This Year, Spare a Turkey and Stuff a Fish Instead

November 18, 2015

As many do, one year in college, I came home for the holidays a vegetarian—a pescatarian, to be precise. 

My mom, being the resourceful type, decided we should stuff a fish for the holiday. We both love stuffing—the goal of the meal for us, really—but decided we would miss the grand presentation of the turkey. 

Photo by James Ransom

A beautiful whole, delicious stuffed fish met those needs, and a holiday tradition was born in the Anthony household.

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We’re from Florida, where stuffed seafood is common in restaurants. It’s mostly flounder, but you see other stuffed fish and even stuffed crab and shrimp. My mom had stuffed a fish in the past: She likes how the stuffing infuses the fish with flavor and provides a consistent thickness for even cooking.

Photo by James Ransom

A single mother with a flair for the dramatic, my mom specializes in quick and easy dishes with great presentation. The whole stuffed fish is easy to make and looks great on a platter. You can do it with small fish for individual portions, medium fish for smaller gatherings, or large ones for parties.

Photo by James Ransom

For the holidays, my mom stuffs a large fish with oyster dressing. It travels well and it wows a crowd. Leftovers are a welcome treat.

Photo by James Ransom

Mom’s Stuffed Fish with Oyster Dressing

My mom prefers a mango or pink snapper, but any large fish will do.The fish should be fresh and whole. She has it gutted and scaled at the market.

She's not one for measuring—she mixes by eye—and the amounts depend on the size of the fish.

Mix 2 pints of shucked oysters (she buys them shucked at the fish market), chopped with cubed whole grain bread (sometimes stale, sometimes toasted, sometimes fresh), sautéed onion and garlic, chopped parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper, olive oil, and the liquor from the oysters for moisture.

Line the pan with tinfoil or parchment, to prevent the fish from sticking and to make it easier to slide it on to a platter. Coat the inside and outside of the fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stuff the fish with an even thickness of stuffing (2 to 3 inches thick), then bake at 350° F until the fish is flaky. Let it sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Photo by James Ransom

Would you consider replacing stuffed turkey with stuffed fish on Thanksgiving? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Alexis Anthony

Written by: Alexis Anthony

Treasure hunter and sneaky snacker.


Ali S. November 18, 2015
The little lemon slice on the eye.
Sarah J. November 18, 2015
I think it gives him some dignity.
Zelda November 18, 2015
We don't celebrate Thnksgiving, but we love to eat seafood at Christmas. Much nicer than turkey.