Smoked Bluefish Pate

5 from 12 votes
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Bluefish is just about as polarizing a food as there is: You either love it or hate it. But a possible middle ground is smoked bluefish pâté. Most people who try it like it.

Pomatomus saltatrix is a pelagic fish that normally travels in big schools, eternally in search of food. They’re a lot like a pack of wolves, or oceanic piranha. All that travelling means bluefish have lots of red, slow-twitch muscle, which in fish is very, very strong and unpleasant to eat.

Smoked bluefish pate on crusty bread.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

What’s more, the “white” meat, really bluish gray in a bluefish, is pretty soft. Oh yeah, and uncooked it doesn’t freeze worth a damn.

So what’s to love? Well, cooked fresh, bluefish is fantastic — if you cook it right. I prefer mine grilled, slow barbecued or better yet, smoked. Once it’s cooked, you can then vacuum seal and freeze the white meat portions for eating later. In general, bluefish likes acid: citrus, vinegar, tomatoes, that sort of thing. It cuts the oiliness.

Smoked bluefish pâté may well be the best thing you can do with blues, especially big blues larger than 10 pounds (they can grow to 25 pounds). Basically its fish, cream cheese, capers, lemon, onion and dill. Super simple, so good on crackers for a summertime lunch or appetizer. I’d been wanting to make it for a while, and I got my chance when I returned to Long Island — my old stomping grounds — to do some fishing with my friend, Chef Anita Lo.

Photo by Hank Shaw
Photo by Hank Shaw

We fished out of Montauk, ostensibly for black seabass and gigantic porgies, which we laid into something fierce. All the while, though, I was hoping to get into some bluefish. Why? I can catch fish that taste like seabass and porgies here in California, but we have nothing like bluefish in the North Pacific.

About halfway through the trip, Anita hooked a big fish on a porgy rig. It wasn’t coming up, either, and lest you think it’s because Anita is just a fancypants, big city chef, I can assure you that she is a real-deal angler; we’ve fished together in Alaska and she proved herself then. About five minutes into the fight, we all reeled up to watch the show.

Tuna? Tilefish? World record seabass? Shark? Shark. Had to be a shark. Finally, about 15 minutes in, we saw the fish. It was a bluefish. A big one. And it was hooked in the gill plate, so it could swim freely. No wonder Anita was having a tough time! nearly 20 minutes in we gaffed the fish and brought it aboard. Easily 15 pounds, maybe more than that.

It was the only bluefish we caught that day, but it was enough. Anita can catch blues whenever she wants, so she was nice enough to give me this fish, which we filleted and I brought home on the airplane. I smoked it the next day, and it was awesome! Tasted like the old days.

A bowl of smoked bluefish pate.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If you want to smoke your own bluefish, here’s how I did it: I had about 3 1/2 pounds of skin-on fillets. I mixed 1/2 pound of kosher salt with 1/2 pound brown sugar and packed the fish with it. I put that in the fridge for 4 hours, then I rinse off the cure and patted the bluefish dry. I let the fish dry uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day I smoked it over alder for 4 hours, never letting the temperature top 200°F. When it came off the smoker, I painted the bluefish with some maple syrup and then sprinkled on a spice mix of cracked black pepper, crushed juniper, mustard seed, celery seed and thyme.

After we ate a bunch fresh, I whipped up this bluefish pâté. So good!

This recipe works really well with smoked shad or mackerel. And while bluefish pâté is my go-to, bluefish are also a good fish to use for rillettes or as a substitute for salmon in salmon dip, or smoked trout in smoked trout dip.

A bowl of smoked bluefish pate.
5 from 12 votes

Smoked Bluefish Pâté

This recipe assumes you have cooked bluefish, preferably smoked bluefish. You can find smoked bluefish in most Northeastern markets. Or you can make your own. Or you can just cook up some bluefish -- on the grill is best -- and then use the cooked, flaked meat. No bluefish near you? Try these fish as substitutes: Mackerel (of any kind), shad, herring, sardines, freshwater sheepshead (drum), whitefish, cisco, wahoo, dorado or jack. Basically you want a pretty oil fish that isn't salmon.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 1/2 pound cooked (smoked) bluefish (for alternatives, see above)
  • 1/4 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon small capers
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • A few splashes of Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or bourbon (optional)
  • Salt and pepper


  • Remove all the red meat from the bluefish and either discard or give it to your pet. It's very fishy and most people (including me) don't like it. Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl and mash them together into a rough pate. If you want a smooth pate, double the cream cheese and mash everything up even more. Serve with crackers or flatbread.


Once made, this pâté will keep in the fridge for a week to 10 days. It doesn't freeze well, so my advice if you smoke your own bluefish is to seal it into 1/2 pound portions so you can make this whenever.


Calories: 77kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 73mg | Potassium: 112mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 243IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

You May Also Like

Southern Fish and Grits

Southern fish and grits: Seared fish, grits and a simple sauce make this Southern classic an easy supper. Great with tripletail or any firm fish.

Potted Shrimp

A recipe for British potted shrimp, made with tiny pink cocktail shrimp, which are one of the most sustainable shrimp you can buy. Easy and tasty!

Oyster Stew

A recipe for Southern oyster stew, a simple, brothy, creamy soup that highlights fresh oysters. It’s a tradition in the South and, surprisingly, the Midwest.

Panzanella di Mare

Panzanella di mare is an Italian bread salad with tinned fish. This is a winter panzanella with black kale, squash and sage. It’s versatile, too.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

5 from 12 votes (3 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Que onda Hank,.
    We’ve had our fair share of blues this summer in the Chesapeake Bay, been smoking a lot of fish.
    2 questions:
    1) How does the dry brine you employ in this recipe differ from the wet brine of say the lake trout recipe.?
    2) Can you recommend a smoking fish specific cookbooks?
    Gracias Hank un gusto sincero, eres una inspiración en la cocina.

    1. Jesse: El placer es mio compa! Salting a fish for smoking is faster than brining, but it requires more salt, so I don’t do it for lots and lots of fish — only when I have just a few pieces to smoke. There are no good smoking fish cookbooks per se, but my book Hook, Line and Supper has lots of smoking recipes in it. Do you have a copy?

  2. Made this recipe multiple times for parties, every time I make it it’s gone in 10 minutes and people cannot believe it’s bluefish! This is an amazing recipe and if you follow it right it’s awesome! Don’t throw your blue fish back. Just bleed them right away, put them on ice and cut out the bloodline when you filet them!

  3. I just returned from a trip to Baja with a couple of King Mackerel in the cooler. I put some aside to make Albondingas but smoked the rest after an overnight soak in a simple salt/suga brine and it’s delicious in this recipe. Thanks for publishing!

  4. Sorry. Good recipe but way too much lemon. Suggest zest of half a lemon and 2 tbsp’s lemon juice. Juice of one lemon overpowered everything else. Had to toss it out.

    1. KFK: Well, you are the first person in almost a decade of this recipe being online, with thousands of people making it, to say this. Sorry you had that experience. Since everything is cooked, you realize you can taste as you go, right?

  5. Made this recipe with a smoked shad. Put shad meat through the meat grinder twice to destroy the bones. Yesterday I went to a party where I brought in this, and it was undoubtedly the best dish at potluck. People were praising it again and again. Thanks, Hank!

  6. I just came across this recipe because my husband caught a slew of bluefish. No one around here likes bluefish so he also got the fish that other people caught. He smoked half and made jerky candy with the other half. So I just made this pate with most of the smoked blues and I have to say, it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. I made the recipe exactly but did not add the liquor. It is just so so so good and really compliments and even elevates the lowly bluefish. Many thanks for sharing, I intend for this to be my go-to blue recipe!

  7. I recently returned from a surf fishing trip at the outer banks of North Carolina and brought back a cooler full of “snapper” blue’s in the 3 to 5 lb. range. I have found that this is about the best size range when it comes to taste. Like many ocean fish the taste quality seems drops off the larger they become (red drum for example). One of the comment’s mentioned bleeding the fish, we generally try to do this with “chopper” blues 10b. and larger. When blues are blitzing on bait you can usually catch a lot in the same size range. I don’t pass them up when they are in the smaller size range and you can usually catch a limit in short order. . They go into a cooler full of ice immediately after they come off the hook and are filleted and frozen within a few hours. I don’t think the little razor tooth devils will ever be appealing to all. I’ll have the smoker fired up this weekend so can try this pate recipe next week.

  8. I’m late to the game here but wanted to add my two cents. Like most things, preparation is key. And wth bluefish you need to start as soon as the fish comes to the boat or shore. The meat of a bluefish is incredibly sensitive to bruising and temperature (unlike say a striped bass which you can toss on the deck in 95 degree sunshine and let it rattle around in heavy seas on the way home.)

    First, I place a boga grip into the sharp end of the yellow-eyed, sea wolf. Then using kitchen shears, I cut through the gills on both sides. The fish and boga (attached to a short line and the boat) go back into the water until the fish is bled out. Carefully place the fish in a slurry of ice to quickly cool it and protect from any bumping.

    Also, someone had a question on scaling the fish. I find that a scaled fish is much easier to filet. The scales don’t deflect the knife as you cut. Obviously depends on the fish and toughness of the scales.

  9. Years ago, fishing on Nantucket, I found small, 48-page cookbook/pamphlet, THE BLUEFISH COOKBOOK, by Greta Jacobs, a compilation of island recipes. My favorite, which I make several times a year is “BLOX” or Bluefish Gravlax.

    Fillets from a 8-10# fish are ideal, trim to a rectangle.

    Mix 2/3c brown sugar, 2/3c kosher salt, 1tbl. ground allspice and 1tbl. ground black pepper. Rub as much of the mixture as the fish will hold well into the meat side of the fillets.

    Take a rectangular Pyrex dish that will hold the fillets and lay down a large piece of plastic wrap then enough fresh dill to equal the size of the fillet, sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining salt mixture and put your first fillet on top, skin side down. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining mixture on the meat side and cover the entire fillet with more fresh dill, then sprinkle another 1/4 mixture. Lay the second fillet on top, meat side down against the dill and thick to thin with the bottom fillet. Sprinkle with last 1/4 mixture and cover with fresh dill.

    You should have an even “sandwich”, starting from the bottom of dill, fillet, dill, fillet, dill, with salt mixture around each fillet. Wrap the whole deal as tight as possible with plastic wrap, the idea is keep the brine that will form in contact with the fish.
    Cover Pyrex dish with plastic food wrap, get either a piece of wood or another slightly smaller dish and place on top and then weight it, I use two bricks. Put in refrigerator.

    Every 12 hours or so remove weights and board and turn the entire sandwich over, replace board and weight and back into the fridge. A brown brine will begin to develop in the dish, leave it there, it’s what is curing the fish.

    You do this for 5-7 days depending on the thickness of the fillets, you will know you’re done when the fillets feel firm and dense. Discard the dill and lightly rinse off any extra spice and brine, dry well.

    This is a cured fish product, I have kept it up to 3 weeks sealed in plastic in the fridge, longer if vacuum packed.

    To serve use as thin a knife as you have to take slices of at a very low angle, like the guys at the deli counter slice lox. Great on those danish flatbread with a mustard/dill sauce or with bagels and cream cheese, bluefish lox, Blox!

  10. Ok. Just making sure I wasn’t missing something! I actually made it this weekend and my recipe is pretty much the same. I think the flavors, although different than bluefish, work really well with everything else in the recipe. Cheers! Glad I found your page!

  11. Hank, when you smoke the bluefish (skin on), have you scaled it? I’m guessing this is a dumb question, but I’m a rookie at smoking fish and don’t want to mess it up. Also, you don’t do anything to caramelize the maple syrup, just paint it on and eat? Thanks in advance, love the site!

    1. Max: Depends on my mood. Normally I don’t scale. Bluefish have large scales, and they protect that side of the meat when you are smoking it. Besides, you don’t eat the skin in this case, so you save some work by not scaling.

  12. Here in Montana it’s whitefish. Otherwise known as a Montana dolphin 🙂 they are great smoked should be “da bomb” in a pate.

  13. Down here in South Florida Smoked Fish Dip is a staple. On the west coast of Fla it is made with mullet but on the east side I’ve had it with smoked marlin on occassion too. You’ll also see mahi, wahoo… etc. For years my smoked fish dip recipe was the #1 recipe on my site. I’d love to try your recipe!

  14. I often hook in to a bluefish here on the south shore of Long Island while fishing for striped bass. But the fish usually bite through my mono-filament leaders and get away. I might have to start using a steel leader to try and smoke a blue. Most people I fish with regard them as trash and throw them back. . .

  15. I’m a fan of bluefish, especially smoked bluefish. Thanks for sharing your method for smoking the fish. I’m going to try this next time I come across bluefish (which I do from time to time, on the east coast).

  16. Don’t forget mullet in your list of smoked fish pate stars. Smoked mullet and smoked mullet “dip” as we call it in the low country are better than a good “substitute” (in fact, in order to foster a healthy north/south culinary rivalry, I’d say smoked bluefish makes a passable substitute for smoked mullet).