There are various different species of mackerel found around the world. These recipes feature Atlantic mackerel but could be made to apply equally to the likes of Spanish mackerel or even similar fish like herring. When you are choosing oily fish like mackerel, it is particularly important that you buy and cook them as fresh as possible, as the flesh will soon start to break down and become mushy. This will make them nigh on impossible to fillet properly and make them more likely to lose their shape as they cook.

Curry Spiced Mackerel Fillets on Peach Salad
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Curry spiced and pan fried mackerel fillets on a simple peach salad bed

These two mackerel were just about as fresh as fresh gets. They were caught on Loch Fyne on Scotland's West Coast just a few hours before they were brought home, filleted and cooked.

Fresh Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Freshly caught mackerel

The importance of keeping kitchen knives as sharp as possible can never be understated. When filleting fish, it is particularly important that you use a dedicated filleting knife and that it be razor sharp. The best way of keeping any knife at its sharpest is to use a dedicated sharpening steel. These items are not expensive to buy, work far better than most if not all other knife sharpening tools available in today's market and are likely to last for many years if cared for properly.

Knife and Sharpener
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Filleting knife and sharpening steel

The short video below shows how simple it is to use a sharpening steel and keep your knives in their best condition

How to Easily Fillet a Mackerel

Mackerel Head Cut
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

An initial cut is made behind the pectoral fin and towards the head of the mackerel

Lay the mackerel on its side on a chopping board with the head nearest your weaker hand. Hold the head and make a deep, semi-circular cut behind the pectoral fin, angled towards the head and right through to the bone.

First Mackerel Fillet
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

First mackerel side fillet is removed

Twist the knife to face the tail and cut in a see-saw motion all the way along the bone to remove the first fillet.

Second Mackerel Fillet
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Second mackerel fillet is in turn removed

Turn the mackerel over and perform the exact same procedure on the other side to remove the second fillet.

Boning mackerel Fillets
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Bones are removed from mackerel fillets

There is a ridge of bones runs around two-thirds of the way down the center of each fillet. These can be removed by making two cuts either side of the bones to form a v-shape and tugging the strip free. The bones and skin on the belly flap part of the fillet should be scraped away.

Mackerel Fillets
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Ready to cook mackerel fillets

Wash the fillets gently in some cold water, pat dry with kitchen paper and they are ready to be cooked.

Ingredients (Serves 1)

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Bag of mixed salad leaves

  • 2 mackerel side fillets
  • 2 generous handfuls mixed salad leaves of choice
  • 1 ripe peach
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose (plain) flour
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
  • Wedge of fresh lime
  • Freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaf) to garnish


Washing Salad
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Salad leaves are firstly washed

Wash the salad leaves in a colander under running cold water and set aside to drain.

Seasoned Flour
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Curry spiced and seasoned flour

Spread the flour out on a dinner plate. Scatter with one teaspoon of the curry powder, some salt and pepper. Pour the oil in to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat.

Seasoned Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Mackerel fillets are floured and seasoned

Pat the mackerel fillets in the flour on their skin sides. Season the flesh sides with some salt and the second teaspoon of curry powder.

Frying Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Curry spiced mackerel fillets are added to frying pan

Gently shake the excess flour from the mackerel fillets and lay them skin sides down in the hot pan. They will take two to three minutes to cook before they are ready for turning.

Halved Peach
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Peach is cut in half

Wash the peach and make a cut all the way around the circumference, right through to the stone. Twist the two halves apart. Provided the peach is fully ripe, the stone should easily pop free from the half in which it is embedded.

Peach Wedges
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Peach halves are cut in to wedges

Cut each peach half in to four wedges.

Peach Salad
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Peach salad is arranged on serving plate

Toss the peach halves through the salad with a little salt and pepper and arrange on a serving plate as a bed for the mackerel.

Turned Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Mackerel fillets are turned to complete cooking on their flesh sides

When you can see that the mackerel fillets are cooked almost but not quite all the way through, reduce the heat under your pan to minimum. Flip the fillets carefully over with a spatula to complete cooking in about thirty seconds to a minute on their flesh sides.

Plated Mackerel Fillets
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Mackerel fillets are lfited on to peach salad

Lift the mackerel fillets on to the salad bed, skin sides up. The extremely thin skin is perfectly edible but if you wish, you could carefully scrape it away with a knife.

Eating Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Enjoying curried mackerel and peach salad

Garnish with the chopped cilantro and lime wedge and serve immediately.

Bonus Recipe: Chili Spiced Mackerel and Salad Sandwich

Mackerel Sandwich
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Simple chili spiced mackerel and green leaf salad sandwich

The second mackerel brought home that day was refrigerated after it was filleted to serve as lunch the following day in the form of a simple but extremely tasty fish sandwich.

Chili Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Chili powder spiced mackerel fillets

The mackerel fillets were cooked in exactly the same way as in the previous recipe with the exception that medium strength chili powder was used instead of curry powder.

Mackerel on Bread
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

First fried mackerel fillet is laid on bread

Two fairly thick slices were cut from a very fresh artisan loaf (wheat, spelt and rye on this occasion) and the first mackerel fillet was laid from the cooking pan on to one slice.

Salad on Mackerel
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Seasoned salad leaves are laid on top of mackerel fillet

Some earlier washed and seasoned salad leaves were laid on top of the fillet before the second mackerel fillet was added.

Closed Sandwich
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Chili spiced mackerel salad sandwich is assembled

The second slice of bread went on top and the sandwich was gently pressed down before being halved at an angle for service.

Halved Sandwich
Credit: Gordon Hamilton

Mackerel sandwich is ready to eat