Some people choose to avoid eating fish for ethical, health, ecological, or religious reasons, and others may be allergic to fish or seafood. But some people may want to use a substitute to enjoy a favorite fish dish or recipe. Alternatives such as seaweed, tofu, and banana blossom make convincing fish replacements and have additional health benefits.
With the rise in plant-based foods and more consumer awareness about the ecological impact of fishing, many manufacturers are offering a wide variety of fish alternatives. These include plant-based fish sticks, fishcakes, and even scampi and shrimp.
Brands use various ingredients such as wheat gluten, soy, or jackfruit to make these products. They may also use artificial flavorings or natural foods such as seaweed to replicate a fish-like taste.
Additionally, some individuals may have an allergy to fish or have health concerns about eating fish due to the presence of mercury or plastics in some seafood. Some people may also avoid some types of fish or seafood for religious reasons.
People who want to avoid eating fish can buy ready-made alternatives or try making fish dishes using substitutes at home.
Below is a list of 10 fish substitutes and ways someone can use them to replicate some popular fish dishes.
Tofu fish (‘tofish’)
Tofu can emulate fish well because of its white color. When food outlets use tofu in place of fish, they sometimes refer to it as tofish.
Battered tofish with “chips” (fries) is a popular vegan alternative to the popular fast food staple of fish and chips in the United Kingdom.
To make battered tofish, a person should wrap a nori (seaweed) sheet around a fish-sized piece of firm tofu and then coat this in batter before frying. They can make the batter from cornstarch and seltzer water or beer. To accompany this recipe, they can serve a traditional or vegan tartar sauce.
Tofu is a good source of protein and calcium for people eating a plant-based diet.
Fried chips (fries) contain saturated fat, which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people limit to 10% of their daily calories. So people should see this meal as an occasional treat rather than a staple.
A recipe for tofish and chips is here.
Smoked carrot salmon
Carrots may seem an unusual choice as a salmon substitute, but if marinated in flavorings, they make an excellent fish alternative.
People can use carrot salmon to top bagels spread with vegan cream cheese (or dairy cream cheese if not strictly plant-based), or for sushi.
The following is a recipe for smoked carrot salmon that serves four:
- 4 peeled carrots
- 2 chopped nori sheets
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp tamari
- a few drops of liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Use a peeler or mandolin to slice four carrots into long, thin strips.
- Steam the carrot slices for 5 minutes until tender.
- Add all the ingredients except the liquid smoke and olive oil to a container with the carrot strips and toss lightly to coat.
- Leave in the refrigerator overnight to marinate.
- Before serving, remove the strips from the marinade and lightly coat in the oil and liquid smoke.
- Add to cream cheese bagels or use in sushi.
Banana blossom fish
Banana blossom is a fleshy flower that grows on the banana plant.
It has recently become a popular fish alternative for people eating a plant-based diet. Its neutral flavor makes it ideal for adding seaweed or other fish substitute flavorings.
Additionally, banana blossom’s chunky and flaky texture makes an excellent alternative to battered cod or fish fillet.
People can buy banana blossom in cans to make fish recipes or eat it at vegan food outlets and restaurants.
Many grocery stores sell plant-based tuna substitutes that people can use for tuna mayonnaise sandwich fillings or tuna salads.
To make a tuna substitute, a person can use jackfruit as it has a similar flaky texture. People can buy jackfruit in cans, and only need to separate it with a fork before marinating or cooking.
Then, they can flavor the jackfruit with nori or soy sauce to give it a fishy taste, and add vegan mayonnaise if they wish to make a tuna mayonnaise sandwich filling.
Seitan scampi, prawns, and shrimp
Plant-based food brands often sell alternatives for seafood, but people can also make their own.
Seitan is vital wheat gluten that has a meaty texture. People can buy vital wheat gluten as a powder online or in health food stores. They will need to add flavorings and liquid to the powder before shaping it into fish or seafood and cooking.
Additionally, people may want to add a natural food coloring to the mixture to emulate the color of prawns or shrimp.
There are various recipes for seitan seafood online. For example, here is a recipe for vegan shrimp.
Vegan fish sticks and fillets
Manufacturers use wheat gluten, soy, or mycoprotein to make popular vegan fish fillets and fish sticks.
To make a homemade version, a person can use firm tofu flavored with nori sheets and lemon juice and coat the fish sticks or fillets in breadcrumbs.
Garbanzo bean fish-less cakes
Mashed garbanzo beans can be a good substitute for fish cakes. People can mix the beans with mashed potato and add parsley, nori, and scallions before shaping them into a cake. Next, they can coat the cakes in panko breadcrumbs before baking them in the oven.
Garbanzo beans are a good source of protein and fiber and contain essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Someone can find various plant-based fish cake recipes online that use different flavorings and ingredients. To serve, a person can add a leafy green salad and some vegan mayonnaise.
Mushroom fish pie
Mushrooms are a great fish substitute due to their protein-rich, meaty texture and rich flavor. Mushrooms are also a healthy addition to a person’s diet, containing fiber and B vitamins.
A person can make a fish pie using oyster mushrooms, tofu, and vegetables in a white sauce. Adding some chopped fresh parsley provides extra vitamin C.
They can top the pie filling with creamy mashed potato and grated dairy-free cheese.
Teriyaki chicken sushi rolls
Some people may be allergic to fish or have health concerns about eating fish due to the presence of mercury or plastics in some fish and seafood.
People can still enjoy sushi dishes packed with protein and vitamin B12 without the need to consume fish. They can substitute fish for chicken in teriyaki chicken sushi rolls.
If a person follows a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet, they can substitute chicken for tofu, tempeh, or imitation chicken in this recipe.
Fish sauce and flavorings
To replicate a fish-like flavor, people can use various ingredients in their recipes.
For example, soy sauce contains amino acids that give an umami-like flavor useful for fish recipes.
Liquid aminos also have a similar taste. For people eating a gluten-free diet, tamari is a good alternative.
Another rich umami ingredient is mushrooms or mushroom sauce.
Seaweed adds a fish-like flavor to plant-based dishes, and people can use nori, wakame, kombu, dulse, and other types. Additionally, seaweed is a good source of iodine and contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
There is no need for people who do not eat fish to miss out on their favorite fish and seafood dishes. Manufacturers sell a wide range of fish alternatives, and people can use plant-based ingredients to make recipes.
Tofu, banana blossom, and jackfruit are popular substitutes for fish due to their texture. In addition, seaweed, soy sauce, and mushrooms can help to give an authentic taste.
Plant-based fish alternatives can provide essential nutrients such as protein and minerals to someone eating a vegan or plant-based diet.
In some dishes, such as sushi, a person can substitute fish for other animal or plant-based protein sources such as chicken, tofu, or tempeh.
To supplement some of the foods on this list that are lower in protein, such as carrots, banana blossoms, jackfruit, and mushrooms, a person may wish to serve them alongside more protein-rich foods such as legumes, pulses, or a protein shake.
For beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that people might usually obtain from fish, a person may wish to take an algae-based supplement.