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mackerel in olive oil on a serving plate

Mackerel in Olive Oil

An effortless and flavorful way to prepare mackerel is to poach it in extra-virgin olive oil and aromatics. It makes cooking fish at home easy — no fuss, no muss. My favorite part is that there’s no mixing involved in the pan.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Filipino
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 621kcal
Author Nora Rey
Cost $10-$12


  • A sauté pan


  • 4 mackerel fillets from 2 whole fish (about 1¼ pounds or 567 grams) (see note)
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (255 grams) bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup sweet pickles or gherkins (113 grams) bite-size pieces (see note)
  • 1 cup shallots or red onion (100 grams) bite-size pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic smashed
  • ½ cup pitted green olives (85 grams) whole or cut in half (see note)
  • 4 bay leaves dried or fresh
  • 4 Bird's eye chili pepper (see note)
  • ¼ cup water (58 grams)
  • ½ cup vinegar (128 grams) (see note)
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil (171 grams) (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • Ground black pepper or whole black peppercorn to taste


Prepare the Ingredients:

  • Cut each mackerel fillet into three pieces.
  • Peel and slice the carrots diagonally into ½-inch thick pieces.
  • Cut the pickles, olives, and shallots in half if they're too big for one bite.
  • Smash the garlic and remove the peel.
  • Peel a small knob of ginger, then grate or mince.
  • Make the sauce by combining ¼ cup of water, vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, fish sauce, paprika, salt, sugar, and ginger in a cup or bowl. 


  • In a sauté pan, arrange the fish on the bottom. 
  • Add the carrot slices, sweet pickles, olives, shallots, garlic, bay leaves, and chilies. There won't be any mixing involved, so make sure you lay them out evenly.
  • Pour the prepared sauce and add pepper to taste.
  • Set to medium heat, cover, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes until the carrots are tender.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust — you may need to add more sugar, salt, or ground pepper. If it's too watery, cook for a few more minutes uncovered to let some of the water evaporate.


  • If you are like me (and a million other Filipinos), I will enjoy this over a bowl of hot steaming rice.
  • You can also serve it with pasta, potatoes, or use in sandwiches. As an option, you can add a squeeze of lemon.



  • Mackerel: It is also labeled as Atlantic, Norwegian, Boston, or North Atlantic Mackerel. You can easily spot them in the supermarket by their distinctive wavy lines that run on their backs. Buy fillets of Mackerel, or you can fillet them yourself at home. 
  • Sweet pickles or gherkins: These are cucumbers pickled in sweet brine. Gherkins are a smaller variety of cucumbers with bumpier skin.
  • Olives: I used green olives (like Manzanilla olives), but you can use any kind and preferably pitted.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: Aside from its health benefits, I specifically used extra-virgin olive oil for its flavor. The oil's rich flavor penetrates the fish and makes it delicious as the oil becomes the sauce in the dish. You can also use regular olive oil if that's what you have available.
  • Vinegar: To get the fishy taste out of Mackerel, use white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or cane vinegar.
  • Bird's eye chilies: If not available, you can use ¼ teaspoon (or more) of red pepper flakes instead.


Calories: 621kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 909mg | Potassium: 1231mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 5903IU | Vitamin C: 43mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 4mg