Meat-Free Fridays: Lean Lenten Fish Recipes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each Friday during Lent, the dailySpark will feature a different non-meat main dish. You'll find plenty of dishes to swap for your meaty favorites, all with far less fat, fewer calories and more nutrients than a fried fish sandwich, a ubiquitous choice during Lent.

Today marks the first Friday of Lent, meaning many Christians are abstaining from eating meat. Through the years, meat-free Fridays have become associated with fish fries and batter-dipped sandwiches at fast-food restaurants. Often battered, fried, and dunked in mayo-based sauces, fish is a versatile and healthy main dish!

Abstaining from meat for several meals a week, usually for health, environmental or personal reasons, is a growing trend. "Flexitarianism," as it's called, is a healthy way to eat, according to experts.

If you observe meat-free Fridays during Lent, use this as a time to experiment a bit with your menus. Instead of reaching for the same-old fried fish, choose another lean protein from under the sea.

Most fish is naturally quite low in fat, and many varieties (especially those that live in dark, cold waters) are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that can help improve heart health, lower cholesterol, insulate nerve cells in the brain and improve bowel health.

Though deep-fried white-fleshed fish (such as cod, halibut or pollock) is the fish most people order in restaurants, fish is a versatile protein.

Broiling fish is easy, and it doesn't add much fat if any.
  1. Preheat the broiler on your oven.
  2. Spray a baking sheet or broiling pan with nonstick spray and move your oven rack to the top shelf.
  3. Rinse and pat dry your fish fillets. Place fish on the baking sheet skin side down.
  4. Sprinkle with your choice of seasonings (try one of our salt-free spice blends) or simply shake on some black pepper, garlic powder (not garlic salt) and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  5. Broil 8-10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily. (If fillets are thicker than 1", add two minutes; if they're thinner than 1/2", reduce cooking time by about two minutes.)
  6. Squeeze on more lemon juice before serving, if desired.

Try cooking fish in parchment packets for an easy one-dish meal!
  1. Place clean, dry fish fillets on one side of a sheet of parchment. The parchment (or foil can also be used) should be able to fold over the fish with a few inches to expand.
  2. Drizzle on a tablespoon of citrus juice (try orange, lime or even grapefruit), vinegar (tarragon, raspberry or balsamic work well) or white wine.
  3. Cover each piece of fish with about a 1/2 cup of thinly sliced or a chopped vegetables. (I like peppers, onions or shallots, broccoli or cauliflower, asparagus and spinach.) Remember to keep the vegetables small and uniform so they'll cook evenly.
  4. Sprinkle on herbs and carefully close the packets.
  5. Starting at one end, tightly roll the parchment paper up. At the final corner, be sure to give it a good pinch--and be sure the "roll" is up so the juices will not leak. The pouches will inflate in the oven, so just a couple of small, tight rolls on each side will suffice.
  6. Place the pouches on a baking sheet and slide them into a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes for thin fillets, 20 minutes for thicker cuts (more then 3/4"). (This cooking method works well with shrimp and chicken, too.)

Here are a few "fish in a pouch" recipes to get you started!

Find more fish recipes at!

Three of my favorite special-occasion fish recipes are Maple-Glazed Salmon, Baked Haddock, and Pistachio-Crusted Salmon.

Do you abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent? What do you typically eat on those days? What will you choose to eat now? Do you have a favorite fish recipe?

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It is really hard for me to find at one time an hour to myself. I do know that I have been doing something physical for 60 minutes a day, and it is not helping, that is not consecutive.. I need to make it a priority to find time.. for me every day. The Y opens at 6.. I am going to start tomorrow being there at that time, and doing this for me!! thank you for this article.. and wish me luck. Report
I just want to address the matter of fish being meat or not. According to my Oxford Dictionary, meat is"the flesh of an animal as food" and animal is defined as 1. "a living organism which feed on organic matter, has specialized sense organs and nervous system, and is able to move about and to respond rapidly to stimuli." but also 2. "a mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, or insect." So, there you have it. You can just pick whichever definition suits your preference. (Random House gets even more specific on the first definition with "any living being typically differing from a plant in having the ability to move voluntarily, the presence of a nervous system and a greater ability to respond to stimuli, the need for complex organic materials for nourishment, and the delimitation of cells usually by a membrane rather than a cellulose wall." but also includes the second definition from Oxford quoted above. Given the detail provided in both first definitions, it seems to me the second was added specifically to formalize the view of those who do not wish to classify fish, etc as meat items which is actually a function of language dictionaries but not necessarily technically correct. In deference to those who support the view of fish as meat (myself included) I would say the first definition given in a dictionary is the more precise one. In fact, Random House specifically states "...the most frequently encountered meaning appears as the first definition for each part of speech." In the definition of animal, the listed definitions actually appear contradictory but the evidence points more strongly to the view that fish are, indeed, animals and, therefore, meat. Report
Wow! This blog went crazy. In the Catholic world 'meat = flesh of a warm blooded animal'. I always laugh when I see Catholics ordering chicken because it's not meat (thinking beef!!) Many years ago the only fish available was salted dried fish and it was a sacrifice to have to eat that instead of beef, lamb or chicken.
Eating lobster on Friday's isn't really a sacrifice, now is it!! Vatican II simply stated that outside of Lent you could make some other type of sacrifice in place of meat. So, if you are invited to a cookout you can enjoy a hamburger or hotdog provided you have done or given up something in its place. Not a big deal really.
I don't think anyone expected the conversation to degrade to where it did at times. My husband and I observe no meat Friday's year round. I have begun to find many vegetarian options and a few good fish recipes. I love to eat and cook pretty well so I really am going to need to find another source of sacrifice!!

I hope everyone enjoys their week, and thank you very much SP for providing Lenten recipes for us. Report
Oops. That was supposed to say, "I'm NOT getting into the ..." Report
I'm getting into the meat/fish debate. I just would like to see more than salmon and tilapia in the fish-in-a-pouch selections and less salt in the recipes. I will follow the instructions in the blog instead of the recipes and keep my seasonings low salt. Report
I am Catholic, and my family practices no meat Fridays. My children range from 8-15 and they are now trying to eat fish more. It's hard, but they have become more willing to try seafood because of it. They have now tried Tilapia, Catfish, Lobster, Shrimp, Squid and Crab. They have found that there is life beyond meat. We have lots of pasta on Friday's too. Report
Here is a little trivia for you... Catholics practiced "meatless fridays" year-round until November 1966 when the requirement was lifted but instruction was given that some sort of abstinance to observe friday should still be kept. It was still suggested that giving up meat on fridays and eating fish was a good penance in the eyes of the church.

"Even though we terminate the traditional law
of abstinence as binding under pain of sin
as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday,
we give first place to abstinence from meat."

Persnally I follow a very strict Lent I would like to thank Spark for the "meat-free" suggestions as the recipes look to be wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to put these together for us.

For those adhering, have a blessed Lenten season

WHOA!!! This blog seems to have de-volved (deteriorated) into a verbal Spark-ripping.

If I recall, the general issues for our consideration were:

"Do you abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent?
What do you typically eat on those days?
What will you choose to eat now?
Do you have a favorite fish recipe? "

We were NOT invited to participate in a full out controversy between the fish as meat or no-meat issue.

Most of the comments were slung from the hip (not the head) and, with few notable exceptions, were not well researched. AND besides, they were haphazardly tossed out in somewhat patronizing tones.

Perhaps those that are disgruntled with this topic can take up the cause in their individual Spark Team and research it more before posting - - - unless they just want to honestly state that they're expressing their feelings about it and not hard facts.

Let's keep it light & rational folks!

There are some very good reasons to avoid fish, which clearly is of the flesh persuasion. For years, I have received a mailing from an environmental group that shows thousands of dead fish washed up on the banks of a particular river. These fish have tumors, abscesses, deformities...probably things a person would want to avoid consuming. It's caused by the runoff from the pig farms, after the heavy rains. In the Old Testament, God warns us against eating unclean things. Here's an example of a perfectly clean fin fish that has now been made unclean and therefore unsafe to eat. A great way to "go meatless," either just for Fridays or as a change of lifestyle, is to check out the Vegetarian Team here on Spark, or just pick up a can of beans at the grocer's and follow whatever recipe is on the back. They're always great! Report
Yes, Fridays are great for not eating meat, so, at times, I "make a run for the border" and get a Cheesy bean and rice burrito--just one! Report
Science class or not, religious or not, saying eating fish makes it a "meat free meal" is just incorrect. Why not call it a "fish meal." Or why not eat vegetarian? Report
To all those who keep saying that fish is a meat, this is not science class. Observing Lent is a religious matter.

We welcome you to join us during Lent by choosing some form of self-sacrifice to honor the ultimate sacrifice made in our honor. Report
Thanks, 4WILSONS for the meat clarification! I observe the meat free Fridays and Wenesdays- it's something from my youth, and it's traditional for me. My mom used to make- not the tuna pot pie-but Mrs. Pauls fish sticks, or crab cakes or something like that. We used to like to make the "tartar sauce" out of the relish packet that came with the box. LOL Memories! Report
I do think fish, especially oily fish, is good for our hearts. I have a suspicion that eating mammals is not good for us. I do eat poultry and fish, but avoid beef, pork, and lamb. Report
I don't follow lent but, I enjoy fish alot and I try eating it once every month. thanks for the receipt. HOPTOIT7 Report
OMGosh. I got into this same discussion about fish being meat over 25 years ago with my Catholic husband. He never had good answer for me, one that truly convinced me. However I could tell it was something that was important to him, and he had done his whole life, so I just accepted it and have since moved on. The good thing is that over the years I have learned to like fish more and more, and I have FINALLY convinced him that it doesn't have to be fried to be good! Report
I am a Protestant and I do observe Lent - it's not just for Catholics. The whole "fish is a meat" thing misses the point - we're talking religious tradition here and one poster explained the historical and religious significance really well.
I really enjoy seafood and eat it several days a week. Thanks for the recipes. Report
Umm, hello? Fish IS meat. Report
I don't do lent, but thanks for the fish recipes. I love salmon. Mmmmmm. Report
While I don't observe the "no-meat on Fridays" rule and I agree with poster 75 that fish is in fact meat, I always appreciate a good fish recipe so keep 'em coming! Report
The recipe that is pictured in the article "Meat-Free Fridays: Lean Lenten Fish Recipes" looks very appealing to me. The fish has a yellow vegie on top with parsley or some other green herby looking thing.

What's the name of the featured recipe? Report
Life-long Catholic here. Does anyone else remember the Tuna Pot Pies you used to eat during Lent and any other times? Boy, I wish they would bring them back. They were so good. True comfort food and cheap too!! Report
Re: Entry 75
I never heard of that before / I will have look that up . Growing up With Parents from Louisiana ~ Lent ~ We always ate Fish , Crawfish & Shrimps . But I never heard that fish was a animal - Meat will have u chewing all day either u spit or swallow - As for fish it will disolve in your mouth . WOW
I'm really going to have to ask around on that one :) Report
You do realise that fish is a meat? It comes from an animal, and fishing is much worse for the environment than many other meats are.
People seem to think of meat and fish as two different things, but obviously it's not a vegetable or mineral, it's an animal and a meat.
If you follow that fish isn't, then poultry isn't a meat either, so why even bother just giving up pork and beef? That's only 2 types of animals. Just go the whole way. It's healthy and tasty, give vegetarian a try for a bit. Don't just make excuses so you can eat some types of meat during lent. Fish is still flesh.
Is lent only for catholics? I'll probably google it. Just curious, not too familiar with it.
Oops I meant to say try Not to overeat.

Sorry about that. Yikes Report
I am Greek Orthodox. I do not always follow the recommended guide lines for fasting. This is something I would like to get better with. Anyway I was brought up to fast year round when I was younger. Wed & Friday's no meat or dairy. During lent we start my having meatfare Sunday(last day for meat) then the following Sunday is Cheesefare Sunday(last day for dairy) then it is pretty much seafood and pb& Sorry I had to chuckle since we tend to get stuck on certain foods. The last week (Holy Week) Is strick fast with no oils or fish after Palm Sunday so you really have to become more creative. I am looking forward to some of the fish recipes. Just one more thing. For those who are fasting for lent what ever your religion may be remember back in the day when they fasted they went a little hungry. Substituting with boca burgers and til your stuffed is not a full fast. So while being creative with your menu while you omit some items try to also overeat.
Peace Report
Thank you for this meat-free Friday series! Report
I do observe lent and I'm excited to try some new receipes Report
Our church doesn't follow a strict observance of Lent, but we do use these weeks to focus on Christ's sacrifice for us. As for fish, I need to get more of this in my diet, so thanks for the resource for recipes. Report
I observed Lent and do abstaint from meat. I do love talapia fish and will have to try some of the recipes/ Report
I am Protestant, and so I do not observe Lent, but I love fish and would have it 2-3 times a week if I could; right now I'm lucky if I squeeze it in one meal a week. My hubby isn't a big fan (he's a non-practicing Catholic) - probably was all those Fridays (Lent or not) eating fried fish sticks as a kid (ugh). Anyway, the kids love my baked fish. I learned to bake and broil fish from my mom, who is a GREAT cook. She taught me how to choose and buy fresh fish (it won't stink your house up when you cook it), and how to cook it without drying it out (which is what most people do). I also love it grilled, especially kebabs with veggies - yum! Report
We observe both meatless wednesdays and Fridays during Lent so we eat allot of fish, lucky for us our family loves seafood. We have also all given up sweets and other things as well for Lent. Report
I'm christian orthodox and we dont eat meat on any fridays during the year, and abstain from meat during the entire lent. So starting tomorrow, i'm meat free for almost 2 months. I've always done the fish in tinfoil trick, mainly because it doesn't smell up your kitchen and it's east to clean! thanks goodness i LOVE fish! Report
When I was growing up, Wednesdays and Fridays were meatless during Lent and Friday was always meatless. Besides fish in its many forms - tuna, salmon, cod, trout, sole - we ate eggs (as omelets, fritattas, quiche), beans and rice, pastas, and in summer, tomato stuffed with cottage cheese (still one of my favorites). Report
This is very helpful, Thanks! Report
I eat fish or meatless meals on Ash Wednesday & the Friday's during Lent. I eat macaroni & cheese, microwave or toaster over cheese sandwiches, pasta without meat, tuna sandwiches or with crackers, Tuna Helper, pb&j and if I can I love going out for fish/seafood meals. I don't cooked fish usually as hubby won't eat it. Report
I have learned to love fish, recently discovered Talapia and its good. I really love shrimp and scallops. I do eat fish several times a week, and chicken. I still have my cheeseburger or a small steak now and again but its not my favorite meat. Think going meatless now and again is a good thing. Report
This is excellent. Thanks for the suggestion. Report
These are great ideas!! Thanks. Report
I actually gave up all meat including fish for Lent 4 years ago, and I haven't had meat since. Report
Sound delicious! Report
I was raised catholic.. and never liked fish.. my mom would make salmon patties that were okay.. i no longer do lent ( left the church) so do not keep up with it any more..
Fish not being classified as meat goes back further than our modern intellect. The origin to abstain from "carnis" in Latin, referring to mammal and birds, does not include fish. Using the English word "meat", it encompasses a broader definition. So for those who find it foolish due to lack of education, Catholics and other Orthodox religions actually abstain from "carnis".

1) As a generic culinary and butchery term, "meat" refers to the muscular flesh of a mammal. This is the definition most commonly applied by governments in meat product regulation and food labeling, and in religious rites and rituals. Edible birds and fish/seafood are not "meat" under this application but are treated separately from mammals. Likewise, amphibians and reptiles, not to mention the "meat" of edible insects, arachnids, and so on.[citation needed]

2)Religious rites and rituals regarding food also tend to apply this distinction, classifying the birds of the air and the fish of the sea separately from land-bound mammals. Sea-bound mammals are often treated as fish under religious laws - as in Jewish dietary law, which forbids the eating of whale, dolphin, porpoise, and orca because they are not "fish with fins and scales"; nor, as mammals, do they "cheweth the cud and divideth the hoof."(Leviticus 11:9-12)

I think the meat or no meat issue about fish is totally missing the point. This is a religious tradition that has to do with obedience and sacrafice. I am not Catholic but appreciate knowing their religious community has a tradition of obedience that is near and dear to their hearts. I am in total support of anything that makes you change your normal routine to honor God. Report
Thanks for the comments clarifying that fish is still meat. I agree--it's a living creature, not a sea vegetable as some would like to believe. However, the "rules" during Lent allow for fish on "meat-free" days. That's why we didn't use the term "vegetarian." Report
My least favouriute day to work out is Monday. Even though I'm unable to work and don't work Mondays, I find them hard to get going on. I'm fine from Tuesday through Saturday and then on Sundays I have church. Maybe my Monday is like my Sunday because I spend so much time at church? Report
I don't eat meat at all. Or fish! While I know it's not for everyone, I think everyone should try at least one vegetarian or vegan recipe every once in a while...or even just try a veg restaurant. Report
I'm excited to try some of these recipes. As part of lent, I tried the salmon patties this week, and they were FANTASTIC! Report
I usually eat salmon or orange roughy, sometimes shrimp. Report
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