How to Cook Moonfish

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Moonfish can be baked, broiled, sauteed or grilled with tasty results.
Moonfish can be baked, broiled, sauteed or grilled with tasty results. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Moonfish, or "opah," as it is also called, is typically found off the shores of the Hawaiian islands and in other tropical waters. In Hawaii, fishermen traditionally gave away these disc-shaped fish instead of selling them since the fish is widely regarded as a sign of good luck. Whether you’re looking for a little extra luck or simply interested in trying something new, moonfish, with its creamy, rich flavor and firm texture, is a delicious and versatile main course that you can cook in many different ways.

Things You'll Need

  • Butter or cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Additional seasonings such as basil, garlic or thyme (optional)

Buy fresh moonfish fillets that are firm, with shiny flesh that doesn't show an indent if you press it with your finger. If you're buying frozen moonfish fillets, look for fish that is frozen solid, with no ice crystals. Moonfish's flesh is not white; instead, it displays four different colors: orange, behind its head; pink in the belly area; dark red meat in the cheek; and bright red inside the breastplates.

Cook your moonfish by baking, broiling, frying, grilling or sauteing it, all of which are suited to its firm, fatty flesh.

Preheat the oven or grill. Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for baking or medium-high if you are grilling or sauteing your moonfish on the stove top. If you are sauteing the fish, melt butter or heat cooking oil in the pan, set to a medium or medium-high setting.

Prepare the moonfish by unwrapping it and patting it dry. Season it to taste. Since moonfish is delicious on its own, you can keep it as simple as a sprinkle of black pepper and salt. If you want to add additional flavor, consider dusting the fillets with fresh or dried herbs such as basil, garlic or thyme.

Cook your fish for roughly 8 to 10 minutes, until the flesh is opaque. If you are cooking it on the grill or sauteing the fish, flip it halfway through the cooking process. If you're baking or broiling it, flipping the fish isn't necessary. When it's done, the moonfish should be white and opaque, unless the cut comes from the breastplate area of the fish, which cooks up with a brownish color.

Tips & Warnings

  • Substitute moonfish in your favorite tuna or swordfish recipe. Its flavor is somewhere between the two fish, and its texture is similar.
  • Consider preparing moonfish with contrasting flavors and textures to make a stand-out main dish. For example, making a sauce with meaty mushrooms such as portobellos, along with garlic, shallots, white wine, stock and fresh basil, adds complementary rich flavors that contrast with the fish's delicate flavor. Alternatively, crust it with herbs and/or panko to add a crunch that contrasts with its buttery texture.

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