Can you eat fish skin?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat fish skin?”, and what are the health benefits of eating fish skin?

This article also includes a brief guide on how to prepare skin-on fish.

Can you eat fish skin?

Yes, you can eat fish skin. People usually avoid eating fish skin because of safety issues. However, if you remove all the scales and clean the fish properly, nos safety issue arises. 

Like fish meat, fish skin is also contaminated with mercury. Some types of fish are more susceptible to mercury poisoning than others. Fishes are categorized depending on their mercury content.

Mercury content Types of fish 
Low catfish, cod, flounder, pollock, salmon, tilapia, most canned tunas
Medium carp, grouper, halibut, mahi-mahi, snapper
High king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, tilefish

Now that you are aware of the safety risks associated with eating fish skin, you must be careful when you choose to eat a fish with its skin.

Nutrition and health benefits 

Each type of fish and fish skin has a specific nutrition profile. However, almost all types of fish have common key nutrients. 

Fish skin, of different types of fish, is a rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, iodine, selenium, and taurine. The health benefits derived from all of these nutrients are discussed in detail below.

A good source of protein 

Like fish meat, fish skin is a great reservoir of protein. Some proteins act as enzymes, some as immunity boosters like histones and transferrin while the majority of the proteins are a part of muscles and skin. 

An adequate intake of proteins helps prevent disorders like stunted growth, low iron levels, and swelling in the body.

Rich source of omega-3 fats 

Fatty fish is known for its big share of omega-3 fatty acids. The skin of fatty fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fats. 

An adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids provides heart protection, ensures healthy pregnancies, and reduces the risk of brain diseases. Salmon skin has the highest levels of omega-3 fats.

Good for skin 

Fish skin is a rich source of collagen and Vitamin E, both of which have anti-aging and skin rejuvenating properties. Besides fish skin, collagen is also present in fish scales, bones, and flesh. 

Vitamin E, being a fat-soluble vitamin, is found in abundance in fatty fish like salmon and trout. Vitamin E prevents eczema and supports overall skin health. While collagen maintains skin elasticity and hydration.

Rich source of nutrients 

The skin layer just below the fish meat and the mucous layer is an abundant source of nutrients. If you discard the fish skin, you are undoubtedly missing out on a lot of key nutrients.

How to prepare and eat fish skin?

Skin-on fish is best prepared by exposing it to high temperatures of grilling and pan-frying. To get a crispy crust, grill or fry with the skin side down. Never boil or steam the skin-on fish if you do not want your fishy going slimy or soggy.

The taste of fish skin also depends upon the type of fish. Some types of fish are preferred for their tasty skin. These include bass, barramundi, flounder, mackerel, salmon, and snapper. 

Other types of fish skin, like monkfish, skate, swordfish, and tuna, do not have a very appetizing taste. Fried fish skin snacks are gaining popularity day by day due to their crispy texture and improved flavor.

You may treat yourself to these snacks once in a while but you should avoid them altogether if you are suffering from hypertension, heart disease, or any other underlying health condition. Because these fish skin snacks are insanely high in sodium and fat.

What types of fish skin have a bad reputation?

Most notorious among the weird texture and bad-tasting fish skin are eels and catfish. Both these types of fish lack scales and have very slimy skin. 

Recipes like  Vietnamese clay pot catfish wonderfully mask the overly gelatinous fish skin texture and make it taste delicious. Unagi, the Japanese barbecued eel, is a classic example of how a bad-tasting fish skin i.e eel skin, could be prepared to taste appetizing.

Similarly, you can get rid of the fish slime by rubbing it with salt. Flatfish, like Halibut and codfish, have very tough and slimy skin.

Likewise, carp has muddy and bluefish has a fishy taste. But there is some chance with making bluefish taste good. Moreover, Monkfish has a very foul taste.

Fish caught from populated waters or those with mercury contamination should be stripped of their skin before cooking.

Other FAQs about Fish that you may be interested in.

Can you freeze fish whole without cleaning them?

Can you eat Zander?

How to fry fish without flour?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat fish skin?”, and what are the health benefits of eating fish skin?


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.