How to Cook Pacific White Seabass

A Firm, Flavorful, and Sustainable Fish From California

'Sea bass with lemon, olive oil and herbs'
WALTER ZERLA / Getty Images

Unless you live in California, Pacific white seabass may be an unknown fish to you. It is even rare in Northern California, as this fish largely lives in the kelp forests in the southern part of the state, so it is not a widely known species. Although "bass" is in its name, white seabass, also known as Corvina or king croaker, is not a bass at all—it is a member of the drum (or Sciaenidae) family.

It is a cousin of the redfish of Louisiana, the weakfish of the Mid-Atlantic states, and the ubiquitous spot and croaker that range from the Delaware Bay down to the Carolinas. It is also a delicious fish that is easy to cook.

White Seabass' Texture and Taste

While striped bass—a fish many of us are familiar with—is not especially firm, white seabass is. In fact, it is very firm. White seabass is meaty, mouth-filling, and muscular—a manly man's fish. It's definitely not meant for delicate steaming or poaching in broth. The fish tastes a lot like sturgeon, which is among the firmest fish around. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor, and when pairing this with its firm texture, it is the perfect fish for almost any type of cooking method, as well as flavorful sauces.

Cooking White Seabass

Because of its sturdiness, white seabass is perfect for the grill, great seared in a pan, broiled, or even slow-cooked in a barbecue.

It may not be fatty enough to smoke properly, but white seabass would be perfect slowly simmered in olive oil and then eaten cold in a salad. When cooked, this fish is nice and moist and flakes easily.

Buying White Seabass

If you are on the West Coast, seek out white seabass. Not only is it a fantastic eating fish, it is considered a "best choice" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which monitors the health of fisheries worldwide.

Most white seabass are caught by hook and line, and the populations have increased dramatically since being overfished in the 1960s and 1970s.

The fish is typically cut into large fillets or steaks. The skin is a gun-metal silver, and the meat is white, but not shockingly so. It should have some brick-red muscle along the center line.

If you don't live in the West, white seabass freezes well so you can buy it frozen. And if you happen to see recipes for white seabass, but can't get your hands on any, know that you can substitute sturgeon, grouper, thresher shark, mako shark, mahi-mahi (dorado), or even swordfish, if you can find hook-and-line caught swordfish steaks.