Great Ways to Use Extra Fish and Seafood in New Dishes


Fish and seafood are so delectable that you often cook too much or over order your favorite variety at a restaurant. It’s a shame to waste extra fish and seafood and, unfortunately, most kinds do not reheat well as they become mushy, tough, or have coatings that make them unappetizing when you try to revitalize them.

You can easily transform extra fish and seafood into simple to elegant new dishes with a few uncomplicated techniques and incorporating the leftovers with other tasty ingredients. Your guests will be impressed with your imaginative dishes…and need never know the fish and seafood in the recipes are making encore presentations.

White Fish

Both flaky and lean white fish are easily recycled into new recipes. Flaky varieties such as tilapia, trout, whiting, flounder, and red snapper make great fillings for fish tacos or seafood enchiladas when lightly marinated in cumin, lime juice, and minimal amounts of salt and pepper. If they have breading on them, chill the fish and carefully remove the breading before marinating so the flavors can infuse the fish. These types can also be whipped into mousses for elegant appetizers or flaked and used to convert hearty green salads into dinner or lunch entrees. Firm, lean white fish leftovers from Pacific cod, halibut, sole, haddock, striped bass, sand dabs, catfish and swordfish are delicious in pasta salads and make elegant fish soups and chowders. Mix both types of white fish with herbs, spices, breadcrumbs, and eggs to make fish patties or cakes that can be pan-fried or baked to a golden brown and served with cocktail or tartar sauce on the side. Instead of conventional chicken or turkey pot pie, make a rich filling with extra fish mixed with vegetables, fold into a béchamel or Mornay sauce, and bake in a prebaked pie shell with a top crust for a sumptuous and satisfying fish pie. For a simpler version, leave the top crust off and bake until set for a fish quiche.

Rich, Oily Fish

Salmon is the most popular dark, oil-rich fish, a category that also includes mackerel, gray mullet, herring, and fresh sardines. Lighter colored and more mildly flavored oily fish like yellow fin tuna, pompano, and mahi-mahi and oil-rich white fish such as sea bass, sturgeon, and sea bass also make great ingredients when recycled into new dishes. Conventionally cooked without heavy coatings or breading, these types get nicely firm when refrigerated and are easy to dice for salads or inclusion in pies and quiches. Salmon is particularly meaty and leftover chunks turn simple fettuccine Alfredo into an elegant main course. These oily, bold flavored fish types make good sandwich ingredients when layered with lettuce and tomatoes on crunchy rolls or focaccia, or make a great base for a simple breakfast hash sautéed with diced red or yellow potatoes and sweet Vidalia or WallaWalla onions. Convert a simple baked potato into a hearty meal by mixing the potato flesh with chunks of leftover rich fish tossed with sour cream and chopped chives. Make an elegant pate, cracker spread, or mousse by mixing extra fish with cream, parsley, and minced onion in a food processor or blender until smooth and chilling before serving. Add a special dish to your next grilling menu by finely chopping leftover fish, binding it with breadcrumbs and eggs, and forming the mixture into burgers that gain extra flavor and texture from cooking over open flames.


Chilled leftover shellfish is scrumptious eaten out of hand as an extravagant snack but also dresses up simple dishes such as omelets and green salads. Shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, mussels, clams, and oysters are all wonderful soup ingredients left whole or processed into pastes and used as thickeners for seafood bisques and chowders. Finely chopped and mixed with hard cooked eggs, mayonnaise, a pinch of cayenne, and a spoonful of relish, extra shellfish makes hearty sandwich fillings. Shrimp, crab, or lobster mousse served in stem glasses is an impressive first course or luxurious hors d’oeuvre for an upscale dinner party. Encase leftover shellfish in a puff pastry shell and top with a rich cream sauce for a special brunch dish.

Tips and Hints

It’s easy to use extra fish and shellfish if you follow a few guidelines on storage and preparation.

  • Immediately refrigerate any leftovers. Fish and shellfish quickly grow bacteria whether fresh or cooked.
  • For the best taste and texture, use extra fish and shellfish within two days of original preparation.
  • Avoid using breaded fish or shellfish in recycled dishes as the breading is often greasy and will ruin the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • When using leftover shellfish in hot dishes, add it right before serving, just until it is warmed through. Recooking shellfish makes it tough and chewy.
  • Remove extra shellfish from its shell before refrigerating for future use. Leaving it in the shell often imparts it with strong and unsavory flavors.
  • To get the cleanest cuts, thoroughly chill extra fish before slicing, dicing, or mincing.
  • Do not freeze leftover fish or shellfish as the ice crystals will make it deteriorate and adversely affect its taste and texture.

Use BigOven's menu planner to make sure you include fish and shellfish in your recipes to get enough vital nutrients in you and your family's diet. Check local markets throughout the year to take advantage of deals on seasonal fresh fish and seafood. Ask the fishmonger for new ideas on seasonings and preparation and share your recipes with other BigOven subscribers.