I grew up in a predominantly Christian community and during the observance of Lent, I remember red meat being discouraged on Fridays in the lunchroom and fish being served instead. I happily ate a fish sandwich or fish sticks in place of the typical hamburger, but there’s no reason for such limited options when it comes to serving kid-friendly fish dishes at home.
If you are observing Lent this year, you know that starting on March 2, the next seven Fridays require a meal makeover. Let’s take this as an opportunity to eat a variety of fish and cook a wide range of quick, easy, and family-friendly dinners. That sounds like a good goal, no matter if you are observing Lent or not.
If seafood or fish isn’t a part of your typical grocery shopping list, we have a few tips to help you plan the most delicious dinners.
- Plan to buy about 5 ounces of fish per person.
- Cook the fish within a day or two to maintain optimal freshness.
- When purchasing a whole fish, look for bright red gills and eyes that aren’t sunken. Another tell-tale sign your fish is fresh? It will have a very mild fish smell.
- When buying fillets, look for similar sized pre-cut fillets to ensure even cooking. The fillets should be firm, shiny, and not dried out or darker around the edges.
- Another purchasing option is frozen fillets. Look for wild caught if available, and thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
- Not all recipes require fresh fish, though! Smoked salmon and oil-packed tuna are readily available and require zero prep work.
Now, that you’re all prepped, let’s dive into some mouthwatering recipes that your entire family will enjoy!
Slow-Roasted Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze and Scallions
Don’t let the words “slow-roasted” fool you, this salmon is ready in 30 minutes and is one of my family’s favorites. Fresh ginger and sweet Thai chili sauce amp up the flavor while not overpowering the salmon. Serve rice alongside a salad for a heartier meal.
Sheet Pan Fish and Chips
Sheet pan dinners are my absolute favorite way to simplify dinnertime. Use skinless white fish fillets, such as halibut or cod, and coat in crispy breadcrumbs for an easy Friday night meal. Serve with homemade tartar sauce for extra kid appeal.
Fish Cakes with Tarragon Mayo
Poached cod and boiled potatoes are shaped into thick, hearty fish cakes then get broiled until crispy and golden brown. These are great to make ahead of time since the patties need time to chill before cooking. The patties can be frozen cooked or uncooked, making Friday night dinner (or next week’s lunch) even easier. Serve with green bean salad with lemon and dill.
Smoked Salmon Pasta
After serving this for dinner, my family finally agreed that they like salmon. Ready in 30 minutes, this elevated pasta dish uses smoked salmon, which requires zero prep work. Adding a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon, the finished dish tastes light, yet satisfying.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
Tilapia with Olives, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes
Cooked in one pan, the fillets of firm white fish, simmer with a can of tomatoes, green olives, garlic, and white mushrooms. Inexpensive and full of flavor, this meal is perfect served over pasta or rice.
One-Pan Roasted Harissa Salmon with Vegetables
Harissa is the spice missing in your life! Containing dried chiles, caraway, coriander, and other aromatic spices, this blend brings a Moroccan flavor to this simple dinner. Give the vegetables a head start in the oven and then add the salmon and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with saffron rice pilaf.
A quick dusting in flour and sautéed in olive oil, renders these small, thin fillets into a tender and flaky entree that is ready in 20 minutes. Feel free to use gluten-free flour. Rock cod or catfish are good substitutes for this dish. A simple pan sauce of lemon and capers is the perfect accompaniment to have either spooned over top or set aside for dipping.
Pasta with Tuna and Arugula
No time to go to the store? Grab a couple cans of oil packed tuna and a box of pasta out of the pantry. Behold! Dinner is served. Feel free to pull out a couple servings of the pasta before adding the arugula and serve on the side to littles that may not appreciate its peppery flavor.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
Easy Fish Tacos
Tacos aren’t just for Tuesdays! These easy fish tacos are the perfect meal to serve for Lent. Incredibly adaptable, use cod, halibut, or tilapia for the filling and let everyone build their own taco. Ready in less than 20 minutes and even faster if extra hands set out the toppings while you cook the fish and stir up the sauce.
Salmon Fried Rice
Make extra rice on Thursday to use for Friday’s easy, family-friendly fish dinner. This recipe uses cooked salmon so I would suggest planning ahead and making a double batch of slow-roasted salmon with sweet chili glaze and scallions and saving some for this fried rice. Serve with baby bok choy with cashews.
Crispy Panko Fish Sticks
Skip the freezer kind and make homemade fish sticks. Use a firm white fish, such as cod, and fry in a shallow pan. No deep fry thermometer needed! Crispy, tender, and perfect for dipping in tartar sauce.
Chillo al Ajillo (Pan Fried Red Snapper in Garlic Sauce)
Treat yourself and your family to a classic Lenten Puerto Rican dish. This version is simplified by using fillets of red snapper instead of the whole fish. Served skin-on and topped with a garlic sauce, this dish is bound to awaken your senses. Serve with easy black beans and rice.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
Provencal Seafood Bisque
Turn Friday night into soup night by whipping up a smooth and creamy seafood bisque. Saffron adds a unique and earthy flavor that is irreplaceable. This dish is ready in 40 minutes and best served with a thick slice of crusty no-knead bread.
Baked Cod with Ritz Cracker Topping
Get the kids and let them help make dinner by crushing Ritz crackers. The crackers get mixed with melted butter and spread on top of the fish for a buttery, crunchy topping. Plus, this recipe has only five ingredients and is ready in 30 minutes.
Crispy Baked Fish Sandwiches with Avocado Mayo and Pickled Onion
Upgrade your typical fish sandwich with this baked version! I appreciate the tasty toppings such as pickled red onions and avocado mayo. The beauty of this recipe is that each person can make their sandwich the way they want, and any leftover mayo and onions can be repurposed on sandwiches or wraps throughout the week.
Instant Pot Ginger-Soy Tilapia
Fish is notoriously quick cooking, but this Instant Pot version gets a gold star for ease. The tilapia can go straight from the freezer and onto the steamer rack in the Instant Pot. Once the fish is cooked, use the sauté function to reduce the ginger and soy sauce to spoon over top. Serve with my kids’ favorite side: White rice and add sweet and spicy sriracha orange glazed green beans for an easy flavorful side to go along with it.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
Easy Baked Salmon
Instead of buying individual fillets, how about cooking a whole side of salmon coated in lemon garlic butter and herbs. Sounds like the perfect Friday night dinner to me! Be sure to check for pin bones before cooking or have the fishmonger remove them before bringing it home. Serve with a baguette and a crunchy salad such as napa cabbage picnic salad.
Crispy, cheesy, tuna melts, cooked to order and served with chips and a dill pickle, just like at the neighborhood diner. Use canned solid white tuna and plenty of butter for the outside of the bread. Assemble the sandwiches while the griddle or cast-iron skillet is heating up and you’ll be eating in no time at all.
Baked Tilapia with Sun-dried Tomato Parmesan Crust
I always secretly rejoice when a recipe doesn’t require mincing garlic or cutting herbs. The breading for this flavorful baked fish is pulsed in a food processor and is composed of pantry staples and garlic powder in lieu of fresh. Plus, I know everyone in the family will love the crispy coated fish.
Grilled Branzino with Rosemary Vinaigrette
Tired of overcooking fish fillets? Try cooking the whole fish instead! The fish stays juicy while still soaking up flavor. If you can’t find branzino, substitute whole Pacific rock cod or striped bass. I suggest flaking the meat off of the fish and serving on a platter.