Recipes for Pacific Mackerel

Ken Jones

Staff member
McClane’s Fish Buyer’s Guide: Pacific (Chub) Mackerel — (A) Flavor: intense or robust (B) Texture: soft (C) Flake: fine (D) Fat Content: high (E) Odor (Raw): moderate (F) Color after Cooking: dark (G) Cooking Methods: pan-saute

Posted by Ken Jones

From Pier Fishing In California, 2nd Ed. — Although the mackerel catch seems to go up and down in tremendous cycles, they have been one of the most common catches on southern California piers for many years. Unfortunately, they are considered inedible by many anglers. Part of the problem is that they have a very high oil content and thus spoil very rapidly. They are also one of the bloodiest and strongest tasting fish around, a fact accentuated if allowed to soften and spoil (and most spoiled fish don't taste too good). The key to good tastin' mackerel is to ice them down soon after capture and then keep them cold. Proper preservation will present an angler a piece of fish totally different than that left out in the sun to soften. If handled correctly mackerel can be prepared several different ways but generally broiling, baking (especially with a tomato sauce), smoking, or grilling over a bar-b-que are the preferred methods. The following recipe is from an old book written for professional chefs and it is still one of the best and simplest ways to prepare mackerel.

Broiled Mackerel with Anchovy Butter


• salad oil (almost any type)
• mackerel fillets
• 12 anchovy fillets
• 1/2 pound softened butter


• To prepare the anchovy butter, first pound or chop the anchovy fillets into a paste. Next, work this paste into the softened butter. Form the mixture into a 3/4-inch round, pipe-like roll, and then wrap this in waxed paper and refrigerate. Cut off the desired amounts as needed.
• To bake the mackerel, first preheat the broiler in your oven. Next, lightly grease a sheet pan and lay the fillets on it, skin side down. Then rub the fillets lightly on the bottom of the pan and turn so the skin side is up. Put under the preheated broiler but at a point low enough to prevent burning. When partly cooked, and when the skin begins to blister lightly, turn the fillet so the skin side is down. Continue broiling until done or finish baking in a 375 degree oven. Serve with the anchovy paste.
• Final notes: since mackerel has a very high fat content, use only a small amount of oil and make sure the bottom skin is not burned or greasy. Also, be sure to use quite a few fillets since there will be considerable shrinkage.

Posted by cojo-reef on June 4, 2000

Anyone know of a recipe for mac's? Anyone ever eat 'em?

Posted by Snookie

Fried Mackerel

Dear Cojo Reef, Mackerel are delicious, but only if you prepare them right. When you catch them immediately clean or fillet them. Put the fish on ice or in your cooler. I fry the fillets in butter with or without a coating. They do not taste like fish if done right away that day or at least the next day. Salt and pepper is all you need to season them.

Mackerel Patties

Another way to prepare the meat is to grind the meat. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, and whatever else flavor you like. Add an egg to hold it together, and cook like a hamburger patty.

Posted by Ken Jones

Snookie's right — as usual!!! Although mackerel are stronger flavored than fish such as halibut, croaker, or bass, the flavor is simply different. Unfortunately, I think people have become spoiled by the readily available types of "mild-flavored" fish at the supermarket and thus turn their nose up at fish like mackerel or bonito. There was a time when people would gladly have eaten these fish. To minimize the strong flavor, clean as Snookie says and use promptly. Also, cook in a way that adds little oil since they are a high fat fish (like most strongly flavored fish/ fish that have non-white flesh — such as salmon or sablefish). When you cook fish like these you want to remove some of the fat in the flesh, not add fat to it. Thus they are often best when baked, broiled, bar-b-qued or smoked. And, I had never heard of Snookie's second recipe but I'm certainly going to try it.

Posted by Albert

It's true that macks and bonito have a gamy flavor...the Japanese really do a good job at bringing out the flavor in a rice topping called "seto fumi furikake"...which is basically really small strips of seaweed, sesame seeds, and tiny bonito chips saturated in soy sauce and then dehydrated...really good stuff, I highly recommend it. You can find it at any Asian grocery.

Posted by Monkfish

They also sell dried, shaved bonito at Asian markets....sprinkled on top of tofu with soy sauce, served cold is an excellent side dish. Some people only like white-meat fish like bass and halibut... but mackerel and bonito can be really good. If you can't fillet them right away, bleed them... this leaves less blood in the flesh and so tastes less fishy. Broiled with soy sauce and lemon, they can be these fish are actually really good for you, high in Omega 3 fatty acids. We used to eat bonito by stuffing it with pine nuts and slices of lemon and garlic, then sewing the stomach cavity shut, grilling it, and basting it with lemon, butter, fresh fennel, some parsley, and ground pine nuts. It wasn't bad that way.

Posted by Keith Young

If you want to consider a marinade for broiling mackerel, try Lawry's Herb and Garlic. Soak your fillets for a few hours and then bake or broil.

Of course, you could also use teriyaki sauce or Japanese Miso sauce as a marinade and then broil. I have prepared it at home and it tastes the same as what I've tried in Japanese restaurants under the name "Saba." Well, enjoy your mackerel!

Posted by Lilly Lee

The way I like to cook and eat mackerel is Japanese style. In Japanese restaurants, you'll find this as "Saba ShioYaki." "Saba" means mackerel, "shio" is salt and "yaki" means broiled (or fried...) Thus, the basic recipe:

* Fillet/butterfly/cut mackerel along the spine into two halves
* Salt very generously
* Broil/bake very generously

Since the fish has an extremely high oil content, it's difficult to overcook this fish, and more importantly it'll taste more fishy if you slightly undercook this fish. MAKE SURE to cook to where it's dark brown on top. If it's light brown, it'll be fishy-er.

Serve with rice. YUUUUUUMMMMM!!! Enjoy!

Posted by cojo_reef

Thanks Snookie, Ken, Keith and everyone. I am going to try the burgers and marinade. I saw a guy cooking jacksmelt on the Gaviota Pier last Saturday. Everybody asks me what I do with my macs besides using them for bait. Thanks again.

Posted by Ken Jones on April 7, 2004 — What's your best recipe for Pacific mackerel?

Posted by kennycrft

Pickled Japanese-style.

The next time you bite into a piece of sushi it just might be Pacific mackerel which has been pickled in a solution of vinegar, sugar and sake. I think. my mother-in-law use to make it for me all the time after coming home with mackerel. The best thing about mackerel is that if what you cook doesn't taste too good you can always give it to the dog. Dogs love mackerel

Posted by tranbaby2

Salted Pan-seared Mackerel Fillets

Salt and pepper (or even soak for 15 mins) mackerel fillets and sear under high heat in a pan. Cooks up crisp on the outside and moist and soft on the inside.

Posted by kevinlai

Salted then grilled

Salt it and then grill it until the skin is at least golden brown. Then squeeze some lemon juice on it and eat it with chili sauce.

Posted by 2d

Saba Shioyaki

Japanese dish of salted, grilled mackeral. Saba is a different mack than the ones we have here in California, but it should taste similarly.

Posted by kennycrft

No way. The mackerel that you buy frozen is probably from Norway. The mackerel from Norway have much more fat and taste much better than the Pacific mackerel. Oh, by the way, sometimes i steal my wife's Norway mackerel and use it for fishing, dont tell her.

Posted by Daniel E.

Mackerel Patties

Take the mackerel and brown it in butter in a pan. Then break up the meat in a bowel. Then add a couple of slices of bread and a egg and some red onion with a dash of salt and pepper. Then you mix it all up and make patties. Put back in clean pan with just a little oil and brown on both sides. Now you are ready for the best mackerel you have ever tasted.

Posted by 2d

Hawaiian Style — My grandfather, who used to fish for akule and opelu (two different types of mackerel) commercially, would take a bunch and dry them.

Butterfly the fish, salt them, then lay them on a drying rack. For this, he used a wood frame with a sheet of window screen mesh nailed to it. the fish are then covered with another frame/mesh and set in the sun for a few days.

The result is a jerk- like food that can be eaten like that or fried/grilled and eaten. great finger food to go with a couple of cold ones.

Posted by pkjoe

Butterfly and soak in quality sake... then grill. Works well with larger macks. The sake kills some of the fishiness and adds a subtle sweetness. Yum Yum Yum!!!!!
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Ken Jones

Staff member
Posted by Ken Jones

Mackerel, bonito, and other high fat content fish (even salmon) can often have their flavor enhanced by a teriyaki-type marinade. There are many, many different types of flavored teriyaki available today in most markets and most can be used as bottled for a marinade. However, some people prefer to make their own. Below is the recipe for a basic teriyaki marinade — and how to use it. Although most commonly used with high-oil, dark-fleshed fish such as mackerel, it can actually be used with any fish. Personally, I do not use it with white-fleshed fish because I feel it detracts from the flavor of those fish — but many love the teriyaki inspired flavors. If used for a less oily fish, marinade the fish for 1-2 hours; if used for the more oily mackerel, marinade the fish for 2-3 hours.

Teriyaki Marinade


• 2/3 cup soy sauce
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1/4 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
• 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
• 4 large cloves of garlic, firmly minced

Teriyaki Mackerel


• 4 mackerel fillets (6 to 8 ounces each), boned with skin on
• Teriyaki Marinade


• Rinse the mackerel fillets and pat dry. Check them for bones and remove as many as possible.
• Place the fillets in a shallow porcelain or glass cooking dish. Pour the marinade over the fillets. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, turning once.
• Preheat the broiler.
• Place the fillets, skin side down, in a shallow baking dish or on a piece of aluminum foil. Spoon several tablespoons of the marinade over the fillets. Broil 4 inches from the heat until opaque, 4 to 5 minutes.
• Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
••• Note: Mackerel cook very quickly so watch it carefully under the broiler so it doesn't overcook.
••• Note: Be sure to leave the skin on the fillets to hold them together while they marinade and cook. The skin peels off easily once cooked.

These recipes are taken from one of my favorite fish cookbooks, one that has been in my library for nearly 30 years — The Great American Seafood Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis.