Recipes for Croaker & Corbina

Ken Jones

Staff member
Favorite recipes for mid-sized croaker — spotfin, yellowfin, black (China), white croaker (aka tomcod or kingfish) and corbina.

McClane’ s Fish Buyer’s Guide: Spotfin Croaker — (A) Flavor: mild (B) Texture: soft (C) Flake: fine (D) Fat Content: low (E) Odor (Raw): mild: (F) Color after Cooking: off white (G) Cooking Methods: pan-saute or deep-fry

McClane’ s Fish Buyer’s Guide: California Corbina — (A) Flavor: mild (B) Texture: soft (C) Flake: fine (D) Fat Content: low (E) Odor (Raw): mild: (F) Color after Cooking: white (G) Cooking Methods: pan-saute or deep-fry

McClane’ s Fish Buyer’s Guide: Yellowfin Croaker — (A) Flavor: mild (B) Texture: soft (C) Flake: fine (D) Fat Content: low (E) Odor (Raw): mild: (F) Color after Cooking: white (G) Cooking Methods: pan-saute or deep-fry

McClane’ s Fish Buyer’s Guide: White Croaker — (A) Flavor: mild (B) Texture: coarse (C) Flake: fine (D) Fat Content: low (E) Odor (Raw): moderate: (F) Color after Cooking: off white (G) Cooking Methods: pan-saute or deep-fry

Check local regulations of fish because almost all croaker primarily feed on critters (such as worms and clams) that are located on the bottom in mud and sand that may be polluted. White croaker (aka tomcod and kingfish) in particular are unsafe to eat in some locations.

From Pier Fishing In California, 2nd Edition — Although we who live along the Pacific coast like to pride ourselves on the quality of our seafood, the same is true of residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Southern cooking in particular is of interest to me and anyone who has visited New Orleans has probably left with a slight gain in weight and an appreciation of Creole and Cajun cooking. In more inland areas the style of fish cookery is different but equally delicious. Of interest are the number of piers along the Gulf coast and the type of fish caught. Many of these fish are members of the croaker family or members of the sole and flounder family...

Smuddered Fish

Smuddered fish? A few years ago a short trip to Biloxi, Mississippi allowed me the chance to sample some pier fishing on the Gulf of Mexico. Eight hours of fishing produced 65 fish of which several were very nice-sized. The very first fish I caught, during an intense thunder and lightning storm, was a gafftopsail catfish which was slightly over two feet long and 6-7 pounds in weight. Imagine my surprise when I got home and checked my reference books and read that these saltwater catfish only reached two feet in length and about six pounds. My first fish in the Gulf, my first gafftopsail catfish, and a fish which appeared to approach (or perhaps even exceed) the maximum size for these beautiful fish. Unfortunately, I had no way to cook the fish. Instead, it was passed on to an attendant at our motel who said he fished nearly every week and would be glad to eat this good-tasting fish. If I had cooked it, I might have tried this recipe for smuddered catfish which is found in a small cookbook by Bobby Potts titled Southern Seafood Sampler. The name simply refers to the well-browned sautéed onions and sauce which smother the fillets (smudder in the appropriate southern dialect). This recipe works well with any small, mild-flavored fillets.

I think the recipe will work well with the larger croakers—spotfin and yellowfin croaker, as well as corbina.


• 4 fillets of fish (around 8-ounces each)
• 1 stick of butter
• 2 medium onions cut into 1/4 inch pieces•
• 1 ounce Worcestershire Sauce
• 2 ounces of red wine vinegar
• 2 ounces of soy sauce
• Lemon juice
• Seasoned salt
• Black Pepper


• Simmer the butter on low heat, and don't let it separate. Sauté the onion pieces in the butter. Add vinegar and sauces. Onions will turn brown and need to get very tender (30 minutes).
• Place the fillets in a baking pan, sprinkle generously with lemon juice, seasoned salt and black pepper. Pour some of the butter sauce over the fillets and put a few onions over the top. Reserve the remainder.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.
• Remove and pour the drippings from the fish into the butter sauce.
• Place in a serving dish and pour the sauce and all remaining onions over the top.

Posted by gmm on August 28, 2002

Are Yellowfin Croakers edible? I catch a ton of these but always let them go - I haven't read where anyone actually eats them but what the heck do I know, I'm from Iowa. We catch crappie and catfish — very few croakers. :D

Posted by sandcrab

Croaker is very good....My mom usually steams it with a little bit soy sauce. Its very tasty.

[However, members of] the croaker family are known as bottom feeders. Around Southern California, the bottom of the ocean is a bit contaminated with chemicals and other poisonous materials. Part of that was done by a plant dumping out chemical waste into the ocean in the 60's or 70's. The company has long been shut down, but the waste is still there. At some piers, there are actually signs warning people not to consume "white croakers." I believe many people eat yellowfin croakers, spotfin croakers. Eat in moderation. DFG booklet has a template on how often one should eat a certain kind of fish. But definitely throw the white croakers back into the water, or use it as bait.
-Kevin* ><>J Don't eat too much

Posted by Ken Jones on March 25, 2004

An easy recipe: Croaker n’ Nuts

Small to medium-sized croaker can be cooked whole using the following recipe:

• Whole spotfin, yellowfin, or black croaker (cleaned and scaled—head, gills and guts removed.
• Butter or vegetable oil; peanut oil preferred
• Nuts—peanuts, pecans or walnuts—finely chopped
• Seasoned bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Preheat a baking pan large enough to hold the croaker by putting it into the oven.
3. Coat both sides of the croaker with melted butter or oil, and then roll the croaker in the mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and nuts. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
4. Remove the pan from the oven, place a small amount of oil in the pan, and place the croaker in the pan.
5. Put the pan back into the oven and cook at the high temperature for about 10 minutes (the flesh should be flaky but not dried out).


A Problem I have had with Croaker... A few years back, out at the deep water channel of Eckley Pier, i caught several of these. Big fat ones too. I saved them to see what kind of meat i could prepare for a dinner. I began to clean and gut them, when taking the guts out of them i saw tons of little worms in them. I then finished cleaning all of them, and they all had a lot of these little worms in them. They freaked me out big time. I took them home anyway and put them in the freezer and ended up using them for Crab bait out @ Doran Jetty. They did work well for the crabs i must say. Do people work their way around these worms and still prepare these croaker with worms in them for a meal? Whenever i catch them to this day there is always someone on the pier that wants them. I am always glad to give them to them. I haven't kept any personally since, but do they all have worms in them or what? I am interested to learn more about these little worm things in the stomachs of these King (Croaker) Fish!

Posted by Ken Jones

Most fish, including halibut, have worms in them. Many people also refuse to eat jacksmelt because of the worms. However, proper cleaning should remove most of the worms and cooking should kill whatever ones you miss.


I figured you could do that and get the worms out of the mix. It scared me enough to where i don't think I could keep another croaker. A halibut is a different story though. I might have to do some extra work to those chunks of meat if they are covered in worms. Thanks for the response Ken!

Posted by kin

Tomato Kingfish

• Prepare fish of your choice, descale, gut, etc
• Rub about 1 tsp of salt all over the fish, and let sit
• In the meantime: use about 2-3 large tomatoes (or a couple more of the smaller ones, washed off of course), clean and cut into slices (like oranges).
• Take some ginger (if you like ginger) cut into slices (like ham).

• Start heating a sauce pan (or just a regular pan, or whatever you want to use), and add some oil of your choice (preferably light ones like olive or peanut); when sauce pan gets hot add the ginger in first and let it cook until you smell it.
• Add tomatoes and stir.
• After about 5 minutes or so, you'll notice that its turning into a sauce.
• At this point, add salt/sugar @ a 1/3 tsp to taste, stir well, and let simmer over low heat covered.
• Now, start heating a pan, add some oil when hot (add a clove of crushed garlic if desired and wait until you smell the garlic cooking before you add the fish), add fish, and fry until crispy on both sides, now add in the sauce and let the fish simmer in it for a minute or so and serve.

Posted by frozendog

Croaker Tacos

We like fish tacos but we also are trying to eat less fried foods, so when we have them, they are a real treat. Everybody's taco recipe is a little different, so here's another one:

• Cut fish fillets into tortilla-size pieces.
• Dip in beaten egg and then dredge in a mild Cajun coating. We like Golden Dip, in the blue box. If you like it really spicy, double dip it. That's the way I like it, but not Mrs. Kittyfish.
• We use a cast iron skillet with an inch or so of oil to shallow fry the fillets. Do not overcook. We crisp up our corn tortillas in the same oil. We do it in batches - two fillets, two tortillas then eat.
• We lather a spicy mayo on the cooked torts, add the filet and garnish with fresh salsa.

Quick salsa: chopped fresh tomato
• chopped cantaloupe or mango
• chopped red onion
• cilantro to taste
• fresh chopped chilies or nacho slices on the side
• dash of salt, pepper, garlic salt and olive oil.
• juice from 1/2 a lemon (why lemon - have a tree)

Spicy mayo: Store bought mayo, a little bottled hot sauce to taste, a little soy sauce, chopped onion and cilantro, shake of creole seasoning. These are the ingredients - just mix to your own taste.

We also serve a fresh fruit with the tacos, just in case I get them too spicy for Mrs Kittyfish. I made some homemade black beans with ham that were dynamite with the tacos.

Posted by dompha ben

Fish Taco Corbina

Corbina, like other nearshore, white-meat croaker, lends itself to fish tacos!

I cut the fish into 0.5 X 0.5 x 3 inch strips. Dry with a paper towel, and dip into flour, then egg, then seasoned corn flake crumbs. Fry on each side in hot oil until golden brown.

Serve on heated corn tortillas (note: the only way to heat a corn tortilla correctly is to do so by placing TWO tortillas together, with the "smooth" sides out and the "rough" sides in) with shredded cabbage, ranch dressing and FRESH salsa roja (recipe below). Rice and beans on the side. Yum.


One can of diced tomatoes
3 - 5 fresh tomatoes, diced
One medium onion, finely chopped
One handful of fresh cilantro tops, finely chopped
Juice from a lime or two
Canned jalapenos (the whole ones are hotter, but you can buy the nacho ones if you want...I chop them up finely no matter what)
Salt and Pepper, Garlic Salt

Mix all the veggie ingredients in a big bowl, stirring as you go. Add salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder if you're into that sort of thing. A splash of oil gives it a smoother texture, but it's not necessary. Add jalapenos as needed to spice it up. Try to keep the cilantro stems to a minimum.

Splash of vegetable oil (optional). DOMPFA: Dominating Positive Fishing Attitude! Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. -The Grateful Dead

Posted by kennycrft

Corbina are so hard to catch that if i caught one i'd probably have it mounted.

Posted by pmramirezjr on July 18, 2004

Quick, easy and super delicious Kingfish recipe. I love to eat fried kingfish!

• Wet the cleaned fish in a plate of milk (yes, milk)
• Then coat them with Bisquick and fry.
• Their little fillets are great for home fish 'n chips (tater tots, waffle cuts, whatever)

They're a great "runner-up" prize for a day of fishing. Never should be considered a "garbage fish" or "bait stealer." Long live the Kingfish!
Last edited:

Ken Jones

Staff member
Although I know a lot of people have cut down on fried food, here's an old-time recipe, a pretty basic fried fish recipe, that I've had for years. Not sure where it came from.

Fried Corbina


* Peanut oil
* 1-1.5 pounds of corbina fillets
• 1⁄2 cup cornmeal
• 1⁄2 cup all purpose flour
• 2 eggs beaten
• 1⁄2 teaspoon Salt
• 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
• 1 tablespoon or more of Texas Pete Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce)


Mix flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add Texas Pete to the beaten eggs and stir. Dip fish into the egg mixture then coat well with the flour and cornmeal mix. In a large fryer or a Dutch Oven bring oil to 375 degrees and add the fish a few at a time. Cook until fish turns golden brown and floats. About 3-5 minutes. Serve on a hard roll and try it with salsa instead of tartar sauce