15 Affordable and Healthy Fish Recipes
PSA: Frozen and canned seafood is plenty delicious and won't break the bank! Get hooked with these quick and easy recipes.
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Above: Mediterranean Cod and Vegetable Sheet Pan Supper. Recipe by Rima Kleiner, R.D.; photo by Olga Ivanova.
As a parent and registered dietitian, I’m always looking for weekday meals that check the four boxes of fast, flavorful, healthy, and affordable. This might seem impossible when it comes to the goal to get more fish in our diets, but I have good news.
A recent study found that one of the most common reasons why people don’t eat more fish and other seafood is the perceived cost. As it turns out, frozen and canned fish and seafood are affordable, high-quality proteins. Plus, they stay good in the pantry and freezer, so you can stock up and always have the key ingredients for your seafood recipes on hand.
As for the fast and flavorful part, I’m happy to report that this collection of healthy fish recipes hits the mark (and mouth)!
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Healthy fish Q&A
Just how good is fish for you? Here’s a little more on that.
1. Why is fish healthy?
Fish and shellfish provide high-quality protein, meaning that, like other animal proteins and some plant proteins such as quinoa and soy, they include the nine essential amino acids we need to get from food. These amino acids, or protein building blocks, play an important role in many bodily functions such as building and maintaining muscle, supporting our immune systems, and helping with hormone production.
Seafood also provides other important nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy heart and brain, B vitamins for energy, vitamin D for bone health and immunity, and selenium for its antioxidant properties. Seafood also tends to be lower in calories than some other animal proteins.
2. How much fish should I eat?
According to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults — especially pregnant women — and children should aim to consume at least 2-3 servings of a variety of seafood each week to meet nutrient needs. For adults, one serving is about 4 ounces, or the size of the palm of your hand. For children, serving sizes vary by age but kids should also aim to enjoy seafood as their protein at two meals each week.
3. Is frozen fish as nutritious as fresh fish?
Yes, frozen fish is just as nutritious as its fresh counterparts. As it turns out, most seafood is flash-frozen at the time of catch, and you may find that many “fresh” fish fillets at the seafood counter were previously frozen and then thawed in the store. To help keep calories and saturated fat in check, stick with varieties of fish that are not breaded or frozen in sauce.
4. Should I avoid shrimp because of the cholesterol?
Recent research has debunked the belief that dietary cholesterol is the main contributor to high blood levels of cholesterol. While shrimp does contain about 200 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving, we now know that heart disease risk is influenced by a variety of factors, and shrimp in the diet actually increases HDL, or “good” cholesterol. So you can enjoy shrimp as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Tips for buying affordable fish
You’ve likely heard that advice to focus on shopping fresh foods from the perimeter of the supermarket. While well-intentioned, this advice leaves out many healthful foods in the center aisles, including affordable seafood options.
Some tips for buying budget-friendly seafood for your healthy fish recipes:
Stock up when fish at the seafood counter is on sale, but plan to use or freeze it within two days of purchasing.
Head to the freezer section of the grocery for a variety of seafood species, with everything from shrimp and scallops to fillets of salmon, cod, tilapia, and halibut.
Check out the canned food aisle for canned and pouched salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and crab. Bonus: these have a short cook time!
Healthy fish recipes for breakfast
Begin your day with good-for-you fish.
One of the most affordable seafood options, canned tuna isn’t just for lunch sandwiches. Try this hand-held omelette that cooks up in less than 15 minutes for a power-packed protein breakfast.
Start your day with this protein-rich shrimp and artichoke frittata. Thanks to the eggs and frozen shrimp, the dish packs an affordable protein punch. Plus, the artichokes provide healthy fiber.
Healthy fish recipes for lunch
Yes, we’re talking affordable fish recipes like tuna salad, but we’re casting a wider net, too.
Salad in a jar elevates the standard brown bag lunch. Using a mason jar keeps your salad dressing and protein separate from the greens, meaning you can prep this midday meal ahead of time.
When you’re in the mood for a traditional tuna salad, sandwich this combo between sliced whole-wheat bread, or serve scoops on lettuce leaves.
Frozen scallops cook up so easily that they may just become your lunchtime protein pick. Plus, scallops are a good source of the trace mineral selenium, which is crucial for a healthy thyroid and immune system. Pair with leafy greens and cherry tomatoes for a power-packed lunch.
You can make this sushi bowl that features heart-healthy canned salmon in less time than it takes to get take-out. And it’ll save you a pretty penny compared to restaurant sushi. Feel free to serve it alongside a cup of miso soup.
Healthy fish appetizers and snacks
Snacking on fish is guaranteed to satisfy.
This dip whips up in 15 minutes and pairs perfectly with raw vegetables. Not only is it rich in heart-healthy omega-3s and protein thanks to the salmon, but the yogurt provides extra protein plus some gut-friendly probiotics. Note that the recipe uses refrigerated smoked salmon, but canned would be delicious as well.
This snack makes for a perfect post-workout snack or light meal. Thanks to the avocados and canned tuna, this twist on a classic provides plenty of heart-healthy unsaturated fats that will keep hunger at bay.
Healthy fish dinner ideas
As promised, these affordable and healthy recipes for busy weeknight dinners also check the boxes for fast and flavorful.
Looking for healthy baked fish recipes? I combined some of my favorite ingredients in this original recipe that I created for Yummly, including cod fillets, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and kalamata olives that roast together with a little olive oil. A lemony tahini sauce makes the flavors pop.
Pasta is always a hit for family meals, and my one-pot, 30-minute recipe will make the cook and clean-up crew happy as well. You can go with canned or pouch salmon. Feel free to boost the dried chiles if you’d like more heat.
For a healthy meal that’s light and flavorful, try my recipe for salmon burgers zipped up with curry seasonings on a bed of greens in lieu of the usual buns. Canned salmon provides a generous serving of heart-healthy omega-3s.
This Mediterranean dish only looks gourmet. In about 20 minutes, you can have a protein-rich pasta on the table in a fraction of the cost of a fancy restaurant meal. Plus, tuna provides important nutrients like B vitamins for energy and omega-3s for healthy heart and brain.
The calories and fat in pre-breaded seafood and fried seafood add up quickly. This recipe for thawed frozen shrimp in the air fryer tastes indulgent, but it’s budget-friendly and healthy. Consider the tasty shrimp as a topping for your favorite salad recipe or in a bowl with brown rice, asparagus, and a citrus dressing.
Frozen salmon can be a real cost-saver when compared to salmon fillets at the fish counter. Simply thaw and set on a baking sheet with potatoes, asparagus, or other favorite vegetables for a complete, healthy dinner recipe that’s on the table in less than 45 minutes.
Skip the frozen breaded fish sticks and make your own using frozen cod and panko breadcrumbs. Cod is rich in heart-healthy omega-3s and protein, and cooks up quickly in this recipe. (Tip: You could also make the recipe with another white fish such as snapper or tilapia.) Slather with cilantro and salsa for yummy fish tacos, or pair with some leafy greens, slaw, and sweet potato fries for a healthy fish and chips dinner.
What fish is healthy to eat?
Any discussion about the healthiest fish to eat has to include salmon, one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Learn more — and get lots more salmon recipes — in these next articles.