What Does Mackerel Taste Like?

Have you ever stood in front of the seafood counter, your eyes scanning over the array of fish, and found yourself intrigued by the glistening, silver-skinned Mackerel?

With its robust and slightly sweet flavor, Mackerel is a fish that truly stands out in the sea of seafood options. Its taste compares to the richness of salmon, with a hint of the ocean’s saltiness and a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

In this article, we’re going explore its taste, texture, and the many ways it can be prepared. So, let’s set sail and discover what makes Mackerel a must-try for any seafood lover.

How Does Mackerel Taste?

When you first bite into a piece of Mackerel, you’re met with a rich and slightly sweet flavor. It’s a taste often compared to salmon, but with its unique twist.

The taste of Mackerel can also vary depending on its form.

Fresh Mackerel has a clean, almost briny taste that truly captures the essence of the sea. On the other hand, canned Mackerel has a milder flavor with a sweet and salty side that’s quite appealing.

What Does Mackerel Taste Like

Mackerel has a robust flavor that’s beautifully balanced by a subtle sweetness.

Mackerel is an oily fish, which contributes to its distinctive taste. This oiliness gives it a rich, buttery texture that enhances its overall flavor.

However, this oiliness can also make Mackerel taste a bit fishy to some. But don’t let that deter you. When cooked properly, this fishiness can be tamed, resulting in a more savory than overpowering taste.

Varieties Of Mackerel

There are several varieties of Mackerel, each with its own unique taste profile:

  • Atlantic Mackerel: This variety is known for its rich, full flavor. It has a slightly sweet taste and a firm, oily texture that’s perfect for grilling or broiling.
  • King Mackerel: Also known as kingfish, this variety has a rich, pronounced flavor. It’s less sweet than other varieties, but its high oil content gives it a deliciously buttery texture.
  • Spanish Mackerel: This variety is milder in flavor with a slightly acidic note. The meat is quite firm and flakes off into small chunks when cooked.
  • Cero Mackerel: This variety has a lighter, more delicate flavor than other mackerels. It’s less oily, which makes it a great choice for those who prefer a less fishy taste.

What Does Mackerel Compare With?

Mackerel’s unique taste can be compared to a few other types of fish:

  • Salmon: Both Mackerel and salmon have a rich, oily texture, but Mackerel tends to be slightly sweeter and less fishy.
  • Tuna: Mackerel and tuna share a firm texture and a robust flavor. However, Mackerel has a more pronounced sweetness and a stronger fishy taste.
  • Sardines: Like Mackerel, sardines are also oily fish. However, sardines have a stronger, more pungent flavor than Mackerel’s milder, sweeter taste.
  • Herring: Both herring and Mackerel are oily fish with a rich flavor. However, herring tends to have a more pronounced fishy taste compared to Mackerel.

Do Mackerel Taste Fishy?

Mackerel is an oily fish; like most oily fish, it has a certain level of fishiness to its taste.

canned mackerel fillets

However, this fishiness is not overpowering and is actually part of what gives Mackerel its unique flavor profile.

The fishiness of Mackerel is more pronounced in some varieties than others. For instance, Atlantic and King Mackerel tend to have a stronger fishy taste compared to Spanish and Cero mackerel.

Do Mackerel Smell Fishy?

When it comes to smell, Mackerel has a distinct aroma characteristic of most seafood. This smell is more noticeable in fresh Mackerel and can be quite strong.

However, a fresh, fishy smell can be a good sign when it comes to Mackerel, as it indicates that the fish is fresh.

However, if the smell of Mackerel is too strong or unpleasant, it may be a sign that the fish is not fresh. If you notice such a smell, avoiding eating the fish is best.

What Does Mackerel Look Like?

Mackerel is a beautiful fish that’s easily recognizable by its sleek, torpedo-shaped body. It has a streamlined form that’s built for speed as a fast-swimming, active predator in the ocean.

The body of the Mackerel is covered in small, smooth scales that give it a shiny, metallic appearance.

The color of Mackerel is one of its most distinctive features. The back of the fish is typically a deep blue or green, while the belly is silver-white.

what mackerel looks like

One of the most striking features of Mackerel is its pattern of wavy, dark stripes or spots on the back and upper sides. These patterns vary among different species of Mackerel, adding to their visual appeal.

Whether it’s the dark, vertical stripes of the Atlantic Mackerel or the spotted pattern of the Spanish Mackerel, these markings make each mackerel variety unique.

When it comes to size, Mackerel are generally not very large. Most species are about 30 to 60 centimeters long, although some, like the king mackerel, can grow much larger.

Despite their relatively small size, Mackerel is a substantial fish, with a firm, meaty flesh that’s packed with flavor.

How To Eat Mackerel

Mackerel can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of ways.

Grilled Mackerel

grilled mackerel (saba)

Grilling is a popular method of cooking mackerel. The grill’s high heat sears the fish outside, locking in the juices and creating a delicious, crispy skin.

Baked Mackerel

Baking is another great way to prepare Mackerel. This method allows it to cook in its own juices, resulting in a moist and flavorful dish.

Pan-Fried Mackerel

pan-fried mackerel

Pan-frying is a quick way to cook Mackerel. The fish is usually coated in flour or breadcrumbs and then fried until golden brown. Pan-fried Mackerel has a crispy exterior and a tender, flaky interior, making it a tasty and satisfying meal.

Smoked Mackerel

Smoked Mackerel is a delicacy in many cultures. The smoking process gives the fish a unique, smoky, irresistible flavor.

Smoked Mackerel can be enjoyed on its own or used as an ingredient in salads, pasta, and other dishes.

How To Make Mackerel Taste Good

Mackerel is a flavorful fish on its own, but there are several ways to enhance its taste and make it even more delicious. Here are some tips on how to make Mackerel taste good:

  • Marinate the Fish: Marinating mackerel before cooking can help to enhance its flavor. The acidity in the marinade can also help reduce the Mackerel’s fishiness.
  • Use Fresh Ingredients: Fresh ingredients can make a big difference in the taste of your mackerel dish. Use fresh herbs, spices, and other ingredients to bring out the best flavors in the fish.
  • Balance the Flavors: Mackerel has a rich, robust flavor that can be balanced with lighter, more delicate flavors. Try serving Mackerel with a fresh, tangy salad or a light, citrusy sauce.
  • Cook it Properly: Overcooking can make Mackerel dry and tough while undercooking can leave it with a strong, fishy taste. Cook Mackerel just until it flakes easily with a fork to ensure it’s perfectly done.
  • Try Different Cooking Methods: Different cooking methods can bring out different flavors in Mackerel. Try grilling, baking, pan-frying, or smoking Mackerel to see which method you like best.
  • Pair it with Wine: A good wine pairing can enhance the taste of Mackerel. Try serving Mackerel with a crisp, acidic white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a light red wine like Pinot Noir.

How To Buy Mackerel

When buying Mackerel, several factors must be considered to ensure you’re getting the best quality fish.

mackerel on ice

Buying Fresh Mackerel

When buying fresh Mackerel, look for clear, bright eyes and shiny, metallic skin.

The fish should have a clean, ocean-like smell, not an overpowering, fishy odor. The flesh should be firm to the touch and bounce back when pressed.

Mackerel is often sold whole, but you can also find it in fillets or steaks. If you’re buying fillets or steaks, look for firm, translucent flesh with no discoloration or dry spots.

Buying Frozen Mackerel

Frozen Mackerel can be a good option if fresh Mackerel is not available. Look for tightly sealed packages with no signs of frost or ice crystals, which can indicate that the fish has been stored for a long time or thawed and refrozen.

Buying Canned Mackerel

Canned Mackerel is a convenient option that can be used in a variety of dishes. Look for undamaged cans with a use-by date that’s as far in the future as possible.

canned mackerel

Some canned mackerel is in oil, while others are in water or tomato sauce. Choose the one that best suits your taste and dietary preferences.

Buying Mackerel at a Restaurant

If you’re buying Mackerel at a restaurant, look for places that specialize in seafood or have a reputation for serving fresh fish. Mackerel should be listed on the menu with details about how it’s prepared and served.

Other Names for Mackerel

Mackerel may be listed under different names depending on the variety and the region.

Some common names include king mackerel (or kingfish), Spanish Mackerel, Atlantic mackerel, and cero mackerel.

Mackerel FAQs

Does Mackerel taste better than tuna?

The taste of Mackerel versus tuna really comes down to personal preference. Mackerel has a stronger, more pronounced flavor than tuna, which has a milder, more subtle taste. If you enjoy rich, robust flavors, you might prefer Mackerel. If you prefer something milder, tuna might be more to your liking.

Does Mackerel taste better than salmon?

Again, this is a matter of personal preference. Both Mackerel and salmon have a rich, oily texture and a slightly sweet taste. However, Mackerel has a stronger, more pronounced flavor, while salmon has a milder, more delicate flavor.

What fish is Mackerel similar to?

Mackerel is often compared to other oily fish like salmon and tuna because of its rich, robust flavor and firm, oily texture. However, each of these fish has its own unique taste profile, so while there are similarities, there are also distinct differences.

About Justin Micheal

Hey, I’m Justin and the home cook behind Food Meets Flavor. I have a passion for cooking and making food delicious. So, I started this blog to help others understand what different types of food taste like and how to make everyday meals taste even better.