. Try not to use flavor-packed sides. They’ll overwhelm this mild-flavored fish. Try one or two of these:

  • grilled vegetables
  • coleslaw
  • raw greens
  • potatoes
  • pasta
  • cauliflower cheese

Choosing the right swordfish

Raw swordfish steakAs with any seafood, choosing fresh, quality swordfish loins will make or break your meal. Keep a close eye on the vein running through the fish. A red bloodline indicates fresh meat, darker brown or black is a sign of old fish.

Pay close attention to the color of the flesh. It should be ivory in color, bordering on translucent. Older or previously frozen steaks will have turned opaque.

If you see spots of red, this is a giveaway sign that the fish was highly stressed when it was caught. Don’t buy this product as it will have an unpleasant texture.

The color of the steaks will vary depending on where the fish was caught. Expect increased reddish color in the East Coast variety with a more muted red in Pacific swordfish.

How to fry swordfish

Swordfish is usually cooked as a steak and is ideal for shallow frying.

  1. Minimal preparation is required. You may want to use a sharp knife to cut off the red areas of flesh, as these have a stronger flavor. If you like plenty of flavor then leave as is.
  2. Pat down the fish with a paper towel to remove any moisture.
  3. The skin is best removed – you can do this before or after cooking, a lot like salmon.
  4. Treat swordfish steaks like a beefsteak. Toss them onto a hot, lightly oiled pan for five minutes before turning and allowing the other side to sear for two minutes. Remove the fish before it is cooked through. The ideal steak should still be pink in the middle.
  5. When plating up, place the side which was cooked for five minutes facing up. It should have a lovely seared appearance.

More cooking options

Other suitable cooking options include baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing, or smoking. Eaten raw, it makes a delicious sushi ingredient.

Unlike many fish that fall apart easily once cooked, swordfish keeps its form and stays intact. This texture is a handy feature when you’re grilling (barbecuing) as it won’t fall through the grates or transform into a mess. Cut the meat into chunks and add to a skewer before cooking, for another presentation option.

Cubed swordfish is an excellent addition added to a seafood chowder or fish casserole. It maintains its form nicely and is deliciously tender when slow-cooked.

It is best to avoid deep frying or poaching swordfish – the result is often tough fish.

Food safety caution from FDDA:
Women who are or might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children should avoid eating swordfish due to high levels of mercury.

Fun fact about swordfishFinal words

Swordfish is a mild, slightly sweet fish that is a good option for those that dislike strong-flavored fish like sardines or anchovies. Although the flavor isn’t overly amazing, it’s the texture that makes it unique. Dense and moist, there is some similarity to a beefsteak. 

Cooking swordfish is relatively easy, although you won’t want to over-cook it. The result will be a very dry steak. Keep an eye on the color of the fish if you decide to fry it. Take it off the heat while it’s still pink inside for a tasty, moist fish that will be popular with most.

How do you cook your swordfish? Let us know in the comments below.