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Not everyone in my family is a huge fan of fish, but I am, and so are my parents and brother. So, fish gets served quite often, but fish is one of those daunting ingredients as we are scared of overcooking, undercooking, and seasoning it incorrectly. This is why I have written this article on the best herbs and spices for fish.
I have come up with a list of 15 herbs and spices that complement fish well. And you will most likely already have these ingredients in your spice rack or pantry. So, need for an extra visit to the grocery store.
And for me, that’s a huge win!
The Best Herbs and Spices for Fish
I will be going over each herb and spice and why they work great with fish and most other seafood!
1. Black Pepper
Black pepper is an excellent spice fish. It adds a nice touch to your dish whether you bake it, grill, or pan-fry it.
Here are some reasons why you should try black pepper on fish:
- Adds a mild heat: Black pepper has a slightly spicy, warming flavor that can enhance the natural taste of fish without overpowering it. This also works well for kids as it won’t be too hot.
- Complements other flavors: Black pepper has a complex flavor profile that can complement other herbs and spices commonly used with fish, such as lemon, garlic, and dill. Making it a great little spice buddy!
- Improves digestion: Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which has been shown to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body. This can be especially helpful when eating fatty fish, which can be harder to digest. So, awesome flavor and is good for the tummy!
Try this recipe out: Asian Black Pepper Basa Fish Recipe
This herb comes in three different categories, which include French, Mexican, and Russian. Among these, French and Russian tarragon is widely used in cooking.
French tarragon comes in light, delicate, and slightly sweet flavors, whereas Russian tarragon is enriched with relatively intense and spicy flavors. To get the delicious experience, add some tarragon to your chowders, fish pies, or baked fish fillets.
Try This Recipe Out: Baked Fish with Tarragon
3. Smoked Paprika
I am a smoked paprika fan. I pretty much put it on everything because it compliments so many dishes and ingredients. It is truly a versatile spice.
Compared to regular paprika, these peppers are smoke-dried and give excellent depth to your fish. This earthy spice works well with grilled, pan-fried, and baked fish making your dish smoky and flavorful.
Try This Recipe Out: Smoked Paprika Fish with Carrots
4. Curry Powder
Curry powder is a perfect blend of sweet and savory spices. It provides bright, earthy, and zesty flavors when paired with fish.
To give a boost to your fish, either marinate or make fish curry with some sprinkled curry powder to get the taste of some incredible flavors. My personal favorite is a coconut milk based fish curry. Here are some more reasons to give it a try:
- Adds a very complex, spicy flavor: Curry powder is a blend of various spices, including turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili powder, which can adds complexity and spicy flavor to fish dishes that a single spice or herb can’t give.
- Complements other flavors: Curry powder can pair well with other seasonings commonly used in Asian and Indian fish dishes, such as ginger, garlic, and coconut milk, enhancing their flavors and creating a delicious balance of total yumminess.
- Adds color: This may seem like a weird benefit but remember we eat with our eyes before our mouths! Curry powder contains turmeric, which gives it a bright yellow color that can add visual appeal to fish dishes, making them look more appetizing.
Try This Recipe: A Quick and Easy Fish Curry in Just 30 Minutes
As an Italian, I have a love for parsley. It’s a wonderful herbaceous herb that compliments fish so well.
Plus, parsley (fresh and dried) is easy to find at nearly any grocery store, but it is also incredibly versatile. This herb contains a unique flavor that complements the delicate taste of fish without overpowering it and it’s plays nice with a lot of other herbs and spices.
Try This Recipe: Parsley and Lemon Baked Fish Fillets
Garlic is hands down a winner for fish. Here is a list of why I recommend it:
- Enhances flavor: Garlic has a strong and distinct flavor that can enhance the taste of fish dishes, adding richness and complexity. All YUM factors!
- Complements other flavors: Garlic can pair well with other herbs and seasonings that are commonly used in fish dishes, such as lemon, parsley, and thyme, enhancing their flavors and creating a delicious balance of taste. And it’s important to note that garlic can be paired with many different forms of cuisine as it’s used all over the world.
- Versatile: Garlic can be used in various fish dishes, including grilled, baked, or sautéed fish, as well as fish stews and soups. Pretty much anywhere.
- Easy to use: Garlic is easy to prepare and use in fish dishes. It can be minced, sliced, crushed, or roasted, depending on the desired flavor and texture. And if you don’t have fresh garlic on hand then garlic powder can step right on in!
- Widely available: Garlic is a commonly used herb that can be found in most grocery stores, making it an easily accessible and affordable ingredient for fish and tons of other dishes!
Try This Recipe: Simple Sauteed Fish with Garlic
Oregano is an excellent herb for fish because it provides a bold and distinct flavor to dishes. It can be used as a seasoning, mixed into sauces, and added to marinades that maximize the flavor of fish.
Additionally, oregano has a unique aroma that I think is the bomb. I will say oregano is strong so start with little and add to taste. Unless you are like me and love extra oregano. You can also substitute oregano with marjoram if you don’t have any on hand.
Try This Recipe: Grilled Fish with Oregano Sauce – Pesce al Salmoriglio
Chives are an excellent herb for fish because they provide a mild onion flavor minus the onions! If that’s an issue for you or your family/guests.
Most commonly chives are used in sauces, compound butter, and marinades for fish. You can use either fresh or dried chives, and they are quite versatile and complement many other fish-friendly ingredients like lemon!
Try This Recipe: Broiled Cod with Chive Butter
9. Cayenne Pepper
If you like heat, then this one is for you! Cayenne pepper packs a punch and will bring depth and heat to your fish dish. It also pairs well with other herbs and spices like garlic, and parsley.
If you like mild heat, then use sparingly on your fish. Fish is a very delicate protein, and you want to side on the light side and build up the flavors as you taste and cook.
Try This Recipe: Blackened Tilapia
10. Bay Leaves
You may be thinking, “Bay leaves?? really?” and that’s a BIG yes, if you want to make a fish soup or chowder! Reasons to try bay leaves out are:
- Adds a unique flavor: Bay leaves have a unique flavor that adds depth and complexity to fish dishes. The flavor is slightly sweet and earthy, with a subtle bitterness that can help to balance out the richness of fish.
- Enhances the aroma: Bay leaves, when cooking in soups, stews, and chowders, release a really pleasant (aka yummy) smell that can help to enhance the overall aroma of fish dishes. Nothing like smelling a bowl of chowder and thinking, “OMG, this smells so YUMMY!”
Try This Recipe: Creamy New England Fish Chowder Recipe
I have grown dill off an on in my hydroponic garden. It has such a fresh and bright flavor. And dill is a great herb to use for fish as it provides that unique yet subtle, refreshing, and earthy flavor that pairs wonderfully with fish.
This is why we see so many fish and dill recipes. They are for sure BFFs!
Dill can be used to season whole fillets or added chopped into sauces to enhance the dish. To get the most out of dill, it can be combined with other herbs, such as parsley and chives, as well as garlic, lemon juice, and butter for a more intense flavor.
Try This Recipe: Creamy Dill Sauce for Salmon or Trout
When I think ginger and fish I’m heading into the beautiful world of Asian cuisine. Here are some reasons why ginger is a good spice to use for fish and how to use it:
- Adds a zesty flavor: Ginger has a slightly sweet and spicy taste that can add a unique and refreshing flavor to fish dishes.
- Complements other flavors: Ginger can pair well with other seasonings commonly used in fish dishes, such as soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic, enhancing their flavors and creating a delicious balance of taste.
- Versatile: Ginger can be used in a variety of fish dishes, including grilled, baked, or sautéed fish, as well as fish soups and curries.
- Easy to use: Ginger can be easily grated or minced and added to fish dishes, either during the cooking process or as a garnish. And if you are in a pinch you can opt for ginger powder!
- Infuses flavor: Ginger is a strong spice and it can infuse its flavor into the fish during the cooking process, creating a delicious and fragrant dish. You can for sure smell ginger on a plate. YUM!
Try This Recipe: Ginger Soy Fish
When I think cilantro and fish, my mind goes to fish tacos! But the reality is that cilantro can be used in fish in a number of ways. Cilantro brings a bright, fresh flavor to your seafood dishes. It can be used as a garnish, added to sauces, or chopped into marinades.
The leaves of cilantro are best added right at the end of cooking to make sure that their delicate flavor isn’t overpowered. To get the most out of cilantro, try combining it with other herbs, such as parsley and chives, as well as garlic, lemon juice, and butter for an even more intense flavor.
Try This Recipe: Mexican Baked White Fish in Cilantro Sauce
Sage is a popular herb for fish and it can add a warm and earthy flavor. Here are some of my top 2 reasons why sage is a good herb to use:
- Adds a unique flavor: Sage has a slightly bitter and warm flavor that can add a unique and distinct taste to fish dishes. It’s a flavor that makes you keep going back for more.
- Complements other flavors: Sage can pair well with other seasonings commonly used in fish dishes, such as lemon, garlic, and thyme, enhancing their flavors and creating a well-rounded taste.
Try This Recipe: Crispy Fish with Sage Butter Sauce
Basil is another good herb to use for fish because it has a fresh and slightly sweet flavor that complements the delicate flavor of fish. It’s bright, and herbaceous as well. And depending on what type you use, you can even have a nice anise or licorice flavor like with Thai basil.
Basil also pairs well with a variety of other ingredients commonly used in fish dishes, such as garlic, lemon, and olive oil. It can be used in a variety of preparations, such as chopped fresh on top of a finished dish or blended into a marinade or sauce like pesto!
In addition to its flavor, basil has a natural affinity with fish due to its traditional use in Mediterranean cuisine, where fish is quite a popular food.
Try This Recipe: Baked Cod with Pesto
My Final Thoughts on Herbs and Spices for Fish
It’s satisfying to know that you can use a wide variety of herbs and spices for fish dishes. And if you ever feel overwhelmed when it comes to what seasonings you should use for your seafood creations, remember these 15 spices and herbs, and you will be on your way to making a fantastic meal. Happy Cooking!