Thanksgiving fish recipes

Thanksgiving is just around the corner (we can’t believe it either!), and you are probably starting to plan your menu or getting your travel plans in order. If you haven’t started shopping or bought a turkey yet, make this Thanksgiving the year you shake things up a bit. Instead of serving turkey, how about you make fish the main course?

To help you decide, we’re sharing our favorite reasons why you should have fish for Thanksgiving and even including a great recipe that all your guests will adore!

Serving Fish at Thanksgiving is Tradition

If you bring up having fish or seafood for Thanksgiving dinner, you may be faced with some shock and push-back. After all, what about tradition? That’s because when you think of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you’re probably picturing roast turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie.

While that’s definitely delicious and has been a fixture on tables for decades or longer, the first Thanksgiving didn’t have turkey, potatoes, stuffing, or pie of any kind. Instead, there were turnips, cabbage, squash, the gift of five deer from the Wampanoag people, and…fish or shellfish, including clams and lobster. So, really, fish is one of the most traditional items that could grace your Thanksgiving table!

Fish Is Easier to Cook

Cooking a turkey is not a small task that requires a week of planning and action. First, you have to time when to thaw a 25-pound bird so you it’s thawed by the day before Thanksgiving. Then, you have to figure out when to put the turkey in the oven so it will be cooked but not dry. Should you start at a high heat and bring it down, or should you cook slowly overnight?

Baking or grilling fish is much more straightforward! Fish thaws quickly if it’s frozen (though our Calabash seafood restaurant is partial to using fresh fish!) and can be prepared and baked or grilled in an hour or less, depending on the recipe and how many people you’re serving.  

Fish Is a Healthier Option than Turkey

Skinless turkey breast is a lean white meat that’s a great source of protein, and while it’s healthy, many people find it a bit bland or dry. However, roasting it with the skin, stuffing it with seasoned bread, and covering it with gravy may taste good,  the high levels of sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol can be dangerously unhealthy. 

If you have people at your Thanksgiving dinner on a restricted or limited diet, serving fish is a way to create a delicious meal that is a lighter, more heart-healthy option. Many types of fish, including salmon and cod are loaded with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

An added bonus – many of the side dishes that complement fish – roasted potatoes, grilled veggies, and light sauces, are much better for your health than the sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing, and mashed potatoes that accompany turkey while still being delicious.

A Fish Recipe Good Enough for Thanksgiving

If you want a fish recipe that will make a grand presentation at your holiday feast, we love this surprisingly simple, flavorful option from Martha Stewart!

Whole Roasted Salmon with Orange Butter Glaze


  • 1 whole salmon – Approximately 8 pounds, scaled and cleaned with the head and tail on
  • 4 leeks, trimmed of stems and halved lengthwise
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 6 sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your leeks in half lengthwise and lay them on the bottom of a 12 x 18 jelly roll pan or half-sheet pan of a similar size.
  2. Cut away the peel, pith (the white stuff under the peel), and outer membranes from two of your oranges, then slice them into 1/4-inch round slices.
  3. Rinse salmon under cold water, clean out the cavity, and pat it dry with a paper towel. Cut 3 shallow slits through salmon’s skin, about 3 inches apart, on each side of fish. Season salmon cavity with salt and pepper.
  4. Stuff the cavity with your fresh cilantro, sliced oranges, and sliced onion. Lay a piece of cheesecloth over the leeks in your pan, then lay the salmon on the cheesecloth. 
  5. Juice the remaining two oranges into a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat, then melt the butter into the juice. Brush the orange-butter mixture over the salmon, then place the pan into the preheated oven. 
  6. Baste the salmon every 10 minutes with the orange-butter mixture until the skin is crispy and the meat is pink and firm – about an hour. Use foil to cover the fish’s head or tail if they start getting too dark.
  7. When the salmon is done, remove the pan from the oven and pour wine into the pan to loosen the salmon if it has stuck. This also helps deglaze the pan to get the best flavors. 
  8. Lift the fish, using the cheesecloth, onto a serving platter. Discard the cheesecloth, and serve.

Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Visit NC Seafood Before or After Thanksgiving!

We want your Thanksgiving holiday to be a success, no matter what you serve! If you have family visiting the Raleigh area over the holiday weekend, bring them by the Farmer’s Market and stop by our restaurant for lunch or dinner. Check out our menu and order online for take-out or stop by to dine in!