The most popular appetizer in Key West Florida, this Florida Smoked Fish Dip Recipe is rich with savory flavor and a hint of smokiness. It's the perfect appetizer for Happy Hour and meals with friends and families.
A popular dish in the Florida Keys and other coastal regions, fish dip is a delicious spread that can be served as an appetizer or snack.
This age-old method of preserving the abundance of fish involves smoking, which is combined with other ingredients to create a flavorful and unique dish.
In the grocery store, you can pick up Smilin Bob's Smoked Fish Dip in the refrigerator near the seafood.
What is Fish Dip?
Fish dip is commonly served as a shared appetizer or snack. Depending on your geography, you might have smoked salmon dip, smoked trout dip, or here in Key Largo, we are making smoked wahoo dip.
Fish dips come in different variations. It typically consists of smoked fish, mayo, onion or scallions, celery, peppers, lemon juice, cream cheese, or sour cream. Some recipes may also incorporate Worcestershire, relish, or capers.
It is often enjoyed with crackers, bread, or cut-up vegetables.
The specific ingredients and flavors can vary and differ by household.
How To Smoke Fish
I have friends who smoke fish, but this former Yankee buys freshly smoked fish at Key Largo Fisheries. You can pick up smoked fish in all the fish markets in South Florida.
As you can see on the label, the package of smoked fish is marked with its date of manufacture. It also indicates whether the fish is Amberjack, Mahi Mahi, King Fish, or Wahoo.
What's The Best Fish for Fish Dip?
The best fish for fish dip varies by region. The key is to use oily fish so it doesn't dry out while it's being smoked. Regardless of the type of fish you're using, the base ingredients remain the same.
- In Florida, mahimahi, mullet, kingfish, snapper, cobia, mackerel, and wahoo are often used for smoked fish dip.
- In the Great Lakes, you would use whitefish or trout.
- New England has cod fish and they smoke it for their dip.
- In New York, a creamy smoked fish spread is in the form of whitefish salad. It's commonly served during brunch and eaten on a bagel or green salad.
- In Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, smoked salmon and tuna are used in their version of fish dip.
What's in Fish Dip?
A good smoked fish spread starts with smoked fish. Smoked fish can be purchased at seafood markets and fish stores by the pound. You can store the fish in the freezer until you need it.
The key to good fish dip is to make it creamy.
Other creamy fish salads, like Tuna Salad, are made with mayonnaise, and fish dip is made creamy with a blend of cream cheese and mayo.
I use Philadelphia full-fat cream cheese in a brick, For a lighter dip, you can use whipped cream cheese.
What You Need
This recipe was made with a one-pound package of smoked fish. It can easily be doubled for a party.
The amount of mayonnaise added is subject to how moist the smoked fish is. Make it creamy and before serving add more if needed.
- 1 pound smoked fish filets such as wahoo, mackerel, mahimahi, or mullet.
- 4 ounces of full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise or sour cream (add enough to get it creamy)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup diced celery
- 3 tablespoons diced red onion
- ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
- ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish
- Crackers or sliced vegetables for serving
You can add liquid smoke, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha, or a touch of horseradish for a different flavor profile.
How To Make Fish Dip
Break the fish into tiny pieces using your fingers. Break up the fish with your hands over a large bowl.
Or, speed up the process by placing the fish in a food processor. Pulse a few times until you get the desired consistency.
Break up the fish until it's broken down, reserving a few larger pieces to add texture to the spread.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Fold in the smoked fish. Add celery, onion, and pepper.
Season with Old Bay seasoning, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Where to Get The Best Fish Dip in The Keys
Who makes the best fish dip in Florida? These are some of our favorites in The Keys.
- The Fish House, Key Largo
- The Pilot House in Key Largo
- The Shrimp Shack in Islamorada
- Herbie's Bar & Chowder House in Marathon
- Conch Republic in Key West
Fish dip is served with a side of buttery crackers, saltine crackers, baguette slices, or salty tortilla chips.
If you need a low-carb or gluten-free side, try pepper cups, also known as pepper chips. I always put these out with dips as an alternative to salty chips. Pepper cups are bell peppers that are cut up to make scoopable chips without the carbs.
Garnish with chopped parsley, green onions, and a sprinkle of Old Bay.
Serve fish dip your first course and complete your meal with the following:
- Stone Crabs with Mustard Sauce
- Pan Fried Yellowtail Snapper Snapper
- Roasted Yellowtail
- Fried Snapper with Panko Breadcrumbs
- Pan Seared Mangrove Snapper with Mango Coleslaw
- Grilled Grouper Collar
- Fresh Blackened Swordfish
- Seared and Blackened Yellowfin Tuna
- Crispy Pan Fried Mahi Mahi Recipe
- Authentic Key Lime Pie
You can add liquid smoke, cayenne pepper, or a touch of horseradish for a different flavor profile.
Store your fish dip in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The flavors often meld and improve after some time, making it a great make-ahead dish.
Be sure to consume it within 3 days for optimal freshness. If the dip thickens in the refrigerator, you can adjust the consistency by adding a little more mayonnaise before serving.
This Florida Smoked Fish Dip recipe is a creamy smoked fish appetizer that is popular in the Florida Keys. It's made with smoked fish, mayonnaise, cream cheese, Old Bay, and lemon juice, making this fish dip a true Key West appetizer.
Like New York's whitefish salad found in kosher delis, Wahoo fish dip features smoked Wahoo blended with creamy ingredients. In Florida, it's served with crackers, chips, or veggies.
You can find this delicious dip at fish markets, grocery stores, and seafood restaurants across the state.
Fish dip is served with a side of buttery crackers or tortilla chips. You can also go with a side of carrot and celery sticks and keep it gluten-free and low-carb.
Make sure to store the fish dip in the refrigerator. It will last for about 3 days after making it. Moisten with a little extra mayonnaise if it gets dry.
While there's no strict rule, fish such as smoked wahoo, smoked mullet, smoked mahi mahi, or smoked trout are used for their robust flavors. Fatty fish like salmon can also work well. Experiment with your locally caught fish.
If you're on the hunt for authentic house-made fish dip in the Florida Keys, these top-notch spots are a must-visit:
The Fish House in Key Largo
The Piot House, Key Largo
The Square Grouper in Islamorada
Herbie's Bar & Chowder House, Marathon
Conch Republic in Key West
Fish dip is always served with a side of sturdy buttery crackers. You can use Ritz crackers or Townhouse crackers. You can also use baguette slices, tortilla chips, or fresh veggies.
Of course! Fish dip is Florida's answer to whitefish salad, a popular dish in bagel stores in the Northeast. Fish dip is made with Florida fish such as wahoo or mahi-mahi, while whitefish salad is made with smoked trout from the Great Lakes. Both are creamy spreads that are excellent on bagels.
Fish Dip Recipe
- 1 pound smoked fish (Wahoo, Mahimahi, trout, etc.)
- 4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, full fat, softened at room temp
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise, or sour cream
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup diced celery
- 3 tablespoons diced red onion, or scallions
- ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper, about half a red pepper
- ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- salt and black pepper
- chopped parsley
- lemon wedges
- Break up, or mash the smoked fish into tiny pieces using your fingers. Or, speed up the process by placing the fish in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese and mayonnaise. Fold in the smoked fish, celery, onion, and pepper.
- Add Old Bay seasoning and lemon juice. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container and chill until ready to serve.
- To serve, Place the fish dip in a bowl. Surround the bowl with your choice of crackers or cut vegetables. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.