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

Most people have heard of rainbow trout and cod, even ones unfamiliar with the different types of fish. They’re both popular and known to be healthy. This makes some people wonder, is rainbow trout better than cod?

Rainbow trout is better than cod due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Rainbow trout is more flavorful due to its higher healthy fat content. Rainbow trout costs less money per pound.

This article will compare both fish nutrients side-by-side. I’ll examine their tastes, textures, mercury levels, costs and cooking methods. In addition, whether one fish can substitute for the other.

As a Certified Health Coach, many of my clients ask me about seafood. In addition to coaching clients about trout and cod, I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both fish for over 20 years.

Cod fish on the left and rainbow trout on the right.
Cod fish on the left and rainbow trout on the right

Rainbow Trout and Cod Nutrition Comparison

Below is a complete nutrient comparison per four ounces:

Nutrient Cod, raw (4 Ounces) Rainbow Trout, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 93 135
Fat 0.8 g 3.9 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g 0.8 g
Cholesterol 49 mg 67 mg
Protein 23 g 23 g
Omega-3 0.22 g 0.79 g
B-6 0.2 mg 0.4 mg
B-12 1.0 mcg 5.0 mcg
Thiamin 0.08 mg 0.13 mg
Riboflavin 0.07 mg 0.11 mg
B5 0.1 mg 1.0 mg
Iron 0.4 mg 0.7 mg
Niacin 2.3 mg 6.1 mg
Folate 7.9 mcg 13.6 mcg
Potassium 468 mg 545 mg
Magnesium 36 mg 35 mg
Phosphorus 230 mg 307 mg
Calcium 18.1 mg 75.9 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg 1.2 mg
Selenium 37.5 mcg 14.3 mcg

Nutrition Sources1 ((Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, Atlantic, cod))

Examining the nutrients above, both fish contain a high number and wide variety of vitamins and minerals. let’s take a close look at which one is healthier.

Rainbow trout is healthier than cod due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. It provides more B6 vitamin, B12, B5, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and zinc. Although rainbow trout contains more fat, it’s due to the healthy omega-3.

If your goal is a diet low in calories, cod fillet is much less calories than in trout. It is leaner containing less total fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Although the lower fat is due to its lower omega-3 fatty acids.

It is also nutritious and offers many of the same vitamins and minerals. It provides a higher percentage of magnesium and selenium.

It’s difficult to argue against either fish for health. The trout provides a higher percentage of almost every nutrient which is why it’s healthier. One of the main differences between the two is the number of omega-3s. The next section explains why omega-3s are so important.

Pacific cod fish.
Pacific cod fish

Rainbow Trout and Cod 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.

Rainbow Trout Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Rainbow trout provides 0.79 grams of omega-3 per four ounces raw. It contains approximately 250% 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. They accomplish this is by 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 ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

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.

If you’re wondering how salmon compared in omega-3s check out my article, Salmon: Is One Better?

B Vitamins

Of the seven B vitamins listed in the table above, the trout contained a higher percentage of each B vitamin.

The B vitamins in the table include B6, B12, B5, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B9 (folate) vitamin. B vitamins help support the following:

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


Since the recommended daily amount is 4,700 mg, both fish provide an excellent number.

Potassium is beneficial for reducing sodium intake. It helps the body reduce fluids and rids excess sodium ((American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure)). 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 water2.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure3.

You can read more about this in Kevin Garce’s Blood Pressure Explained website, How Low Potassium Increases Blood Pressure.


Both fish provide a good amount of calcium, but the trout contains four times more. Like magnesium, 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 vessels4. Calcium also helps the following:

  • Builds and maintains strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improves nerve function.

Cod Health Benefits

Cod fish health benefits.


Both fish provide almost the same amount of magnesium5. 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 ((National Institutes of Health: Magnesium)). 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 pressure6.

Magnesium 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.


Both fish contain good amounts of selenium. Selenium is an underreported nutrient. I’m unsure why because studies7 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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

Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish in a market or fishing is its taste. When comparing the two fish for recipes, rainbow trout vs cod, which one tastes better?

Rainbow trout and cod both have a mild flavor, although rainbow trout is more flavorful due to its higher fat content. The trout flavor tastes slightly nutty while cod is more buttery. They both have a non-fishy taste and smell making them desirable to people who don’t prefer fishy tasting seafood.

Rainbow trout is good to eat and it’s texture is delicate, soft and flaky when cooked.

Cod is mild and can be sweet, good for people who don’t like a fishy tasting seafood. It’s texture is firm, flaky and moist if cooked properly. Pacific are moister than the Atlantic type.

I conducted original research on taste by polling my health coaching clients, readers and members of food groups I belong to. I asked which fish, trout or cod, tastes better for a recipe?

  • 52% said they preferred the trout taste.
  • 40% said they preferred the cod.
  • 8% said they had no preferrence.

I conducted more taste research by setting up a blind taste test at home. Both fish were cooked and seasoned the same way. Three out of four people chose the trout.

Another article you should check out is Cod Alternatives: The 12 Best Substitutes. Try other fish for variety or when it is unavailable.

cod vs salmon
Fresh raw cod fillet with spices pepper salt basil on a stone plate horizontal copy space top view

Substitutions and Meal Plans

When preparing recipes healthy for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish in a market or while fishing. If you have only one type of fish, you may wonder if you can substitute one for the other.

Cod can substitute for rainbow trout due to their similar mild, non fishy tastes although rainbow trout’s flavor is stronger. Cod has a firm texture allowing a wider variety of cooking methods like grilling. Both fish can be baked, roasted, poached, fried or seared. 

Other cod substitutes include the following:

  • Haddock
  • Pollock
  • Striped bass
  • Mahi mahi
  • Tilapia
  • Halibut

The best rainbow trout substitutes are:

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

When substituting fish in recipes always stick to the following:

  • Same size and weight the recipe lists.
  • 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 grilling8.
How to cook a rainbow trout recipe.

Fish Costs for Recipes

The costs for fish and recipes will vary depending on how the fish are caught. A fish caught in the ocean 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, let’s take a close look at which fish is more expensive.

Cod is more expensive than rainbow trout. The average cost for farm raised rainbow trout is $9.99 per pound while the average cost for farm raised cod is $11.99 per pound. The cost will vary depending on location, whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught, fresh or frozen.

I conducted original research on costs by visiting various different stores and checking the prices of each fish.

First, I checked the local Freshdirect online supermarket for the current prices.

  • Fresh, frozen, wild Atlantic cod
    • $12.49 per pound
  • Fresh, wild caught Atlantic cod
    • $16.99 per pound
  • Wild rainbow trout butterflied
    • $11.99 per pound

I then checked my local Shoprite supermarket:

  • Fresh, farm raised rainbow trout fillet
    • $9.99 per pound
  • Fresh, farm Atlantic cod fillet
    • $11.99 per pound
Kevin Garce checking the prices of mackerel and other seafood at his local market.
Checking the prices of mackerel cod and other seafood at my local market

Mercury Levels

The EPA and FDA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed9. 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. Let’s examine how much mercury each fish contains.

Rainbow trout and cod have similar levels of mercury. They are both 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.

If you’re interested in finding about how sea bass compared, check out my article, Sea Bass – Is One Better? Let’s Compare.

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

What is the difference between rainbow trout and cod?

Rainbow trout and cod are from different families and species. The average cod is longer and weighs more than rainbow trout. Rainbow trout has more color with olive to dark blue and silver coloring while cod is brownish. Rainbow trout is found in freshwater while cod is salt water and found in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. 

Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Rainbow trout are from the salmonidae family, oncorhynchus genus and the species O. mykiss.

Cod are from the Gadidae family, Gadus genus and the species include:

  • Morhua (Atlantic cod)
  • Macrocephalus (Pacific cod)
  • Ogac (Greenland cod)


Rainbow trout are found in tributaries (rivers and streams) or lakes in North America. The rivers and streams where they’re found flow into larger rivers or streams but not into the ocean.

Atlantic cod is found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean from Greenland to North Carolina and in the western Gulf of Maine. Pacific is found in the North Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea to California in the east and to the Sea of Japan in the west10.

Rainbow trout in their natural habitat.


  • 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.
  • Cod is brownish with dark spots with a cream lateral line running down the body.


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

Size and Weight

  • Rainbow trout grows an average 11-18″ in length and weighs 2-8 pounds.
  • Cod grows an average 27-34″ in length and weighs 5-15 pounds.


  • Rainbow trout averages 7 years but the maximum known age is 11 years.
  • Cod lives up to 12 years.

Species Resources11 ((NOAA Fisheries: Atlantic Cod))

If you have any questions about this article or other featured content, don’t hesitate to email and notify us. You can find an email on our contact page. We’ll do our best to reply as soon as possible.

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Cod vs Mahi mahi – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Pacific vs Atlantic – What’s The Difference?

Alaska Pollock Vs Cod: A Comparison – Which Is Better?

Atlantic Pollock vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

Blue Cod Vs Cod – A Complete Comparison

Black Cod Vs Cod – Is There A Difference?

  1. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, wild, rainbow, trout []
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach []
  3. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure []
  4. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []
  5. Nutrition Value: Cod, raw []
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis []
  7. National Institutes of Health: Selenium []
  8. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  9. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []
  10. Wikipedia: Cod []
  11. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Rainbow Trout []

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