When I first saw Pumpkin Swordfish many years ago, I thought to myself, are you kidding me?! Not even seafood can escape pumpkin marketing in the fall?! Have we sunk so low in our food culture that we’re now going to artificially color and flavor swordfish just to make it look and taste like pumpkin? Is nothing sacred anymore? Thankfully, I quickly learned that pumpkin swordfish has nothing to do with actual pumpkins or gimmicky autumn-themed marketing. Phew!
As you may know, the flesh of swordfish is typically a whitish-gray color. However, there are times when some swordfish consume a diet primarily of shrimp and krill. This turns their flesh into a darker orange-colored hue. Thus, the name pumpkin.
Pumpkin swordfish are not just available in the Fall. But they are quite rare. Fishermen won’t know they’ve caught a pumpkin swordfish until they cut it open. It’s estimated that 1 in every 3000 swordfish is a pumpkin swordfish. Pretty cool, don’t you think?
Let me show you the difference!
Because they’re rarely caught, they’re hard to find. Your best option is through a local fishmonger or an online supplier. I bought pumpkin swordfish from The Local Catch in Rhode Island. They’re a great company, committed to sourcing only sustainably-caught seafood from local fishermen.
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Besides wild-caught swordfish, you’ll find a wide range of in-season fish and shellfish from the waters of southern New England. They offer a CSF (Community Supported Fisheries) option, sell at local farmers’ markets, and also do home deliveries in the southern New England area. You can regularly check their online offerings but you can also contact them and put a request in for pumpkin swordfish when it shows up.
If you don’t live in southern New England, ask your local fishmonger. Another option is to try to find an online seafood company that ships to your area. Buying direct via online outlets is often a better way to support local small-scale fishermen than purchasing seafood in supermarkets. The quality is often much better and fishermen earn more from your direct purchases than by selling through a middleman. Check out the Seafood Finder here, plug in your zip code, and you can find good quality online seafood suppliers in your area.
Thankfully, it does not taste like pumpkin. Because that would be really weird. Rather, its dark hue from a crustacean-rich diet means it has a higher fat content which results in a rich, buttery flavor. In other words, it tastes exactly like regular white-fleshed swordfish but better. And that’s saying a lot because swordfish is absolutely delicious, pumpkin or not.
For this reason, pumpkin swordfish is considered a delicacy and fetches a higher price than regular swordfish.
It would make a great fit in many of the seafood soup and stew recipes in my next cookbook, New England Soups from the Sea. For example, it would be a fantastic addition to seafood stews such as an Italian Zuppa di Pesce, a Spanish Zarzuela, or my New England-themed Cioppino or Bouillabaisse. You could certainly use it in place of bluefish in my Bluefish Chowder. It would also make a fine addition to any of the fish soups in the Brothy Soups chapter of my cookbook. You might also find a good use for it in one of these seafood soup recipes from around the world.
But to be honest, if you’ve never had it before, it’s best to capture its unique flavor by keeping things simple and grilling or pan searing it. You can never go wrong with butter, lemon, salt, and pepper. A basic spice rub is fine too, like a lemon pepper seasoning or an Old Bay type of seasoning. Here’s a simple pan-seared recipe to show off its incredible, rich flavor. Enjoy!
A simple seasoning and a quick pan sear is an ultra-easy but nonetheless delicious method for cooking pumpkin swordfish.
Pat swordfish steaks dry with paper towels. Season both sides of each steak with salt and pepper
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast-iron skillet until very hot. Add swordfish steaks and sear for five minutes. Flip and sear the other side for another 3 to 7 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. The steak should feel firm when you press it.
Remove swordfish from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the lemon juice.
Transer swordfish to serving plates and spoon the lemon butter sauce over the swordfish steaks.
Season to taste with any additional salt, pepper, butter, and/or lemon.
Instead of melting the butter, you can simply place butter pats on top of the swordfish when it’s resting. The butter will melt right over the steaks. Season it with lemon juice just before serving.
Add any fresh herbs to the steaks, such as chives, parsley, or basil.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.