What Does Swordfish Taste Like?

Swordfish, a popular seafood choice, is often praised for its mild yet distinctive flavor. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying this delectable dish, you might be wondering what to expect when taking your first bite. You may be pleasantly surprised, as many people find swordfish to be an incredibly satisfying culinary experience.

The taste of swordfish can be described as a subtle combination of savory and slightly sweet flavors. Its texture is firm and meaty, similar to that of a perfectly cooked steak, making it a perfect option for those who appreciate a hearty, satisfying meal. Moreover, swordfish’s mild flavor profile makes it highly versatile in the kitchen, and it can be expertly prepared using various cooking methods, such as grilling, baking, or pan-searing.

Key Takeaways

  • Swordfish offers a mild yet distinctive flavor that is both savory and slightly sweet.
  • The firm, meaty texture of swordfish is similar to that of a cooked steak.
  • Swordfish’s versatility allows it to be prepared using a variety of cooking methods, such as grilling, baking, and pan-searing.
how to cook swordfish

Flavor Profile

Mild Taste

Swordfish has a relatively mild taste, making it an inviting option for those who may not be huge fans of “fishy” flavors. Its mildness can be compared to that of popular fish like tuna and mahi-mahi. The taste of swordfish will not overpower your taste buds like salmon or catfish might. This makes it an ideal choice for those venturing into the world of seafood or looking for a more delicate flavor.

The texture of swordfish is important to note as well – it’s firm and meaty, contributing to the overall mild taste. This can be attributed to the fact that swordfish are large and muscular fish, built for speed and endurance. If cooked properly, you’ll find the texture pleasing and easy to work with, making it a versatile option for various recipes and cooking methods.

Sweet Undertones

In addition to its mild flavor, swordfish also has subtle sweet undertones that can be enhanced with the right seasonings or marinades. This sweetness is a unique characteristic that differentiates it from other fish. Carefully chosen spices, herbs, and sauces can help bring out these sweet undertones, creating a delicious and memorable dish.

When preparing swordfish, it’s important to remember that the cooking method can impact its flavor and sweetness. Grilling or broiling this fish can help to caramelize the natural sugars within the meat, emphasizing its sweetness to create a delectable, mouth-watering experience.

Texture Characteristics

Meaty Texture

When you taste swordfish, you’ll notice it has a meaty texture that sets it apart from other fish. This unique texture is similar to that of tuna, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy meaty fish. The firmness of the swordfish makes it particularly satisfying to eat. As you bite into the flesh, you’ll discover it’s not flaky like salmon or other delicate fish.

Due to its meaty texture, swordfish holds up well to various cooking methods such as grilling, baking, and pan-searing. The robustness of the flesh also allows it to be prepared in thicker cuts, making it an ideal option for hearty dishes.

Dense Texture

Swordfish is not only meaty but also dense. Its compact flesh is comparable to that of halibut and provides a satisfying mouthfeel. The dense texture means that the fish retains its shape and doesn’t easily break apart when cooked, much like meatier fish such as tuna.

Cooking swordfish requires careful attention to prevent it from becoming too dry. In fact, the dense flesh can hold up to marinating, which can help to keep it moist during the cooking process. Even with its density, swordfish still offers a tender, moist taste when prepared properly.

To summarize, the texture characteristics of swordfish include both its meaty and dense attributes. These unique traits make it an appealing option if you enjoy firmer fish like tuna or halibut. Furthermore, its versatile nature allows it to be prepared in various ways while maintaining its satisfying mouthfeel.

swordfish steak recipe

Cooking Methods


Grilling is a popular method for cooking swordfish. To achieve a delicious, grilled swordfish steak, simply coat your steak with a thin layer of olive oil and apply your preferred seasoning, such as salt and pepper. Preheat your grill to a high heat and cook the swordfish for about 4-6 minutes on each side or until opaque. Ensure that the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145°F (63°C) to ensure a juicy, tender result.


Frying swordfish is quite easy and quick. First, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Lightly season your swordfish with salt and pepper or any other seasoning you prefer. Once the oil is hot, gently lay the swordfish steaks into the pan and fry for about 4-5 minutes per side, until the fish becomes opaque and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).


For broiling swordfish, preheat your broiler. Arrange the swordfish steaks on a broiler pan and brush them with olive oil. Season the fish with salt and pepper or your desired seasoning. Place the broiler pan in the oven about 4 inches away from the heat source. Broil the swordfish for about 5-6 minutes per side, ensuring the fish’s internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C), for a safely cooked and moist result.


Baking swordfish is a great method when you want a low-fat and easy way to cook your fish. Preheat your oven to 425°F (218°C). Place the swordfish steaks in a baking dish and brush them with a bit of olive oil, followed by seasoning with salt, pepper, or any additional spices. Bake the fish for 15-20 minutes or until opaque and the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C).

swordfish steak

Marinade and Seasoning Options

Herbs and Spices

To enhance the flavor of swordfish, consider using a variety of herbs and spices. Basil, cilantro, mint, and cumin are appropriate options that complement its mild taste. For a bit of heat, add chili or paprika to your marinade or seasoning mix.

Salt and Pepper

Of course, salt and pepper are essential for seasoning your swordfish. They help to balance and highlight the natural flavors of the fish. Use them sparingly at first, as you can always adjust the amounts to suit your individual taste preferences.

Lemon and Garlic

Lemon and garlic are classic pairing options for swordfish. The citrusy notes of lemon cut through the fish’s inherent richness, while garlic adds a savory depth of flavor. Here’s a simple marinade recipe using these ingredients:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine these ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Place the swordfish in the marinade, ensuring both sides are thoroughly coated. Allow the fish to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking to your desired method.

Health Considerations

Mercury Levels

Swordfish is a large predatory fish, which means it tends to have higher mercury levels than other types of seafood. Consuming too much mercury can lead to health issues, particularly during pregnancy or for young children. To minimize your risk, you should be cautious about the amount of swordfish you eat and pay attention to local advisories or guidelines.

Health Benefits

Despite the concern around mercury levels, swordfish does offer some valuable health benefits. It is a good source of selenium, which plays a vital role in your immune system and thyroid function. Furthermore, swordfish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are crucial for maintaining a healthy heart, reducing inflammation, and supporting brain health.

In addition to selenium and omega-3s, swordfish contains a substantial amount of vitamin B12. This essential vitamin contributes to your energy levels, red blood cell production, and neurological function.

To summarize, while you should be cautious about consuming swordfish due to its mercury content, it does provide meaningful health benefits thanks to its selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12 content.

Swordfish Varieties

Atlantic Swordfish

When it comes to Atlantic Swordfish (Xiphias gladius), you can expect a high-quality tasting experience. Hailing from the Atlantic Ocean, this variety of swordfish is known for its slightly sweet, mild flavor. As you taste it, you’ll notice a firm, yet tender texture that holds up well to various cooking methods. The flesh of the Atlantic Swordfish is typically a light pinkish hue, which turns white when cooked.

Atlantic Swordfish, just like its Pacific counterpart, belongs to the Xiphiidae family. Although often compared to marlin, it’s important to note that swordfish has a unique taste profile, being less fishy and more meat-like in texture.

To ensure the best taste and quality, choose fresh Atlantic Swordfish, as it will retain its flavor and texture better than its frozen counterpart.

Pacific Swordfish

Pacific Swordfish can be found in the vast Pacific Ocean, and it shares many similarities with its Atlantic relative. Both varieties belong to the same family (Xiphiidae) and species (Xiphias gladius). Similar to Atlantic swordfish, the Pacific variety also offers a mildly sweet flavor and firm, yet tender texture.

The main difference you might notice between the two varieties lies in the color of the flesh. Pacific Swordfish tends to have a slightly darker pink color compared to its Atlantic counterpart. Nevertheless, upon cooking, it also turns white.

For the most enjoyable culinary experience, opt for fresh Pacific Swordfish, as the taste and texture will be significantly better than that of frozen options.

Remember, whether you’re trying Atlantic or Pacific Swordfish, it’s important to source your fish from reputable suppliers and handle it properly to ensure the best quality and taste. Keep in mind the differences in color and geographical origin when selecting the perfect swordfish to savor.

Preparing Swordfish

Swordfish is a delicious and nutritious protein option that boasts a firm, meaty texture and a mildly sweet flavor. In this section, we’ll cover crucial tips for buying and preparing swordfish fillets for an enjoyable experience.

Buying Tips

When purchasing swordfish, pay attention to the following factors:

  • Color: Look for a vibrant, ivory or pinkish hue, which indicates fresh and high-quality fish. Avoid fillets with a dull, grayish, or brownish appearance.
  • Odor: Swordfish should have a fresh, mild, and slightly sweet scent. Do not buy if it has a strong, fishy odor, as this may indicate spoilage.
  • Texture: Press the fillet gently, and it should be firm, with a slight resistance. Avoid fish with excessively soft or mushy textures.

Fillet Preparation

After you’ve carefully selected your swordfish, follow these steps to prepare it for cooking:

  1. Lay the fillet on a cutting board with the skin side down.
  2. Use a sharp knife to remove the skin by gently sliding it at an angle between the flesh and skin. Hold the skin tight with your other hand while you make the cut.
  3. If it’s an oily fish, trim off any excess dark meat found along the lateral line to avoid a strong taste.
  4. Rinse the fillet thoroughly under cold water to remove any remaining scales or skin.
  5. Pat it dry with a paper towel. This step is essential for ensuring proper cooking, as excess moisture may cause the fish to steam instead of searing or grilling.

Now, your swordfish fillet is ready for seasoning and cooking! Remember to select a method that best complements the meaty, mildly sweet nature of this delectable protein source, such as grilling, broiling, or pan-searing. Be sure to gather your desired ingredients, seasonings, and cooking utensils beforehand to make the process smooth and enjoyable.

Serving Suggestions

When it comes to enjoying swordfish, there are several ways to serve it that can enhance its unique taste. In this section, we will discuss the ideal accompaniments and wine pairings for your swordfish meal.


Swordfish has a meaty texture, similar to beefsteak, and a mildly sweet flavor. It pairs well with a variety of side dishes:

  • Coleslaw: The tangy and crunchy nature of coleslaw complements the rich taste of swordfish, creating a well-rounded meal.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes can be served in various forms, such as mashed, roasted, or baked. They provide a starchy and satisfying base for the swordfish to shine.
  • Pasta: Simple pasta dishes, like spaghetti aglio e olio, are a great choice to serve alongside swordfish. The garlic and olive oil flavors in the pasta will not overpower the fish’s taste.
  • Chowder: A creamy chowder adds a comforting element to your meal, and the combination of seafood flavors is truly delectable.

It’s essential to choose side dishes that do not mask the natural taste of swordfish, so avoid heavy sauces or overpowering seasonings.

Wine Pairing

Selecting the perfect wine to pair with swordfish can enhance your overall dining experience. Since swordfish has a rich, meaty texture, it pairs beautifully with:

  • White Wine: A crisp white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, complements swordfish without overwhelming its subtle flavors. These wines have a bright acidity that can cut through the fish’s richness and cleanse your palate.

Remember to match the intensity of your side dishes and sauces when choosing a wine to ensure a harmonious pairing. With these serving suggestions in mind, you’re well on your way to enjoying a delicious swordfish meal.

Environmental Concerns


When you choose to consume swordfish, it’s important to consider the environmental concerns associated with this species. Overfishing has increasingly become a problem for swordfish populations. These elongated predators are often found in temperate and tropical waters, and due to their desirable taste, they have become overfished in many areas.

As you search for swordfish options, you may want to prioritize choices sourced from well-managed fisheries that focus on long-term sustainability. Some of the common prey items of swordfish, such as mackerel and shrimp, are also experiencing pressure from overfishing. Choosing sustainable seafood is a significant step in reducing your impact on these marine ecosystems.


While enjoying the taste of pan-fried swordfish, it’s also crucial to consider the sustainability of your seafood selections. To make informed choices, you can refer to seafood guides and certifications that rate the environmental impact of various seafood products.

Seafood SourceSustainability Rating
Swordfish (from certified fisheries)Good Choice
Mackerel (Atlantic, U.S. caught)Good Choice
Shrimp (Farmed, U.S. and Canada)Good Choice

Remember, calories aren’t the only factor to consider when selecting your swordfish meal; the environmental impact of your choice is equally important. By focusing on eco-conscious consumption, you can enjoy the taste of swordfish without exacerbating overfishing and environmental concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is swordfish similar in taste to other fish?

Swordfish has a distinct taste that sets it apart from many other fish. While some people might compare it to other mild, white-fleshed fish like halibut or mahi-mahi, it has its own unique flavor that is slightly sweet and subtly savory.

How does the flavor of swordfish compare to tuna or steak?

The taste of swordfish can be described as a cross between tuna and steak. It shares the mildness and slight sweetness of tuna, but there is also a richness and “meaty” flavor that resembles steak.

What is the texture like when eating swordfish?

The texture of swordfish is firm and meaty, more similar to a steak than a flaky fish. The flesh has larger, well-defined grains which hold up well when cooked, making it ideal for grilling or broiling.

Are there any common flavors experienced when eating swordfish?

When eating swordfish, you may notice a mild, sweet, and somewhat metallic taste. The flavor isn’t particularly overpowering, making it a great canvas for various seasonings, marinades, or sauces. Common pairings include lemon, butter, garlic, and herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Do people generally enjoy the taste of swordfish?

People generally enjoy the taste of swordfish because of its mild flavor and meaty texture. It’s a versatile fish that can be subtly seasoned or given bolder flavors, making it a popular choice among seafood enthusiasts.

How does the taste of swordfish change with different cooking methods?

Different cooking methods can subtly alter the taste and texture of swordfish. Grilling or broiling imparts a smoky flavor and caramelized crust while retaining its moist interior. Pan-searing creates a crispy outer layer while keeping the inside tender. Baking or poaching swordfish can make the flesh slightly more delicate and flaky. Whichever method you choose, be careful not to overcook the fish, as it can become dry and unpleasant.

how to cook swordfish

Lemon Garlic Swordfish Recipe

This decadent swordfish recipe is so easy to prepare, you can have a restaurant-worthy meal any night of the week. 
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2
Calories 246 kcal


Lemon Garlic Sauce:

  • 2 TB softened butter
  • 1 TB chives finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • The juice from half a lemon about a tablespoon
  • The zest of one lemon


  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 swordfish steaks skins removed. (6-8 ounces each, and about 1 inch in thickness)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all the sauce ingredients into a small pot so that they are ready for heating just as your fish is finishing.
  • Pat the swordfish steaks with a paper towel to ensure that you get a crispy sear. Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle olive oil into a large oven-safe skillet and heat until the oil is hot, but not smoking.
  • Gently place the steaks into the pan and allow them to sear on one side without moving them. Flip the fish, and allow them to sear, undisturbed. After 3 minutes, transfer the swordfish to the middle rack of your oven.
  • Allow the fish to cook for 5 minutes while you heat the sauce, then check it with a meat thermometer for doneness. The center should be between 130 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-cooked fish steaks or 140-145 degrees for well-done swordfish steaks.
  • While the fish roasts in the oven, bring the sauce ingredients to a gentle bubble on the stovetop.
  • When the fish is done, use a spoon to baste it with the pan juices, then pour the sauce over it and serve.


Calories: 246kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 17g
Keyword fish sauce substitutes, lemon garlic swordfish, swordfish
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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