A good Fish Seasoning is an easy way to make any fish delicious – fast! This spice rub mix is based on Old Bay Seasoning and is a combination of spices for fish that works really well together. I’ve used flathead fillets today, but it can be used for any fish suitable for pan frying.
A great fish seasoning spice mix
This might be “just” a simple recipe for a spice mix, but it’s excellent one to know because of its versatility and will serve you for years to come. It might even end up being THE seasoning for fish you end up using forever more!!!
This mix is based on the ingredients printed on Old Bay Seasoning tins. Old Bay Seasoning is a classic American spice blend that’s been around for more than 70 years. It was originally created for seasoning prawns (shrimp) and crab but has evolved over time into an all-purpose spice, used with everything from corn and chicken to potatoes and seafood.
Rather than being a direct copycat of Old Bay, I’ve tweaked this spice mix slightly to make it most ideal for fish. At least, to my tastes!
Seasoning spices for Fish
Here are the spices that go into this Fish Seasoning mix, based on Old Bay Seasoning as mentioned earlier. Plenty of substitutions listed below.
Here’s brief description on some of the less common spices, plus substitution options.
Celery salt (key ingredient) – This is the salt base for this spice mix for fish. It’s a flavoured salt made from mixing ground celery seeds with salt. Though it doesn’t taste or smell like anything special out of the bottle, it’s got sparkle! When part of a seasoning, it adds a subtle extra layer of savoury flavour.
In fact, celery salt is one of the “secret ingredients” in things like KFC seasoning and Old Bay. You’ve probably had it in more dishes than you realised when eating snack foods or at restaurants.
It’s common these days, easily found in the spice aisle of grocery stores. Substitute with ordinary salt, or make your own celery salt using celery leaves (see recipe notes);
Mace – This is a spice used in Old Bay Seasoning which is why it’s made its way into this recipe! Derived from the nutmeg tree, it tastes a bit like nutmeg and allspice. We only use a bit so it’s not a key ingredient (1/8 tsp out of 4 tsp of total Fish Seasoning). Substitute with nutmeg, allspice, or even pumpkin pie spice;
Mustard powder – Substitute with 1/4 tsp ginger powder;
Smoked paprika – Substitute with plain paprika;
Allspice – Substitute with mixed spice;
Clove – Substitute with nutmeg or mixed spice;
Ginger – Substitute with more mustard powder;
Cayenne – Substitute with pure chilli powder;
Ground cardamom – Substitute with equal parts cinnamon plus nutmeg.
Fish to use with Fish Seasoning
I’ve used flathead in this recipe. The beauty of this fish seasoning is that it’s a great all-rounder that will work with virtually any type of fish that is suitable for pan-frying. This includes:
White fish fillets – any;
Salmon, trout, swordfish;
Tuna (cooked rare, like this)
Skinless and boneless fish fillets work best here. The seasoning is nice on fish skin too, but I just think it works better on the flesh;
Pan-frying is the best cooking method. The direct heat cooks and rounds out the spices, while you get lovely caramelisation on the fish;
Oven-roasting won’t really work. This is because you can’t leave fillets in long enough to cook the spices through, ie. you end up with raw spice flavour which isn’t that pleasant;
Finish the fish in oven if you have thick fillets. If you have very thick fish fillets, say > 2.5cm / 1″ thick, it’s best to finish in the oven. So, firstly pan-fry to get lovely colour on the surface, then pop the pan into a 180°C / 350°F oven for 5 minutes or so until they are cooked through.
How to use this Fish Seasoning
The nice thing about this seasoning is that you can add a dab of butter into the pan at the end so it mixes in with the spices and you have yourself a lovely flavoured butter sauce to drizzle over your fish!
Make spice mix – Mix the ingredients in a small bowl. This will keep for a couple of months in an airtight container. The recipe makes 1 batch of seasoning which is enough to season fish for 4 people;
Sprinkle on fish fillets – Sprinkle on both sides of the fish, then lightly rub to spread with your fingers;
Pan fry – Pan fry fish in a little butter until golden on both sides; and
Rest fish – Rest fish for 3 minutes before serving. This is an essential step with any protein you cook to allow the juices in the flesh to redistribute and settle back into the flesh. This way, the juices end up in your mouth where they belong, instead of running out all over the plate when you cut into the fish!
Keeps for months!
This is a great spice mix to make up a big jar of and keep in the pantry on standby. It should keep for 2 to 3 months, provided the spices you use are fresh.
To use, allow 1 teaspoon per standard serving of fish which is 160 – 180g / 6oz per person.
I know I’m advertising this seasoning mix recipe as a spice rub for fish. But really it’s is a great all-rounder too that can be used for any cooked seafood dishes. Here are some ideas:
Shrimp / prawns – Sprinkle then pan fry in butter;
Lobster / crayfish – Sprinkle then broil / grill with a little melted butter or olive oil;
Fish kebabs – Cut fish pieces into cubes, sprinkle with seasoning then thread on to skewers. BBQ or cook on stove;
Sprinkle a little on any fish or seafood soup, stew or pie.
Love to know what you think if you give this a go! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Fish Seasoning – for any fish
Fish Seasoning (Note 1 for subs):
- 1 tsp celery salt (or 3/4 tsp salt]
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp mace
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- 1/8 tsp ginger powder
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or pure chilli powder)
- 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 750g / 1.5lb fish fillets , skinless, boneless (I used flathead, Note 2)
- 45g / 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 30g / 2 tbsp Extra unsalted butter – for drizzling (optional)
- Fish Seasoning: Place ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. It will keep for months in an airtight container. This quantity is enough for 750g / 1.5lb fish (serves 4 people)
Seasoning and cooking fish:
- Season fish: Sprinkle Seasoning on both sides of fish. Lightly rub to spread Seasoning.
- Cook fish in two batches: Melt 30g / 2tbsp butter in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Cook fish until golden on each side (see Cook times below). Remove to a plate.
- Cook remaining fish: Melt remaining butter in skillet and cook remaining fish.
- Rest: Rest fish for 3 minutes before serving with extra butter sauce (see next step).
- Extra butter sauce (optional): Add extra butter into pan over medium heat and melt until foaming. Drizzle over fish when serving.
- Rule of thumb: Two minutes each side for every 1.25 cm / 0.5″ thick fillet. So a 1.25cm / 0.5″ thick fillet will take 4 minutes in total.
- Fish should flake easily – this means it is cooked.
- Internal temperature of cooked fish:
- 55°C / 131°F for white fish – this gives a medium result, with no rare or raw flesh, and the fish at optimum juiciness
- 50°C / 122°F for salmon (medium-rare)
- Very thick fillets: For fish > 2.5cm / 1″ thick, pan sear until golden then finish in oven (keep in pan) at 180°C/350°F until it reaches cooked internal temp.
- Salmon and trout: OK to pan-fry fully (ie. without an oven to finish) as they have higher fat content. Cook for 3 minutes each side as a good rule of thumb (for the thicker parts).
1. Substitutes for spices:
- Celery salt – 3/4 tsp kosher / cooking salt, or make your own (Note 3)
- Mustard powder – 1/4 tsp ginger powder*
- Smoked paprika – plain paprika
- Mace – nutmeg or all spice
- All spice – Mixed spice
- Clove – nutmeg or mixed spice
- Ginger – more mustard powder*
- Cayenne – pure chilli powder
- Ground cardamom – equal parts cinnamon plus nutmeg
Easy fish dinners
Life of Dozer
Daily update from the Golden Retriever Boarder while I’m on the Tassie food trail!