The red mullet is a light pink fish which is a member of the goatfish family. Contrary to its name, it is not another type of grey mullet.

There are two kinds of red mullet, both are fairly small and are considered to be at their best when under 500g in weight. They both have a reddish-coloured skin but one has a yellow band running along its body while the other has mottled skin. It has been classified as a round white fish however it is much richer in flavour due to its higher fat content. Mullet recipes are delicate in flavour, likened to shellfish in taste which is likely due to its shellfish-rich diet. Red mullet recipes state that the fish can be pan-fried, stuffed, steamed, seared, grilled or roasted.

Where is red mullet found?

The red mullet is a warm water fish, commonly found in the sub-tropical and tropical waters of Europe. However, in warmer weather, it can also be found in southern parts of England and Ireland. They generally inhabit the inshore area on a variety of sea beds such as sand and mud. When they are mature, they tend to be found in deeper water. Red mullet are demersal fish which occupy the sea floors and are bottom feeders, known to scavenge along the seabed for shellfish, small lobsters, crabs, and even other dead fish. There is little demand for red mullet in Britain but the fish is extremely popular in France and Mediterranean countries. In fact, out of the near six thousand tonnes of red mullet caught in European waters daily, around 70% goes to France.

How is red mullet fished?

The fish are mainly caught using gillnets and bottom trawlers. Gillnets set up a wall under the water which fish’s gills get caught in, preventing them from escaping. Trawls are large nets which are dragged along the seabed in order to catch the fish. Trawling for fish is potentially damaging to the sea environment, shown to disrupt the ocean floors. In the Eastern and Western English Channel and the Southern North Sea, many red mullets are taken in as a by-catch in mixed trawl fisheries. It can be a concern that commercial fishing, especially with trawlers and gillnets, can take on an excess of the allowed by-caught fish.

How is red mullet sold?

The fish is sold both fresh and frozen, whole and in fillets. A whole red mullet is usually sold as it comes, needing to be trimmed, scaled and gutted. Pin bones also need to be removed. Red mullets skin is fine and can be left attached to the fish for cooking, once it has been scaled. The fish is a delicately flavoured, textured, white fish. Unusually for a fish, its liver is somewhat of a delicacy with a similar creamy texture to that of a chicken liver, this is saved intact once the fish is gutted.

How do you cook red mullet?

The fish works well with a variety of different herbs and spices. It can be served simply grilled with some lemon, or a more lively sauce such as a salsa verde or a tomato and herb sauce.

Red Mullet Recipes: 

BBQ red mullet: