Recipes for Bonito

Ken Jones

Staff member
Posted by Ken Jones on July 29, 2004

What's your best recipe for Pacific bonito?

From Pier Fishing In California, 2nd Ed. — Two of the best fighting fish you will catch on a pier are mackerel and bonito. Unfortunately, many people don't bother to eat them (although that may change if they try the recipes listed in this chapter). Here is a way to prepare these often-wasted fish. The following two recipes were sent to me by Mike Nosanov of Oceanside who reported that he had tried both and was quite pleased. Since then I have tested both recipes, find them delicious, and recommend either one. By the way, these will also work with salmon, sablefish and other high-fat content types of fish.

Pickled Bonito (or mackerel)

Recipe #1

salt, as needed
2 pounds of bonito or mackerel fillets; fillets should have the skin attached but be deboned and the dark strip of meat which runs along the back should be removed
1 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/2 sliced onion
1 bay leaf

Prepare the bonito or mackerel fillets and then freeze for three days. Thaw out the meat and then salt it generously for 4 hours. Rinse well. Prepare the marinade of vinegar, sugar, onion, bay leaf and dill. Marinate for three hours. Remove the skin from the back of the fillet and discard the skin. Keep refrigerated in a glass jar. Eat with or without sour cream.

Recipe #2

2 large bonito or 6 large mackerel; fillets should have the skin attached but be deboned and the dark strip of meat which runs along the back should be removed. Cut into bite size pieces
4 large onions, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
6 to 12 bay leaves
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups vinegar per cup of water
grated apple

Prepare the bonito or mackerel. Soak the fish in water overnight. Place in a crock or glass jar, layering in the onion slices, lemon slices, pepper, mustard seed and bay leaves. Boil a mixture of sugar and vinegar then set aside to cool. Pour over the fish to cover. Add grated apple (optional). Cover the jar, keep in a cool place and let stand 4 to 6 days.

Posted by dompha ben

Bonito Salad Sandwich

Immediately after catching bonito, bleed the fish well but cutting across the "throat" of the fish, and remove the gills.

Fillet the fish, and fry it in a hot skillet with canola oil, and a little salt and pepper.

Once the fish is cooked, mash it up in a bowl with some mayonnaise, sweet relish, a squeeze of mustard, and some chopped celery and green onion. A pinch of dill gives it that tartar-sauce flavor. Chill in the refrigerator, if desired.

Spread on quality multi grain bread, add fresh red-leaf lettuce, a nice beefsteak tomato slice, thinly sliced cucumbers, and a few sprouts (if you're into that sort of thing). Serve with a big dill pickle and potato chips.

I've always preferred bonito salad to tuna salad. Lasts in the fridge for about a week, too.

DOMPFA: Dominating Positive Fishing Attitude! Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. -The Grateful Dead

Posted by frozendog

DOMPFA Ben is 'right on' on this one. Bleeding and icing is essential. Also, I used to smoke the bonito (not like a cigar) and then do the same thing — make it into a salad sandwich. One other recipe that comes to mind: after you bleed and refrigerate, steak the front half of the fish, the part with the belly flaps, cut out any bones or dark sections that you can, filet the solid tail section, marinate in teriaki sauce and grill on the bbq. You can flake any leftovers to make into a salad. Rusty on this, as haven't caught many bonito in the last few years due to their conspicuous absence in local waters.

Posted by youngmanandthesea

Killer Bonito Recipe!

Hello Folks, Got this recipe while vacationing in Phuket Thailand last winter. Start with a cleaned bonito with guts and head removed. Make three deep cuts down the side of the fish then place in a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle three tbl spns white wine over fish. Then add two cloves fresh minced garlic, one tspn minced Thai chiles, one tbl sp Thai fish sauce, two tbl spns chopped Asian basil, two tbl spns fresh lime juice, and finish off with three thinly slice lime wedges on top. Wrap up in foil and toss in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15 -20 minutes. Have some steamed rice ready and you will have a new appreciation for this great fish! Scott

Posted by outtosea2

No butter Scott? Frank

Posted by youngmanandthesea

Frank, I usually leave the butter out of this dish just to keep it truly authentic. However, I don’t see how adding butter would hurt. Most recipes are starting points, just use your imagination and enjoy! Oh! rockfish work real well too. Scott

Posted by fish taco

Don’t ever give out your recipe...because when I see it, it makes me too hungry for fish!!!! that does sound like a good recipe

Posted by kds99

I smoked some bonito this weekend that were pretty good. Marinated the fillets in Veri teri get it at Trader Joe's for 24 hrs and then slow smoked them for around 3 hrs using 75% hickory smoke and 25% oak.

Posted by joey805

I had no idea this fish was good eating. I'm gonna have to try this one out. It sounds yummy! Thanks for sharing, Joey

Posted by reefisher

Yet another bonito recipe. I've been having bonito about two to three times a week since the bite started a couple of months ago. It has turned out to be much more versatile than I had previously thought. This is one of the better attempts at cooking in tin (aluminum) foil.

Baked Bonito

Bonito "baked" in Thai green curry and coconut. I used an already prepared green curry paste, added it to a basic fish stock, added some powdered red curry, ginger, garlic and coconut milk. Reduced it over low heat. Scored gilled and gutted whole bonito along sides and cut halfway down on both sides of dorsal fins (like in filleting, just to allow lifting of meat without having to pull out fin rays, when ready to eat) Place fish onto tin foil, roll sides, pour curry mixture over fish, sprinkle about two tblspns flour over fish, add very thinly sliced lime slices, seal foil and place on grill (indirect heat with lid closed) Serve with steamed rice.

Other recipes —

Posted by snookie on July 7, 2002

Hi Dig, You must try bonito again. The same goes for mackerel. If you either fillet them or just clean them to be used whole immediately and then put them into your cooler with ice, they will be a good fish to eat. There is no fishy taste or smell from either bonito or mackerel if treated this way before cooking them. I fry mine when I chose to eat them. If left in a bucket all day to die they will be fishy and mushy. I wouldn't eat them either after that. Try it. You'll like it. Snookie

Posted by mola joe

Bonito and Barracuda — I'll take a bonito on the plate over a barracuda any day. The one thing both of them have in common is the need to ice them down as soon as they're off the hook. Unfortunately, only a few sport boats are equipped with saltwater brine holds that keep the fishermen's catch cold. Trying to keep bonito and barracuda fresh in a gunny sack hanging on the bait tank is a real problem. Even wetting them down helps some, but after 3 or 4 hours in the sack, foreget about it, especially on a hot and sunny day. It's the number one reason most people try these two fish once and hate them. Here's the way I fix bonito. As soon as the fish hits the boat, cut the gills and hang them upside down for a minute or so to bleed them. Then, they go under the ice in my ice chest. When I get home, I fillet them and take out all dark meat (very important).

Place the fillets on a foil lined cookie sheet, sprinkle a little garlic salt, add some diced Ortega Chile, 2 or 3 tablespoons of salsa on each fillet, and bake for 10 minutes or just before they're done. Take out and cover with shredded cheese of your choice and put back in oven for 5 minutes or so. Make sure you do not over cook. They're done as soon as the fish flakes. You can wrap in warm tortillas, or eat them as is, YUM!! If you start with mushy sun-baked fish, I don't care how good a cook you are, bonito and barracuda will come out tasting very srong and fishy tasting.

Posted by Moonshine

Easy bonito recipe


• 1 bonito, approximately 2&1/2 to 3 pounds
• 1/2 cup of olive oil
• 5-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
• sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• Greek oregano (rigani)
• juice of 2 lemons
• 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes
• 1 1/3 cups of water


• Preheat oven to 355F (180C).
• Remove and discard head and intestines from the fish. Carefully cut the fish in half lengthwise, cutting along the back. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, and oregano.
• Score the fish along its sides about the length of your button holes of your shirt on its skin. then season.
• Insert slices of garlic into the meatiest parts of the fish.
• Clean potatoes and cut into equal size wedge-shaped pieces. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano.
• Place fish in a large roasting pan, and surround with potatoes. Add remaining slices of garlic over the potatoes. Pour the oil and lemon juice over the fish and potatoes, and add water.
• Bake at 355F (180C) for 1 1/2 hours.

Posted by quietman on November 19, 2003

Smoked Bonito or Mackerel

Smoked Bonito and Mackerel are *TO DIE* for, and soooooo cheap and easy to do. You transform free "trash" fish into a $20/pound delicacy overnight. Everyone should try it!

Posted by castlebravo

Bonito is the primary fish used to make Japanese soup broths.
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