Can You Eat Carp & How Does Carp Taste?

Can you eat carp?

You can eat carp as long as the carp lived in clean water in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, etc. Carp are eaten across lots of countries and can be prepared in lots of ways.

Will it taste terrible? Maybe, maybe not!

Whether you can or can’t or should or shouldn’t eat carp is a question that seems to be heavily asked all over the web.

I honestly don’t know why it’s so heavily debated on if or if you can’t eat carp. YOU CAN eat carp.

Table of Contents

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

How Does Carp Taste?

The taste of the carp depends on what the carp has eaten. If you make sure to eat carp from clean lakes, rivers and reservoirs, the carp might taste a bit like catfish.

All you must do is follow some simple preparation and cleaning techniques to make carp taste delicious.

I believe over the years people have begun to believe that carp are the bottom feeding garbage of the lakes, rivers, and ponds.

They are. They don’t taste like it though.

The problem with this theory?

The people stating this probably have never tried carp or failed miserably at prepping the carp correctly.

fisherman holds carp in his hand

Are Carp Worth Eating?

I’d say 100% yes. Especially if you aren’t lazy and are willing to take the time to go through the preparation phase.

This blog is designed to teach you how to prepare carp for eating but simply lay out some of the fundamentals that can help prove carp doesn’t always taste terrible.

Every response I get regarding this blog post always goes something like “how do I make carp taste good”?

The answer? Catch it, clean it and cook it.

Kidding, it’s more in-depth than that. I’ll explain it.

The answer to the question of how to make carp taste good? It’s the exact same answer for if you can eat carp in general!

Yes, just don’t be lazy or skip crucial steps in the preparation phase.

Let’s dive into it.

Size can matter when it comes to eating carp or if you can eat carp.

Typically, the larger a fish gets especially when it comes to carp and catfish, the less appealing the overall taste will get.

Among anglers and people who cook the fish that they catch as opposed to the catch and release method; the common answer is the larger the fish the worse it gets (taste-wise).

Here’s why.

As the fish ages and gets larger, it becomes:

  • More Course
  • Heavier Texture
  • Stronger Flavor (not necessarily a 100% bad thing)

As far as the flavor getting stronger as the fish ages, this doesn’t necessarily make it less appealing.

It all depends on your personal taste.

The other two downfalls of larger or older fish are tough to overcome.

You don’t necessarily want to take 10 minutes to chew every bite you take I’m assuming.

Why does this happen?

Most believe including me it doesn’t necessarily have to do with size so to speak but the age of the fish.

You see…

The longer the carp are exposed to the body water, the longer it’s possibly been exposed to other toxins such as heavy metals.

That’s an easy Part 1 Answer to how to make carp taste good

Have a size limit on the size of fish you are willing to prepare and typically your aiming for freshwater fish only.

I would personally limit the size of the carp you want to take the time to clean, eat and cook to less than 5LBs.

I know, not nearly as much meat using this method.

You win some, you lose some.

fisherman caught and release large carp

More Social Proof

I mean carp eggs are even being used as Caviar in many parts of the United States.

Another major complaint with eating carp is the rib bones you encounter.

If you aren’t very skilled with the cleaning and preparation phase, you may notice that you find sharp fine bones throughout the filet.

Carp Needs to Come From A Clean Water Source

The Carp needs to Come from a clean water source to be worth eating.

Water sources that expose the carp to heavy amounts of mud or where mud consist as a large part of the carp’s diet can lead the fish to not tasting quite as good.

Therefore, I specifically took the time to provide the blog post “how to cook carp”. There is a key and crucial step inside my recipe for cooking carp.

I call it the bath or bucket time. You need to give the carp time to sit in clean water for a few days while keeping the carp alive. Don’t feed the fish anything otherwise you defeat the purpose.

Your goal is to detox the carp to get all the crap and garbage out of it.

You can add salt to the water in moderation over the course of 48 hours to help the cleansing process and speed it up some.

After this is complete the remaining steps on my guide will teach how to prepare carp for eating.

Can You Eat Grass Carp?

A lot of people tend to think that eating grass carp is a big NO because they are eating all the vegetation at the bottom of the water which would lead them to believe they have no chance at tasting decent.

Bighead carp and grass carp mainly produced from rivers such as the Mississippi are beginning to grow heavily in popularity.

Again, following steps to ensuring they are cleaned and prepped properly will help dramatically.

Grass carp and bighead carp are slowly being targeted by anglers not only as a trophy fish that they desire to catch but many are beginning to realize carp, really isn’t that bad of a meal.

Here’s an easy info graphic explaining the 10 steps you can use to cook carp effectively. All details are listed below.

a very large carp caught

Immediately Get The Carp Onto Ice or in an Ice Cooler

One of the biggest ways to make sure carp doesn’t taste like mud or an old ashtray is to immediately get the carp onto ice or in an ice cooler.

As a carp’s body temperature rises as the carp’s stress level rises which release histamines within the body.

As these levels rise it gets into the bloodstream and capillaries which the result is ultimately a muddy taste.

You can technically get histamine toxicity from fish that can make you feel sick according to this article, so the ice is a good practice with all fish you plan to cook.

To re-touch on a pro tip – catch it, unhook it, ice it!

This can dramatically increase the overall taste of your carp and your ending viewpoint on if you can really eat carp.

Is it safe to eat carp? Just because they taste good doesn’t answer some of you fearful viewers on the safety behind the gills.

Carp are 100% safe to eat but the previous tip we mentioned about getting on ice is extremely beneficial just to make it that much tastier and eliminate the chance of any future food poisoning.

Might as well develop good habits now with cooking and cleaning carp.

The only real risk any carp poses when it comes to eating them is the levels of the histamines and the levels of cypermethrin (insecticide). It’s not that dangerous and will be excreted through urine but it’s something you see a lot of individuals worried about.

Why do you think they sell them in stores?

This is where I can get on a bit of rant. Would everyone agree that shelf space in a grocery store is limited?

Would we also agree that the space on grocery shelves is valuable to the store owners and the people with the privilege of placing the products on the shelf?

Has anyone seen Shark Tank or possibly know how incredibly difficult it is to earn a spot on a grocery store shelf?

The point I’m trying to get to here is. Why does everyone ask, can you eat carp?

The answer is obviously yes otherwise it would have no spot-on shelves in any store in any country.

People are obviously buying the fish or allowing the stores to turn a profit otherwise they wouldn’t take the time to manufacture it, package it and distribute it.

Ok, Rant over.

I think most people who want the answer to that question are secretly wanting to know if it’s safe for them to try and cook and clean themselves, so I see where the confusion comes from.

Following the steps in my other guides and going through some school of hard knocks to get it down to a perfect science is all it takes to make it work.

Are Carp worth Eating?

Absolutely. I’ve only been carp fishing since 2015 and learning to cook and prepare my carp for roughly 18 months.

At first, I admit it didn’t taste perfect and took some time to perfect.

Actually tasted pretty bad first go around but I had no clue what I was doing.

Stay at it, like I did.

You need to try different seasoning methods until you get it down to fit your liking. All the other steps remain unchanged.

Proper cleaning, proper icing, proper detox phase, and a good filet job will make carp 100% worth eating.

angler with rod and reel fishing carps in lake

The Importance of The “Mud Vein”

This is something I didn’t really want to touch on again because it’s illustrated in detail in my other guides, but I figured over 75% of the readers won’t read the other guide so figured it is important to cover this topic again.


Take the time to make sure the mud vein is 100% removed and scraped out of the carp. This dramatically improves the taste of the carp.

Stop believing every myth related to food or more importantly carp in general!

Everything in life will have an opposing force arguing one way or another. Carp taste like mud or carp taste terrible will be everywhere.

You may even know friends or relatives that make jokes about someone’s cooking and refer to it “tasting like carp”.

Carp can be the best-tasting fish and be second to none if it’s done properly.

Carp tasting terrible is an absolute myth.

Much Variety and Ways to Eat Carp

Almost every one of these different methods for eating carp I have tried. A few I have not. Nonetheless, a few turned out terrible the first few times prepping and cooking it but after the fact, it got much better every time I tried to perfect the process.

You can make a carp in the following manners

  • Carp Steaks (have not tried yet but assuming it can be just as good)
  • Carp Patties (amazing)
  • Carp Nuggets (amazing)
  • Carp Fillets (amazing)
  • Carp burgers

Many Ways to Cook The Carp

You can also use whatever niche cooking method you excel at. Whether you’re a grill master or a craftsman of the smoker, you can do that with carp.

I would argue that smoking or grilling create the best carp taste in the end, but all methods work perfectly fine.

You can…

  • Smoke Carp
  • Grill Carp
  • Pressure Cook Carp
  • Slow Cook Carp
  • Oven Bake Carp
  • Deep Fry Carp

That’s just a few and I’m sure other methods of cooking carp is also possible, I just haven’t personally tried any methods outside of the ones listed above.

Again, I had several failures with each method I tried before finally pinpointing the best method and my favorite way of doing things but now that I have it down, I can assure you. Carp taste good.

In Summary, Can You Eat carp?

Yes, Yes, Yes! You can eat carp. Are carp worth Eating? Yes! They certainly are. How do you make carp taste good?

Proper cleaning, preparation, and a good cooking method is the key to make carp taste good. Also, the willingness to mess it up miserably a few times first to get to the good tasting carp is also crucial.

As I make sure to state in every one of my blogs, I’m not an expert on carp and I don’t get paid to catch it, cook it, or clean it.

I do however love catching and cleaning carp and can 100% tell you that you may be missing out on a nice cuisine or even missing out on the joy carp fishing can bring if you give it a chance.

As always, I love feedback, rebuttals, and others to chime in on my thoughts when it comes to anything related to fishing, carp fishing or cat fishing.

Your turn, have I missed anything? Do you have the secret sauce to cleaning and cooking carp? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Recent Content