Halibut as Food: Nutritional Info, Cooking Tips & More

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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Halibut is a flatfish, genus Hippoglossus, from the family of the right-eye flounders (Pleuronectidae). Other flatfish are also called halibut. The name is derived from haly (holy) and butt (flat fish), for its popularity on Catholic holy days. Halibut are demersal fish which live in the North Pacific (Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis) and the North Atlantic oceans (Atlantic halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus). They are highly regarded food fish.

Halibut is a type of fish that’s been around for a long time. It’s actually the largest type of flatfish and can grow to 8 feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds.

This mild-tasting fish is high in protein and low in calories, making it a great choice for a healthy diet. It’s also a versatile fish that can be prepared many ways and enjoyed in many dishes.

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about halibut as food so let’s get started.

What is halibut

Halibut: The White, Sweet, and Fatty Fish

Halibut is a type of flatfish that is popular for its meaty and mild flavor. It is the largest flatfish, with some species growing up to 8 feet long and weighing over 500 pounds. Halibut has firm and lean flesh that is white in color and slightly sweet in taste. This fish is commonly found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and it is a popular food fish in many countries.

The Nutrients in Halibut

Halibut is not only delicious but also packed with nutrients that are beneficial for your health. Here are some of the nutrients you can find in halibut:

  • Protein: Halibut is a great source of protein, with 100 grams of cooked halibut containing around 23 grams of protein.
  • Vitamins: Halibut is rich in vitamins, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin B6. 100 grams of cooked halibut (here’s the wood you need to smoke it) contains around 3.5 µg of vitamin B12, 9.6 µg of vitamin D, and 0.4 mg of vitamin B6.
  • Minerals: Halibut is also a good source of minerals, such as selenium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
  • Fatty acids: Halibut contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health.

The Cooking Methods for Halibut

Halibut can be cooked in many ways, and each method brings out a unique flavor and texture. Here are some common methods for cooking halibut:

  • Baked: Baking halibut is a simple and healthy way to cook this fish. You can add some herbs and spices to enhance the flavor.
  • Broiled: Broiling halibut gives it a crispy texture and a slightly charred flavor. It is a quick and easy method that requires minimal preparation.
  • Poached: Poaching halibut in a flavorful broth or wine is a great way to infuse it with extra flavor. This method is also low in fat and calories.
  • Braised: Braising halibut in a rich sauce or broth is a great way to create a flavorful and tender dish.

Added Benefits of Eating Halibut

Eating halibut regularly can provide many health benefits, such as:

  • Lowering the risk of heart disease: The omega-3 fatty acids in halibut can help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Boosting brain function: The vitamin B12 in halibut is essential for brain function and can help improve memory and cognitive function.
  • Supporting healthy bones: The vitamin D in halibut is important for bone health and can help prevent osteoporosis.

The Pacific Halibut’s Flavor Profile: A Delectable Delight

Pacific halibut is a lean fish that boasts a sweet and mild flavor profile. Its taste is slightly distinct from other white fish, such as tilapia or cod, making it a unique addition to any seafood dish.

Firm and Tender Texture

The Pacific halibut has a firm texture that is tender to the bite. Its lean meat is moist and flakes easily, making it an excellent choice for grilling, frying, or slow-roasting.

Deep Flavor that Takes on Other Flavors

Despite its gentle fishy taste, the Pacific halibut can easily take on other flavors, making it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Its deep flavor profile makes it an excellent choice for a variety of dishes, from simple pan-seared fillets to complex seafood stews.

Cooking Temperature and Techniques

When cooking Pacific halibut, it’s important to keep in mind that it is a lean fish and can dry out quickly if overcooked. To ensure a perfectly cooked fillet, aim for an internal temperature of 145°F. Some popular cooking techniques for Pacific halibut include:

  • Grilling: Brush the fillets with oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes per side.
  • Frying: Dredge the fillets in seasoned flour and fry in hot oil for 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown.
  • Slow-roasting: Season the fillets with herbs and spices and roast in the oven at 275°F for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

How to Cook Halibut Like a Pro

  • When buying fresh halibut, check for clear and bright eyes, firm flesh, and a mild smell.
  • Pat the halibut fillets dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.
  • Season the halibut with salt and pepper or any other preferred seasoning.
  • If you want to add a little bit of a kick, mix garlic, onion, and olive oil to produce a flavorful mixture.

Cooking Methods

  • Searing: Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil or butter. Once hot, add the halibut fillets and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side until browned. This helps to produce a crispy outer layer while keeping the inside moist and tender.
  • Baking: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the seasoned halibut fillets on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Broiling: Place the seasoned halibut fillets on a baking sheet and broil for 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. This method helps to produce a perfectly crispy topping.

Sides and Sauce

  • Sides: Serve the halibut with roasted vegetables, rice, or a salad.
  • Sauce: A lemon-butter sauce or a garlic-butter sauce is a good addition to the halibut. Garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or dill.

Storing and Freezing

  • Store cooked halibut in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze cooked halibut for up to 3 months. Wrap the halibut fillets in a single layer with plastic wrap and then foil to prevent freezer burn.

Tips and Tricks

  • To prevent the halibut from sticking to the pan, make sure the pan is hot before adding the halibut fillets.
  • When flipping the halibut fillets, use a spatula and gently turn them over to prevent the fillets from breaking apart.
  • If you’re not sure if the halibut is cooked, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. The ideal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Let the halibut rest for a few minutes before serving. This helps the juices to redistribute and makes the meat more tender.
  • Depending on the cooking method, adding a little bit of butter or olive oil helps to keep the halibut moist and flavorful.

Wild-Caught vs Farm-Raised Halibut: Which is the Best Choice?

When it comes to seafood, halibut is a popular type of fish that is available in many local seafood shops and restaurants. However, the decision to choose between wild-caught and farm-raised halibut can be difficult. Here’s what you need to know about the two methods of halibut production:

Wild-Caught Halibut: The Traditional and Local Choice

  • Wild-caught halibut is caught directly from the ocean, typically in areas such as the Pacific Northwest or Alaska.
  • The meat of wild-caught halibut has a great flavor and texture due to its natural diet and the ocean environment in which it lives.
  • Wild-caught halibut is typically more expensive than farm-raised halibut due to the entire area of the ocean that must be covered to catch it.
  • However, the benefits of wild-caught halibut include its impressive nutritional level, which can significantly improve diets and create positive health benefits.
  • Additionally, wild-caught halibut is a great choice for people who are concerned about the potential harm that farm-raised fish may cause to the environment.

Farm-Raised Halibut: A Faster and More Accessible Alternative

  • Farm-raised halibut is produced by companies that supply halibut products directly to seafood shops and restaurants.
  • This type of halibut is typically less expensive and more readily available than wild-caught halibut.
  • However, the crowded growing conditions of farm-raised halibut can easily expose the fish to bacteria, pesticides, and parasites, which can affect the quality of the meat and harm the environment.
  • To protect the sensitive structure of the fish, farm-raised halibut is typically grown in containers that allow for a linear flow of water to effectively spread and lower the potential for damage.
  • While farm-raised halibut may be an easy choice for dinner, it’s important to consider the potential harm it may cause to the environment and the quality of the meat.

Why Halibut is a Nutritional Powerhouse

Halibut is an excellent source of protein, which plays an important role in building and maintaining muscle. A 3-ounce serving of halibut provides around 20 grams of protein, making it a great food for people looking to increase their protein intake.

Low in Fat and Sodium

Compared to other types of fish, halibut is relatively low in overall calories, fat, and sodium. This means that it can be a good food choice for people who are watching their weight or trying to lower their sodium intake.

Essential Fatty Acids

Halibut contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for proper health. These fatty acids have been known to have multiple potential benefits, including helping to prevent heart disease, increasing energy, and protecting against certain types of cancer.

Impressive Vitamin and Mineral Content

Halibut is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and selenium. A 3-ounce serving of halibut provides around 25% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B12, which is required for proper red blood cell formation and nerve function. It also provides around 10% of the daily recommended value of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones.

Dietary Fiber and Carbohydrates

Halibut is a good source of dietary fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar. It also contains small amounts of carbohydrates and sugars, which can be supplied to the body as energy.

Preparation and Serving Size

The nutritional content of halibut can vary depending on how it is prepared and the serving size. For example, halibut that is breaded and fried will have a higher calorie and fat content than halibut that is grilled or baked. It is important to note that a 3-ounce serving of halibut contains around 90-100 calories and 50-100 mg of sodium, making it a low-calorie and low-sodium food option.

Overall Health Benefits

Eating halibut regularly can have a positive impact on overall health. The combination of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals found in halibut make it a powerful food for building and maintaining muscle, protecting against disease, and maintaining proper health.

Things to Consider When Eating Halibut

While halibut is a healthy food choice, there are certain things to consider when consuming it. Here are some potential health concerns to keep in mind:

  • Mercury Levels: Halibut is a type of fish and like other seafood, it may contain mercury. While the levels of mercury in halibut are generally considered low, it’s important to moderate your intake, especially if you’re pregnant or working on developing a young child’s body. The National Institutes of Health recommend eating no more than two servings of halibut per week.
  • Contaminants: Halibut, especially wild-caught, may contain contaminants such as algal blooms, viruses, and harmful bacteria. It’s important to ensure that the halibut you’re consuming is safe and has been properly handled and cooked. Always refer to the FDA’s list of safe seafood and follow proper sanitation practices when preparing and cooking halibut.
  • Heavy Metal Build-Up: Halibut is a fatty fish and contains purine, which can break down into uric acid and lead to gout and kidney stone development. Additionally, halibut may contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, which can build up in the body over time and harm your health. If you have kidney problems, it’s best to avoid consuming halibut or get permission from your doctor.


Halibut is a delicious fish that’s great for eating. It’s a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and has a mild flavor that’s perfect for almost any dish. 

You can cook it many ways, but the best way is to simply enjoy it fresh. So don’t be shy, and give it a try!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.