It’s a commonly perpetuated myth: seafood and dairy just don’t go well together.
Well, we’re here to bust up some myths, because guess what? You can pair seafood and dairy — you just have to be careful about your choices. For instance, while you may not want to melt cheddar cheese over your salmon filet, Greek salmon topped with feta cheese, on the other hand, is bound to be a hit.
So, what makes a successful seafood and dairy pairing? In short, it’s all about the flavor combination and preparation.
To help explain what we made, let’s go through a few different types of seafood.
First, probably one of the easiest seafoods to pair with dairy is shellfish. Since popular favorites like crab, shrimp and lobster already have a rich, buttery taste, they pair well with heavier types of dairy, like cream sauces. That’s why a dish like lobster macaroni and cheese is so decadent or why shrimp scampi needs to be topped with freshly grated parmesan.
Flaky white fish
With a more delicate and milder flavor than many other types of fish, flaky white fish — like cod or grouper — are more likely to lend themselves to the rich flavors of dairy than those with a “fishier” flavor. Consider making fish tacos with cotija cheese and an avocado crema for a successful white fish dish with dairy. Or, you could be bold and go all in with this cheesy oven-baked cod recipe that uses an Italian cheese blend.
Though the classic tuna casserole is generally made with multiple dairy products, it’s also generally made with canned tuna. Then there’s the diner-favorite tuna melt, which is again generally made with tuna salad. However, here’s a recipe that reimagines the tuna melt with a fresh tuna steak, so it can be done. There’s also the option of an acidic-balanced cream sauce, like this tuna with lemon cream sauce.
When it comes to salmon, the most common dairy pairing is lox — also known as smoked salmon — and cream cheese. In this case, the smoked flavors of the salmon balance the mild, creamy flavor of the cream cheese, but you can also embrace cream cheese with fresh salmon. Take this salmon with cream cheese, spinach and garlic recipe for example. If you want to add cheese to a salmon filet, go for flavors that are more likely to work with the unique flavor of the fish, like a nutty parmesan, a tangy feta or a buttery Brie.
Of course, we can give you all the tips we want, but what it really comes down to is what you like. The most important thing to remember is that, when asked whether dairy and seafood can ever go well together, the answer should be an empathic yes.