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American shad (Alosa sapidissima)

American shad
American shad

Scientific name for American shad

Alosa sapidissima

Common name(s) for American shad

Atlantic shad, Potomac shad, northern silver shad

Market name

American shad

Other language names for American shad

  • French: savoureuse
  • German: Amerikanischer Maifisch
  • Italian: Alaccia americana
  • Japanese:
  • Spanish: Sábalo Americano

Introduction to American shad

The American shad, the biggest member of the herring family, is generally regarded as the tastiest of the world’s 31 shad species; the species name (sapidissima) translates as “most delectable.” Shad is a seasonal novelty on restaurant menus, and shad bakes are a Mid-Atlantic spring tradition. John McPhee’s 2002 book The Founding Fish, which chronicles a plethora of shad mythology and extols the fish’s significance in American history, sparked a boom in shad popularity among fishermen and diners. Shad roe, the female fish’s ripe eggs, has been dubbed the “foie gras” of seafood. The species is anadromous, meaning it lives at sea and only migrates up rivers to reproduce. Gillnets are used commercially to catch fish during spawning runs. Typically, the market weighs between 3 and 5 pounds. The eastern United States coast, from Florida to Maine, has significant fisheries, with the largest spawning runs occurring in the Hudson River. Despite the abundance of shad throughout the Pacific Coast, there are no significant commercial fisheries there owing to worries about native salmon. Dams, pollution, overfishing, and predation have wiped off the commercial shad fishery on the East Coast. Restoration activities are underway, including the phasing out of coastal intercept fishing.

Product Profile for American shad

The flesh of American shad is grey when fresh. It ranges in color from pinkish beige to deep brown when cooked, with the darker meat having the highest flavor. The roe sacs are a brilliant orange color. Shad flesh is sweet, rich, and soft, and it contains a lot of oil. The flavor has been dubbed “poor man’s salmon” by fans.

Nutrition for American shad


Calories: 197
Fat Calories: 125
Total Fat: 13.8 g
Saturated Fat: 3.1 g
Cholesterol: 75 mg
Sodium: 51 mg
Protein: 16.9 g
Omega 3: 2.5 g

Cooking tips for American shad

One Native American tribe characterized the bony shad as “a porcupine turned inside out,” which can make eating entire shad difficult. The tiny bones are dissolved by gradual cooking (steaming or baked at moderate heat). Fillets that have been grilled or baked are a more popular option. Boned fillets are nailed to an oak or hickory board, along with bacon slices, and slow cooked over a charcoal fire for a modern take on classic “planked shad.” Shad roe can be cooked in white wine or sautéed in butter.

Cooking methods for American shad

Bake, Broil , Grill , Poach , Saute , Smoke , Steam

Primary Product Forms for American shad

Global Supply for American shad

United States, Iran