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Pan Fried Mackerel with Devilled Marinade

Pan fried mackerel with a devilled marinade, can be cooked indoors in a skillet on the stove, or outdoors on the BBQ over hot coals. We have served our devilled mackerel with a fresh tomato and red onion salad. This is a perfect sunshine dish and great for beach BBQ’s too!

Pan fried mackerel with a devilled marinade and a tomato and red onion salad.

Devilled mackerel is a firm favourite with my family. Inspired by family camping trips to the Cornish Coast, where we spend weeks during the summer cooking outdoors and cooking these BBQ mackerel fillets or whole fish over hot coals.

Whilst I love cooking on a BBQ, and I do cover how to cook mackerel on the BBQ later in the post, I wanted to show you how to pan fry mackerel in your own kitchens at home.

To pair with our bbq mackerel fillets, we added a devilled marinade. “Devilled” merely means we added some chilli heat to the marinade. Thereafter we paired this barbecued fish with a really simple tomato and onion salad.

This uncomplicated meal takes minutes to prepare and not much longer to cook. Simplicity aside, it’s worth pointing out that whole mackerel and mackerel fillets are really cheap to buy from your local fishmonger, so economical as well as tasty.

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Quick to prepare and cooked in minutes, this is fresh food fast.
  • Mackerel is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals and those all important omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Mackerel is an inexpensive fish and a budget friendly option.
  • We all need to be including more oily fish in our diets and this is a tasty way to vary things up.
  • This simple recipe is suitable for both gluten free and low carb diets.

Is mackerel good for you?

Fresh mackerel is a wonderful oily fish, so as well as being tasty it’s good for you too. Mackerel is full of omega-3 fatty acids and contains many vitamins and minerals. This is a really healthy seafood option and we should all be including more oily fish in our diets.

Pan fried mackerel with a devilled marinade and a tomato and red onion salad.

What is devilled mackerel?

Devilled mackerel is a simple dish to prepare. You can use either whole mackerel or mackerel fillets and it can be cooked in a skillet on the stove top, on the BBQ over hot coals. The fish is marinated in a garlic and chilli marinade, the devilled refers to the fact that this is a hot chilli marinade.

Depending on your palatte, you can make this devilled marinade as hot or as mild as you like, by adjusting the type and amount of fresh chillies used.

Can you overcook fish?

It is really easy to overcook fish, which is why I suggest that you stand by the stove whilst cooking and don’t walk away. The length of the cook depends largely on the thickness of the fish. A thicker fillet, or whole fish, will require a little longer in the pan than a thinner fillet.

When cooking thin mackerel fillets I suggest cooking for 2-3 minutes, skin side down to get the skin nice and crispy. Then turn the fish over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. This should avoid the fish from overcooking and becoming dry and tough.

How to pan fry mackerel?

Chilies sliced in half with the seeds still in and cloves of garlic roasting to make the base of a devilled marinade.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160CFan.
  • Prepare the chillies and garlic and place on a roasting tray, along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix to combine and place into the hot oven to roast for 10 minutes.
  • NOTE : Roasting the garlic and chillies in the oven really adds depth of flavour to the finished marinade. However, this step is entirely optional. If pushed for time you can add them raw, straight into the marinade.
Making a spicy "devilled" mackerel marinade.
  • Remove the chillies and garlic from the oven and place into a food processor, along with the roasting oil which will be full of flavour.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, along with all the remaining marinade ingredients to the bowl and blitz to a rough paste.
  • NOTE: you can also use a stick blender or a pestle and mortar to make this marinade too.
Mackerel fillets marinating in a devilled spiced marinade.
  • Make 3 cuts into onto the skin side of each fillet, this will help the marinade to penetrate into the fish. Take care not to go all the way through the fillet.
  • Pour the marinade into a flat dish and add the fish to it. Ensure the marinate gets into the cuts, and set aside for 30 minute to 1 hour to marinate.

Meanwhile get on with making the salad:

  • Place the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes to soften their sharpness, then drain away the water.
  • Now place the tomatoes, red onion, salad leaves (or watercress) and parsley into a salad bowl and set aside.
  • Place all the ingredients for the salad dressing into a jam jar and give it a good shake to combine, then set aside.
Mackerel fillets frying in a pan.

How to pan fry mackerel:

  • When ready to cook the mackerel, place a tablespoon of olive oil into a non stick frying pan over a medium high heat.
  • Place the mackerel fillets into the hot pan, skin side down and cook for 2 minutes. Then flip the fillets over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. The length of the cook will depend on the thickness of the fillets.
  • Remove the fish from the pan, do not allow it to overcook or it will dry out.
  • Now, dress the salad and serve it immediately, alongside the pan fried mackerel and add a wedge of fresh lemon to the plate.

How to cook mackerel on the bbq?

I have shown you how to pan fry mackerel on the stove top, however it is also really easy to cook mackerel on the BBQ too. Grilling fish over hot coals really does add to the flavour of the fish.

You can use any barbecue or grill. I like to cook over coals, but a gas grill will work just the same. I also prefer to cook the whole fish, rather than fillets, that way I get lots of deliciously crispy skin and the flesh doesn’t stick to the grill plate. Allow one whole mackerel per person.

I have used a small bucket barbecue which I bought years ago. It’s lightweight and has a handle making it ideal for carrying to the beach. After all, who doesn’t love a barbecue on the beach? However, due to it’s compact size its also handy when you just want to cook a small amount of food, like 2 whole mackerel.

BBQ mackerel fillets over a charcoal bucket grill.
  • Light your barbecue and allow time to get the coals white hot and for the flames to die down.
  • If you put fish over red coals it will only burn!
  • If cooking on BBQ, place the fish over the barbecue coals and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • The skin will bubble and become very crispy.
  • Once cooked remove the fish immediately to stop is overcooking and drying out.

Recipe ingredients & substitutions:

  • Mackerel: I have used both whole mackerel and mackerel fillets when making devilled mackerel. The whole fish is ideal if barbecuing the fish as the flesh doesn’t burn as easily. However, if serving to kids, I find it easier to serve mackerel fillets, that way all the bones have been removed before you start. For a dinner portion, allow one whole fish, or 2 fillets per person.
  • Tomatoes: any variety of tomato will work in the salad, I have opted for vine tomatoes for their sweeter flavour, but baby plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes would work well too.
  • Onion: I blanch a red onion in some boiling water for 10 minutes to soften the flavour before adding it to the salad. Red onion has a milder flavour, but you could do this with a regular yellow onion or some shallots. If using spring onions (green onions) there is no need to blanch them first.
  • Salad leaves: I have used both salad leaves and watercress when making this salad. Both will work so use what you prefer.
  • Fresh parsley: is added for flavour. You could also use other fresh herbs like mint, dill, coriander (cilantro) or chives.
  • Lemon: as I do with all fish dishes, I like to serve a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the fish for a burst of citrus freshness.
  • Olive oil: I use olive oil in the marinade and also to pan sear the fish. Don’t use extra virgin olive oil to pan fry the fish as it has too low a burn temperature. For the salad dressing I have used a smoked olive oil, but if you can’t find this, extra virgin olive oil works fine.
  • Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar adds acidity to the salad dressing, but you could swap it for red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

Devilled marinade ingredients:

Ingredients such as garlic, chillies, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar and olive oil to make a marinade.
  • Chillies: I have used 2 red chillies for the marinade. Use any chillies and go as hot or as mild as you like!
  • Garlic: I use a clove of fresh garlic, which I roast along with the chillies to add flavour to the marinade.
  • Oil: I have used olive oil for the marinade as it has great flavour.
  • Smoked paprika: a teaspoon of smoked paprika adds a wonderful flavour to the finished marinade.
  • Vinegar: red wine vinegar adds acidity to the marinade, but you could swap it for white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce adds both acidity and great depth of flavour to the marinade.
Fresh pan fried mackerel fillets on a bed of leafy salad.

Recipe variations:

  • Chilli heat: The marinade is really easy to adapt to suit your own tastes, if you like it hotter add more fresh chillies, chilli flakes, or a teaspoon of chilli powder.
  • Protein: I have cooked mackerel, but this marinade would work equally well with fresh prawns, chicken thighs (if BBQ’ing get skin-on, bone-in thighs for extra flavour), chicken drumsticks or chicken wings.
  • Toasted sourdough: I have served the bbq mackerel fillets with a side salad, however you could also add some toasted sourdough or crusty bread. Toast the bread then top it with some dressed salad and finish off with a mackerel fillet.
  • Egg: also pairs well with oily fish, so add a soft boiled egg to your salad.

What goes well with mackerel?

Mackerel is an oily fish, so I like to pair it with ingredients that have a hit of acidity, like the tomatoes, onion and balsamic vinegar used in the salad and dressing. Acid cuts through the oil.

Here are some of my favourite ingredients to pair with mackerel:

  • Fruit & veg: asparagus; beetroot; horseradish; avocado; cucumber; tomato; onion; pea; potato; watercress; mushroom
  • Herbs: dill; garlic; ginger; chives; mint; parsley and thyme
  • Cirtrus: lemon; lime
BBQ devilled mackerel with a tomato, red onion and watercress salad.

Can pan fried or bbq mackerel fillets be made ahead?

As with most fish dishes, pan fried or BBQ mackerel fillets are best served hot from the pan. Reheating fish causes it to over cook and dry out.

You can make the marinade ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you are ready to use. Once made, this marinade will store in sealed jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.

However, only marinate the fish for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking. Any longer and the acid from the red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce will start to break down the fish.

Useful hints and tips:

  1. I have used a food processor to make the marinade, however a stick blender or a pestle and mortar will do exactly the same job.
  2. Adapt the chilli heat in the marinade to suit your own palatte, by simply adding or cutting back on the chillies. If you like your food really fiery, then use a hotter chilli.
  3. If pushed for time as quick 15 minute marinate will work for this fish dish too.
  4. I always check fish fillets for pin bones before cooking. They are easiest removed with a pair of tweezers.
  5. If planning to grill the fish on the BBQ, ensure you get the coals to a white hot state ready for cooking. Do not cook over red coals or you will burn the fish.
  6. This delicious marinade can be also be used for other meats. Try it with fresh prawns, chicken thighs or wings when you next have the BBQ fired up.
  7. Allergy advice: gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soya free and nut free. For comprehensive and detailed allergy advice go to Allergy UK.

Pin this recipe:

Pinnable image of pan fried mackerel fillets.
A delicious and super quick lunch or dinner of BBQ’d devilled mackerel served with a fresh tomato and watercress salad is the perfect sunshine dish and great for beach BBQ’s!

Additional recipe suggestions:

Some other great dishes to cook and enjoy outdoors, try our:

Looking for inspiration for feeding the family mid week, then take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Family Dinners. Full of useful hints, tips and recipes.

Pan Fried Mackerel with a Devilled Marinade & Tomato & Red Onion Salad

Pan fried mackerel with a devilled marinade, can be cooked indoors in a skillet or outdoors on the BBQ, served with a fresh tomato salad.
5 from 9 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 814kcal

Ingredients

  • 600 g mackerel fillets (4 fillets or 2 whole mackerel – gutted)
  • 200 g tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 red onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 handfuls mixed salad leaves (or watercress)
  • 1 small handful fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon (cut into wedges)

Marinade

  • 2 chillies
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Salad Dressing

  • 2 tbsp smoked olive oil (extra-virgin is fine if you have no smoked)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

Roast the Chillies & Garlic (this step is optional – see Notes below)

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160CFan.
  • Prepare the chillies and garlic and place on a roasting tray, along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix to combine and place into the hot oven to roast for 10 minutes.

Marinate the Mackerel

  • Remove the chillies and garlic from the oven and place into a food processor, along with the roasting oil which will be full of flavour.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, along with all the remaining marinade ingredients to the bowl and blitz to a rough paste.
  • NOTE: you can also use a stick blender or a pestle and mortar to make this marinade too.
  • Make 3 cuts into onto the skin side of each fillet, this will help the marinade to penetrate into the fish. Take care not to go all the way through the fillet.
  • Pour the marinade into a flat dish and add the fish to it. Ensure the marinate gets into the cuts, and set aside for 30 minute to 1 hour to marinate.

Prepare the Salad

  • Meanwhile place the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes to soften their sharpness, then drain away the water.
  • Now place the tomatoes, red onion, salad leaves (or watercress) and parsley into a salad bowl and set aside.
  • Place all the ingredients for the salad dressing into a jam jar and give it a good shake to combine, then set aside.

Cooking the Mackerel

  • When ready to cook the mackerel, place a tablespoon of olive oil into a non stick frying pan over a medium high heat.
  • Place the mackerel fillets into the hot pan, skin side down and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then flip the fillets over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. The length of the cook will depend on the thickness of the fillets.
  • Remove the fish from the pan, do not allow it to overcook or it will dry out.
  • Now, dress the salad and serve it immediately, alongside the pan fried mackerel and a wedge of lemon.

Notes

Roasting the garlic and chillies in the oven really adds depth of flavour to the finished marinade. However, this step is entirely optional. If pushed for time you can add them raw, straight into the marinade.
Chilli heat is easily adapted, add more or less chillies to suit your own palette. If you like things really hot then use a hotter variety of chilli.
Devilled mackerel can be cooked on the stove, as shown in the recipe instructions. However, you can also cook the fish over hot coals on the BBQ. If you plan to BBQ, ensure you light the BBQ well in advance of cooking and allow time to get the coals white hot and for the flame to have died down. If you put fish over red coals it will only burn.
If cooking on BBQ, place the fish over the barbecue coals and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The skin will bubble and become very crispy. Once cooked remove the fish immediately.
Nutrition Facts
Pan Fried Mackerel with a Devilled Marinade & Tomato & Red Onion Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 814 Calories from Fat 477
% Daily Value*
Fat 53g82%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Polyunsaturated Fat 9g
Monounsaturated Fat 29g
Cholesterol 141mg47%
Sodium 314mg14%
Potassium 1809mg52%
Carbohydrates 21g7%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 63g126%
Vitamin A 1519IU30%
Vitamin C 119mg144%
Calcium 124mg12%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

• Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only •

Course : Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine : British
Keyword : BBQ, bbq mackerel fillets, devilled mackerel, Fish, gluten free, pan fried mackerel
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Recipe Rating




Sisley White

Tuesday 2nd of August 2022

So easy and simple! And even more delicious!

Lesley

Tuesday 2nd of August 2022

Thank you Sisley, that's why I love this recipe.

Cat

Tuesday 26th of July 2022

So simple and the perfect summer meal. I can picture myself eating these outside with a glass of wine.

Lesley

Monday 1st of August 2022

Thank you Cat, this is a perfect recipe for cooking outdoors when the sun in shining, glass of wine in hand.

Rebecca - Glutarama

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

I love fish but my family hate me when I cook it haha - going to save this recipe for a time when they're all out and I can air the house before they return!

Lesley

Monday 1st of August 2022

Thank you Rebecca, I totally get that which is why I often cook fish outdoors on the BBQ.

Lisa

Wednesday 13th of July 2022

I'm really into marinated fish lately, and this was absolutely delicious! Mackerel is hard to find here in the US so I substituted Alaskan halibut, and everyone in the family enjoyed it. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Lesley

Monday 1st of August 2022

Thank you Lisa, halibut is an ideal substitute, glad you enjoyed it.

Janice

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

What a fabulous way to serve mackerel. I love the spicy flavours and this fish can take it!

Lesley

Monday 1st of August 2022

Thank you Janice, this marinade is perfect with mackerel.