A simple but flavorful way to prepare mackerel is to poach it in extra-virgin olive oil and aromatics. The best part is that it won't leave your kitchen smelling fishy.
The inspiration for the dish comes from Spanish-style Sardines sold in tin cans and glass jars. They are delicious, shelf-stable, and an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. A homemade version is easy and inexpensive to make.
If you like fish, you may also like Soy and Ginger Fish.
Ingredients you’ll need
Notes and substitutions
- Mackerel fillets: They are also called Atlantic Mackerel, Norwegian Mackerel, Boston Mackerel, or North Atlantic Mackerel. The distinctive wavy lines on their backs make them easy to identify.
- Sweet pickles or gherkins: These are cucumbers pickled in a sweet brine. Gherkins are smaller cucumbers with bumpier skin.
- Olives: Use green, pitted olives like Manzanilla olives. Substitute with any kind you prefer.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Aside from its health benefits, its rich flavor makes the fish and sauce delicious. You can also use regular olive oil.
- Vinegar: Use white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or cane vinegar to get the fishy taste out.
How to make this recipe
(1)Make the sauce by combining ½ cup vinegar, ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon ginger, and ¼ cup of water in a cup.
(2)Cut each fillet into 3 pieces and arrange them in a single layer in the sauté pan.
(2)Add 2 cups carrots, 1 cup sweet pickles, ½ cup olives, 1 cup shallot, 6 garlic cloves, 4 bay leaves, 4 chilies, and ground pepper to taste. Lay them out evenly, then pour the sauce.
(4)Cover and simmer over medium heat until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust as needed. If it's too watery, let it cook uncovered for a few more minutes.
If you are like me (and a million other Filipinos), serve Mackerel with Olive Oil with hot steaming rice.
Frequently asked questions and tips
Mackerel is delicious, meaty, and doesn't get mushy when cooked. It is inexpensive, packed with omega-3 fatty acids, and has low mercury levels. Proper handling and using the right ingredients eliminate its fishy odor.
A good indicator is the eyes—they must be bright, clear, and not sunken. The gills should be red, and the skin should be shiny and springs back when touched. It should not smell fishy at all.
If you are buying fillets, the flesh should not be too soft or falling apart. For frozen mackerel, pick a well-sealed package with no freezer burn, frost, or ice crystals.
Spanish mackerel is a delicious alternative. Sardines and milkfish are excellent but have a lot more pin bones. Some recipes require pressure cooking until the bones and heads become soft and safe to eat. Using fillets like salmon or tuna fillets will significantly reduce cooking time.
If you need to, you can. Since vegetable oil is neutral-tasting, the dish won't be as flavorful.
Other seafood recipes you may like
Did you make this recipe? I would love to know! Your feedback helps me make better recipes. Please rate, review, or comment below. Questions about this recipe are welcome, too!
Let's connect on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, and Youtube. Be sure to tag me when you try any of my recipes @recipesbynora!
Mackerel in Olive Oil
- Sauté pan
- 4 mackerel fillets from 2 whole fish (about 1¼ pounds) (see note)
- ½ cup vinegar
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil sub:olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups sliced carrots
- 1 cup sweet pickles or gherkins bite-size pieces
- ½ cup pitted green olives whole or cut in half
- 1 cup shallots or red onion bite-size pieces
- 6 cloves garlic smashed
- 4 bay leaves dried or fresh
- 4 Bird's eye chilies sub:crushed red pepper
- Ground pepper or whole peppercorns to taste
- Make the sauce by combining vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, fish sauce, paprika, salt, sugar, ginger, and ¼ cup of water in a cup.
- Cut each mackerel fillet into 3 pieces and arrange them in a single layer in the sauté pan.
- Add carrots, sweet pickles, olives, shallots, garlic, bay leaves, chilies, and ground pepper to taste. Lay them out evenly and pour the sauce.
- Cover and simmer over medium heat until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.
- Give it a taste and adjust as needed. If it's too watery, let it cook uncovered for a few more minutes.
Ive never thought of this recipe for mackerel, great idea.
The original idea was for sardines, but I like mackerel because they're meatier and also inexpensive. =)
Your making it very simple make, I’ll try to do this my self, thanks Nora
Perfect for healthy meals at home! Love this!
This recipe is amazing. Easy to make and it is so healthy! Will definitely try with other fish
Love this recipe. It works with other kinds of fish too.
I often see mackerel in the fish market here but I never buy them cos I never knew what to do with them except to grill. This was easy to prepare. I think mackerel tastes better than sardines and the flesh is not as delicate.
Hi Lian! I know exactly what you mean! And yes I agree, mackerel is meatier and has a better texture. Thanks for your comment.
Excellent recipe. So easy, healthy and delicious! Love this!
Thank you Nora💕
Hello Jaymie! Thank you and glad you liked it!
This recipe is healthy and easy to make. I’ll try this using brancino. Thank you Nora!