October is National Seafood Month in the USA and I’m excited. So excited in fact that I’m celebrating with a big recipe roundup, despite the fact that I’m not actually IN the USA. But good quality, sustainable, ecologically-sourced and ethically-sourced seafood is of global importance, and it’s something we should all be paying attention to. With that in mind, I’ve collected 28 beautiful and sustainable recipes from around the web, along with quick links to resources and other recipes to help you make choices that will please your palate and your planet.
I’ve also put together a collection of my own sustainable seafood recipes, so I hope you’ll check it out as well!
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Why Does Sustainable Seafood Matter?
Food is one of the great unifying factors in the lives of people around the world. And while we can celebrate and share our culinary passions in order to better understand one another, it’s always worth remembering the issues and controversies that surround our food. Seafood is beloved the world around, and the oceans have fed our species for many millennia, but we’re putting stresses on them now that may lead to catastrophe if left unchecked. More and more, the people who write about food are taking time to promote sustainable, ecologically conscious seafood. In honour of that, I’ve collected recipes from around the web that showcase not only the incredible and diverse flavours of the ocean, but also the educated and thoughtful choices that will keep our oceans healthy. I’ve also collected my own seafood recipes into a separate roundup, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading through them as well.
In this particular roundup, I’ve organized the recipes in a fashion that allows me to highlight some of the key issues surrounding the sustainability of popular seafood choices, but many of them (I’m looking at you, tuna and shrimp) are actually pretty darned complex subjects. Don’t be dismayed, and don’t be intimidated by the complexity; the comprehensive and detailed guides like the ones mentioned above can help you to answer a lot of questions, and working with a knowledgeable and sustainability-minded fishmonger can go a long way towards helping you make comfortable (and delicious) choices. That last bit is so important I’m going to say it again: cultivate a good relationship with a good fishmonger (or even a fisherman, if you have the option). Not only will you be able to make better decisions, but you’ll probably end up with way tastier fish.
If you check out the collection of Diversivore sustainable seafood recipes here you’ll also find links and descriptions of some wonderful regulatory and education groups that can help you make informed decisions when buying seafood. If you want to jump into exploring them on your own, check out OceanWise, the Marine Stewardship Council, Seafood Watch, and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council for starters.
Now, let’s get on to the recipes!
Food bloggers tend to get pretty excited about salmon, and rightly so. It’s delicious, readily available, and distinctive tasting while remaining easy to work with. It’s a great fish really.
When it comes to sustainability, salmon sits in an area of some controversy. Wild salmon (of which there are many varieties) are amazing to cook with and many of them come from sustainable supplies. That being said, the fisheries are variable and have to constantly adjust catch numbers in order to remain sustainable, and it’s unlikely that wild salmon alone can meet the market demand. Farmed salmon offers to help fill that void, but it’s a real hot-button topic. Open-pen farmed salmon have attracted an enormous amount of controversy for a variety of reasons related to the environment, and most sustainability organizations land pretty firmly against them at the moment. That being said, there is a great deal of nuance to the issue. Individual open-pen Atlantic Salmon farms from Norway are being operated in a highly sustainable fashion while most others receive a failing grade from agencies like OceanWise and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Recently, closed-pen inland salmon farms have begun to make waves (pun intended), and many of these are being praised by sustainability and environmental watchdogs. Basically, when it comes to salmon, it pays to know the fish and to know the source.
With no further ado, here are some amazing recipes to get the wheels turning.
Harissa Salmon Salad
With Sweet Curry Vinaigrette
Killing Thyme is dedicated to incredible pescetarian food, and founder/writer Dana is a big advocate for sustainable fish choices. This recipe is a great example of the amazing flavours she can put together. Be sure to check out the link at the top of the site titled ‘Fish + Sustainability’ (or, just follow the link!).
With Garlic Dill Fries
Salmon burgers? Awesome. Homemade specialty fries to go with it? Double awesome.
Sweet & Spicy Grilled Salmon
A salmon fillet is a beautiful thing, and easy to work with. Bakers Beans gives it an incredible sweet-heat twist here with honey and ancho chili powder.
Blueberry and Gin Salmon Gravlax
One of the best ways to do your part for seafood sustainability is to really make what you do buy count. A delicious and inventive gravlax recipe like this gives you a great way to enjoy amazing fish without needing too much of it.
Cedar Planked Salmon Sliders
For a very different take on a salmon burger, try grilling your fish on cedar. It’s incredibly tasty, and easier than a lot of people realize. Here, it gets paired with some quick pickled veggies for a tasty, simple dinner.
Tuna is amazing, and much loved the world over. But the name tuna applies to many different fish, and they are not all harvested equally. If you’re looking to eat delicious and sustainable fish, tuna is a great place to start… if you’re willing to do your homework.
Commercially important tuna species include (but aren’t limited to) Skipjack, Yellowfin (Ahi), Bluefin, Bigeye, and Albacore. Each species faces different commercial and environmental pressures, and it’s tough to make generalizations even within a single group. For example, Yellowfin tuna from Hawaii caught with deep-set longlines is considered sustainable, while the same fish caught in the Pacific using pelagic longlines is considered unsustainable. It’s really best to know the species you’re buying and the fishery it comes from. Resources like Oceanwise and MSC are indispensible in situations like this, as is a good, ecologically-minded and well-educated fish monger. If the people selling you fish can’t tell you anything about it, you should probably look elsewhere. There are a growing number of eco-conscious and sustainable canneries in operation nowadays too (often with specific certification from a regulatory body), which makes high quality canned tuna a distinct possibility.
While I try to avoid making overly broad generalizations about entire fisheries, I will make an exception here. Bluefin tuna is widely considered one of the tastiest tuna varieties out there, and is highly valued raw. Sadly, this has led to bluefin tuna (a name that encompasses a few related species) being fished to the point that stocks are nearing collapse in many parts of the world. In fact, Southern Bluefin Tuna is at risk of extinction. Until better recovery efforts are put in place, I personally recommend avoiding bluefin altogether in favour of other, more sustainable options.
Alright now, doom and gloom aside (and seriously, don’t be put off – there are wonderful resources to help you navigate this), let’s move on to some amazing recipes that tantalize with tasty tuna.
Summer Tuna Crostini
There’s literally no sense in limiting your tuna sandwich options. I mean, look at these – diversity is clearly a good thing.
Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna Steak
Another gorgeous fish dish from Killing Thyme. Seriously – it’s beautiful. I mean look at that. Fortunately it’s also ridiculously tasty.
Grilled Albacore Tuna Tostadas
An awesome recipe featuring wild, sustainably caught albacore tuna – plus an interesting look at mercury content in fish.
Cod and Halibut
Cod and halibut aren’t related at all, but I’ve lumped them together here because they tend to get used as ‘all-purpose’ firm white fish. They taste lovely on their own, but they’re mild and firm enough to stand up to all kinds of treatments and ingredients. They’re also among the easiest fish to love, so they’re a great place to start for those who are somewhat more seafood-averse.
Cod is perhaps the most famous example of a fishery collapse in the world. Once unbelievable prolific, Atlantic cod was harvested in the Northwestern Atlantic in such gigantic quantities that the entire population (and fishery) suffered a gigantic crash. That particular fishery has yet to recover, and may not ever recover entirely. However, there are actually quite a few highly sustainable cod fisheries. Some of the Atlantic cod industries are well managed and recommended, as are many of the Pacific cod fisheries (Pacific cod is a different species). There are also some sustainable Atlantic cod farms utilizing recirculating closed-pen methods.
Halibut, like cod, is actually a name applied to two different species, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific. With the exception of bottom-trawled Atlantic halibut, most commercial halibut fisheries are considered to be sustainable. I happen to think that halibut is one of the most delicious and easy-to-love fish varieties out there. It’s also tough to get wrong, so that’s a real plus.
As with most of the fish featured here, it’s best to consult with a good fishmonger and/or an educational/regulatory body like OceanWise or MSC when deciding what to buy.
Crab Encrusted Halibut
What’s better than a great piece of halibut? How about a great piece of halibut that’s actually covered in Dungeness crab?
Gluten-Free Cod Fish Sticks
Fish sticks are a classic, adored by kids and adults alike. And when they’re made from scratch with delicious wild Pacific cod? Well that’s even better.
Hoo boy. When it comes to sustainability and headache-inducing confusion, shrimp is a bit of a doozy.
The terms shrimp and prawn cover an amazing variety of species. There are literally thousands of different shrimp species, but approximately 20 key species are considered to be commercially significant. Within that group of 20, seven species in particular are caught and consumed in particularly large numbers.
Most recipes simply call for shrimp, meaning that it’s up to the consumer to learn about individual fisheries and aquaculture operations. Further confusing the matter is the fact that within a single species (for example the incredibly popular whiteleg shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei) there may be examples of sustainable and unsustainable fisheries AND aquaculture operations. Basically, you could have a good farmed shrimp, a bad wild shrimp, and everything in between.
Sadly, environmental issues aren’t the only ones to consider here. In recent years, the Southeast Asian (and particularly Thai) shrimp/prawn industry has come under heavy fire for sever human rights abuses. The Guardian has posted a series of articles addressing this topic, and I encourage you to check some of them out here.
Once again, this is a situation where it’s not enough to simply know what you’re eating. In order to eat shrimp that are responsibly and ethically harvested, it’s imperative that we know the fisheries they come from. As I’ve said before (and will again), getting to know a good and eco-conscious fishmonger in your city can be a huge help, as can access to agencies like OceanWise and the MSC/ASC.
Now, hopefully that wasn’t too much of a downer. Here are some shrimp recipes that focus on sustainable and responsible species and varieties!
Chili Lime Shrimp
With Fresh Salsa
This gorgeous recipe uses British Columbia spot prawns, one of the most sustainable shrimp fisheries in the world. They also happen to be super tasty.
Spot Prawn Shellfish Pot
What can I say? I’m in love with spot prawns. They’re so good when you leave them whole like this too. Don’t forget bread to sop up all the sauce
Mussels, Clams, and Oysters
Alright folks, I’ve got some good news on this one. Clams, mussels, oysters, and other bivalves are among some of the most eco-friendly, sustainable seafoods on earth. In fact, they’re some of the most sustainable animal proteins on the planet. As anyone who’s ever tried to dig up a clam can attest, they tend to be a lot of work to harvest from the wild. Fortunately, they’re very easy to farm sustainably.
If you’ve ever been unsure about cooking with these ingredients, it’s worth noting that a) they have quite different flavours (mussels are stronger and more distictive for example, while clams are a little more mellow and easy to get acquainted with).
With Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan
Beautiful, delicious, a little bit fancy, and caught straight out of the sands of Puget Sound.
I don’t know what it is exactly, but mussels are absolutely amazing with coconut milk and a little bit of chili heat. Try it and thank me (and Slow the Cook Down) later.
Oven Baked Paella
A great way to cook shellfish, as well as whole shrimp and any number of other seafood varieties. Paella is pretty versatile stuff, and it can be adapted to a huge range of flavours.
New Zealand Mussels
With Quinoa Spaghetti and Roasted Squash
New Zealand green mussels are not only sustainable, they look spectacular (as you can tell from this spectacular gluten-free pasta delight).
Pasta Marinera al Cava
A Spanish classic of mussels and pasta cooked with sparkling cava wine, tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic. So simple, so elegant, and so good. Save a little extra cava to serve this one with.
Coconut Masala Mussels
Alright, so maybe I’m letting my love o’ mussels show, but I don’t care. They’re just to good. And when they’re paired with amazing South Indian spices (not to mention some thin and delicious dosa) they’re an extra-special treat.
Scallops with Cranberry Bacon Jam
Scallops may just be one of the finest ocean treats out there. Not only are there plenty of sustainable options out there, but there are even certified organic ones. This lovely recipe showcases sweet scallops against zucchini cakes and a savoury jam.
Vegans and vegetarians fret not! That is, assuming any of you are still reading this article. In any case, one of the best foods to come out of the ocean is also one of the most underrated – seaweeds! There are PLENTY of different kinds of seaweed out there, and by-and-large they tend to be incredibly nutritious and very sustainable foods. As you’ll see from some of the recipes below, seaweed also offers a great way to bring some of the briny, oceanic flavours into plant-based foods without using fish itself.
Japanese Edamame & Arame Salad
Seaweed comes in all sorts of different forms, and it’s delicious stuff with a wide array of uses. This amazing vegan recipe also highlights the ecological sustainability of seaweed.
of Bamboo Rice and Sea Asparagus
A gorgeous and unique vegetarian dish featuring sea asparagus (Salicornia), an awesome, salt-loving plant that grows in tidal areas throughout much of the world. Also called samphire or sea-beans, this plant is amazing and really fun to work with. If you’re looking for more the Lemon Apron also has this awesome recipe for a sea asparagus frittata with ramps.
Vegan Crab Cakes
How about a crab-free crab cake? If you’re wondering how exactly this is seafood, it’s seaweed in disguise; dulce flakes are used to add that wonderful marine flavour to the mix. If you’re curious about other vegan seafood alternatives, you can also check out this vegan tuna salad, also flavoured with dulce, and also from Vegan Huggs.
Seaweeds and Greens Salad
With Kelp Noodles and Wakame
Another lovely vegan recipe from the Taste Space, this time featuring both kelp noodles AND wakame seaweed alongside spicy radish greens.
Other Types of Seafood
I could never cover all of the fish (sustainable or otherwise) being served around the world, but I want to highlight a few other amazing recipes featuring fish that didn’t fit into any of the categories above.
Sauteed Calamari with Romesco Sauce
Another seafood with tons of diversity masquerading behind a simple name, squid can be a sustainable choice, and it’s spectacular with some pancetta, radicchio, and a smoky Spanish romesco sauce.
Pepper Crusted Seabass
Seabass is deeeeelicious, and it’s been overfished as a result. Fortunately, sustainable seabass can be found – as this amazing recipe explains.
Mojo Barramundi Kabobs
Barramundi is farmed in many parts of the world, but not all of the methods are considered sustainable. Fortunately, Australis Barramundi in Vietnam has developed a system that’s highly regarded. Here, it get’s the Cuban mojo treatment with lime, garlic, and cilantro.
Quick Sardine Curry
Canned fish gets a bad rap, and sardines are too often passed over. They’re a great fish, and their bold flavour works wonderfully with equally bold sauces and spices.
Mushroom Seafood Stew
Another great recipe featuring Australis Barramundi, this time alongside shrimp, mushrooms, and artichokes. Choose a responsibly harvested or farmed shrimp for an ideal, ocean-friendly dish.
Looking for more?
There are so many great sustainable seafood recipes out there – too many to feature in one roundup, really! So while I couldn’t squeeze them in up above, I wanted to mention a few more awesome dishes you should check out:
– Swordfish with Cucumber Melon Salsa (plus an awesome look at a community seafood project) from Tasting Page
– Paleo Tuna Salad (and more sustainability talk) from Pasta to Paleo
– Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with a Ginger Soy Sauce from Champagne Tastes
– Lemon and Dill Salmon from the Life Jolie, featuring wild Sockeye
– Grilled Halibut Over Greens with Verjus White Truffle Vinegar, from The Good Hearted Woman
– Sweet and Smoky Smallmouth Black Bass and some awesome info (and infographics!) about sustainable seafood and healthy seafood eating habits from Enticing Healthy Eating
– More amazing tuna tostadas (spicy!), this time from My Kitchen Love, and featuring Raincoast Trading canned tuna, a high-end and Oceanwise certified provider of great seafood
– Grilled Lemon Pepper Octopus, which is not only delicious but easier to make than you might think, courtesy of Champagne Tastes
– Basa Fish Tacos with a 7up batter?! Amazing idea, and an awesome example of a fish that can be very sustainably farmed. This wonderful recipe comes from Slow the Cook Down
– Mussels with green curry and bok choy for a quick, easy, and delicious change from the norm, courtesy of Happy Kitchen. Rocks
– Amazing and easy wild salmon cakes that also manage to be gluten and dairy-free, courtesy of Eye Candy Popper
– Spaghetti Puttanesca with Halibut and Grilled Lemon, an awesome pasta treat that comes from Kitchen Uncorked
– Saltcrusted Trout (a very cool cooking method) from the Barbecue Bastard
– Spanish Mussels with a Chorizo and Saffron Broth (seriously, I can’t get enough of good mussels) from Beyond Mere Sustenance
And last but certainly not least, I want to include a link to this collection of wild-caught fish recipes from Conveying Awareness. Check it out for more recipe ideas, and a look at seafood and nutrition.
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