Are Trader Joe’s Rainbow Trout Fillets a Good Buy?


It’s been many months since I visited a TJ’s and there always seems to be new stuff when I go. This time I couldn’t resist grabbing a pound of frozen rainbow trout fillets for $7. I noticed the frozen seafood offerings were kind of slim overall, but with a price like that I could have found quite the steal. Then again I could be heading for major disappointment.

Product And Packaging

Trader Joes Rainbow Trout

Trader Joe’s is famously tight lipped about their suppliers and I knew that going in. I would be hard pressed to find out who supplied this farm-raised rainbow trout. All I really know is that it is a product of Chile and like all farmed salmonids, color has been added to their feed to give them a more natural color. They are not dyed and neither is salmon. Apparently many people think farmed fish meat is actually dyed, but the coloring comes from the feed. This isn’t any different than how trout and salmon get their color in the wild.

The difference is the coloring, which is often extracted from shrimp/crustacean shells, is in their feed pellets, not from wild food. Trade regulations mandate that the packaging list this as “color added” and I assume this is where the confusion arises. Now, considering the price, this could be some pretty rough trout. But considering they are under the Trader Joe’s label, they may have a higher quality than you would assume from the price point.

rainbow trout fillets thawed

That being said, I’m usually picky about farmed fish. The inexpensive products tend to be on the thin side, not a very good meat-to-skin ratio. These were no different. However rainbow trout are not a large fish to begin with, unlike their steelhead relatives. The fillets looked to be in good shape after thawing, some flesh damage is expected with such thin pieces. The skin also looked bright and intact. I think that Trader Joe’s standards means you may be getting cheap fillets, but they are the best of the cheap fillets.

Rainbow Trout Baked With Lemon And Herbs

Recipe by Buying SeafoodCuisine: SeafoodDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

12

minutes

If you follow my Instagram you’ll notice I made a similar recipe using cod and potatoes recently. It’s an adaptation of a recipe from the lovely ladies over at America’s Test Kitchen, one of my favorite shows.

Ingredients

  • 1lb Trader Joe’s Frozen Rainbow Trout Fillets

  • 1/2 stick of good Butter

  • 2 small Lemons, zested and sliced

  • Herbs: fresh Dill and Italian Parsley

  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and remove rainbow trout fillets from the package. Rinse (I always rinse fish – I worked on wharves) and pat dry
  • Season well with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Place sprigs of dill on fish and then cut up butter and place on top.
  • Finally place lemon slices over all. Cook for about 10-12 minutes.

Notes

  • They were definitely done after 12 minutes, any longer and they would be over cooked. I served them with some TJs Cauliflower Gnocchi with sage butter and some steamed frozen asparagus.

The Verdict On Trader Joe’s Rainbow Trout Fillets

Well…it was OK. The trout fillets were real thin so it was hard to separate from the skin. A couple bites were strong but the rest was very mild and had a nice taste of lemon and dill. If you are not a fan of fish skin, these might be too thin for you. Altogether it was an easy and good, but not great, weeknight dinner. I must admit I enjoyed it more than my wife, who does not like fish skin.

In the end it came down to my main criticism of inexpensive farmed fish: small and/or thin fillets. If it were up to me, Trader Joe’s should charge a buck or two more and offer a better, perhaps even domestic, trout fillet. I think next time I’ll splurge and spend a bit more for thicker fillets of rainbow trout or steelhead.