Can Pregnant Women Eat Hake? Is It a Safe Fish?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Fish is a nutritious, lean protein and is a great choice during pregnancy. Besides being told not to eat ‘high mercury’ fish (which we’ll go into later), pregnant women often want to know about specific species.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Hake? Hake is safe in pregnancy if it’s fully cooked. Avoid raw or undercooked hake if you’re pregnant. As a versatile fish that is low in fat and high in protein, it can easily be added to your pregnancy diet.

In this article, I’m covering everything about hake – its mercury level, whether it’s safe, how you can eat it, and how healthy it is during your pregnancy.

When is Hake Safe For Pregnant Women?

Hake, like many other fish, is safe in pregnancy if it’s fully cooked.

That means that it should reach an internal temperature of 145F / 63c, according to the US Government (source: US Food Safety).

The easiest way to measure this is with a food thermometer (my recommended ones are here), though it’s also described as when the flesh is opaque – i.e. not jellyish or translucent, and that it flakes easily with a fork. This is a good test if you’re eating out and haven’t cooked the fish yourself, and can’t measure the temperature.

Probably the most common preparation of hake is a pan fried hake fillet.

Hake works out very well when it’s pan-fried. Deep fried is uncommon because it’s a delicate fish, but not unheard of. Both are safe if the fish is cooked through – cut into a thick part and check.

You can also oven bake hake, or poach it too. Again, these cooking methods are perfectly safe if the fish is done all the way through. Scroll down for a pregnancy-friendly recipe for hake at the end of this article.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Raw Hake?

Raw hake should be avoided in pregnancy due to the risk of bacterial contamination, and/or parasites (source: FDA). This includes cold-smoked hake, covered below.

Raw hake isn’t very common, unless you come across it in sushi, where it’s called “Heiku” on the menu. For more on sushi, you might be interested in my ultimate sushi guide for pregnant women. That article also details the risks of raw fish.

Because it’s often pan-fried as a whole fillet, you’re more likely to come across undercooked hake (by accident) than deliberately raw hake.

Whenever you haven’t cooked the fish, cut into the thickest part and avoid any fillets that are jellyish or translucent in the middle. The flesh should fkale easily with a fork. If it’s not, send it back.

Can I Eat Smoked Hake if I’m Pregnant?

It is important to understand the difference between cold-smoked and hot-smoked hake first. Cold-smoked hake refers to fish that is smoked at a low temperature, typically between 70°F to 90°F for an extended period of time.

This process does not fully cook the fish, which can lead to the presence of dangerous bacteria, such as listeria (source: Mayo Clinic). For this reason, pregnant women should avoid cold-smoked hake. You could cook it, but this creates a texture that most people don’t like!

On the other hand, hot-smoked hake is smoked at higher temperatures, around 120°F to 180°F, which effectively cooks the fish, thus reducing the risk of harmful bacteria. Although the risk is reduced, it is still recommended that you heat hot smoked hake until steaming hot before eating it, which will make it much safer during pregnancy.

pan fried hake fish

How Much Mercury is in Hake?

Hake often appears on ‘safe’ lists of fish to eat during pregnancy (source: NHS) but the mercury level isn’t given very often.

The Natural Resources Defense Council list hake as being a ‘low mercury’ fish (source: NRDC) whereas on most other lists it appears as ‘moderate’ (source: EDF).

Actual average mercury levels were tested over a number of years, and hake came out at a mean average of 0.079ppm (parts per million) in mercury (source: FDA).

This means that hake, on average, is a low to moderate mercury fish. In pregnancy, you can eat it a couple of times a week. It’s best mixed with other fish as part of a varied diet (source: Mayo Clinic).

Does The Type of Hake Matter in Pregnancy?

Very often, hake is just called exactly that – but there are different types of hake depending on where you live, and what the local catch is likely to be.

For the avoidance of doubt, all the types of hake below are safe in pregnancy if they’re fully cooked. They also all fall into the low to moderate mercury category as described above and by the Environmental Defense Fund (source: EDF):

  • Blue Hake (also called the Blue Grenadier or Hoki) – found in the Pacific, common in New Zealand and Australia
  • Chilean or Argentinean Hake
  • Cape Hake (also called Pacific Whiting)
  • White Hake (common in the USA and Canada)
  • Silver Hake (common in the USA)
  • Red Hake (common in the USA)

All these types of hake are OK during pregnancy when cooked all the way through.

Is Hake Healthy & Good For Pregnancy?

Hake is an excellent choice of fish during pregnancy as part of a healthy diet. This is because hake is:

  • Low in calories (with an average of about 70-80 calories per serving)
  • A source of lean, quality protein – about 18-20g per serving
  • Low in fat (around 1g per serving)
  • A good source of several important nutrients and minerals, including potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

Source: Food Nutrition Table and Seafood Source

It’s worth mentioning that omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are essential for fetal brain development and overall growth during pregnancy. While some types of fish are rich in omega-3s, the amount found in hake can be lower than that in other fish varieties like salmon or mackerel.

It’s always a good idea to vary the types of fish you eat when you’re pregnant, to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need (What To Expect).

Also, bear in mind that hake is much healthier when it’s oven-baked, broiled or pan-fried without flouring or breading.

Very often, hake is pan-fried – if you choose to eat pan-fried hake, try it without heavy coatings that add unnecessary calories and fat.

A Pregnancy-Friendly Hake Recipe

Hake can stand up to quite powerful flavors, so it can feature in many recipes, from Asian to Mediterranean combos.

If you’re wondering how to incorporate hake into your diet, then there’s a great, simple and tasty recipe on Youtube from Cooking Queen:

The recipe uses a basic, flavorful marinade that you can adapt with whatever herbs and spices you happen to have on hand, and only takes 15 minutes to cook:

Overall, hake is a fish you should consider adding to your pregnancy diet, as it’s nutritious, lean, and lower in mercury.


If you’re increasing your intake of fish during pregnancy, you may also like these articles: