A Guide to Making Seafood Dishes Your Little Ones Will Love! (Even If They Hate Fish)

Just like adults, some kids are fussy eaters and some can be quite adventurous with food. There is perhaps no better proof of this than the range of reactions when you present children with a new fish or seafood dish! Many parents want to encourage their kids to enjoy seafood. After all, it’s exceptionally healthy, and preparing food for the family is more fun when the kids will eat a wider range of dishes. Making seafood dishes that little ones will love (even if they’re sure they hate fish) can be a challenge. Start small, with maybe one seafood meal a week, and consider the kinds of foods your kids already like to eat. Try some smart substitutions, such replacing the usual chicken with fresh seafood in one of their favorite meals. With enough patience and some culinary creativity, even the fussiest kids can become fish aficionados.

Kid-Friendly Fish Sticks

Frozen fish sticks from a box are a classic kids’ meal, and often the first seafood item that youngsters learn to love. An easy step up to fresher, less processed seafood meals is to make your own fish sticks from scratch. It’s really quite straightforward, and the results are delicious and just as kid-friendly as the frozen kind. Use a firm white fish such as cod or pollock, cut into meaty strips. The classic breading method is to dredge the sticks first in flour, then in beaten egg, and finally in breadcrumbs. If you have time, put the breaded fish sticks in to the refrigerator to firm up a little before pan-frying or baking them.

If the kids enjoy the classic version, try some different types of fish, or “graduating” to whole fillets instead of sticks. You can also experiment with alternatives to breadcrumbs, such as crushed crackers, corn flakes, tortilla chips or nuts. Get the kids to help in the kitchen by crushing those ingredients, placed inside a plastic food bag, with a rolling pin or wooden mallet.

Make-Your-Own Tacos

If your children are already fans of tacos, you have a perfect opportunity to introduce fish and shrimp as an option. Virtually any type of seafood, grilled or pan-fried, breaded or simply seasoned, makes a delicious taco filling. For the first time making this meal, consider including seafood as just one of several options for the kids to try. Make a whole spread of taco fillings and toppings alongside warmed flour or corn tortillas—even better if they’re homemade tortillas—and let everyone make their own custom meal. For classic fish tacos, include some thinly shredded cabbage and lemon or lime wedges. Also offer salsas, sour cream, jalapenos, black beans, shredded cheese, diced avocado or any other taco toppings your family loves.

Twist on a Tuna Melt

Canned tuna is another classic kid-friendly introduction to fish and seafood, often mixed with mayonnaise on a sandwich. If your children already like a tuna sandwich, try elevating it to a dinner-worthy tuna melt by toasting the bread and melting a slice of cheese over the filling. Jazz up the tuna by mixing in some diced celery or green onion, and perhaps adding condiments like pickle relish or mustard, depending on your kids’ preferences. You can also up the protein content by substituting plain Greek yogurt for some of the mayo.

A tuna melt might be a “gateway” sandwich to other types of fish sandwich. In place of the usual tuna, try canned salmon or crab, or flaking leftover cooked salmon with a fork, or chopping up cold cooked shrimp.

Creamy Seafood Chowder

Mild, creamy and comforting, a classic clam chowder is a very child-friendly seafood dish. The popular soup is widely available in supermarkets and restaurants, but it’s also easy to prepare from scratch. Doing so also allows you to adjust the ingredients to suit your kids’ tastes and use any kinds of fish or seafood you prefer. A typical chowder recipe starts by sauteing diced onion and celery in a little oil or butter, adding some flour to make a roux, then stock and cream or milk plus diced potatoes, corn, and seafood of your choice. Some recipes include bacon, too. Bite-sized pieces of salmon or cod are delicious in a chowder, and of course you can go for clams as well. Let fresh seafood cook gently along with the potatoes as you simmer the soup. Canned or other cooked seafood just needs to warm through. Serve the chowder with oyster crackers on top, and perhaps some sourdough bread for dipping.

Fish and Seafood Sliders

There’s something really fun about sliders, and those mini burgers are usually a big hit with kids. It’s the little buns that make a slider a slider, so you can actually put any filling inside and (fingers crossed) there’s a good chance your children will enjoy them. Instead of little hamburgers, make sliders starring fish or seafood. There are many options here—fish sticks, breaded or grilled fish cut to slider-size, crab cakes, salmon cakes or patty-shaped croquettes made by blending cooked fish into mashed potato. Kids can choose their own condiments, of course, and a dose of ketchup might just be enough to turn seafood sliders into a regular dinnertime favorite. 

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

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