If you have relatives who don’t gobble-gobble turkey — or any meat, ever — wild-caught sustainable seafood is optimal for your holiday repertoire. Cooking with meaty wild salmon, versatile white fillets like cod and halibut, or even a combination of these Alaskan catches, you can pull of a festive and memorable Thanksgiving meal with or without the big bird. As a bonus for the chef, fish recipes tend to cook up much faster than other proteins you might serve on the holiday.
With that in mind, here are some fish-forward Thanksgiving menu ideas, from appetizers to entrees:
Appetizers & Sides
Wild Salmon Bisque
This luscious paprika-spiced bisque features wild sockeye salmon as its crowning glory. The salmon is cooked separately and flaked on top of the finished dish, garnished with freshly minced chives and a lemon wedge. You can roast up a fillet of wild salmon while the soup is coming together on the stove, or prepare it a day or two prior; leftover salmon from previous dinners can be used as well.
A couple of notes: Make sure you substitute vegetable broth or seafood broth to make this pescatarian-friendly. Also, the recipe calls for an immersion blender to create a smooth bisque, but you can use a regular blender or food processor instead — just make sure you carefully transfer the soup to the blender or processor, as it is going to be very hot.
Halibut and Salmon Terrine with Aioli and Horseradish
This recipe uses two kinds of wild Alaskan catch to make a flavorful terrine that is reminiscent of a scrumptious homemade gefilte fish. Halibut and wild salmon are processed into a rough paste, then gently baked in a loaf pan with matzo meal and a few other ingredients (gluten-free matzo can be used if desired). Make sure you give yourself enough time to let the terrine cool and rest before serving to your guests.
Salt Cod Croquettes
This recipe is a two-phase process. First, you’ll want to make a batch of salt cod with your wild caught fillet of fresh cod. Making salt cod will take time from salting to soaking—a little less than a week altogether—but the process is pretty straightforward. Don’t soak the salted cod in water until you’re planning to make the salt cod croquettes. Unsoaked, the salt cod should keep for well over six months.
Using soaked cod, you can assemble and fry the croquettes to eat immediately. Or, before company arrives, leave them to drain and cool on a rack and reheat in the oven when you’re ready to serve.
Cod Baked in Parchment
This recipe is easy to scale from small Thanksgiving dinners to full-on family gatherings, as a first course or as the main event. Each guest gets their own parchment packet of steamed fish with vegetables, which makes for a dramatic presentation upon serving. This recipe can be adapted to both wild salmon and halibut fillets.
If you’re looking to spend minimal effort to make a crowd-pleasing fish dish (maybe for the annual Thanksgiving family potluck) this recipe is the winner. Fillets of halibut are encrusted in classic, all-American pantry staples like dehydrated potato flakes and corn flakes for heft and satisfying texture when fried for just a couple of minutes. The crust should stay nice and crunchy even if you’re not serving the halibut straight out of the frying pan.
Sweet Potato Fish Pie
Mashed sweet potatoes top off this comforting rendition of fish pie. You can use a mix of salmon and cod for a nice balance of flavor and lightness, or simply use whatever wild Alaskan catch you have on hand; it’s all good in the creamy herb sauce that pulls this dish together.
Use personal sized vessels to make this a main course. Or, free to make mini fish pies as a first course, served in small soufflé dishes. You might even consider assembling this in a large oven safe dish to be served family style. Just keep in mind that the smaller the dish, the faster the fish will cook.
Maple-Bourbon Glazed Salmon with Sweet Cranberry Chutney and Salt Roasted Potatoes
This recipe is full-on Thanksgiving in its flavor profile. Wild salmon holds up nicely to a sweet and flavorful maple-bourbon glaze and can satisfy pescatarians and turkey lovers alike as a non-traditional main course.