What Does Whale Taste Like? Benefits, Risks, And Common Recipes

If you are offered whale meat, what will your first response be? I guess you will be wondering if people eat it, and if they do, what will whale taste like?

If you have never gotten as adventurous as eating whales, it’s okay to want to know what you might be getting into.

Whale meat is a common delicacy, but people eat it. Eating a whale may sound like capturing and skinning a lion (which is okay) but some people are brave enough to catch one and cut it up into portions for food.

Perhaps you are up for some culinary adventures. Read up on the taste profile of whale meat, the likely benefits and risks, and how to use whales in dishes.

About whale meat

whale meat - millenora

Whale meat refers to meaty cuts – organs, muscle, and fat – from the whale fish. Whale meat is not a staple meat, at least not in many countries of the world.

In Japan, eating whale meat is an ancient practice and it is considered a special delicacy. However, it is prohibited in the United States. In places like Iceland and Norway, whale meat is the available meat option, so eating it is a necessity in these areas.  

Generally, there is little demand for whale meat, unlike farmed livestock. However, in places where this meat is eaten, it is available in various cuts like other meats.

The muscle parts give pure meat, the organs, the skin (which is called muktuk), fat (blubber), the tail fin, the tongue (a fatty cut considered high-class), onomi (the base of the tail fin, and the most sought-after cut), kanoko (from the jaw and cheeks), akaminiku (which is 30-40% of commercially produced whale meat).

Do people eat whales?

Yes, people eat whales. People from Japan, Iceland, and Norway eat whale meat like farmed livestock. Whale meat can be eaten raw in sashimi or dry-cured with salt and smoked as whale bacon.

What does whale meat taste like?

Whale meat tastes like beef but is a bit gamier like venison. If you have had moose near before, you already know what whale meat will taste like. Although it is a fish, it tastes nothing fishy like other types of fish.

A whale is a mammal, so you should expect a meat-like taste. It also has earthy notes to its gamey taste. Furthermore, the taste of whale meat varies with the cuts. Cuts with high-fat content are gamier than the lean cuts and have a more intense flavor.

Unlike fish, whale meat has a chewy texture like beef. The high-fat cuts have a melt-in-your-mouth mouthfeel like steak.

Does whale meat taste like fish?

No, whale meat does not taste like fish. Although it is a fish, the meat tastes more like beef (or steak) than fish.

Is eating whales healthy?

Eating whale meat is not a common practice, but it can be healthy if the meat is carefully and hygienically sourced.

However, it is not advisable to consume whale meat in large quantities because it may still contain some toxins, which are harmful to the health.

Whale meat is rich in high-quality proteins. It contains 8 essential amino acids which make up these proteins. Consuming these proteins in whale meat supports body and muscle building.

Whale meat also provides more iron than other animal-based meat sources. Its red color comes from myoglobin which is present in muscle fibers. Myoglobin is like the hemoglobin present in the red blood cells of humans.

Myoglobin contains globin, a simple protein, and iron. Iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen to tissues and organs. A constant supply of iron reduces the risk of anemia. In addition, whale meat is a low-calorie meat, unlike pork or beef.

Are there any risks?

Yes, whale meat has its risks. Most times, the meat is contaminated with pesticides which accumulate in the bodies of whales. Consuming these contaminants increases the risk of developing hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Furthermore, whale meat contains a lot of mercury which can cause cognitive deficiencies in unborn babies.

Pregnant mothers who consume a lot of whale meat expose their babies to the development of heart defects, abnormal brain development, and delays in many other areas.

Whale meat contains other toxins like polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) which can cause nerve damage, liver damage, reproductive and developmental disorders, skin irritation, endocrine disruption, and neurological disorders in consumers.

Best recipes to make with whale

Whale steak

whale steak - millenora

Whale steaks are made in a frying pan, not on a grill like beef and pork steaks. The steak cuts are fried in butter on both sides.

Whale steaks are best cooked medium rare. Serve with scalloped potatoes and a crisp lettuce salad or any salad you choose.


 sashimi - millenora

Sashimi is a Japanese meal that uses raw fish, usually salmon or tuna.

However, some Japanese chefs use whale meat, particularly the onomi cut because it has a fat marbling that makes it taste like tuna. The meat is cut into 1 cm thick slices and is served with wasabi and soy sauce.

Whale bacon

whale bacon - millenora

Whale bacon comes from the lower jaw and belly area of the fish. It is prepared by dry curing and smoking thin meat slices.

Meat from the lower jaw and belly areas have fat marbling that gives the bacon an intense umami flavor. The meat is later grilled to render the fat and slightly cook the meat. The bacon is a bright red meat with a chewy texture.


 tataki - millenora

Tataki is mostly made with tuna but there are also beef tataki recipes. Similarly, some Japanese chefs make tataki with whale meat using the onomi cut. However, unlike with sashimi, the meat cut is grilled to impart a smoky flavor


Is whale considered red meat?

Yes, whale meat can be considered red meat because it is classified as a mammal, not a fish.

Can you bring whale meat to the US?

The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits the importation of whale meat into any part of the United States without getting the necessary permit.

Is whale meat eaten raw?

Eating whale meat raw is an old practice in Japan. However, some cultures still incorporate raw whale meat into meals like sashimi. Some people also cure, salt, or ferment raw whale meat instead of directly eating it raw.

But eating raw whale meat is not advisable because it contains high amounts of mercury and other toxins which can be harmful to health.


So, here it is. The mammoth size of whale meat can be daunting, but some people find it appetizing and food-worthy. If you can look beyond its physical size, you might just be getting a good treat.

While whale meat is illegal in the United States, it is readily available in restaurants and supermarkets in Japan or Norway. If you find yourself in any of these locations, take your taste buds on a culinary adventure.

Want to explore more with your taste buds? You should try porcupine meat. Read about its taste profile first.

Thanks for reading.