Marinated in a very slightly sweet/savory/tangy sauce, this miso-lemon baked steelhead trout (or salmon works too!) is succulent and tender. The recipe has only 5 ingredients, all naturally gluten-free. The baked steelhead’s sweetness balances the umami flavors of the miso, vinegar, and lemon. Enjoy with steamed rice and a light salad like my Tangy Ginger-Almond Asian Slaw!
Steelhead or salmon?
Steelhead trout looks and cooks like salmon because the two are in the same family. Fascinating fact: steelhead starts its life as a rainbow trout, but if it migrates into the ocean, it becomes a steelhead. Like salmon, steelhead has pinkish flesh and high omega-3 fatty acid content. The healthy fat content is what makes it a good candidate for baking without drying out.
Besides being delicious, farmed steelhead is considered one of the best choices for sustainability according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list. The only salmon on the “best” list is New Zealand wild salmon – which can be pricy. And my local (Denver) Costco carries steelhead for a reasonable price.
Buying farmed salmon is tempting because it’s usually less expensive than wild. Farmed US or Canada Pacific Salmon is considered a good alternative as far as sustainability, but are not as healthy as wild salmon. Farmed salmon have a higher fat content, which would be fine, but it’s mainly omega-6 fatty acids. For me, one important reason for eating seafood is to up my omega-3 intake. Thus steelhead is a great option!
The marinade for the miso-lemon baked steelhead trout
Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans and rice. I’ve always thought I’d make my own, DIY-er that I am. I even bought some koji starter. But when I learned that it takes a year to ferment (thus the term “one-year miso”) and that it is best when buried in a crock underground, I had to reconsider this. Add to that the idea that in Honolulu, where I learned to make this dish, I couldn’t think of any place around our house that was cool enough to ferment the soybeans properly.
I love the fact that miso keeps for months in the refrigerator. And that it’s such a tasty way to include probiotics in your diet. I hope that lots of the probiotic critters survive the 18 minutes of baking that I use. Sometimes if the fillet of fish is thinner, or if the people I’m cooking for appreciate the fish being slightly raw in the middle, I bake for only 15 minutes. Before and after baking:
Miso is quite salty and needs a little sweetness to balance it. I have trimmed the amount of sugar as much as possible to reduce the carbohydrate content. You can experiment with adding honey or more mirin if you want a definite sweetness, but not too much because a sweeter marinade is also more likely to burn in the oven. If you leave sweetener out altogether, the taste will seem flat. Also, I use a lot of miso! If you are making this dish for the first time, I suggest that you use less (see notes) until you decide how much is right for you.
Years ago, I was advised to avoid soy products because the isoflavones they contain can act as estrogens in the body. Excess estrogens can increase cancer risks. I was encouraged, however, to use fermented organic soy products, which makes me very happy because I love the taste of miso. It’s wonderful in this dish (and in miso soup!)
I prefer brown rice miso, and if you have an Asian grocery near you, that’s your best bet. I also look for brown-rice miso made from organic soybeans, as Hikari brand is. If you don’t have that products near you, organic red miso is a good choice. Red miso is fermented longer than white miso and has the stronger flavor needed for this miso-lemon baked steelhead trout.
Enjoy, and let me know your impressions of this meal in the comments!
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Miso-Lemon Baked Steelhead Trout
- 2.25 pounds steelhead cut into fillets.
- ½ cup organic miso Hikari brand (if trying this recipe for the first time, use ⅓ cup)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin or 1 more tablespoon rice vinegar
- ½ lemon to squeeze over the fish
- Place the steelhead fillets, skin side down, onto parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Mix the miso, brown sugar, vinegar and mirin together in a small bowl.
- Spread evenly over the fillets (I use a flexible spatula).
- Let marinate at least ½ hour and as long as 8 hours. If you marinate for the shorter time, leave the fish at room temperature. If you marinate for longer than 30 minutes, you will need to refrigerate the fish, but remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking so that it comes to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F about ten minutes before you plan to bake the fish.
- Bake Steelhead for 18 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Drizzle lemon juice over the fillets.
- Serve with rice and a light salad, like my Tangy Ginger-Almond Asian Slaw