Around the world, and in Australia, there is a misconception that seafood is an exorbitantly expensive protein. Of course, if you are choosing to purchase Bluefin Tuna sashimi, Rock Lobster, and premium Atlantic Salmon fillets regularly, seafood may start to hurt the back pocket a tad. But what many consumers don't know is that there are a huge variety of cheaper options available when it comes to Australian seafood.
The enormous range of species harvested and sold in Australia means that there are endless options for substituting high-value products with similar-tasting species, if you know what to look for.
We are here to help you learn the tricks of the trade, with a comprehensive list of cheaper seafood swaps to try this year. Next time you're feeling like a seafood dinner, try reaching for a lesser-known species with similar eating qualities to your old favourites. Your wallet, your taste buds, and the local industry will thank you!
Swap Salmon for Sea Mullet
Atlantic Salmon is a favourite in almost every Aussie household, and high demand results in higher prices! The good news is that Sea Mullet has similar levels of fat and omega 3 oils, making it the ideal substitute in recipes calling for Salmon. Both fish have a distinctive flavour and lend themselves well to a crispy skin.
Mullet is a hugely abundant and widespread fish, and as such will always be cheaper than farmed Salmon... Usually less than a third of the price!
Swap King or Tiger Prawns for School Prawns
If you're a fan of Sydney Fish Market, you know that we are constantly intolling the virtues of the delicious School Prawn. Inarguably Australia's sweetest prawn, School Prawns are mostly caught within an hour or two's drive from Sydney, meaning that they're also usually the freshest variety available.
While not an exact substitute for the more popular King and Tiger Prawns, locally-caught School Prawns can replace their larger counterparts in many recipes, such as pastas, stir-fries, or minces (e.g. fish cakes or potted prawns).
These little guys usually retail for half the price of larger prawn species – win!
Swap Snapper for Luderick
Every Aussie loves a bit of Snapper – they are a staple on restaurant menus and at BBQ's the country over. Like Salmon, the popularity of Snapper can sometimes increase its price point, but we've got a perfect swap for you... Luderick!
With a very similar flavour and texture profile to Snapper, Luderick is most often caught using hand-hauling, which is a cheap and effective (if tiring!) way to harvest. This capture method means they usually retail for around a third of the price of Snapper!
Swap Red Emperor for Crimson Snapper
You may not have heard of either of these species, but they are absolutely delicious and worth trying! Both tropical species, they share a similar shape and taste, making them an exact recipe substitute for one another.
Where Red Emperor tend to come in at 2kg or larger, providing a portion for 4-6 people, Crimson Snapper tend to fall between 500g and 1kg in weight, making them ideal for two people.
Abundant and underutilised, Crimson Snapper usually costs a little more than half what a Red Emperor will. The perfect cheaper swap!
Swap Loligo Squid for Gould's Squid
Cooking squid at home is much easier than you think, and it can be cheap too, if you choose the right species!
While not as tender as Loligo, Gould's Squid's thicker flesh lends itself better to a slower cooking, though when tenderised can work just as well cooked quickly.
Gould's Squid are ocean-caught in large numbers, often very close to Sydney, and as such are super fresh and can often retail for a quarter of the price of Loligo!
Bonus Tip: Swap the Cut!
Another way to save when purchasing seafood is to choose a different size or cut of your favourite species. For example, a premium Atlantic Salmon fillet, de-boned by hand, is going to cost top dollar, whereas offcuts from the belly are far cheaper, and just as delicious! One of our favourite ways to cook Salmon belly is marinated in teriyaki sauce and skewered on the BBQ – the fat caramelises beautifully and turns it into a real delicacy.
Another option to save a buck is to buy your fish whole. Whole fish are cheaper than fillets as you’re not paying for your fishmonger’s labour in preparing them. You don’t even have to fillet them yourself – cook them whole by steaming, barbecuing in banana leaves, baking, or pan-frying! A whole fish makes for an impressive dinner party centrepiece, and your guests can simply pull the meat from the bones with their knife and fork.
Want more cheaper swaps? Check out this article from last year.