Grilled Fresh Mackerel Escabeche

Grilled Fresh Mackerel Escabeche
  • Difficulty:

  • Prep Time:

  • Total Time:

    1h 45m
  • Servings:

    4 - 6


This tangy, marinated take on fresh mackerel draws on a long-standing Spanish tradition, and makes a great no-stress lunch or appetizer.


  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. crushed black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp. crushed coriander seed
  • ½ tsp. crushed fennel seed
  • ¼ tsp. crushed cumin seed
  • 12 threads saffron (optional)
  • 4 large mackerel fillets, about 8 oz. each, or 6-8 smaller fillets
  • ½ cup green Spanish olives, as garnish


  1. Heat your grill to a medium-high cooking temperature, about 450° F. Blot the mackerel fillets dry on a clean paper towel, then check them with your fingertips for bones. You may find bone fragments in the belly, where the ribs were, or as a line of pin bones running just above the center line of each fillet. Pull them with tweezers or a pair of well-cleaned needle-nose pliers.
  2. Peel the carrot and cut it into julienne strips with a mandoline slicer, julienne slicer or sharp knife. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat and add the carrot and onion, stirring until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute, then add the rest of the oil, the liquids and remaining flavorings. Bring to a boil, then turn down the skillet and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat but keep the marinade hot.
  3. Cut the fillets into 2-3 smaller portions each and place them on your grill skin-side down. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, so the skin crisps and chars lightly and the fish is mostly cooked. Lift the fillet portions carefully from the grill with a broad spatula and place them in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish that's just large enough to fit the pieces in a single layer.
  4. Pour the hot marinade over the fish, lifting each portion for a moment with the corner of your spatula so some of the marinade can run underneath. Rest the dish on your counter for 15-20 minutes to cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least one hour or as long as overnight.
  5. To serve, bring the mackerel portions to room temperature. Plate 2-3 portions per person as a light lunch, topping them with olives and the tender vegetables and serving them with crusty bread and a side salad. Spoon some of the marinade over each portion, if you wish. Alternatively, break up the pieces and use them as a high-protein ingredient in salads or on toast or crackers as an unusual appetizer.


Feel free to vary the recipe by adding other flavoring ingredients, from orange zest to hot chili peppers. Most Mediterranean and North African flavors complement the basic recipe, but ingredients from other cultures and parts of the world can provide interestingly different variations.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours to maximize food safety, and eat them within 4-5 days.

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