Whether you’re vegan or vegetarian, looking for new recipe ideas or have watched Seaspiracy over the weekend and suddenly gone off your seafood, these plant-based alternatives to fish are packed full of protein and omega-3…
More and more of us have been adopting a vegetarian or entirely plant-based lifestyle. Whether it’s out of concern for the planet or for their own health, you’d now be sorely tested to swing a hemp tote bag in a shop without hitting some oat milk.
More recently, you might have heard of friends ruling out fish after watching the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. If you’ve already seen the film – which uncovers shocking truths about the commercial fishing industry – you might have been deeply moved by the stark picture it paints of the future of our oceans.
Alternatively, you might feel the film doesn’t actually tell the full story, and omits particular facts and the efforts being made by smaller companies to make seafood sourcing truly sustainable.
Whichever way you’re looking at it, its impact on global audiences has already been unavoidable. And if you’ve found yourself wondering what alternatives to fish might be out there, you’re not alone.
Fish is considered a key source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein in many people’s diets, so if you’re going to reduce your seafood intake then you need to think a little harder about your nutrition. We asked nutritionists Alice Godfrey and GetMeFit’s Tanya Clarke for some high-protein, omega-3 packed recipes.
“If you want to go plant-based,” says Alice, “I’d suggest looking at the following foods for some high-plant protein:
- Nut butter
- Green peas
- Protein powder
“I recommend eating a variety of these as only soy products and quinoa are ‘complete’ proteins like animal products are,” says Alice. “Complete meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids. This doesn’t mean you need to eat soy and quinoa, as long as you’re having a variety of other plant-based proteins.”
If you’re looking for something that’s more of a meat substitute, tofu and tempeh are your friends. “With its very mild, flavourless profile,” says Tanya, “tofu could easily replace mild flavoured white fish. It’s a good source of protein, fibre, iron and potassium.
The lesser-known tempeh, meanwhile, is a nutritious fermented soy product with nutty, more “meaty” flavour. “It’s a good replacement for stronger flavoured fish such as tuna and sea bass,” Tanya adds. “It’s also a good source of protein, iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium, as well as low in carbs and sodium, and rich in prebiotics.”
Here are their four recipes to inspire you along the way on your plant-based journey.
1. For breakfast: Alice’s “life-changing” loaf bread
Packed full of nuts and seeds, including flax seed (for those omega-3 fats), this wonderful loaf is great for breakfast or with lunch. Deliciously dense and high in fibre, it’s filling that you only need a slice at a time.
135g sunflower seeds
90g flax seeds
65g hazelnuts or almonds
145g rolled oats (use gluten-free if required)
2 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp psyllium seed husks (3 tbsp if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (add 1⁄2 tsp if using coarse salt)
1 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp melted coconut oil or ghee
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well.
Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup.
Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and the dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable).
Put mixture into a lined loaf pan, smooth out the top with the back of a spoon and let it sit out on the counter for at least two hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
Preheat oven to 175°C.
Bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack.
Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
It keeps for up to five days in a tightly sealed container, and freezes well too. Slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!
2. For lunch: Lentil meatballs
These lentil meatballs are so versatile, they’re ideal for making a batch of and using in different ways throughout the week. Our favourite is to serve with a side of veggies or on top of pasta.
What’s more, lentils have around nine grams of protein per 1/2 cup. As a comparison to the lentils, a sea bass fillet contains about 24g protein.
1/2 cup dry green lentils
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1 tbsp ground flax seed
3 tbsps water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 tsp sea salt
For a little more flavour, add minced garlic with the shallot, and you can also add tomato paste and/or tamari.
Add lentils and broth to a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened and cooked through. Drain any excess liquid and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 204ºC and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, add the ground flax seeds and water and let sit for a few minutes to thicken slightly.
In a food processor, add the lentils, shallot, flax mixture, parsley, nutritional yeast, almonds, and salt. Pulse until combined and the dough starts to hold together.
Using slightly damp hands, roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls. Place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Enjoy!
One serving is approximately three balls. These will keep in the fridge for up to seven days, or pop them in the freezer for up to two months.
3. For dinner: Spinach and lentil curry
This flavoursome and filling curry is so easy to make and great at any time of year. We love to scoop up a big portion of this to eat all on its own while curled up on the sofa. Alternatively, you can serve it with quinoa, couscous or potatoes instead.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large, chopped yellow onion
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsps curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup canned coconut milk
2 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup chopped coriander
6 cups baby spinach
1 cup dry jasmine rice
2 tsps maple syrup
Heat oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the pot, stirring and sautéing for 3 to 5 minutes until the onions begin to soften.
Stir in all of the curry powder, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes and continue to cook for a minute until the spices become fragrant.
Add the lime juice, vegetable stock, coconut milk, lentils and coriander and stir to combine. Wilt in the spinach 2 cups at a time.
Bring the curry to a gentle boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your rice according to the instructions on the package.
When the curry has thickened slightly, stir in the maple syrup. If it gets too thick, add extra vegetable broth to thin in out.
Divide the cooked rice onto plates and top it with the curry. Enjoy!
Keep this curry covered in the fridge for up for four days and in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months.
4. For dinner: Singapore noodles with crispy tofu
For a dinner alternative that feels a little more “meaty,” you can’t go wrong with the solid combination of noodles, veggies and crispy friend tofu of tempeh.
450 grams tofu
1/4 cup tamari
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsps curry powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsps sesame seeds
2 tbsps coconut oil
1 cup dry brown rice vermicelli noodles
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 minced garlic gloves
4 cups coleslaw mix
4 stalks spring onion
Pat the tofu dry with paper towels or a clean tea towel. Wrap it in a dry towel or paper towels and place it between two cutting boards or plates. Place a weight (such as a pot of water or heavy books) on top to press the tofu. Leave it for about 30 minutes to remove moisture.
While the tofu is being pressed, make the stir fry sauce by combining the tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar and curry powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
Once the tofu has finished being pressed, pat it dry again and cut it into small cubes. Sprinkle with sea salt and sesame seeds.
Melt half the coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the tofu cubes, cooking until golden brown and crispy on all sides.
While the tofu is cooking, place the rice noodles in a bowl and bring a full kettle of water to a boil. Pour hot kettle water over the noodles and let stand for about 5 minutes, then drain.
Remove the tofu from the pan. Add the rest of the coconut oil and the ginger, garlic and coleslaw mix. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the cooked rice noodles, stir fry sauce, and crispy tofu cubes back to the pan. Toss the contents of the skillet together until everything is combined and evenly coated with sauce. Remove from heat and sprinkle the green onions over top. Enjoy
Want more simple and nutritious recipes? Make sure you check out the rest of our meal ideas in the SWTC library.