What Does Mackerel Taste Like

What Does Mackerel Taste Like

What does mackerel taste like? Let me tell you. Mackerel is one of the most debated topics in the culinary world. When you go to a restaurant and decide to order fish, you most likely won’t find mackerel on the menu. Unlike salmon and tilapia, mackerel can be extremely hard to find on the menu, and even harder to prepare. However, if you find a chef who knows what they’re doing, you might be surprised at how rich and flavorful mackerel can be.

Why has mackerel earned such a questionable reputation? The answer is because of the mackerel’s tendency to turn foul very quickly. This means that if you don’t live right by the ocean, you have probably never tried mackerel. And if you have, it probably wasn’t a pleasant experience.

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If you’ve had a bad experience with mackerel, don’t give up hope. If prepared right, mackerel can be both delicious and nutritious. This leads us to a very important question, what does mackerel taste like?

Mackerel – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Mackerel is mostly known for its oily and firm flesh. That’s because mackerel are packed with healthy omega oils. Did you know some doctors recommend you eat two servings of fish per week? Mackerel is filled with high volumes of omega-3 oils; which are great for raising your cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol) and lowering your blood pressure.

Moreover, Mackerel also has a milder taste compared to fish like salmon, which are known for their strong flavors. Mackerel is also known for having more of a “fishy” taste, similar to the flavor of sardines and herring. For some people, this taste can be off-putting. When fish taste “fishy,” people assume that the fish has gone bad. In reality, the “fishy” taste that accompanies mackerel is just a bolder version of salmon, and what’s wrong with that?

How To Cook Mackerel

This is the part that will determine the taste of your mackerel. If you prepare mackerel poorly, this may be the first and last time you ever try our fishy friend, which would be a shame. Mackerel can be eaten raw, and some people prefer to use mackerel in sushi, so this is one option. Your other option is to cook the mackerel. If you choose this option, I would recommend skipping frozen mackerel filets and opting for something fresher.

Let’s Get Started…

  1. Start clean, start fresh. The best fish is fresh fish, and mackerel has a tendency to spoil very quickly. Therefore, fresh mackerel should be prepared and eaten right away. To do this, start by bleeding the fish and removing all of the bones. This will allow the mackerel to taste a little less “fishy.”
  2. Add seasoning. Add salt and any preferred herbs to the mackerel fillets. Then, let the mackerel marinate on ice or in a cooler for 30 minutes.
  3. Cook the filets. Mackerel can be grilled, broiled, or pan-fried depending on the texture you prefer. If you choose to broil the filets, your mackerel will come out with a crispier skin. Whichever option you choose, make sure you don’t overcook the mackerel.
  4. Add dressing. Mackerel is best paired with tart dressings, such as vinegar or lemon juice. For a richer taste, try adding a buttery sauce mixed with olives.

Mackerel also comes canned in tins! If you are a fan of canned anchovies, then you should give canned mackerel a try. The two fish are very similar in flavor.

If you’re wondering if mackerel skin can be eaten, it definitely can. The skin is actually extremely delicate and easy to remove, making mackerel a great choice for picky eaters! If you wish to remove the skin, simply rub your fingers gently across the filet and the flesh will fall off.

How To Tell If The Mackerel Is Fresh

Unless you plan on catching the mackerel yourself, you’ll need to know the telltale signs of fresh mackerel. The most obvious sign is the coloring of the skin. If the mackerel has sparkly skin, it’s still fresh. If the flesh is dull in color, it’s most likely gone bad. Fresh mackerel should have an off-white color, mackerel that has gone bad will have a darker color closer to shades of brown.

The smell will also help you figure out of the fish is fresh or not. If the mackerel has a strong, overpowering odor, it should be avoided.

Is Mackerel High in Mercury?

If you consume a lot of fish, you know this is a question you need to consider. Mackerel is considered a predatory fish at the top of the food chain, meaning mackerel has a relatively high mercury count compared to smaller fish. Predatory fish have higher mercury counts because of the number of smaller fish that they eat. The more fish that are eaten, the higher the mercury count.

With that being said, mackerel is not the worst fish you could eat. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish have the highest mercury count and should not be eaten on a regular basis. Shrimp, salmon, catfish, and canned tuna have relatively low mercury counts and are safe to be consumed on a more regular basis.


Mackerel is an under-rated and under-valued fish. Many people are quick to write off mackerel just because of its oily texture. But once embraced, mackerel could progressively move up to your top 5 favorite fish.

Try pairing your freshly-cooked mackerel with an aromatic wine. You could also choose a sparkling wine that beautifully pairs with mackerel because of the wine’s slightly acidic taste.

If you don’t know of any mackerel recipes, fear not! You can usually substitute mackerel in almost any fish recipe that uses salmon. Just add a dash of vinegar or lime juice and you’ll be good to go!

Additionally, Atlantic Spanish mackerel is a sustainable source of fish. This type of mackerel has not been affected by mass production and over-fishing, so you won’t have any issue finding this fish on the East coast. So go ahead and give mackerel a chance, your appetite and your conscience will be thanking you.

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