The monkfish is a versatile type of seafood with a mild, slightly sweet tasting white flesh. Its texture is firm which makes it a useful ingredient in the kitchen; perfect sauteed or grilled, but also capable of standing up to slow-cooked meals and soups.
If you live in an area where monkfish are hard to find or you'd prefer not to eat it, then keep reading. We are about to provide a list of excellent monkfish substitutes so that you can finish any recipe without them.
What can I use as a substitute for monkfish?
To replace monkfish in a dish you are best to look for mild tasting and firm-textured fish or shellfish. To closely mimic the flavor and texture we recommend using lobster, red snapper, haddock, or grouper. For a plant-based alternative then tofu will work in a pinch.
We’ll kick this list off with the fanciest option first. Using lobster as a replacement for monkfish may sound like an expensive option, and you would be right! However, they both have a similar flavor and a texture that can withstand most cooking techniques without the meat falling apart.
Monkfish is called “poor man’s lobster” so if you're in the mood to splash out then lobster is well worth trying. It won't perfectly take the place of monkfish in cooking though. Once cooked, it tends to be a more delicate, leaner seafood with a slightly sweeter flavor.
2. Red Snapper
Choose red snapper if you enjoy mild, sweet fish that has a pleasant firm texture. This is a great choice for people that don’t enjoy strong-tasting fish. Snapper is excellent sauteed and the skin crisps nicely. The fillets can be cut into pieces and they will hold up well in pies and curries.
Haddock is another lean white fish on this list that is mild and doesn’t have a lot of oil content. Its fine flakes are firm and tender once cooked. Although haddock is a versatile fish in the kitchen, it is susceptible to breaking up if overcooked. Compared to monkfish, fillets of haddock aren’t as robust in slow-cooked meals.
Groupers are a mild-tasting fish and make a good back-up if there’s no monkfish on offer. The fillets have high levels of oil so it is an easy fish to cook without fearing that it will overcook. Its flesh has larger flakes than a monkfish but in most applications, this won’t be a dealbreaker.
In some countries, angelfish may not be the easiest to find, but if you can get your hands on a fillet then you’ll find it is one of the best replacements. Although they aren’t from the same family, both fish have a similar delicate texture with comparable yield and weight.
A tilefish looks a lot like the sea bass and is an extra-lean fish with firm, tender flesh. Its taste is similar to a monkfish and some compare it to lobster. This makes sense considering the monkfish is also known as poor man’s lobster. If you decide to cook tilefish then some recommended options are baking, steaming, broiling, sautéing, or even microwaving.
Halibut is a tasty mild white fish that is popular for making fish and chips. Watch this fish closely when you’re cooking it as it is low in oil and will easily dry out. A liberal coating of oil or butter will help stop this from occurring. Acidic marinades will break down the meat, causing the fish's flesh to breakdown excessively.
8. Atlantic Cod
Atlantic Cod is a popular fish on the kitchen table in the United States. It is easy to find in almost any supermarket and will make a useful alternative to monkfish thanks to its mild taste and aroma. Keep in mind that cod isn’t as dense so it won’t hold up in slow-cooked dishes. However, it is perfect for pan-frying, deep-frying, broiling, grilling, or poaching.
Hake makes an excellent blank canvass for other ingredients. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor so it is ideal for absorbing any herbs and spices you send its way. Hake is delicious battered, grilled, fried, baked, or broiled and is difficult to overcook.
If you’re looking for a fish that has more flavor than a monkfish without being too overwhelming then mahi-mahi is your fish. Its lean fillets and large moist flakes are delicious, although a little harder to find in stores. If you can’t find it in the supermarket then try your local fishmonger.
Although sea scallops have a different flavor profile to monkfish, they will still make a great substitute. Their mild, sweet-tasting flesh and dense texture make them a versatile option in cooking. Toss them into a fish chowder or curry and they’ll maintain their form even after hours of slow cooking. They also handle high-heat cooking and develop a mouth-watering golden exterior when pan-fried.
Not everyone can eat seafood so if need to replace the monkfish for dinner then tofu is probably your best option. Select an extra firm variety that will hold its shape in cooking and take on board the other flavors in recipes. The flavor of tofu won’t be the same as monkfish, but if you’re cooking for vegans, vegetarians, or those allergic to fish then they’ll thank you for it.
Check out our article on stinky tofu if you enjoy a food challenge!
Fast facts about monkfish
- They trawl the bottom of the ocean in search of scallops and lobsters to eat.
- Only the liver and tail flesh is eaten, the rest of the fish is discarded.
- Alternative names for the monkfish are anglerfish, frogfish, goosefish, bellyfish, and sea devil.
- The monkfish pairs well with oregano, cilantro, olive oil, fennel, daikon, onions, celery, tomatoes, shallots, limes, and lemons.
- Monkfish is a popular ingredient in paella, bouillabaisse, soups, and stews.
- The fish is available all year round in the United States and is mostly caught in the North Atlantic.
Monkfish are a mild-tasting fish that are likely to be popular with most people that enjoy eating fish. However, they aren’t always easy to find in stores and the meat won’t be to everyone’s taste. If you need a monkfish substitute then lobster, red snapper, haddock, or grouper are all good options. Any mild tasting and firm-textured fish or shellfish can be used in your food though.
What is the best seafood you’ve tasted? Please let us know in the comments below.