What Does Catfish Taste Like? A Detailed Answer

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Catfish caught my interest with its unique name. But once I tasted the fish, my curiosity about its name became a love for its flavor. If you want to know more about it and what catfish tastes like, keep reading!


Catfish has a mild taste with a sweet undertone. It has very moist and juicy flesh and a firm texture. Also, a catfish’s taste is highly influenced by the place where it has grown.

Catfish isn’t a widely available fish all around the world. But it is one of the best-tasting fish we have! People worldwide love it; however, catfish isn’t something all love.

If you have decided to try catfish, you might have searched the internet for its taste profile. The internet is loaded with multiple opinions about catfish and their taste. While some love it, others loath it for its taste. 

But what is the reality? Well, I, too, was confused before trying it out for myself. That’s why I decided to write this article to let you know the truth about catfish! So together with this article, let’s unwind the facts about catfish and their taste.

What Is Catfish?

Different Types Of Catfish And Their Different Tastes

The catfish, just like its interesting name, is one of the most exciting fish to look at. They are recognized for their sideburns that look like cats’ whiskers. These are called barbels.

Catfish are fish that belong to the ray-finned fish family and are large. They thrive in fresh, brackish, and even salt water and have good commercial value.

They are bottom feeders and aren’t picky eaters at all. They will eat whatever they can, including mud and clay. Catfish are majorly categorized into two-farm-fed and wild!

Explore The Taste Of Other Foods We’ve Covered

What Does Catfish Taste Like?


Have you ever said no to a catfish dish because you were unsure about its taste? Not anymore! Because in this session, I’m going to tell you what exactly a catfish tastes like.

Catfish have a very distinct taste. It tastes mild with a lightly sweet undertone. The flesh is extremely moist and has a very juicy nature. Catfish have white flesh and have very few scales.

Catfish are widely available in two varieties: wild and farm-fed. Both of these have very different tastes from one another. The wild variety is the one that is caught in streams and rivers.

Wild catfish will have a muddy taste to them. On the other hand, farm-fed catfish will have a cleaner, more refined taste. If you are new to eating catfish, start with farm-fed ones, as the taste of wild catfish is not something everyone can tolerate.

Does Catfish Taste Weird?


If you ask a couple of people who have eaten catfish about the flavor, at least some will tell you that the catfish tasted strange. Is this something associated with the fish, or did they have catfish from the wrong place?

Catfish does have a weird taste to it. This is associated with the place it is grown and the food it eats. Catfish aren’t good predators and eat everything that comes their way, including mud and algae in the water.

Hence, some fish consume some algae and develop a weird taste for it. This can happen to farm-fed as well as wild catfish. Often, this isn’t something a farmer can control, and once the fish starts to taste bad, it will incur a huge loss for catfish farmers.

Why Does Catfish Taste Like Dirt?


When we say catfish, we are referring to the catfish grown in streams as opposed to those grown on farms. Depending upon the place it is grown and the food it eats, its taste varies.

The catfish caught from wild sources, like streams or lakes, will have a slightly muddy taste. This is because catfish eat from the bottom part of the stream and often eat mud and algae.

Hence, the wild-caught catfish will have a muddy taste to it. The muddy taste is concentrated in the fish’s stomach part. Moreover, these fish will have a light sweetness compared to the farm-fed ones.

Does Catfish Taste Really Fishy?


Every fish has a slightly fishy taste to it. We can’t avoid the slightly fishy taste no matter how well we clean or prepare it. But in some fish, this fishy taste is so prominent that one cannot help avoiding it. Is our catch like that too?

Unfortunately, yes! The catfish, especially the wild catfish, have a fishy taste to them. The fishy taste is intensified along with its mud taste. This taste is prominent in the middle portion and gets lighter along its sides.

The farm-fed catfish, on the other hand, aren’t heavily fishy. They have a slightly fishy taste, but it becomes indistinct once they are properly cooked. Hence, choose the farm-fed one if you cannot stand the fishy taste. 

Does Catfish Taste Like Salmon?


If you ever wander around a grocery store, catfish and salmon are two of the most common fish you can find there. Even though both of them are widely available fish, they have different flavor profiles.

Salmon, just like catfish, has a very mild taste to it. However, when compared to that catfish, salmon is less fishy. People who cannot even stand catfish might love salmon.

Unlike catfish, salmon has a mild oily taste to it. This enhances its overall taste. However, compared to their nutritional benefits, both fish are equally good.

Does Catfish Taste Like Cod?


Cod is one of the most popular fish in the United States. People often tend to compare cod to catfish. This is because both cod and catfish are white-fleshed fish.

But catfish doesn’t taste like cod at all. Cod has a very mild flavor, milder than catfish. It is extremely tender and has a mild, milky taste to it. Cod is very tasty and will just melt in your mouth. 

However, cod tastes nothing like catfish. Catfish has a mild flavor and a slightly fishy taste to it. Both are flavorful on their own. However, a comparison between cod and wild catfish is, without exaggeration, impossible!

Does Catfish Taste Like Tilapia?


If one wants a fish that looks like catfish but tastes better, it will be tilapia. Tilapia is something most people have, and, seeing the physique of catfish, most people assume that catfish taste like tilapia too.

Tilapia doesn’t taste like catfish. Tilapia has a much milder flavor with a light sweetness to it. Tilapia almost has a buttery taste to it. Even though catfish is milder, tilapia is much milder.

Catfish does have a very fishy taste to it. Moreover, tilapia has much more tender flesh as compared to catfish. Both these fish are good to eat on their own but don’t have a comparable flavor profile.

Does Catfish Taste Like Chicken?


Catfish are called mild fish; sometimes, when cooked in a certain way, they tend to have a very mild taste. However, we cannot compare catfish to chicken. Catfish does have a mild fishy taste to it.

However, the blue catfish, which has the mildest flavor, is often compared to that chicken. But fishes are always fishes, and however firm their flesh is, it will not be like that of chicken.

What Does Fried Catfish Taste Like?


If you are ever in the southern part of America, make sure to enjoy a piece of fried catfish at least once! Fried catfish, a specialty of southern America, is a treat of flavors.

It is deep-fried catfish with a crunchy corn meal outer covering and a succulent inner part. The fish is coated with a handful of special spices and fried until the coating is crispier.

Fried catfish is undoubtedly one of the tastiest dishes you can ever have. It is spicy, juicy, and tender and is often served with coleslaw and tartar sauce.

Do Big Catfish Taste Good?


Many times, people think that the bigger the fish, the better. This is also true for some of the fish. However, when it comes to catfish, this isn’t the case at all. Does that mean a smaller catfish tastes better?

Yes! The smaller catfish tastes better than, the bigger one. This is because the smaller fish have more fresh flesh than the older ones and hence will taste better.

Also, the smaller catfish predate in the middle portion of the stream rather than at the bottom. Hence, they’ll eat less mud and bacteria than the older ones. Therefore, most people often prepare considerably smaller catfish than the larger ones.

Why Does Catfish Taste So Bad?


Regardless of being a very tasty, moist fish, catfish is considered a bad-tasting fish. This could be because of its poignant fishy taste. If you are not someone who is not familiar with fish and fishy tastes, you might not like catfish.

Secondly, the muddy taste. This is something peculiar to the wild catfish. The catfish caught from most natural resources will have this muddy taste, which is quite nasty. 

Hence, if you have wild catfish without proper cleaning and proper cooking, you may mark catfish as the most disgusting tasting fish ever! Hence, always make sure to get it from the right place.

What Does Blue Catfish Taste Like?


Blue catfish are widely found in the southern part of the United States. They are huge and exotic to look at. Not only are they good-looking, but they are also really tasty!

Big blue catfish have the really good taste to them. Unlike the normal catfish, the bigger blue catfish don’t feed at the mouth of the river. Hence, they would not have any muddy or fishy taste to them.

Blue catfish have a very mild flavor to them. They are often compared to chicken and salmon fish for their mild taste. 

What Does Blackened Catfish Taste Like?


Blackened catfish refers to a recipe that is popular among all catfish lovers. It is a method where the outer covering of the fish is cooked until it is blackened while using a lot of spices.

Blackened catfish are spicy in nature. This comes from the multiple spices that are used as their marinades. It also has a buttery taste to it. The overall taste of blackened catfish is pretty balanced in spiciness.

Most people who love fish and spice tend to love this dish. However, if you have less spice tolerance, do a quick taste test before ordering a plate for yourself.

What Does Channel Catfish Taste Like?


If one has to choose the best-tasting fish within the catfish family, that would be channel catfish. Channel catfish are extremely flavorful and are the most preferred catfish in the United States.

Channel catfish have a very mild sweet flavor. They have a very firm texture, similar to that of catfish. However, channel catfish have fewer flakes when compared to the normal ones and hence are excellent for grilling and frying.

A flattened head and forked tail characterize channel catfish. They do not have any kind of scales and have a mucus-like outer covering. They range from olive green to black color.

Channel catfish, unlike regular catfish, have a very light fishy taste. They also have a milder muddy flavor, making them a cult favorite.

What Does Saltwater Catfish Taste Like?


Saltwater catfish have a bad reputation amongst all the catfish. They are hard to catch and have very little meat on them. And for the same reason, they have been caught in very small quantities.

Saltwater catfish have a very muddy taste, similar to normal wild catfish. However, we cannot totally say they’ll have a muddy taste. The taste of saltwater catfish will heavily depend on the type of prey they feed on.

Different Types Of Catfish And Their Different Tastes


Throughout this article, we have seen different kinds of catfish and understood that their taste would differ depending upon the place they are raised.

Catfish VarietyPhysical AppearanceTaste
Blue CatfishHave a gray color Mild flavor
Flathead catfishFlatheadMild flavor
Channel CatfishBlue to greenish skin colorMild Flavor
White CatfishGray head with white underbodyMild flavor with light sweetness
Yellow BullheadYellow in color with white whiskersMuddy in taste
Brown BullheadOlive green with side spotsMuddy in taste

1. Wild Catfish


Wild catfish are the ones that are found in natural resources like ponds and streams. They are huge and are a common treatment for most fishermen. However, regardless of their size, they aren’t something everyone loves.

Some catfish have a muddy, fishy taste to them. This is because of the fact that they eat whatever they get, including that mud. Hence, this will be reflected in its taste. Farm-fed catfish are more flavorful than wild catfish.

However, some wild catfish that live in clear water will not have this muddy taste in their flesh. Even if they have, it will be very little and wouldn’t affect the dish’s overall taste.

Farm-Fed Catfish


Catfish is a brewing business in the United States. People are into catfish farming, and they are sold in huge amounts. This is because of the fact that people all across the world love the taste of farm-fed catfish.

Farm-fed catfish are grown in freshwater tanks and are fed with grains. Thus, they have a more refined taste. It is extremely mild in flavor and has a sweet and moist taste.

Farm-fed catfish are huge in size and have a neutral flavor. Once cooked, farm-fed catfish will have juicy and moist white flesh. Farm-fed catfish taste just like other white-fleshed fish like haddock and flounder. Hence, if you are confused about trying catfish, start with the farm-fed ones. 

What Should You Look For When Buying Catfish?


The freshest catfish will taste the best. Since you have decided to try some catfish, I’ll try to get you the best catfish on the market. You have to look at catfish to know whether they are fresh or not.

  1. Look at its eyes: The fresh catfish will have clear, moist eyes. Red eyes are a sign of rotting fish, so avoid taking them.
  2. Look for healthy tails: The fish’s tail and fins should look healthy.
  3. Poke its flesh: When poked, the flesh of a fresh fish will regain its shape. Therefore, if possible, slightly poke the fish’s flesh. If it tears the fish, leave it there.
  4. Check its gills: If you don’t mind, slightly check its gills. Bright red gills are a sign of fresh fish.

How To Preserve Catfish Properly?


When it comes to storing them, catfish are like all other fish. Catfish needed to be refrigerated immediately after buying it. You can keep it frozen, and it can be used for up to 6 months.

However, once defrosted, it is not ideal for freezing it again. Once defrosted, catfish should be cooked and eaten immediately. The leftover cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three to four days.

Different Ways of Cooking A Catfish?


Cooking catfish isn’t as hard as it may sound. Catfish have juicy and moist flesh, so they won’t dry out easily. Hence, even if you are a beginner, catfish is something you can easily cook.

Because of its moist flesh and mild taste, catfish is open to all experimentation. People often enjoy catfish in pan-fried, pan-sired, and baked forms. Since it has a mild taste, it easily reflects the taste of its marinades. 

How Can You Improve The Taste Of Catfish?


If you aren’t someone who grew up eating wild catfish, chances are high that you might not enjoy it now! Most people hate the muddy taste in the first place, and that’s why we have some tips for you to improve your catfish taste.

  1. Remove the filet: The filet of wild catfish will be filled with mud and clay. Hence, they should be completely removed before cooking the fish.
  2. Bleed it out: The blood of catfish will often have this muddy taste. Hence, it is important to completely remove all blood from the body. One way to do it is to cut its tail part and hang it in the air. Once it’s completely drained, clean it.
  3. Remove the skin: the skin of the fish tastes the fishiest. Hence, if you do not like the taste of fish, make sure to remove its skin before cooking it.
  4. Soaking: Another way to remove the muddy taste is to soak the fish in saltwater. This will remove its muddy taste to an extent. You can also soak it in buttermilk to reduce catfish’s muddy taste and fishiness.
  5. Marinade it well: Marinating the fish using vinegar will help to reduce its fishy taste. Hence, marinate your fish at least two hours before cooking to optimize its flavor.

What Is The Best Way To Serve Catfish| Best Catfish Pairings?


Catfish is becoming increasingly popular, and farm-fed catfish is something we can all include on our party menus. We can have it in grilled, fried, or baked form. But is that enough, or should we add a side dish?

When cooking catfish, there are some spices that we should pair with it to get the best taste out of the fish. As we said, catfish is something that will reflect the taste of its marinades, so choosing the best spice is necessary.

Below are some of the best spices that could bring out the best flavor in catfish. If your catfish tastes fishy or muddy, make sure to add more spices to the marinade to nullify the fishy muddy taste.

  • Garlic
  • Onion powder
  • Chili flakes
  • Paprika powder
  • Cayenne powder
  • Black pepper

A well-cooked catfish is too good as a single dish. However, when it’s rightly paired, its taste increases. We all love to make our dishes a little better, don’t we? 

Given below are some of the dishes you can pair with catfish

  • Potatoes
  • Coleslaw
  • Mac and cheese
  • Hush puppies.

Health Benefits Of Catfish


Fish, in general, are extremely healthy in nature. Catfish is one such fish that is high in nutrition. These aren’t too expensive and are widely available to us. If you think your catfish is too fishy, read this session to know what benefits you are missing out on by not eating a piece of catfish.

  1. Helps in cell repair: Catfish are extremely high in protein. Protein is very much needed for your body. Right from cell repairing to hormonal balance, protein plays a huge part. Consuming catfish will fulfill most of your protein needs.
  2. Aids in brain health: While taking care of the body, we often forget about somebody essential to our brain. Omega 3 fatty acid is one of them. It will help prevent memory loss, fight depression, and much more.
  3. Improves gut health: The omega-3 fatty acid in the catfish will help strengthen the healthy bacteria in our stomach.
  4. Helps to maintain a healthy heart: catfish are a good source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that helps in preventing certain heart diseases.

Nutritional Benefits Of Catfish


Catfish aren’t exotic fish. They are widely available and are something we can easily get. However, that doesn’t mean they are less nutritious. If you are keen on your diet, catfish is something you must include in your diet.

Given below is a table that has a brief description of the nutritional values of catfish.

Calories105 kcal
Fat3 g
Protein19 g
Omega 3 fatty acid237 mg
Sodium 50 mg


Catfish is one of the most popular fish in the United States. It has a mildly sweet flavor and juicy moist flesh. They are widely grown on farms and found in their natural habitats.

The taste of the fish will hugely depend upon how it is grown. If you are someone who hates the fishy taste, make sure to farm-fed catfish for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is catfish a good fish to eat?

Yes. Catfish have a mild flavor with a sweet undertone and are extremely healthy. Hence, it is a good fish to eat.

Why should we not eat catfish?

Catfish has a high amount of mercury content in it and hence too much of it might not be good. Moreover, some catfish do have a fishy muddy taste and aren’t good to eat.

Is catfish clean or unclean? 

Catfish don’t have many scales to them and have a very slimy outer covering. They also have a muddy taste and hence overall they look unclean.

Is catfish poisonous to eat?

No. Catfish are safe to eat and are extremely healthy.

How do u know when catfish is cooked?

Once the fish is properly cooked it will lose its translucent nature. You can also try poking it with a fork. If the fish comes apart, that means it is cooked.

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