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8 Seafood Varieties to Know

Learn the difference between fish, shellfish, roe, and more.

Seafood is a delicious and healthy way to add variety to your diet. And the best part is there are many different types of seafood available, each with its unique flavor and texture. So, there’s something for everyone.

Tray of prawns squids and clams with spicy and sour dipping sauce

However, seafood can be controversial as well. Overfishing has harmed the seas and contributed to climate change and vice versa; climate change has decreased fish populations leading to more difficult seafood production.

The good news, though, is that according to the Marine Stewardship Council, sustainable fishing, and thus sustainable seafood eating, is possible. Thus, it’s important to know where you’re getting your seafood and keep it as local as possible.

Types of Seafood

So without further ado, here is a list of some of the different types of seafood, my personal preferences, and some suggestions for what to pair them with when creating a complete meal.


Saltwater Fish

Saltwater fish are, as the name suggests, fish that live in saltwater.

This can be in oceans, seas, or brackish water, which is a mixture of salt and freshwater. Some popular examples of saltwater fish are tuna, salmon, halibut, and cod.

Saltwater fish tend to be fattier than freshwater fish, as they require more energy to swim in the saltwater.

This fat is where many of the omega-3 fatty acids that are so good for you are found.

Omega-3s have been linked with everything from reducing the risk of heart disease to improving cognitive function.

I love to eat tuna poke bowls and salmon on cream cheese bagels. I also love fried halibut in fish tacos because the juiciness of the halibut is so delightful compared to the crunchiness of the fried batter surrounding it.


Freshwater Fish 

Contrasting with saltwater fish, freshwater fish are fish that live in freshwaters such as rivers, lakes, and streams. Some popular examples of freshwater fish are trout, bass, and catfish.

Freshwater fish tend to be leaner than saltwater fish and have a milder flavor. This makes them a great option for those new to eating seafood or looking for a lighter option.

I grew up going trout fishing with my family in the summers, and we always cooked them up that night for dinner.

I remember my mom coating the trout in cornmeal and frying them, served with lemon wedges. It was always a delicious and healthy meal.


Shellfish

Shellfish are a type of seafood that includes any animal with a shell, such as shrimp, crab, and lobster.

They are not actually “fish” but aquatic invertebrates. Shellfish is also an umbrella term, as it includes mollusks and crustaceans, which I’ll discuss next.

Shellfish goes well on its own, with sides of mashed potatoes, green beans, or a simple salad. I also love to put shellfish in pasta dishes or on top of pizza.

My favorite example of shellfish is lobster because it is so versatile. Some people think lobster is overrated, but when you’re in the right place, such as Maine, you can get fresh, tasty, and even affordable lobster.

I’ve had lobster rolls, lobster quesadillas, lobster mac and cheese, lobster pizza, lobster nachos, and so much more.

They’ve all been fabulous! And, of course, you can’t go wrong with plain lobster dipped in butter.


Mollusks

Mollusks are shellfish that include animals such as clams, oysters, and scallops.

Like other types of shellfish, mollusks are not finned fish but aquatic invertebrates.

Mollusks can be eaten raw, cooked, or smoked. People often serve mollusks with sides such as potatoes, roasted vegetables, or salads.

My favorite type of mollusks is scallops. I find oysters and clams to be a bit too salty for my taste, but scallops are perfect. Scallops have a delicate flavor that is delicious on its own or with a light sauce.

I also love scallops in pasta. A simple spaghetti with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese can go a long way!


Crustaceans 

Crustaceans are shellfish that include animals such as crabs, lobsters, and shrimp.

Crustaceans are my favorite type of shellfish because of their versatility.

Although I love lobster, as mentioned above, I have to give shrimp and crab credit where it’s due.

Like lobster, I’ve featured shrimp in many different types of meals, including but not limited to:

  • Pasta
  • Sushi
  • Dumplings
  • Po’boys
  • Scampi
  • Jambalaya
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Salads
  • Rice

Crab is also tasty, and I especially love eating crab in Maryland, where you can find the best crab in the States. It’s just a bit difficult to eat sometimes!


Cephalopods

Cephalopods are a type of seafood that includes animals such as squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.

Cephalopods are often considered a delicacy and can be served cooked or raw.

I have to admit that I haven’t had much experience with cephalopods, but I have had squid and octopus before.

I’ve had squid in a sushi roll, and I thought it was pretty good. But I prefer fried squid, otherwise called calamari, especially as a tasty shareable appetizer.

I’ve also had octopus grilled and served with a lemon garlic sauce, which was delicious!

However, I try not to eat octopuses because they are exceptionally intelligent.


Roe 

Roe is the eggs of a fish or other aquatic animal. Roe can be fresh, frozen, or canned. It is often used in sushi, and you can also serve it as an appetizer.

Caviar is a highly-praised and luxury type of roe or fish eggs. And all fish eggs are considered roe, but not all roe is caviar.

Caviar has to come from the sturgeon family Acipenseridae, and it is pricier likely because the sturgeon fish is endangered, so the supply is low while the demand is high.

Other types of roe that come from fish like trout, salmon, and cod are less expensive and more commonly used in dishes.

I’m not a huge fan of roe’s consistency, but I like the taste when it’s on my sushi.


Echinoderms

Echinoderms are a type of seafood that includes animals such as urchins, sea cucumbers, and starfish.

I have to say that I’ve never had any of these types of seafood before, but I am curious to try them!

These types of seafood are often considered a delicacy in countries — e.g., Peru, Japan, France, and Spain — and they can be served cooked or raw. I imagine that they would go well with light sauces or dips.

My partner has tried echinoderms and thought sea cucumbers were tasty, especially when braised and covered in oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil.


Types of Seafood

  1. Saltwater Fish
  2. Freshwater Fish 
  3. Shellfish
  4. Mollusks
  5. Crustaceans 
  6. Cephalopods
  7. Roe 
  8. Echinoderms

Final Thoughts

There are many types of seafood, some more or less available depending on where you live and what is typical for the local cuisine.

I love many types, especially saltwater fish, freshwater fish, and crustaceans, because they are versatile, relatively sustainable, and delicious!

But regardless of which type of seafood you prefer, you can eat them in a laundry list of ways: chopped or whole, cooked or raw, alone or within a dish, etc.

What are your favorite seafood dishes? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out our favorite seafood dishes that you can make with the seafood listed above!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.