The History of Cutthroat Trout in Southern Cooking

- Robbie Caponetto
Robbie Caponetto

You can't find these in just any Piggly Wiggly.

Cutthroat trout are so named because of their crimson jaws and throats. Closely related to salmon, trout have a flavorful pink meat that makes cooking a breeze because it is so naturally flavorful.

These trout are largely native to western North America with small pockets in the Southeast in western North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The different pockets of cutthroat trout across the country have led to a variety of subspecies. This means the cutthroats we find in the South are slightly different from their Western relatives, but still just as tasty.

You’d be hard pressed to find a grocery store selling cutthroat trout because these wild fish inhabit freshwater lakes and streams, often making them only available to the fishermen determined and skilled enough to catch them. For this reason, cutthroat trout recipes are typically family traditions best executed with a grill or—more authentically—over a camp fire. Time and again, traditional southern recipes for naturally flavorful fish, like the cutthroat trout, involve grilling with skin on, while brushing with tried-and-true combinations of lemon juice and butter.

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Modern recipes incorporate poaching, sautéing, and much more.

This homemade Lahontan cutthroat trout recipe fries up beautiful cross sections of fish for a wonderfully crispy and juicy dish. Half-inch-thick trout pieces are tossed in all-purpose flour and lightly fried in olive oil for approximately 4 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper while cooking—no other seasoning is necessary thanks to the trout’s rich natural flavor.

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This recipe stuffs a stream-caught cutthroat trout with fresh garden herbs, including parsley, chives, oregano, thyme and basil. Cover the stuffed trout in olive oil and cut slits on the outer sides of the fish to release steam before grilling. The skin of the fish will hold in moisture and prevent the meat from burning. Discard herbs, skin and bones before serving this savory cutthroat trout with grilled veggies or rice.


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