Can You Eat Koi Fish?

multicolored Koi fish

Koi fish are a colorful type of carp. They are popular pets for fish enthusiasts because they often live for 50 years or more. You’ve likely seen these beautifully patterned fish in backyard or indoor ponds, and you may have wondered whether you can eat koi fish.

While many people think of koi as inedible fish because of their beauty, they can actually be as delicious and nutritious as other types of carp. Koi fish can be enjoyed in many ways, including grilled, baked, and boiled.

There are some misconceptions about eating koi fish, so here’s what you need to know before trying this colorful fish.

What Are Koi Fish?

Koi fish is a species of Japenese carp. Centuries of careful breeding have resulted in hundreds of gorgeous color patterns for koi fish. This distinct coloration is why they are so popular for indoor and outdoor ponds. These fish can be white, black, yellow, or orange and often have multiple colors to create stunning patterns.

Koi fish were originally bred to serve as a food source. The carp species thrived in environments such as rice paddies, and because koi fish are sturdy and easy to take care of, they became an easy food source for Japanese rice farmers.

Over time, koi fish became an integral part of Japanese culture, but not because of their meat. They became more important for their symbolism than for their calories.

In Japan, koi fish symbolize long life and good fortune. They are often compared to legendary Samarai warriors because of their natural strength and perseverance. Each color variation has its symbolic value, but the species is said to bring good luck.

The fish may be popular pets for ponds in America, but they have more significance in Japan. 

Is It Safe To Eat Koi Fish?

If you plan to eat koi fish, you must be mindful of how it is prepared.

Like any other type of fish, undercooked koi can cause digestive problems. Bacteria and parasites are sometimes found on koi fish scales, so it’s important to use gloves when handling them.

Koi also tend to have higher levels of mercury than other species of fish, so it’s not a good idea to consume them regularly. However, indulging in koi occasionally can be a delicious addition to your diet.

In America, there is a misconception that koi are less nutritious than other types of fish because they feed on anything they find at the bottom of the pond. This bottom-feeding lifestyle has earned them a reputation as trash fish when it comes to consuming them.

While koi are considered bottom feeders, you don’t have to worry about them having an odd taste. However, you do need to make sure that the fish you eat has been properly descaled and cooked thoroughly so you can avoid getting sick after eating it.

Koi fish sourced from a koi farm typically have better diets than those caught in the wild. However, the taste probably won’t vary much.

As long as you pay attention to how your koi is cooked and prepared, the fish is perfectly safe to eat. It can be a delicacy for people who have adventurous palates and want to try foreign cuisine.

What Do Koi Fish Taste Like?

While koi fish were originally bred in Japan, they can be found in many Asian countries, and they often taste different depending on where they were raised. In general, koi fish has a mild flavor and tends to take on the smell and flavor of any spices or seasonings it is cooked with.

When cooked properly, the meat of a koi fish is white or light pink and is tender and soft. It can be savory or sweet depending on what foods the fish consumed before it was hooked and how you seasoned it. It has a light, soft texture that some people compare to biting into a piece of caramel candy.

Some people describe koi fish as having a slightly nutty flavor. This usually comes from koi raised in captivity and can be attributed to the type of food they were fed. Wild koi do not typically have this nutty flavor when cooked. This provides a unique flavor experience depending on how the koi fish was sourced.

How Do You Prepare Koi Fish?

Pot of boiling water on stove

Koi can be prepared in many of the same ways as other types of fish. One common way to cook koi fish is to boil it. Add the fish to a pot of boiling water and then mix it with your desired seasonings and some fresh vegetables. The fish will taste different depending on which combinations you use.

You can also cut koi fish into tiny pieces and place it in a stir fry dish with fresh vegetables or noodles. Grilling and baking are also popular cooking methods for koi fish.

Regardless of how you choose to prepare the dish, the seasonings you choose to use will have a huge impact on the flavor. Make sure not to overcook koi fish to maintain the light, delicate texture.

Koi are often served with a light sauce that enhances the inherent flavor of the fish. If the sauce is lightweight and creamy and features delicate flavors it won’t overpower the meat.

Are Koi Fish Expensive?

Koi are much more expensive than many other types of fish. They are the most costly species of pet fish. In general, you can expect to spend $50 to $150 on a single fish to place in an indoor or outdoor pond. More well-bred varieties can cost more than $10,000.

Brightly colored koi are more expensive than those that are black or white.

Koi are now largely bred for ponds and not for food. So their value is due to their ability to brighten up a space and be a long-term pet with cultural significance. They are much more expensive than you would usually spend on a quick fish meal.

Why Would You Want To Try Koi Fish?

If you enjoy eating other types of fish, you may have wondered if you can eat koi fish. Many people think of koi as similar to goldfish and do not want to eat them due to their brightly colored scales, but koi are delicious when they are prepared properly.

You may want to try them just for the experience of sampling a new food that is found in another culture. Eating koi as part of a meal is found in several different countries throughout Asia. If you want to get the full cultural experience during your travels, you may want to try different types of food.

Why Would You Not Want To Eat Koi Fish?

If you don’t like other types of seafood, especially any other white fish like tilapia or halibut, you may not have any desire to try koi fish. You may also not want to eat this type of fish because it has such a gorgeous coloration.

The coloring of koi fish makes it a popular pet for indoor and outdoor ponds, and people are often put off by the idea of eating something that looks like a pet.

Another reason that you may not want to eat koi is that this type of fish is known to be super intelligent. Fish in general are thought to have more intelligence than many other animals, and koi can be trained in various ways.

They learn which times they are fed and can often be found at the pond’s surface before you approach to feed them. They are even known to recognize the sight of the people who feed them. This intelligence makes them great pets and may make you feel funny about eating them.

If you have an adventurous palate and are curious about eating koi fish, you may want to sample the dish. And as long as you can get past their beautiful coloring and obvious intelligence, koi fish are definitely safe to eat.

The thought that koi fish are inedible is a popular misconception. Sampling the meat is a great way to gain a unique insight into the Japanese culture and learn why the fish is so important. Whether you prefer to enjoy looking at koi swimming in a pond or sample them in a new dish, koi fish are sure to delight you.

Recommended if you want to catch another fish to eat:

Beginner’s Fishing Gear Guide

Beginner’s Guide 101: What Are the Best Times of Day to Go Fishing?

Why Fishing Makes You a Healthier, Happier Person