Getting picky eaters to enjoy seafood can be a challenge. Our likes and dislikes of food are shaped by the experiences we’ve had at the dinner table, for better or for worse, sometimes turning us off from seafood completely.
But whether the picky eater is a fussy kid or a discerning adult, there’s hope yet. Having fresh wild Alaskan seafood, the right recipe, and even simply just knowing how to tell when a piece of fish is done are all tools that can help you win over a picky eater.
Here is an arsenal of recipes that will convince picky eaters of all ages that seafood is their thing after all:
Baked Fish Sticks
Slice a white fillet into strips, coat them in flour, egg, and seasoned breadcrumbs, then pop them into the oven. In less than 15 minutes, you’ll have a tray of baked fish sticks to serve with whatever dipping sauces you fancy today. This low-maintenance recipe from Melissa d’Arabian suggests baking the sticks on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet; this will keep the hot air circulating around the fish, making for a crispier meal. It might be worth trying this recipe in an air fryer, if you own one.
Almond Flour Fish Nuggets
Gluten-free households can still enjoy crispy, dippable fish with this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine for almond flour crusted fish nuggets. Since you’re using almond flour rather than breading, the best way to get these nuggets crisped up is to fry them in oil. It’s worth the extra effort. Cod, pollock, or rockfish are good options to use, as you’ll want your nuggets to be crunchy on the outside and flaky on the inside.
Skillet-Grilled Fish Tacos
You can put just about anything into a taco and get a picky eater to indulge. For this recipe from Food52, you’ll be grilling up a fillet of white fish — the type of fish you use is up to you — on a sizzling hot cast-iron skillet on an outdoor grill.
BBQ Rockfish Sandwiches
This sweet and spicy BBQ rockfish sandwich from Chef Rob Eggleston of Seamore’s is a home-run recipe that will have your picky seafood eaters coming back for seconds.
Patties of fish, made from flaked fillets — salmon, cod, pollock, whatever you have ready to cook up — are easy to assemble and fry up in a bit of oil. This recipe from Serious Eats has you roll up your fish-potato mixture in some panko breadcrumbs for an extra crispy cake. Serve hot on a bun dressed with your favorite mayo.
Chef Eric Ripert’s recipe for fish “burgers” makes an elegant but straightforward sandwich. You’ll want to use a food processor or sharp knife to finely mince up 1 ½ pounds of your white fish of choice — pollock or rockfish work well here. Then, follow the recipe as it’s written. You can dress the sandwich with Ripert’s recipe for a saffron aioli, or bring it down a notch with plain mayo. We won’t judge you if you end up serving this fish burger with ketchup. It’s all good.
A Little Sophistication
Grilled White Fish With Cilantro-Lime Butter
This is the sophisticated gateway dish for people who aren’t crazy about fish. The developer of this Serious Eats recipe for cedar planked fish was admittedly not a big fan of seafood, but found that a grilled fillet of mild, flaky white fish — served with a zesty butter — can be just as acceptable as something fried. Plus, when it’s grilled rather than fried, you can actually taste some of the fish. Rockfish or cod are great choices for this one.
Cooked Salmon Maki Roll
Yes, it takes some practice to perfect your maki rolling technique, but it’s so worth it. You’ll be opening up a whole world of culinary possibilities for your picky eaters, as long as they’re cool with rice and nori. Using cooked wild Alaskan salmon makes maki more approachable than a raw sliver of fish; feel free to use leftovers, and add in a complementary, easy-to-like ingredient like cucumbers or avocado to keep things interesting. Check out Minimalist Baker’s step-by-step guide for how to make sushi, even if you don’t own a proper bamboo mat.
Creamy Roasted Cod with Garlic Mashed Crust
Topping a casserole dish full of roasted cod with a buttery, garlicky, mashed potato crust is a surefire way to please picky eaters who have a predilection for comfort food. Food & Wine Magazine’s recipe for creamy roasted cod is low-maintenance: You’re essentially just making a bowl of mashed potatoes, sprinkling some minced garlic onto fillets of white fish, then covering them with this creamy blanket to bake for about 10 minutes. A couple minutes under a broiler finishes the dish off with a beautiful golden crust.