Walleye (Sander vitreus), also known as a dory, pickerel, freshwater perch, yellow walleye, walleye pike, or yellow pike, belong to the largest perch family. They thrive in cold, freshwater lakes and rivers in Canada and North America.
The walleye has a golden brown or yellow color with a white belly. Walleyes have two dorsal fins on their back and large, cat-like, silvery, almost reflective eyes to which the name “walleye” can be attributed.
Don’t confuse it with the Alaskan walleye, though. Because even though they look alike, the Alaskan walleye is a saltwater fish, has a very different taste, and is not even a distant relative of the walleye!
Although restaurants often serve 5-pound walleyes, North American walleyes can weigh up to twenty pounds or 9 kilograms and grow to around 31 inches long. Females tend to be bigger than males.
Walleyes are caught both for commercial and recreational purposes. Since they are known to be nocturnal feeders, the best time to go walleye fishing is at twilight just as the sun sets or at dawn just before the sun rises. For a higher chance of success, live baits are also the way to go.
What Does Walleye Taste Like?
According to various references, walleye is one of the mildest-tasting fish. Just like any other freshwater fishes, it has a clean, meaty taste. Walleye from different regions tend to have subtle differences in terms of taste and texture, but generally, how does walleye taste?
While some find walleye’s distinct taste to be somewhat bland or flavorless, others claim that it tastes a bit like chicken meat! Well, it is somewhere in between. When prepared properly and cooked fresh, its flesh has a savory taste with a hint of sweetness and a succulent, meaty texture.
When compared with bass or other freshwater fishes, it has a less murky taste. The meat has a delicate yet firm texture and gives a buttery mouthfeel. The flakes of a walleye fillet are quite fine with almost no fishiness to it.
Walleye has relatively few large bones, making it a popular choice because of the ease of preparation. When cooked just right, the vibrant pink color changes into a glistening white shade.
Thanks to its mild flavor, walleye is a kind of blank slate that will fabulously absorb anything that you season it with. Walleye are often seen pan-fried or grilled with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper. It is then served with different sauces or side dishes and salads.
This fish tastes delicious, and it is also packed with nutrients like healthy fats, omega 3, and protein, to name a few. An average walleye fillet contains 13 grams of protein, about 76 milligrams of sodium, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, Vitamin A, and some dietary fiber.
Walleye can be cooked in several ways to take advantage of its mild flavor and fantastic texture, some of which we will discuss later.
How to Cook Walleye
You are most likely to find walleye already filleted, but whether whole or fillet, you can cook it in various ways. Here are some go-to walleye cooking methods that yield outstanding results.
If you can get a whole walleye fish, guts and all, it’s best to grill it for a tasty dish. You can also grill a walleye fillet.
Simply season your fish with your favorite spices, brush or spray on some oil or nonstick spray, and enjoy it with your usual barbeque outdoors.
For me, a simple mix of minced garlic, some salt, my seasoning blend, and a few tablespoons of melted butter is perfect for walleye.
Place your fish skin side down on a hot grill and cook each side for five to seven minutes.
For a more detailed guide, watch this video:
Pan-frying is probably the easiest way to cook walleye. Simply coat your fillet with a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You can even skip the flour and just use salt and pepper and place your fish on a hot, oiled pan.
If you want it crispier, coat the fillet with the flour mixture, dip it in some egg wash and into panko bread crumbs before deep frying it in hot oil for three to four minutes.
If you want to take a healthier route, try baking your walleye fillets. Baking will retain the natural sweetness of the fish and keeps the inside soft and moist while giving the outside a crispy crust.
Pour some melted butter on a baking dish, place your fillets skin side down, and sprinkle some seasonings of your choice. You can also add herbs and spices. Place in a preheated oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes at 500 °F.
Roasting a whole fish on a spit is a somewhat primitive yet surefire way to cook walleye! It gives the fantastic fish flavor and a richer taste along with an unbeatable smoky aroma. It’s easy, too!
Just place your cleaned fish on a spit, rub with a little bit of salt, and be ready to roast! This is also perfect for when you’re camping and if you are spending time outdoors.
5. Fish Cake
Because walleye meat is neutral and flaky, you can turn them into fishcakes. Just add chopped veggies like carrots, zucchini or cabbage, onions, garlic or chives, and eggs to chopped or ground walleye meat.
You can season it with salt, pepper, dry mustard, and a bit of lemon juice. Mix it all up and form your fishcakes. If you want it extra crispy, you can use flour, bread crumbs, or cornflake crumbs as a coating before frying over medium heat for 8 minutes on each side.
Another must-try way to prepare walleye is to make a ceviche. Ceviche does not require any heat but cooks the fish with some acid like lime juice or vinegar.
Toss your fish in the acid with chopped shallots and chilies or jalapenos. Soak cubed fish meat for about 4 hours in the fridge to keep it from spoiling. This is a milder version where the fish is not raw, but the full flavor is there.
Walleye vs. Catfish Taste
You may be more familiar with the catfish and know how it compares with walleye in terms of taste. Well, walleye is a freshwater fish, and catfish can be caught either from freshwater or saltwater.
Freshwater catfish tastes more similar to walleye, naturally. However, even freshwater catfish can be muddy tasting and taste fishier than walleye, especially if the catfish is wild-caught or not farmed. Both fish have a mild sweetness in their meat.
Catfish and walleye both have firm meat, but the former has a more flaky, delicate, and moist texture when cooked while the latter may quickly turn chewy and rubbery once overcooked.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Walleye is one of the species of fishes with the lowest levels of fishiness. If you prefer cooking and eating more bland, less fishy types of fish, you’ll likely enjoy a walleye serving.
Walleye can be substituted with other similar-tasting fishes like snapper, yellow perch, grouper, catfish, tilapia, or haddock. Although these do not taste the same, the flavor profiles are pretty close together. The closest in terms of taste, health benefits, and nutritional value is probably the perch.
Yes! Walleye is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that help improve brain development and heart health. It is also rich in Vitamins A and D, the latter of which helps keep your bones strong and healthy with the help of calcium.
There are many factors and reasons that could make walleye taste fishier than it should. For example, if it was not stored or handled correctly, or if the fish is old. This gives it a strong, fishy odor and may affect the texture and taste as well.
Walleye should be kept in ice upon catching it to avoid spoilage or the development of a fishy taste. If poor handling was not the case, try soaking your walleye fillet in some milk before seasoning and cooking it. If that doesn’t work, try soaking for a longer period. That should do the trick.
Mercury is a heavy metal contaminant often found in most fish species, including walleye. Walleye is located high on the food chain. Meaning, it eats other fish, which could lead to biomagnification where higher levels of mercury build-up in the meat and organs. Older walleye fish also tend to have higher mercury levels.
Therefore, walleye, especially the bigger and older fish, likely contains mercury, but this does not necessarily mean that they are not safe for consumption.
If you want to minimize your mercury consumption, opt for smaller walleye, say something 14 to 18 inches long. This size of fishes are younger and are less likely to have eaten a lot of other mercury-rich fishes.
Walleye is a fairly pricey yet healthy and tasty fish. Its taste depends on the preparation and cooking method. However, it was prepared, you can serve walleye with a nice side of veggies, and you’ve got yourself a delicious and healthy dinner.
I hope we were able to answer your questions about what walleye tastes like. For your questions and clarifications, feel free to leave a comment down below! Also, please do check out our main website for more helpful articles like this!