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Mackerel Fry

Mackerel Fry

Freshly Fried Mackerel Fillets

One of my favourite breakfasts, and one I think cannot be beaten, are freshly caught Atlantic Mackerel fillets fried in butter, served with buttered toast or bread.

There is nothing more delicious to set you up for the day. This simple recipe will show you how to make the perfect mackerel fry.

freshly fried mackerel fillets

Atlantic Mackerel Fish

Atlantic mackerel, also know as Boston, Norwegian and Scottish mackerel (scomber scombrus) is a shoaling fish found in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the North Atlantic. It is a wonderful fighting fish and great fun to catch from the rocks or a boat. 

fresh mackerel
Fresh mackerel that I caught from a boat off the West Coast of Ireland

The mackerel is a beautiful fish with camouflage colouring’s, has a strong taste, and is an oily fish with plenty of nutrients, making it a healthy fish to eat. It is also, more importantly, sustainable.

mackerel fillets

How to catch mackerel

My summer holidays for many years were spent in Cornwall in the South West of the UK. Every year we would try our luck from the rocks with our feathers and floats in the hope that we would catch some delicious Atlantic mackerel.

Some days were more lucky than others, but the summer months are the best time to catch mackerel on this side of the pond.

The easiest way to catch mackerel though is from a boat trolling with feathers or lures. You simply drop your line in the water to the bottom and reel up slowly. Mackerel are a shoaling fish and you may well get three or four fish on at once if you are lucky.

But if you can find a good safe fishing spot on the shore, then I like to use a mackerel rig up with a float, weight, swivel and tracer and a sand eel (or mackerel) as bait, with the hook through the head of the sand eel. They always tend to attack the head first.

boston mackerel

The mackerel has a sharp bite, meaning you can easily tell the difference when you have a mackerel bit compared to that of a pollack, for example. The float will disappear without any warning – a direct strike!

You can also catch them from the shore trolling with a lure or feathers.

mackerel in flour

They are a great fighting fish and fun to catch from the rocks.

How to fillet a mackerel

I have seen mackerel filleted both ways, from the tail to the head and vice versa. But I think the most common method is from the head towards the tail. You make a cut just behind the pectoral fin on the side with a very sharp knife until you reach the backbone.

frying mackerel fillets
Fresh Mackerel Fillets in the pan

Then slowly draw the knife towards the tail, running it along the backbone, taking as much meat as you can. Then do the same on the other side. You can throw the remains of the carcass to the seagulls, wash the fillets from any stomach contents that may have remained and you are ready to cook.

pan fry mackerel
Mackerel Fry

Make sure that you have removed all the bones, especially around the stomach cavity where a few may remain if you are not careful. These can be fished out with a sharp-pointed knife. Also cutting a thin line down the middle of the meat side of the fillet, as you can see in the photos above, will help remove any bones that exist down there.

How to cook a mackerel fry

This recipe is so simple. You clean and dry the fillet before covering it in some seasoned flour. Then the fillet is pan-seared in a skillet in a mix of butter and olive oil on both sides until crispy and cooked.

fried atlantic mackerel

When the fish is really fresh, caught the same day or next day, then there really is nothing better. If you need to keep the fillets in the fridge overnight, just store them on some kitchen paper and wrap in some tin foil to keep them fresh.

pan seared mackerel fillets

This really is one of my all-time favourite simple recipes. I hope you can get your hands on some really fresh Boston Mackerel and give it a go.

I have just found someone who sells mackerel fresh (caught the same morning) outside our local pub every day, so I am very happy. This was this morning’s breakfast! 

mackerel breakfast
Pan-fried mackerel with buttered Irish Wheaten Bread

Let me know how you get on in the comments section below!

Mackerel Fry Recipe

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fried mackerel fillets

Mackerel Fry

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 4 minutes
Total Time: 6 minutes

The best way to cook mackerel and probably my absolute favourite breakfast meal. Fresh pan seared mackerel fillets in butter.


  • 4 freshly caught mackerel fillets
  • Large knob of butter
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tbsp plain Flour
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional Garnish

  • Slice Lemon
  • Chopped Parsley


  1. Season the flour with the salt and pepper.
  2. Fillet and wash the fish. Pat dry with some kitchen paper.
  3. Coat the fish with the seasoned flour (roll the fish into the flour on a plate).
  4. Heat the oil and melt the butter in the pan.
  5. Cook the fillets in the pan on a medium heat (skin side down first) for about 2 minutes each side until nicely crisped. Make sure you do not over cook them.


Serve up with some buttered bread or toast, and garnish with some lemon and parsley if required. I like them on their own.

There is nothing better on this planet than fresh mackerel for breakfast!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 616Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 147mgSodium: 341mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 43g

This nutrition information was automatically calculated by Nutritionix, but may not be 100% accurate.

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Wednesday 20th of September 2023

I was very happy to have caught several 3 to 5lb Mackerel this weekend while salmon fishing in the Straits of Juan De Fuca. A gem a place at the tippy top of the US before Canada in Washington State. Whales all over, Sea lions, lots of salmon to catch.

I never considered eating the Mackerel myself as they are excellent for shrimp and halibut bait. I'm glad I read your post here first before I packed them away.

I fileted the Mackerel in the field so right to the cutting board they went. I cut and trimmed up all fish into uniform tenderloins that remind me of fresh Mahi Mahi all dressed out!

I'm super excited to get a few of these in the pan tomorrow and (finger crossed) try out a new tasty protein! Even better, I saved every bit of the trimmings too. Bones, bloodline, skins.....which will go right into a trap when crab and shrimp opens up. A sustainable fish PLUS all the undesirable parts catch more fish?????

We may have a winner here! And If you ever get the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest in the US or Victoria BC you won't regret it! We love to have you!



Thursday 21st of September 2023

5lb! That's a big mackerel! We do not get them that big over here. Hope it worked out!


Saturday 22nd of July 2023

After fishing with family yesterday and catching 30 of them, I decided to make some with this recipe and it was absolutely delicious. I made it for my in-laws, too and they loved it. Will definitely make it again soon:-) Thank you for this very easy, delicious recipe!


Saturday 22nd of July 2023

Glad you enjoyed it Lily. It is indeed a wonderful fish and so tasty when made like this. I picked up 5 fresh mackerel for 3 euros on Wednesday on the street corner, so have also had them for my breakfast for the last 2 days!!


Friday 22nd of July 2022

A local Japanese grocery store in my area has all kinds of wonderful kobe beef and exotic seafood (pricey, of course)... and among the wide range of choices, some mackerel fillets. VERY cheap, too! Half mackerel (gutted and mostly deboned) medium size, for about $3.75. On a lark, a picked up one to see how it tastes after cooked (prior to this, I've had sushi grade raw mackerel). Followed this tip on lightly flouring the fish, cooking in butter & olive oil. Turned out great and super delicious! Just have to be careful of some fine bones that proved elusive in the preparation.


Monday 29th of August 2022

Glad you enjoyed. Yes you do have to look out for the little bones though. Perhaps I should make a video of how to fillet a mackerel....?

Diane P

Sunday 26th of June 2022

Thanks for all of you info on Mackerel I never cared too much for it as I thought it was too oily a fish. My friend just had a plate of fresh caught Mackerel from the atlantic in front of his home and it will be his Sunday dinner. It was my grandmother's favorite fish and I wanted to be sure I cooked it correctly for him. I have a cast iron skillet that will do very nicely for this dish.


Friday 6th of May 2022

Hi Gav,

I'm new to mackerel and just got my hands on some from my local fish monger. This looks simple and delicious. Going to try it straight away. Thanks for sharing!


Wednesday 11th of May 2022

@Gav, It was delicious. Simple preparation, very tasty results. Mackerel is such a great fish!


Friday 6th of May 2022

Hope it worked out! I love mackerel. Brought up eating it as a kid on holiday in Cornwall.

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