Love Snapper? Try Lionfish Instead

Eating the invasive species isn't just delicious—it also helps put a dent in their population, which threatens marine ecosystems worldwide.

By Kim Doleatto September 2, 2022


Lionfish are native to coral reefs in the tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Image: Shutterstock

Despite their venomous spines, lionfish are safe to eat, high in healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, and lower in saturated fats and mercury than many other fish. Plus, they’re not farmed, so eating lionfish supports local fishermen and divers who practice sustainable fishing methods.

It's environmentally ethical, too. Lionfish are invasive and wreak havoc on marine ecosystems worldwide, including the Gulf of Mexico. They devour baby game fish like grouper and snapper, as well as the baby fish that help maintain healthy coral reefs. According to Scott Cassell and Scott Gonnello, a duo dedicated to lionfish research and eradication, eating them may as well be a public service. 

So how do lionfish taste?

A lionfish is a white, flaky fish that tastes like a cross between grouper and mahi-mahi, with a touch of butteriness. Ordering them at restaurants or asking your local supermarket to carry them is one way you can help combat the invasive species.

Find them seasonally at Captain Brian's Seafood Market and Restaurant and Indigenous in Sarasota. If you want to get up close and personal, sign up for a lionfish derby (yes, hunting them is an event), hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Like most fish, you can also simply saute lionfish, but this ceviche is a creative, easy way to enjoy it, too. 


  • 2 lbs. lionfish filets
  • 1 cup lime juice, approximately 7 large limes
  • 1/4 tsp. lime zest
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, diced (depending on how spicy you like it) 
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste


  • Chop the lionfish fillets into small, evenly sized chunks.
  • Chop onions, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro and set them aside.
  • Juice limes and combine with vinegar.
  • Add the fish and vegetables, except for the avocado, to the lime juice mixture.
  • Let marinate for at least 20 minutes or until the fish is opaque.
  • Dice the avocados while you wait for the fish to marinate.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the avocado.
  • Serve with plantain or yucca chips.
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