Any discussion of halibut and flounder might do well to begin with a simple question: what’s the difference between halibut and flounder?

The answer isn’t a simple one. Through one lens, halibut is flounder: “flounder” is often the catch-all name for a whole family of flatfish that includes sole, turbot and, among several other varieties, halibut.

Also confusing, according to, is the fact several species of flounder have “flounder” in their name, while others, like California halibut, aren’t actually halibut at all.

Combine all that with the similar taste of halibut and flounder, and it’s easy to see why so many consumers scratch their heads when they try to differentiate the varieties.

One differentiator, according to, is that halibut tends to be more firm and meaty, while flounder leans toward delicate and flaky.

But the easiest way to tell flounder from halibut is by size. Halibuts are much bigger than the average flatfish, growing to 10 or even 20 times the average size. The record size for a halibut exceeds 400 pounds.

Even if they’re not jumbo-sized, most halibut are longer than the typical flounder, and their pointed dorsal and anal fins give them a signature diamond shape. Halibut also have slightly concave tails ending in defined points. Most other Flounder have flat or rounded tails.

There are other “tells,” but for grocery retailers, the key is to highlight the different flavors and uses for these highly versatile, popular consumer favorites.


An infusion of flavors

Jacksonville, Florida-based Sea Best Corp. merchandises its wild-caught flounder for grocery retail in 16 oz value-added bags. The individually vacuum-packed bags are quick-frozen for freshness.

On the packs, Sea Best highlights the product’s low-fat and high-protein virtues and draws attention to flounder’s unique qualities.

“Sea Best flounder is mild, lean and very impressionable,” according to the company. “Its oil content allows accompanying flavors to infuse the flaky meat, and the fillets adapt to seasonings and sauces.”

Its versatility also lends itself to a variety of preparation methods and any number of recipes, according to Sea Best. “With flounder, flavor pairings ranging from mild, smooth butter to tart lemon are all fair game.”

Seattle-based Orca Bay Seafoods Inc. merchandises Alaskan flounder fillets in 10 oz bags. In its marketing efforts, Orca Bay spotlights flounders’ flaky and delicate texture, its “elegant and traditional” flavors and top wine pairings (e.g. Chardonnay, Mourvedre, Syrah and Roussanne).

“Flounder is one of those perennial seafood icons, and so many incredible recipes are out there to discover and try,” according to Orca Bay.

Seattle-based Trident Seafoods Corp. packs its skinless and boneless flounder fillets for retail in 2 lb consumer bags and prominently advertises two nutritional facts: 100 calories per serving and 230 mg. of Omega 3s per serving.

“Our wild Pacific flounder fillets are perfect for pan-frying,” according to Trident. “Naturally low in fat and high in protein with a delicately sweet flavor, they’re always ready to liven up-and lighten up a delicious home cooked meal.”

Los Angeles-based Ocean Choice International owns 91% of the MSC-certified yellowtail flounder quota, which is harvested year round using company-owned frozen-at-sea vessels.

“As a vertically integrated company, OCI controls the value chain from ocean to plate,” according to the company. “We ensure high quality product from harvest to processing and distribution to customers.” 

Flounder’s sweet, mild taste and flakey texture make it a top seller for Ocean Choice, which markets its yellowtail in a variety of retail packs. Options include fresh and frozen fillets, skinless and skin-on fillets, and pan-ready, headed and gutted and whole round.


The “filet mignon of whitefish”

Orca Bay ships premium-quality skinless and boneless halibut portions destined for retail in 10 oz bags that highlight the variety’s “succulent and elegant” texture and “mild, bright and clean” flavor and suggest wine pairings (Merlot, Sangiovese, Marsanne and Viognier).

“Our wild caught halibut portions are skinless, boneless and plump – the filet mignon of whitefish,” according to Orca Bay. “Being hand-cut portions, there are varying shapes in each bag – from thick, block pieces to portions that are wider and less chunky. They all cook up to white opaque evenness and are exceptional.”

Ocean Choice’s retail halibut lineup, meanwhile, features both frozen-at-sea and land-frozen product from Greenland.

“Greenland Halibut is a big, beautiful fish packed with flavor,” according to Ocean Choice. “A favorite on plates around the world, OCI’s is some of the finest because of the care we take in processing. We use no additives or preservatives on our product, so all you taste is wonderfully natural flavor. When it hits the plate, it tastes like it just came out of the cold North Atlantic waters.”


Four types of flounder ranked “best choice” by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch — chosen for having the least impact on the environment:



Types: Arrowtooth, Arrow-tooth Flounder, Flounder, Hirame, Karei

Fishing method: bottom trawls

Location: U.S. - Alaska, Northeast Pacific Ocean: Bering Sea (Greenland turbot trawl)


California flounder

Types: California Halibut, Flounder, Hirame, Karei, Monterey Halibut, Southern Halibut

Method: trolling lines

Location: U.S. - California, Eastern Central Pacific Ocean (Central Stock)


Kamchatka flounder

Types: Flounder, Hirame, Karei

Method: bottom trawls

Location: U.S. - Alaska, Northeast Pacific Ocean: Bering Sea (Greenland turbot trawl)


Starry flounder

Types: Flounder, Hirame, Karei

Method: bottom trawls

Location: U.S. - West Coast, Pacific Ocean (IFQ trawl)