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Thanksgiving is the perfect time to grab those fish fillets from this year’s catch out of the freezer, and channel your inner Martha Stewart for a feast that your guests will never forget. Bring the taste of coastal living into your home this Thanksgiving with our favorite recipes for Destin’s local harvest.

The First Thanksgiving


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Thanksgiving is a time when we all come together to recognize the blessings that we’ve been given throughout the year. Dating back to November of 1621, when Wampanoag Indians and Pilgrims shared a feast at Plymouth, a celebration of harvest evolved into the Thanksgiving tradition that we continue still today.

Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie are some of the ingredients that make the Thanksgiving holiday special for many families across America. But before you make that mad dash to the supermarket to pick up all of the must-haves to make your Thanksgiving feast fit the American tradition, let’s look back at the first harvest celebration.

The menu for that very first meal at Plymouth was a symbolic moment of being thankful for the fruits of the land, and sharing the gift of fellowship with neighbors who were willing to recognize the abundance of valuable resources nearby. In short, they were thankful for what was already available.

Turkey, geese, ducks, swans, deer, and fish are believed to be present at that very first Thanksgiving meal, as these meat sources were plentiful in the local area. Sides consisted of corn, cabbage, squash, onions, beans, carrots, spinach, and possibly peas, as the autumn season was a time of harvest for domestic crops. Instead of pumpkin pie, it is believed that the pumpkins were hollowed and filled with spices, milk, and honey, then roasted for a custard dish.

You can learn more about the first Thanksgiving meal here.

Destin Thanksgiving

Much like the Wampanoag Indians and Pilgrims who were thankful for the gifts of the land during that first Thanksgiving meal, Destin locals show an immense appreciation for the resources that built the city from a desolate land to the thriving city that it is today.

Destin is historically recognized as a blessed coastal community with an abundance of harvestable fish. This dates back to the 17th century when Leonard Destin settled in what we all know now as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” Throughout the years, fishermen have come from all over the world to fish the waters just off the coast of Destin.

Though the once sleepy fishing village has now grown into one of America’s favorite tourist destinations with the largest fishing fleet in the state of Florida, locals continue to acknowledge what started it all. The blessings of bountiful catches are recognized as the most valuable resource to the area. Annual traditions like the Blessings of the Fleet and the Destin Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo are celebrated throughout the year to recognize the gifts of harvest given to the fishermen, the community, and visitors who partake in the tradition of deep sea fishing out of Destin’s famous harbor.

Around the tables of Destin’s fishing fleet captains and crew members, you’ll find more than turkey and dressing. Most of these families are giving thanks for a great year of fishing with goods harvested from the waters just off the Destin coast. If you pop in on a Destin fisherman’s Thanksgiving dinner, you’re likely to find snapper, amberjack, mackerel, tuna, shrimp, and oysters with all the trimmings that go perfectly with a coastal living Thanksgiving meal. After all, what all fishermen are most thankful for after their families is the abundant harvest of this year’s catch.

Our Favorite Saltwater Fish Recipes for Thanksgiving Dinner

In the spirit of being thankful for what you have readily available this Thanksgiving, we encourage you to grab those fish fillets from this year’s catch out of the freezer, and celebrate the harvest feast with some local recipe favorites.

Main Course

Baked Fish Fillet Recipe
Grilled Red Snapper
Blackened Amberjack
Grilled Triggerfish with Escarole and Roasted Peppers
Florida King Mackerel Steaks with Herb Citrus Butter and Garlic Snap Beans
Guava Glazed Mahi Mahi with Coconut Bamboo Rice, Tempura Baby Bok Choy & Coconut Curry Sauce
Black Pepper Crusted Yellowfin Tuna Seared Rare

Appetizers and Sides

Southern Seafood Stuffing
Baked Coconut Shrimp
Harbor Docks Smoked Tuna Dip
Spicy Jalapeno Cheese and Bacon Oysters
Hush Puppies with Cream-Style Corn
Fried Corn


Lemon Meringue Pie
Key Lime Cake

Main Course

Baked Fish Fillet Recipe

Recipe contributed by Jan Slagell

  • 2 lbs. fish fillets
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter- melted
  • 10 gloves garlic chopped (5tsp minced)
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tbs. black pepper
  • 3 tbs. chili sauce or 2 tsp chili powder
  • 3 tsp. parsley
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 tsp. garlic season
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbs. onion powder or 1 onion sliced
  • 1 cup Worcestershire sauce


1. Let fish marinate in a bowl for 30 minutes before placing entire contents on pan in a single layer.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until fish is flaky.

Grilled Red Snapper

Recipe contributed by Sizzler

  • 2 red snapper fillets, halved
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/8 tsp. onion salt
  • 1/8 tsp. thyme
  • 1/8 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbs. minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup butter


1. Mix together paprika, cayenne, salt, garlic salt, onion salt, thyme, oregano, and pepper. Sprinkle over each side of the red snapper.
2. Oil grill grate and preheat grill.
3. Bring lemon juice to a boil.
4. Remove from heat and add butter.
5. Mix well.
6. Grill red snapper until done. (About 4 minutes per side.)
7. Remove fish from grill. Add parsley to lemon butter.
8. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter mixture over each piece of fish.
(Garnish with parsley)


Blackened Amberjack

Recipe contributed by Oxmoor House

  • 1 (1-pound) amberjack fillet
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
  • Cooking spray


1. Cut fillet into 4 equal pieces. Combine paprika and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Dredge fish in spice mixture; let stand 5 minutes.
2. Coat a large cast-iron skillet with cooking spray; place over high heat until very hot.
3. Add fish, and cook 3 minutes. Turn fish, and cook 3 to 4 additional minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Fish should look charred.

(You may prefer to do this procedure outside due to the small amount of smoke that is created.)


Grilled Triggerfish with Escarole and Roasted Peppers

Recipe contributed by Chef Tim Creehan


1. Prepare the roasted peppers.
2. Preheat a grill surface. Brush the triggerfish with olive oil and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
3. Grill the triggerfish filets until thoroughly cooked.
4. Prepare the escarole and place on the base of four dinner plates. Place the grilled triggerfish filets on top of the sautéed escarole.
5. Top the triggerfish filets with the roasted peppers and drizzle balsamic vinegar over each triggerfish filet.
6. Garnish the triggerfish with chopped basil.


Florida King Mackerel Steaks with Herb Citrus Butter and Garlic Snap Beans

Recipe contributed by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

  • 4 (6-ounce) Florida King Mackerel steaks
  • 1 cup flour, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Citrus Butter

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. orange zest, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp. lime zest, chopped fine
  • 1 tbs. fresh parsley, chopped fine

Garlic Snap Beans

  • 1/2 pound Florida snap beans, stems trimmed
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienne
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


1. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
2. Lightly dredge each fillet in the seasoned flour.
3. Add the olive oil to the preheated sauté pan.
4. Carefully add the coated fillets to the sauté pan.
5. Cook fillets for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until completely cooked throughout.
6. Remove cooked fillets from pan and serve with green beans and citrus butter.

Citrus Butter

1. Mix all ingredients into a small bowl and stir to combine.

Garlic Snap Beans

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
2. Carefully add the bell pepper and onion; cook for about 1 minute.
3. Add the beans and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute or until crisp and tender.
5. Add lemon juice and toss before serving.

Guava Glazed Mahi Mahi with Coconut Bamboo Rice, Tempura Baby Bok Choy & Coconut Curry Sauce

Recipe contributed by Emeril’s Florida and


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Coconut Curry Sauce

  • 2 tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, smashed and chopped
  • 1 Thai chili, chopped
  • 1 tbs. red Thai curry paste
  • 6 tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 cup vermouth
  • 2 cups Chicken stock
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Guava Glaze

  • cups guava paste
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds removed then chopped

Coconut Bamboo Rice

  • 2 cups of bamboo rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water

Mahi Mahi and Tempura Bok Choi

  • 4 (7 ounce) pieces fresh mahi mahi
  • 1 quart plus 1 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 4 pieces baby bok choi
  • 2 cups tempura batter mix, homemade or store-bought
  • Ice water


1. In a medium saucepot gently sauté the green onion, shallot, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass with the peanut oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
2. Add in the curry paste and chili and continue to cook for a few minutes more, stirring to incorporate.
3. Put in the herbs, spices and brown sugar and cook for two more minutes. Deglaze with vermouth and continue to cook. When it has cooked completely dry, add in the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half.
4. Pour in the coconut milk and increase heat to high and bring it to a boil then remove sauce from the heat and let it cool at room temperature.
5. Puree the sauce in a blender and strain it through a fine sieve.
6. Reheat the sauce when needed and finish it with fresh cilantro, lemon juice, and salt.

Black Pepper Crusted Yellowfin Tuna Seared Rare

Recipe contributed by Tim Creehan and Destin Ice House, Inc.

  • 4 (6oz) Yellow Fin Tuna Steaks
  • Black Pepper
  • ½ Cup Canola Oil
  • 4 Cups Spinach, cleaned
  • 4 tsp. Soy Sauce
  • 4 tsp. Rice Vinegar
  • Pinch Ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Water
  • 2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chive, chopped
  • ½ Sweet Red Pepper, diced
  • 20 Chives, whole


1. Blend the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, water, crushed red pepper and chopped chives. Let the sauce stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (The sauce is available at Destin Ice Seafood Market already prepared.)
2. Press the black pepper into both sides of the tuna steak.
3. Heat the canola oil in a sauté pan until very hot.
4. Sear the tuna steaks for 10 seconds on each side and remove from pan.
5. Place the spinach in the sauté pan and toss until wilted.
6. Transfer the spinach to 4 large dinner plates.
7. Thinly slice the tuna across the grain.
8. Arrange the tuna slices over the spinach in a star shape. Garnish the tuna with diced red pepper, whole chives and finish with prepared sauce.

Appetizers and Sides

Southern Seafood Stuffing
Baked Coconut Shrimp
Harbor Docks Smoked Tuna Dip
Spicy Jalapeno Cheese and Bacon Oysters
Hush Puppies with Cream-Style Corn
Fried Corn

Southern Seafood Stuffing

Recipe contributed by Jan Slagell

  • ½ cup margarine
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound crab meat, drained and flaked
  • ½ pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
  • ½ cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1 (6 ounce) package corn bread stuffing mix
  • 2 tbs. white sugar divided
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth


1. Melt the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, celery crabmeat and shrimp; cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the stuffing, bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
3. Mix in the vegetables and seafood from the skillet.
4. Stir in the cream of mushroom soup and as much of the chicken broth as you like.
5. Spoon into a 9×13 inch baking dish.
6. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted on top.

 Baked Coconut Shrimp

Recipe contributed by Jan Slagell

    • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp peeled and deveined
    • 1 tbs. lime juice
    • ¼ tsp. crush red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 cup pineapple preserves
    • 2 egg whites
    • 2 tbs. cornstarch
    • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut


1. Combine lime juice, pepper flakes and pineapple preserves in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a small bowl beat egg whites with a hand mixer until soft peaks form.
4. Place cornstarch and coconut on two separate plates. Hold shrimp by the tail and dip and coat the shrimp with cornstarch.
5. Next, dip the shrimp in the egg whites and finally in the coconut coating well.
6. Place shrimp on the cookie sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes or until coconut is a golden brown. Make sure to turn it once halfway through (around 8 minutes into cooking time) to make sure both sides are brown.
7. Serve with pineapple dipping sauce.

Harbor Docks Smoked Tuna Dip


Image Source: Active Rain

Recipe contributed by Joel Jadofsky

    • 2 1/2 lbs. fresh yellowfin tuna
    • 1 quart water
    • 1/4 cup salt
    • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (can use more or less depending on your preferred consistency)
    • 1 tbs. black pepper
    • 1 tbs. garlic powder
    • Hot sauce to taste


1. Combine salt and water. Soak tuna steaks in a salt water brine for one hour before smoking.
2. Transfer to a smoker and smoke until cooked through (do not overcook).
3. Chop smoked tuna steaks to your desired consistency (rough chopped or finely chopped – Harbor Docks chops fine).
4. In a stainless steel mixing bowl, combine smoked tuna, mayonnaise, pepper and garlic powder and mix well.

Spicy Jalapeno Cheese and Bacon Oysters

Recipe contributed by Sea Oats Motel

    • 36 Florida oysters, shucked, on the half shell
    • Rock salt
    • 12 ounces low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
    • ½ cup cooked bacon, crumbled
    • 4 Florida jalapeno peppers, chopped


1. Arrange oysters on rock salt in a baking dish.
2. Top each oyster with ½ teaspoon of the cheese crumbled bacon and chopped jalapeno to taste.
3. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until edges of oysters begin to curl.

Hush Puppies with Cream-Style Corn

Recipe contributed by Diana Rattray

    • 1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
    • 1 can cream style corn (approximately 15 ounces)
    • milk, if needed


1. Heat the oven to 200 F.
2. Set a cooling rack in a large, rimmed baking sheet.
3. In a deep, heavy saucepan, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil to 370 F. Or heat the oil in an electric deep fryer to 370 F.
4. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir the chopped onion into the dry mixture, and then stir in the cream-style corn. (If the mixture is too thick, add a small amount of milk.)
5. Use a tablespoon or small cookie scoop to drop the batter into the hot vegetable oil.
6. Fry the hush puppies in small batches of 4 or 5 until golden brown, or about 2 minutes, turning to make sure all sides are evenly browned.
7. Remove the hush puppies to paper towels to drain for a minute or two and then move them to the rack in the prepared pan. Place the pan in the oven to keep fried hush puppies warm while you fry subsequent batches.

Tips and Variations

    • Use neutral-flavored oil for deep-frying, such as vegetable oil, canola, or peanut oil.
    • Add finely chopped green onion to the hush puppies in place of the onions.
    • Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of onion powder for extra onion flavor.
    • Add a few tablespoons of crumbled cooked bacon to the batter.
    • Add about 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the batter

Fried Corn

Recipe contributed by Jessica Baggett

    • 2 cans of white creamed corn
    • 6-10 Slices of your preferred bacon
    • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Fry bacon on medium high heat in a cast iron skillet, and then set bacon aside to cool.
2. Pour both cans of creamed corn into hot bacon grease.
3. Crumble bacon and add to the corn mixture.
4. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
5. Serve warm.


Lemon Meringue Pie
Key Lime Cake

Lemon Meringue Pie


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Recipe contributed by Paula Dean and Food

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 (8-inch) prebaked pie shell or crumb crust


  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

1. In medium bowl, combine milk, lemon juice, and zest; blend in egg yolks. Pour into cooled crust.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
3. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks from. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff.
4. Spread over filling; seal to edge of crust.
5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown.

Key Lime Cake

key lime cake

Image Source: Food

Recipe contributed by Trisha Yearwood and Food

For the Cake:

  • Butter, for greasing pan
  • Flour, for dusting pan
  • 1 (3-ounce) package lime flavored gelatin
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, slightly beaten

For the Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup key lime juice (from about 25 small key limes or 4 large regular limes)
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the Icing:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick butter), room temperature
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 (1 pound) box confectioners’ sugar


For the Cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour one 9-by-12-by-2-inch cake pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, granulated sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the oil, orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until well combined.
3. Pour the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Test for doneness by lightly touching the tops or inserting a toothpick.
4. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the glaze:

1. While the cake is still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners’ sugar together well.
2. Pierce the cake with a fork to allow the glaze to soak in better and pour it over the cake on the cooling rack.
3. Allow cake to cool completely as you prepare the icing.

For the icing:

1. Cream the butter and cream cheese.
2. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth and easy to spread.
3. Spread the icing on the top and sides of the cake.

Cook’s Note: you can also use three 9-inch round cake pans and make this into a layer cake.