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properties, characteristics and how to cook this seasonal fish (with recipes included)

21 mayo, 2021

Also called verdel, sarda or xarda, mackerel is a blue fish medium size that is currently in the prime of its season. Although available all year round in different formats, it is worth taking advantage of these weeks to enjoy this delicious fresh fish in all its splendor.

This marine water animal remains in the shallow depths during the winter months; towards the end of the cold season, and especially with the warmer temperatures of spring, it groups in banks and rises to the surface, facilitating its capture. Tasty and healthyMackerel is also a very versatile fish that we can prepare in a thousand different ways.

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Description and characteristics

In Spain, when we speak of mackerel, we refer fundamentally to the Scomber scombrus, or Atlantic mackerel, and belongs to the family of the scombrids, of which there are other varieties such as the Japanese Scomber japonicus, or starling, with which it is sometimes confused.


It is a blue fish of elongated and thin bodyHydrodynamic and fusiform with a very pointed snout, large eyes, wide mouth and strong jaw with small conical teeth. It is covered with small scales and has a white or pearly color on the belly that contrasts with the dark vertical stripes that cover it on the back, with bluish reflections.

The Atlantic mackerel is distinguished by the two small dorsal fins, widely separated from each other, and the also small pectoral fins. It also has almost imperceptible ventral and anal fins that precede the large tail fin, firm, strong and forked, typical of the scombrids.

The minimum size for marketing of mackerel is 18 cm and it can reach 50 cm and weigh up to almost three kilos. In the market, normally, we find copies of about 30cm length, with an approximate weight of 250-350 g per unit.

Fish Mackerel

This fish usually lives in groups and it is not uncommon to find it in the company of sardines or other species. He likes cold waters of the atlantic, and approaches the coastlines at the end of winter, being more frequent on the surface during the central weeks of spring.

It is an omnivorous animal that usually feeds on small crustaceans, mollusks and other small fish when it reaches maturity, such as sardines or herring. It’s a great predator, fast and very voracious swimmer, which reaches sexual maturity at 2-3 years of life. It is fished with purse seines, hooks, gillnets and trawls, concentrating the largest catches between February and May.

Properties and benefits

As we have already mentioned, mackerel or mackerel is a blue fish, with 10 g of fat per 100 g of edible portion, therefore a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, Omega 3, healthy.

It is also, like all fish, a food rich in high quality protein. It stands out for its content in vitamins of group B, especially in B12, and fat-soluble such as D or A. It is also a good source of minerals such as selenium, phosphorus and potassium.

Barbecue Mackerel

The precise amount of calories that the consumption of this fish contributes varies according to the sources -236 kcal per 100 g raw according to the Food Composition Database, 150 kcal per 100 g according to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation-; in any case, it is not an exact figure that we should be concerned about.

Oily fish is a very healthy, nutritious and complete food whose consumption is recommended to include at least once a week in our daily menus, even if we are looking to lose weight. In addition to the aforementioned healthy fats, which white fish lack, blue fish are richer in protein and vitamins, and they are also more satiating.

Caballa Restaurant

Its consumption provides numerous benefits, contributing to a proper functioning of the cardiovascular system by helping to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levelsas well as other diseases of the heart and blood vessels. In addition, its high contribution of vitamins and minerals add properties such as facilitating the absorption and fixation of calcium, improving the good health of the eyes, skin, tissues and the nervous system or the antioxidant action that protects against aging and various diseases. .

It is a fish with low presence of mercury, so there are no consumption restrictions among the population. Yes, people with gout problems or hyperuricemia have to watch their intake, as they sometimes accumulate a large amount of purines.

How to prepare and cook this fish

Mackerel is marketed fresh, canned, semi-preserved, frozen and also smoked, but what interests us today is to highlight the possibilities offered by this fresh fish, in full season.

In the fishmonger we will find the whole specimens, normally with a perfect weight and size to consider each unit as a portion per person. In addition, small or medium-sized fish tend to be tastier than excessively large ones. As always, you have to make sure that they are very fresh specimens, without strange odors, with firm and smooth skin and bright eyes.


The simplest thing is to ask for the mackerels clean of viscera, open, but leaving them whole to cook them stuffed, grilled or in the oven. The head is usually kept to facilitate handling and add flavor to the dish, but you can ask to remove it. If we want to cook the steaks grilled, it is easier to lose the loins that way directly, without the thorns.

Mackerel can be marinated in a marinade before cooking, for example with white wine, vinegar or lemon, oil, garlic and some fresh herbs. Supports almost any preparation: grilled or grilled, baked alone, stuffed with vegetables or on a bed of potatoes and peppers, also papillote or steamed; It does not require adding a lot of fat and it is always juicy if overcooking is avoided. You have to cook it with skin, as it would be very difficult to try to remove it raw.

Mackerel Oven

With mackerel they can be made no-cook preparations, like sashimi or sushi, also a tartar, ceviche or tiradito, always respecting the minimum freezing of five days to avoid anisakis. Canned or smoked fish will be used to make all kinds of salads, appetizers and canapés, or to fill empanadas, cocas and accompany pasta.

Recipes to take advantage of fresh mackerel

As an example of the versatility of mackerel, we propose five recipes with different elaborations and techniques that demonstrate all the possibilities that this fish offers us in the kitchen at this time.

1. Baked mackerel with roasted vegetables

Baked Mackerel

We will begin preheating the oven to 180ºC with heat up and down. We peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices, wash and cut the peppers and tomatoes into slices, the onion into slices, as well as the finely minced garlic cloves. We booked.

In a refractory tray we toss a quarter of the olive oil and we spread it over the base of the dish, we place the potatoes mixed with the onion rings, we salt, then the tomato slices and the green pepper rings and the minced garlic, we rectify the salt.

We add all the wine, the lemon juice and half the water, and we bake 45 minutes, making sure that the vegetables do not remain dry, in which case we would add a little more water during cooking.

We place the fish, clean, salted and with some lemon slices, on top of the bed of roasted vegetables and add the rest of the water that we had left. We bake 15 minutes and we serve hot.

Link to the recipe | Baked mackerel with roasted vegetables

2. Homemade canned mackerel in olive oil

Canned Mackerel
  • Ingredients. 2-3 whole mackerel without entrails, water, salt, extra virgin olive oil, lemon peel, peppercorns, fresh herbs to taste.
  • Elaboration. Cook the whole mackerel in abundant salted water for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size. Once cooked, let them cool and proceed to peel them, removing the skin and the central spine and carefully removing any spines that may remain in the ventral area. We place the mackerel loins in a rectangular dish and cover them with extra virgin olive oil. We add some pepper berries. We can also add juniper berries or two or three cloves, herbs, cumin and some peeled garlic cloves. We add some lemon peels, -be careful not to reach the white part so that it does not become bitter- and cover with the necessary oil to cover. We leave two days in the fridge and we already have the homemade canned mackerel in olive oil ready to eat.

Link to the recipe | Homemade canned mackerel in olive oil

3. Grilled mackerel with creamy beet and ginger salad

Grilled Mackerel
  • Ingredients. 2 clean mackerel loins, 1 cooked beet, drained and diced, 1 piece of grated peeled ginger, fresh coriander, 1 lemon, 5 ml of mustard, 40 ml of yogurt or heavy cream, extra virgin olive oil, pepper, salt , canons.
  • Elaboration. Mix the beet, ginger and a handful of chopped coriander, add a dash of half the lemon and season. Add the mustard, yogurt or alternative and mix well. Taste and adjust the ingredients to taste. Reserve. Heat oil in a good frying pan or griddle, season lightly and cook the mackerel fillets over medium-high heat, first on the skin side. You have to leave it very crisp. Turn with a suitable spatula and cook just the other side, just one or two more minutes. Garnish with a little lemon juice on the meat side and serve the dishes, dividing the beet salad with the mackerel fillets, always skin side up. Accompany with some lamb’s lettuce or other green leaves, and more fresh coriander if desired.

Link to the recipe | Grilled mackerel with creamy beet and ginger salad

4. Mackerel pickled onion

Pickled Mackerel
  • Ingredients. 2 cleaned and chopped mackerel, flour, 2 julienned onions, 1/2 head of garlic, 1 glass of white wine vinegar, 1/2 glass of white wine, 2 bay leaves, extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika, salt.
  • Elaboration. We pass the fish through flour and fry it. We salt and reserve. In the same oil (or with something else) we add the crushed garlic and then the onion …