Rainbow Trout vs Brown Trout – What’s The Difference?

There are many different types of trout including rainbow and brown trout. Some trout swim in the same water. For this reason many people wonder about their differences. Let’s answer the question, what is the difference between brown trout and rainbow trout?

Brown trout and rainbow trout are different species of fish although from the same family. While in similar water, rainbow trout grow slightly longer and weigh more than brown trout. Rainbow trout are more colorful than brown trout. Brown trout has a stronger, fishier taste than rainbow’s mild flavor.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients, habitats, size, weight and more.

Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout Nutritional Value

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of all the nutrients in brown trout and rainbow trout:

Nutrient Brown Trout, raw (4 Ounces) Rainbow Trout, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 168 135
Fat 3.4 g 3.9 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g 0.8 g
Cholesterol 66 mg 67 mg
Protein 21 g 23 g
Sodium 61 mg 35 mg
Omega-3 1.04 g 0.79 g
B-6 0.2 mg 0.4 mg
B-12 8.8 mcg 5.0 mcg
Thiamin 0.39 mg 0.13 mg
Riboflavin 0.37 mg 0.11 mg
B5 2.2 mg 1.0 mg
Iron 1.7 mg 0.7 mg
Niacin 5.1 mg 6.1 mg
Folate 14.7 mcg 13.6 mcg
Potassium 441 mg 545 mg
Magnesium 32 mg 35 mg
Phosphorus 277 mg 307 mg
Calcium 48.7 mg 75.9 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg 1.2 mg
Selenium 15.0 mcg 14.3 mcg

Nutrient Sources 1 2 3 4 5

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, is rainbow trout or brown trout healthier?

Brown trout is healthier than rainbow trout due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. Brown trout provides more B12, thiamin, riboflavin, B5, folate and selenium. Brown trout contains less cholesterol and total fat than rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout is healthy and provides a good number of omega-3 fatty acids and minerals. Rainbow trout provides a higher percentage of B6, niacin, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and zinc.

It difficult to argue against either trout for their health benefits. The major difference between the two is the omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re wondering why they’re so important, keep reading the next section.

Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout Health Benefits

Both fish provide the same nutrients and therefore the same benefits. Although I broke down the benefits by which fish offers the higher percentage of each nutrient 6.

Brown Trout Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Brown trout provides 1.04 grams of omega-3 and rainbow trout 0.79 grams per four ounces raw. Brown trout contains approximately 32% more which leads to the question, why does omega-3 fatty acids matter so much?

It’s because omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s in brown trout may help with the following:

  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Reducing plaque build-up.
  • Lowering triglycerides
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 7.

Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

B Vitamins

Of the seven B vitamins listed in the table above, brown trout contains more of five of them. The B vitamins in the table include B6, B12, B5, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B9 (folate). B vitamins help support the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Red blood cells
  • Digestion
  • Energy levels
  • Brain function
  • Nerve function


Brown trout contains 15.0 mcg of selenium per four ounces and rainbow trout 14.3 mcg. Selenium is an underreported nutrient. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 8 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system
  • Cognitive issues

Rainbow Trout Health Benefits


Rainbow trout provides 75.9 mg of calcium per four ounces and brown trout 48.7 mg. Calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart.

Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 9. Calcium also helps the following:

  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improve nerve function.


Rainbow trout contains 545 mg per four raw ounces and brown trout 441 mg. Since the recommended daily amount is 4,700 mg, they both provide an excellent number.

Potassium is beneficial for reducing sodium intake. It helps the body reduce fluids and rids excess sodium 10. This process helps to reduce blood pressure.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 11.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 12.


Rainbow trout provides 35 mg and brown trout 32 mg per four ounces. Adding magnesium to your diet could be instrumental in improving sleep related issues like insomnia. Magnesium relaxes and calms the whole body including the blood vessels 13.

More so, it helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 14.

Magnesium in trout helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure. In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting.

When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.


Rainbow trout provides 307 mg and brown trout 277 mg of phosphorus per four ounces. Phosphorus has been shown in studies to may help the following:

  • Muscle contraction.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Promoting healthy nerve conduction.
  • Promote bone and teeth strength.
  • Aids the kidneys in waste removal.
  • Help the body manage and store energy.

Find out how trout compared to bass in my recent article, Trout vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout: Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does brown trout taste better than rainbow trout?

Brown trout has a stronger and fishier flavor than rainbow trout. Rainbow trout is more mild and does not taste fishy. If a fishy taste is desired brown trout is better. If a fishy flavor is undesirable then rainbow trout is better. Both fish have a tender, flaky texture.

Rainbow trout has a mild taste and is not fishy. Its taste is often described as a slightly nutty flavor. Rainbow trout’s texture is delicate, soft and flaky when cooked.

Brown trout has a stronger, fishier taste. The larger the brown trout was when caught, the more fishy taste the fillet will contain. The texture is delicate and flaky when cooked.

Many people soak brown trout in milk overnight. This helps remove some of the fishiness by drawing out some of oil.

If you’re wondering how steelhead trout and rainbow trout differ, check out my article, Steelhead Trout vs Rainbow Trout – What’s The Difference?

Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for. If you have some rainbow trout, you may ask, can I substitute rainbow trout for brown trout?

Rainbow trout can substitute for brown trout due to their similar textures although brown trout’s flavor is fishier and more oily. Both trout have a similar texture allowing for similar cooking methods in recipes. Brown trout and rainbow trout can be grilled baked, roasted, poached, fried or seared. 

The best brown trout substitutes include the following:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna
  • Northern pike
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Bass

The best rainbow trout substitutes are:

  • Salmon
  • Arctic char
  • Bluefish
  • Steelhead trout
  • Mahi mahi
  • Mackerel

When substituting rainbow trout or brown trout always stick to the following:

  • Same size and weight.
  • Stick with similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
  • Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
  • Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling 15.

How To Cook Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout can be cooked in a variety of ways. Any way that you could cook chicken will probably work on trout too. To be safe to eat, fish needs to be heated to at least 145 degrees, so keep that in mind when choosing cooking times and temperatures.

Flavor Pairing

Cooking up your rainbow trout without any seasonings will result in a rather bland-tasting meal. You’ll want to marinate or cook your trout in some tasty oils, seasonings, and sauces to get the best flavor out of this popular fish.

Each type of fish has a slightly different flavor and therefore tastes best when paired with certain spices. Some common good seasonings to add to your trout are:

  • Lemon
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • Scallions
  • Rosemary

Because of its mild flavor, using strong or citrus flavors when cooking rainbow trout is a good idea. The intense flavors of your seasonings complement them and add to the taste of the trout.

How To Cook Brown Trout

Some chefs suggest frying brown trout in a beer batter. Others like to bake it wrapped in foil with some potatoes, onion or garlic. The stronger flavor of brown trout doesn’t require heavy seasoning like some other white fish.

To lessen the fishy taste soak the brown trout in milk overnight to draw out some of the oil.

Flavor Pairing

  • Citrus
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic
  • Chile powder
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Lemon juice

Check out the best replacements for trout in my article, Trout Replacements: The 12 Best Healthy Substitutes.

How Much Does Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout Cost

The costs for rainbow trout or brown will vary depending on how the fish are caught and the location.  A wild caught trout will definitely be more expensive than farm-raised.

When purchasing fish, be sure to check the label to see if it is wild-caught or farm raised. Therefore, which is more expensive, brown trout or rainbow trout?

Brown trout cost more than rainbow trout. The average cost for rainbow trout online is $16.00 per pound while the average cost for brown trout is $28.32 per pound. Live brown trout for stocking cost $10.00 per pound and rainbow $8.00 per pound.

Brown trout will probably not be found in a local store. I checked online at the Fulton Fish Market and found the following prices:

  • Previous frozen brown trout fillet
    • $28.32 per pound
  • Rainbow trout fillet
    • $16.00 per pound

I checked the local Freshdirect online supermarket for the current prices of rainbow trout and brown trout but only found rainbow.

  • Wild rainbow trout butterflied
    • $11.99 per pound

I then checked my local Shoprite supermarket and only found rainbow trout:

  • Fresh, farm raised rainbow trout fillet
    • $9.99 per pound

Online I checked the prices of live trout for fish stocking.

  • $8.00 per pound for Rainbow trout
  • $10.00 per pound for brown trout

Brown Trout vs Rainbow Trout Mercury Levels

The EPA and FDA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 16. This is especially important for young infants, developing children and pregnant women.

They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, does rainbow trout or brown trout have more mercury?

Rainbow trout and brown trout have similar levels of mercury. Freshwater trout are listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish to consume regarding their mercury levels. The recommendation is consuming them no more than two to three servings a week.

Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

Rainbow Trout vs Brown Trout: Habitats, Size, Weight, Appearance

What is the difference between brown trout and rainbow trout?

The average rainbow trout is longer and weighs more than brown trout located in the smaller waters. Rainbow trout has more color with olive to dark blue and silver coloring while brown trout is brown and olive-green with golden sides. Rainbow trout’s lifespan averages 7 years compared to 5-10 years for brown trout.

Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Rainbow trout are from:

  • The salmonidae family
  • Oncorhynchus genus
  • The species O. mykiss.

Brown trout are from:

  • The salmonidae family
  • Salmo genus
  • The S. trutta species


  • Rainbow trout are found in tributaries (rivers and streams) or lakes in North America. Some of the rivers and streams where they’re found flow into larger rivers or streams but not into the ocean.
  • Brown trout are found in rivers, ponds or lakes in North and SouthAmerica, Europe, Asia and Africa. The first brown trout were imported to the United States from Germany in 1883.

Both rainbow and steelhead trout are hatched in freshwater streams, rivers and lakes. Steelhead and rainbow start their lives the same way. Rainbow trout remain in the freshwaters and never leave. After 1-3 years the steelhead trout start migrating to the sea.

Rainbow trout were introduced to the Great Lakes in 1895. They are not native to the lakes. They grow larger than the rainbows native to the streams and rivers. For this reason some people will call them steelheads.


  • On the back the rainbow trout’s colors range from brown to olive to dark blue. The sides are silvery to pearl white. They have a pinkish to red lateral line from the gills down. The body has black spots.
  • Brown trout are brown to an olive green near the top. The sides are a creamy, golden and off white on the belly. They are covered in black and golden, brown spots.


  • Rainbow trout is the typical long, narrow body shape and has two dorsal fins.
  • Brown trout is the typical long, narrow body shape and has two dorsal fins.

Size and Weight

  • Rainbow trout grows an average 11-18″ in length and weighs 2-8 pounds.
  • Brown trout in smaller rivers and streams average 7-14 inches long and 2 pounds. In the larger waters brown trout are longer and heavier.


  • Rainbow trout averages 7 years but the maximum known age is 11 years.
  • Brown trout’s age varies from habitat to habitat. In smaller waters they average 5 years and up to 10 years in larger bodies of water.


Brown trout consumes the following diet:

  • Insects
  • Crayfish
  • Salamanders
  • Frogs
  • Mollusks
  • Small fish

Rainbow trout consumes the following diet:

  • Crustaceans
  • Mollusks
  • Gobies
  • Fish eggs
  • Nymphs
  • Sunfish
  • Shiners
  • Minnows
  • Insects

Species Resources 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24


Are brown trout or rainbow trout bigger?

Rainbow trout are bigger than brown trout when both species live in similar type size streams and ponds. In larger size water, brown trout grows longer and weighs about the same as rainbow trout.

Can rainbow trout and brown trout breed?

In their natural environments, rainbow trout and brown trout do not breed with each other. This is due to their genetic differences and different spawning times. Some fish farms have breed rainbow and brown trout resulting in a brownbow.

Read Next – More Trout vs Fish Articles!

Rainbow Trout vs Salmon: Is One Better?

Trout vs Salmon: Is One More Healthier Than The Other?

Steelhead vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Rainbow Trout vs Cod: Which Is Better? Let’s Compare

Cod vs Salmon: Is One Better?


Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
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  2. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, wild, rainbow, trout[]
  3. NutritionData: Trout[]
  4. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, mixed species, trout[]
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  7. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  8. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  9. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  10. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  12. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  13. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  15. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions[]
  16. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  17. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Rainbow Trout[]
  18. The National Wildlife Federation: Rainbow Trout and Steelhead[]
  19. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Rainbow trout[]
  20. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Rainbow trout[]
  21. Wikipedia: Rainbow trout[]
  22. National Park Service: Rainbow Trout[]
  23. National Park Service: Brown Trout[]
  24. Wikipedia: Brown trout[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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