Chicken, check! Beef (well, at least burgers), check! Pork, check! Fish, not so fast! Other than meatless meals, we know that getting kids to eat fish can be a tough job. It’s not made any easier by the confusing info about what seafood is safe—and what seafood is less safe. But finding a way to incorporate lean, omega-3-rich fish at least once a week is a great way to health-ify your family’s diet. These 6 kid-friendly fish recipes and quick tips for choosing the best fish should get you started, hopefully kickstarting a new healthy habit at your dinner table.
Before we get to the recipes, I want to share the quickest, shortest seafood cheat sheet ever. When all three major seafood concerns are factored in—how environmentally friendly, high in mercury, and rich in omega-3’s a fish is—you come up with three great options for families: wild Pacific salmon, black cod, and pollock. This list is obviously not exhaustive and you certainly don’t have to limit yourself to these choices, but focusing on them can help you keep from stressing out about what seafood is right for your family’s diet.
The Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector has a great interactive chart of best, okay, and worst choices. For a mercury-specific list (especially helpful if you are pregnant or sharing meals with babies), check out the Smart Seafood Buying Guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Now, to the recipes!
There’s obviously no way to start a round up of kid-friendly seafood recipes without including good, old-fashioned fish sticks. Because, let’s be honest, when they are fresh and homemade, we grownups love fish sticks, too. These Crispy Baked Fish Sticks with Tartar Sauce at The Comfort of Cooking are made with cod or halibut, which are tasty fish that are safe to enjoy a couple of times of month. You can also easily substitute salmon, black cod, or pollock, as well. But no substituting those french fries!
I can’t help but include just one more version of breaded fish, because how delicious do these Parmesan Baked Fish Nuggets at Rasa Malaysia look? The simple addition of Parmesan cheese elevates these just enough to make them totally addictive—and I meant to us parents.
As you can tell, I think that, for many kids, the key is breading, but that doesn’t have to mean fried, unhealthy fish. These Almond Crusted Salmon Sticks at Wishful Chef trade regular breading for a nutrient-dense coating of almonds that makes salmon even healthier. Plus, this recipe takes fewer than 30 minutes. I’m sold.
One of my favorite ways to cook fish is en papillote, which is fancy for steamed “in a package.” The method couldn’t be easier (you’ll need parchment paper) and cooks fish quickly, hands off, and with minimal fat. Plus, if you have one of those picky eaters who likes everything super plain, this is the ticket. Steaming with aromatics gives the fish plenty of flavor without anything actually being on it. I love the combination of ingredients in this recipe for Halibut en Papillote at Tea with Me, but you can substitute another fish and, really, any ingredients you like. Just keep it simple—that’s the beauty of this.
We weren’t blowing smoke when we told you that compound butter (butter flavored with fresh herbs and other yummy stuff) would be a life saver and here’s a great example. If you have some on hand, this Pan Seared Salmon with Dill Butter at Tastes Lovely takes minutes to cook and is mouthwateringly delicious. I happen to think that dill is the perfect way to flavor salmon but, if you’re not a fan, follow our directions for making compound butter using whatever herbs and spices you think will work best. Then pan cook that fish and melt the butter on top. Dinner’s done.
If you’re feeding fans of red sauce, you know, as in pasta, then you might want to give this Fish in Crazy Water at The Bitten Word a try. In fact, I’d even serve this to picky eaters with pasta (or maybe even with the fish flaked into the pasta with this red sauce on top). This recipe, originally developed by one of my favorite Italian cooking experts, Marcella Hazan, is made with snapper, but you can substitute any mild, white fillet. Also, though easy to make, it does take time since the sauce must simmer, unattended, for 45 minutes. Make sure to plan for that.