Growing up in New Zealand, several times a year, we’d take a net down to the Manukau Heads and catch loads of seafood in the estuary. Discovering flounder in the net was always a bonus. They are a creepy, unassuming looking flatfish that dwell on the ocean floor for much of their lives.
Flounders have become much more popular on the restaurant menu and in fish markets across the United States. So, you may be wondering what do flounder taste like? In this article, I’ll tell you everything I know, including how to cook them and suitable side dishes.
What does flounder taste like?
Flounder is a mild-tasting fish with a slightly sweet undertone. Its texture is delicate and fine with low levels of oiliness and moisture. Fishes with a similar flavor profile include halibut, tilapia, and branzino.
As with many types of fish, flounder will vary in appearance and taste, depending on its habitat and species. The Pacific Dover has soft flesh and is considered a lower-quality fish. At the other end of the scale, the yellowtail flounder and petrale sole offer a delicate, firm-fleshed, lean fillet. They are touted as the best eating options. Other excellent eating choices are the lemon and gray sole.
Smaller flounders tend to have delicate flesh, while the larger ones are much firmer.
A summary of flounder's taste
|Color (cooked)||Snow white|
Best flavors to pair with flounder
Like most fresh fish, the best rule is to keep it simple without over-seasoning. Add salt and pepper with a squeeze of lemon for a tasty (and easy) option. Flavors that work well with flounder include:
- Salt and pepper
- tartare sauce
Recommended side dishes
- garden salad
- Hasselback potatoes
- green beans
- potato wedges
- stuffed red peppers
Yellowtail flounder, dab, Dover sole, lemon sole, gray sole, summer flounder, winter flounder, Alaska Dover, rock sole, California sole, petrale sole¹.
Flounder for tilapia, grouper, or catfish are all suitable options.
How to pick the freshest flounder
1. Do a smell test
If you can, smell the fish before buying. Although it should smell fishy, the aroma shouldn’t be overwhelming. Pungent fishiness is a sign of old fish.
2. Do a visual check
The fish should have clear, bright eyes rather than dull, grayish eyes. Its skin should have a shiny, clean appearance. A discolored or patchy looking skin isn’t a good sign.
3. Consider frozen fish
Fresh is best. But it isn’t always easy to source good quality fresh flounder. If you visit your local store and the quality isn’t ideal, you are better to opt for the frozen option.
How to cook a whole flounder
Cooking baked flounder is one of the more straightforward recipes in the kitchen. To keep the fillets super-moist, wrap the unfilleted fish up in baking paper. The protective layer and the bones help keep the fish tender.
Serves: 4 Prep time: 10 minutes
- 2 large flounder
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped Continental parsley
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- Preheat oven to 355°F (180°C).
- Place fish on a chopping board and coat the top of the fish with olive oil.
- Sprinkle garlic, onion, and parsley evenly over each fish.
- Wrap flounder in baking paper so that the fish is covered and place on an oven tray.
- Bake for 15-25 minutes until the flesh is moist and white. Cooking time will vary depending the the size of the fish
- Remove the fish from the oven and serve immediately with a wedge of lemon, cobb loaf, and butter.
If you’ve bought fillets, then pan-frying is a tasty method of cooking. If you want more flavor, dredge the fish in a coating of panko crumbs and grated parmesan before cooking on a hot skillet for 2 minutes on each side.
- Avoid filleting small flounder as they’ll be too thin and will dry out quickly. They are best baked, grilled, or stuffed.
- Thick flounder fillets are suitable for broiling or stuffing.
- Flavorsome sauces and powerful seasonings should be avoided as this fish is subtle in taste.
- Vegetables, stock, or wine are all excellent options for cooking flounder as they help prevent the fish from drying out.
Is flounder very fishy tasting?
Flounder ranges from very mild through to medium fishiness depending on the variety and age. In most cases, they are mild-flavored fish.
How do I eat a whole fish?
A flounder is quite easy to eat once cooked. Use a knife to scrape off the thin layer of skin - it should easily peel off. Now, use a fork to eat the flesh. Once you finish one side, flip the fish over and repeat the process.
Flounder may not look as appealing as some of the other fish on the market, but don’t let that put you off. It is a mild, slightly sweet tasting fish with a delicate texture and no oily mouthfeel. Unlike salmon, flounder isn’t as rich, so you won’t feel “weighed down” at the end of your meal.
Flounder is often served in restaurants as a whole fish on the bone. If you’re eating out, it may not be the best option for kids due to the bones. A fillet, however, would be ideal for anyone that enjoys mild tasting seafood.
Wild-caught flounder is your best bet if you can get it. If it's not possible, make friends with a fishmonger to help ensure you get delicious fresh fish.
Have you tried flounder before? What is your favorite way to cook it? Let us know in the comments below.