Fish & Seafood/ Jamaican/ Main Dishes & Entrées

Jamaican Salt Mackerel

April 2, 2024

This salt mackerel recipe is a Jamaican staple that’s pan fried with tomatoes, peppers and aromatics for a vibrant, savoury, tangy dish. Serve salted mackerel for breakfast or lunch.

jamaican salt mackerel.

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This Jamaican Salt Mackerel recipe is a staple in Caribbean cuisine. Pan-fried with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and aromatics, salted mackerel bursts with savoury, tangy, vibrant flavours. Enjoy it for breakfast or lunch.

If you’re looking for another mackerel recipe, check out my Jamaican Style Mackerel Recipe in Tomato Sauce. This recipe is prepared similarly to Saltfish.

salt mackerel with boiled green banana.

Jamaican Salt Mackerel

Growing up, salted mackerel fish was a typical Sunday morning breakfast in my Jamaican household. I could smell the sweet, savoury aroma of sauteed onions and tomatoes mingled with salt mackerel before I even got out of bed!

I’d rush to beat my dad to the pot because we’d fight over the belly part of the fish; the meatier part that was SO good! Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure my dad let me win every time. Bless him!

Here’s Why You’ll Love this Mackerel Recipe

  • Easy: Learn how to cook salt mackerel Jamaican-style with this straightforward recipe. It takes some time but the process is so simple.
  • Versatile: Like most proteins, this fish pairs well with many foods. It also works as an anytime meal, whether you want to enjoy it in the morning or at night, for dinner. I provide some tasty suggestions to make a full meal.
  • Budget-Friendly: If you need an affordable meal, this salted fish is it! Not only is it cost-effective but it has a long shelf life too. When properly stored before cooking, it can last up to 6 months in the freezer.
salt mackerel in skillet.

What is Salt Mackerel?

Salt mackerel is mackerel fish preserved in a salt brine. The pickled mackerel must be soaked for a few hours to overnight and boiled before it is cooked and consumed.

Ingredients

  • Salted Mackerel: Properly clean the mackerel fish and cut it into 3 pieces. It’s fishier and chewier than fresh mackerel, with a deepened salty taste.
  • Tomato: Cut fresh tomatoes into chunks to add a juicy element. The acidity of the tomatoes balances the richness of the mackerel.
  • Onion: Chopped onions add a savoury depth and sweetness to the dish as they cook down with the other ingredients.
  • Fresh Thyme: This fresh herb adds earthy, aromatic notes to the dish, infusing it with a subtle herbal flavour that compliments the other ingredients.
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper: Add finely chopped peppers for a spicy flavour. Feel free to adjust to taste.
  • White Vinegar: Using vinegar tames the fishy flavour so it doesn’t overpower the dish.
  • Grace Fish and Meat Sauce: While this is an optional ingredient, it adds a sweet, tangy taste that makes the dish even more mouthwatering. Alternatively, use Pickapeppa sauce, another sweet Jamaican condiment.
  • Ketchup: Some traditional salted mackerel recipes don’t use this but I like how it adds a sweet, savoury taste that deepens the overall flavour.
  • Oil: Use your favourite oil to cook down the onions and tomatoes before adding the fish.
  • Black Pepper: Add fresh black pepper to taste.
salt mackerel ingredient flatlay.

How to Make Salt Mackerel

Prepare the Mackerel

  1. Rinse the salted mackerel under cold water to remove excess salt. Place the mackerel in a bowl filled with cold water. Let them soak for about 30 minutes to 1 hour to remove additional salt. You can change the water halfway through if needed.
  2. Bring a stockpot filled with water to a boil and add the mackerel, then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Once done, remove, drain, and debone, removing fins and gently scraping off the skin. Pick the mackerel flesh to make smaller pieces and set aside.

Salt Mackerel

  1. In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, tomatoes, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper to the skillet. Sauté until the onions are translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the mackerel pieces to the skillet, as well as the vinegar, fish and meat sauce and ketchup. Stir gently to combine the ingredients then allow the mixture to simmer for another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed, serve hot and enjoy.

Recipe Substitutions

  • Add Coconut Milk: This creamy addition makes the dish similar to mackerel rundown.
  • Peppers: For a milder heat, swap the scotch bonnet peppers for pimento peppers.
  • Sauce: If you can’t get your hands on Grace Fish and Meat Sauce or Pickapeppa, use Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce instead.

Serving Suggestions

  • Provision: This fish tastes great with starchy root vegetables like yams and cassava. Boiled Green Banana is a popular pairing for a light, nutritious Jamaican breakfast.
  • Plantains: Fried plantains are a sweet side for the salted mackerel.
  • Dumplings: Boiled or fried, soft dumplings are a delicious, hearty addition to this fish recipe.
  • Hardo Bread: Slather some butter on your bread and sop up all those juices.
a plate of salt mackerel with boiled banana and avocado.

Tips for the Best Salt Mackerel

  • It takes just 1 hour to soak salt mackerel. Some recipes suggest soaking overnight but you only need to soak salted mackerel for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Rinsing before and boiling after helps to desalt the fish.
  • Flake and debone the fish. Once the fish is boiled, carefully debone the mackerel, removing any small bones, fins, and skin. Gently scrape off the skin to reveal the tender flesh underneath. Doing this helps you avoid an unexpected crunch or unpleasant chewiness from the skin.
  • The pickling process partially cooks the mackerel. Don’t boil the fish for more than 15 minutes or you risk losing its flavour and structure. Losing the salty essence of the fish defeats the purpose of buying salted mackerel. If that’s what you prefer, stick to fresh mackerel.
  • By the time the mackerel is added to the pot with the other ingredients, it’s already cooked. The purpose of combining it with aromatics, vinegar, and seasonings is to infuse it with flavour. This process takes about 5 minutes (7 minutes max).

Storage & Reheating Instructions

Once the dish has cooled to room temperature, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat the mackerel, add it to a killer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it is warmed through. You can microwave it but keep a close watch because overcooking can make the fish tough and rubbery.

salt mackerel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do you eat with salt mackerel?

Salt mackerel is popular around the world. In Asian cuisine, it’s often served with plain white rice to tame the saltiness. But in Jamaica, it’s usually served with breakfast alongside boiled green bananas, fried plantains, or hard dough bread.

How do you clean salt mackerel?

To clean mackerel, rinse under cold water to remove excess salt, then soak in cold water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Boil in a stockpot for 10-15 minutes, then debone, remove fins and skin, pick flesh into smaller pieces, and set aside.

What is a good cooking technique for mackerel?

The best way to cook mackerel is by pan frying. It quickly warms up the fish for a flavour infusion and gives it a crispy exterior.

Interested in more Delicious Fish Recipes? Check These Out!

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jamaican salt mackerel.

Jamaican Salt Mackerel

Taneisha Morris
This Jamaican Salt Mackerel recipe is a staple in Caribbean cuisine. Pan-fried with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and aromatics, salted mackerel bursts with savoury, tangy, vibrant flavours. Enjoy it for breakfast or lunch.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Soaking Mackerel 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Breakfast & Brunch, Fish & Seafood, Jamaican
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 4 servings
Calories 105 kcal

Equipment

  • Large Pot for soaking the mackerel
  • Large Skillet for sautéing and simmering

Ingredients
  

  • 3 whole Salted Mackerel cleaned and cut into 3 pieces
  • 1/2 lrg Tomato cut into chunks
  • 1/2 med Onion chopped
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1/2 Scotch Bonnet Pepper finely chopped, adjust to taste
  • 1 tbsp White Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Grace Fish and Meat Sauce or pickapeppa sauce, optional
  • 1 tbsp Ketchup
  • 3 tbsp Oil
  • Black Pepper to taste

Instructions
 

Prepare the Mackerel

  • Rinse the salted mackerel under cold water to remove excess salt. Place the mackerel in a bowl filled with cold water. Let them soak for about 30 minutes to 1 hour to remove additional salt. You can change the water halfway through if needed.
  • Bring a stockpot filled with water to a boil and add the mackerel, then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Once done, remove, drain, and debone, removing fins and gently scraping off the skin. Pick the mackerel flesh to make smaller pieces and set aside.

Salt Mackerel

  • In a large skillet or frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, tomatoes, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper to the skillet. Sauté until the onions are translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the mackerel pieces to the skillet, as well as the vinegar, fish and meat sauce and ketchup. Stir gently to combine the ingredients then allow the mixture to simmer for another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed, serve hot and enjoy.

Nutrition

Calories: 105kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 0.4gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 0.4mgSodium: 35mgPotassium: 41mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 57IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 6mgIron: 0.2mg

Note, the nutritional information is calculated using a nutrition facts calculator. It is a rough estimate and can vary based on products used.

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Keyword(s) How to cook salt mackerel, jamaican mackerel, mackerel fish recipe, salt mackerel, salt mackerel fillets, Salted mackerel, Salted mackerel fish, Salted mackerel recipe, simple mackerel recipes

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