What Is Steelhead Trout?

A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Storing Trout

steelhead trout

Getty Imagess / Thomas Barwick

Steelhead trout is an affordable, sustainable way to incorporate fish into your diet. Versatile, easy to cook, and delicious prepared a number of ways, this is one delicious protein to get to know better.

What Are Steelhead Trout?

Native to the West Coast and Alaska, steelhead trout is a silvery fish with a similar taste and look as Pacific salmon. Steaks, fillets, and whole fish are sold in fish markets around the country, and are popular on restaurant menus as well.

How To Cook Steelhead Trout

Fresh or frozen steelhead trout can be prepared in a number of ways and styles. Thaw frozen steelhead trout overnight in the fridge before cooking, and bake, pan-fry, broil, poach, or sauté this flavorful fish simply with lemon and butter, or your favorite seasonings. Steelhead trout can also be pickled or cured, a popular preparation in Scandinavian and Eastern European cuisine.

What Does It Taste Like?

Steelhead trout lacks the fatty mouthfeel of salmon, offering a more delicate flavor and flaky texture. These qualities make it equally suited as an entree on its own or in tacos, salad, or soup, and those averse to salmon's ocean fish notes may find steelhead trout more palatable.

Steelhead Trout vs. Salmon

Steelhead trout is often mistaken for salmon, as they both have bright orange-pink flesh that cooks to opaque. Substitute steelhead trout for salmon in most recipes. Compared to Atlantic salmon, which is often found in thick cuts, steelhead trout are smaller and thinner, and cook more quickly.


Steelhead trout is often confused with rainbow trout. While they're of the same species, rainbow trout spend their lives in fresh water, and steelhead trout are anadromous (spend parts of their lives in fresh and salt water). Rainbow trout tend to be smaller, with paler flesh and a gamier flavor. Steelhead trout can be substituted for rainbow trout in most recipes. 

Steelhead Trout Recipes

Where to Buy Steelhead Trout

Depending on your location you’ll find it at your local fishmonger or supermarket fresh or frozen with farmed and wild-caught varieties available. It’s most commonly available as fillets, but you’ll occasionally see it whole as well. You can also order steelhead trout online.


Store uncooked steelhead trout in its original packaging, tightly wrapped in plastic, or vacuum-sealed in the refrigerator for up to two days (up to three months frozen). Once cooked, steelhead trout will keep in the fridge for about three days.