Learn about the following species groups (including their most common members, as well as purchasing, storage and cooking information), or select a specific species from the species list on the right.
Around 80 members of the Mugilidae family are found in coastal temperate and tropical waters around the world, with about 21 species in Australian waters. These small streamlined fish mostly have silver bodies covered in large clear scales. They‘ve been popular in Mediterranean cuisine since Roman times but in Australia are often under appreciated due to their distinctive flavour, making them a low-priced bargain for those who know how to prepare them.
About eight species are commonly sold in Australia under the generic name mullet, though three are also seen under their separate names:
Sea Mullet (Mugil cephalus) is the largest Australian mullet, commonly 500g-1.5kg though it can grow to 8kg. It’s distinguished by transparent gelatinous eyelids and is found around the entire coast, moving out to sea from April-July to spawn, and caught mainly off beaches in Queensland, NSW and WA.
Diamondscale Mullet (Liza vaigiensis), the highest priced of the Australian mullets, is distinguished by its silver-olive body and large, dark-edged scales. It’s found around the northern coast from Shark Bay (WA) to the Queensland-NSW border, and is caught mainly off the Queensland coast. Its supply is limited.
Yelloweye Mullet (Aldrichetta forsteri) occurs mainly around the southern coast from Kalbarri (WA) to Newcastle (NSW). There’s also a fishery in South Australia’s Lakes and Coorong and it was previously known as Coorong mullet and Victor Harbour mullet.
Other Mullets occasionally seen in retail shops or harvested recreationally in various parts of Australia include: Bluespot (Valamugil seheli), Bluetail (Valamugil buchanani), Broadmouth (Paramugil parmatus), Broussonnet's (Mugil broussonnetii) often confused with Sea Mullet, Diamond (Liza alata), Fantail (Paramugil georgii), Fringelip (Crenimugil heterocheilos), Goldspot (Liza argentea), Greenback (Liza subviridis), Hornlip (Oedalechilus labiosus), Kanda (Valamugil engeli), Otomebora (Liza melinoptera), Pinkeye (Trachystoma petardi), Popeye (Rhinomugil nasutus), Rock (Liza tade), Roundhead (Valamugil cunnesius), Sand (Myxus elongates), Spiegler's (Valamugil speigleri) and Wartylip (Crenimugil crenilabis).
Mullets are usually sold as skinless fillets. In whole fish look for lustrous skin, firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. In fillets, look for pinkish-grey, firm, lustrous, moist flesh without any brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh sea smell.
Make sure whole fish is scaled, gilled, gutted and cleaned thoroughly (remove stomach lining and any fat along the stomach wall). Wrap whole fish or fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.
Cooking & Serving
Inexpensive mullets are always a bargain. They have a strong flavour, oily, moist, soft to medium-textured flesh with few bones, which are easily removed. Remove the skin and fatty tissue underneath for a milder flavour, and in whole fish remove the lining of the stomach cavity and scrape away any fat along the cavity wall. The average yield from whole fish is 45%. They are best cooked with dry heat - baked, grilled or barbecued - and are also good smoked or pickled. Their oily flesh is good in fish pastes and pâtés and marries well with caraway, citrus, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, French tarragon, garlic, ginger, herbs, olive oil, tamarind, tomato, thyme vinegar, wine and other strong flavours.
Red vs Grey Mullets
Red mullets, members of the Mullidae family, are goatfish, not true mullets. Despite their similar names they are unrelated with quite a different taste, red mullets being much milder in flavour. In Europe, mullets are often called ‘grey mullets’ to distinguish them from these red mullets.