Eating Lionfish - Preparation And Recipes

Eating Lionfish

In our recent article - The Beautiful Depredator: a Story of Lionfish Invasion we have discussed how lionfish have become one of the fastest spreading invasive species in the Atlantic. We have also outlined the ways in which each of us can help fight the invasion. Many of our readers were particularly curious about eating lionfish. So we have decided to follow up with some advice on filleting and preparing lionfish, as well as a few of our favorite lionfish recipes.

First and foremost, we’d like to highlight that although lionfish do have venomous spines, contrary to the popular belief, their meat is not poisonous. Far from it, eating lionfish is actually good for your health as they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have lower concentration of saturated fats and heavy metals. Furthermore, lionfish are very delicious! They have white flaky meat with a touch of butteriness. Some people say the flavour is similar to that of thin grouper fillet or mahi mahi.

When it comes to handling lionfish, you have to be especially mindful of the sharp spines that remain venomous even after the fish dies. There are generally between 15 and 18 venomous spines - 13 on the dorsal fins, 1 on each of the pelvic fins and 2-3 on the edge of the anal fin. It is best to start by removing the dorsal spines. You can use simple kitchen scissors to cut the spines off. Then remove the anal and pelvic spines. If you wish, you can also remove the cartilaginous ventral fins, which are not venomous. Be careful when disposing the spines, since they still have venom in them.

Once you have clipped the fins, you can either fillet the fish, take the skin off or leave it as is, if you wish to grill a whole fish, for instance.

Here is a video explaining how to safely remove the venomous spines and further prepare the fish for cooking.

If you want to fillet the fish, you can watch this video by Lad Akins, the Special Projects Director working with lionfish at REEF. Lad suggests to always keep the fish flat on the cutting surface when cleaning, so that the venomous spines lay flat and are less of a danger of causing injury.

Because lionfish has a mild taste and firm texture, it takes whatever seasoning you want and is suitable for many types of cooking. Most of your favorite recipes that works well with any other white-meat fish will work great with lionfish too. A few common ways to eat lionfish are ceviche, deep fried or in sushi and sashimi.

Lionfish Ceviche

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice;
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice;
  • 3 Tbs. fresh-squeezed lime juice;
  • Pinch of sugar to taste;
  • Pinch of salt to taste;
  • 1/2 lb. lionfish fillets cut into 1/2-inch cubes;
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, stems removed and quartered;
  • 1 small, ripe avocado, pitted and cubed;
  • 1/2 cup cubed English cucumber;
  • 2 serrano chilies, minced;
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped;
  • 1 Tbs. fresh mint, chopped;
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil.

Directions:

  1. Stir lemon, lime, and orange juices together. Season them with salt and a small pinch of sugar to offset the acid of the citrus juices.
  2. Cut the lionfish filets into 1/2-inch cubes, and add them to the citrus juice. Make sure the fish is completely covered with the juice. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Combine the tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, chilies, cilantro, and mint.
  4. Transfer the fish to a colander and drain for several seconds. Once drained, add the fish to the tomato mixture.
  5. Drizzle the combined ingredients with oil, taste and add salt if needed.
  6. Serve in small bowls or glasses immediately.

Hawaiian Lionfish

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs, beaten;
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds;
  • 1 cup flaked coconut;
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds;
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar;
  • 1 pinch nutmeg;
  • 1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained;
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion;
  • 8 lionfish fillets.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking dish.
  2. Place the beaten eggs in a shallow dish. Mix the almonds, coconut, sesame seeds, brown sugar, and nutmeg together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Stir the pineapple and onion together in a separate bowl.
  4. Dip each lionfish fillet into the beaten egg, and then press into the almond mixture.
  5. Place the coated lionfish into the baking dish. Spread the pineapple mixture over the coated fillets. Bake until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 40 minutes.

Lionfish Florentine

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil;
  • 1 large onion chopped;
  • 1 bag baby spinach;
  • 8 ounces lionfish filets;
  • 1 jar salsa;
  • 12 pieces Kalamata olives chopped;
  • Parmesan cheese to taste.

Directions:

  1. In a large saute pan heat olive oil and cook one large chopped onion until translucent.
  2. Add a bag of baby spinach and top with lionfish filets, close together.
  3. Top with salsa.
  4. Add chopped Kalamata olives and top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
  5. Cover and let cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes until the fish is flaky.

Remember, eating lionfish means that you are joining an important cause, helping to save our reefs from lionfish invasion and putting money back into the local economy. Try different lionfish recipes and let us know which one is your favourite.

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