Skip to content

Grilled Mackerel Salad

In a Tomato Flower


One of our favorite lunches is seafood salad. I must admit, it’s just too easy to be lured by convenience at grocery deli counters where pre-made salads are in abundance. Quite often we’ll have containers of tuna salad or seafood salad in our fridge for those quick meals when you don’t have the time to make anything else. I recently realized that you don’t need to limit yourself to the pre-made deli salads. If you’re a fan of grilled fish, the leftovers can make a delicious salad.

Nutritionists advise eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly oily fish such as Salmon, Trout, Sardines or Atlantic Mackerel. What’s best is that these fish also have low levels of mercury.

Atlantic Mackerel is a great choice because it’s very affordable (as compared to fish such as salmon). If you’re going to purchase mackerel, be sure to get Atlantic Mackerel rather than King Mackerel or Spanish Mackerel, both very high in mercury levels. Atlantic Mackerel is a very flavorful fish and cooks up quickly on the grill with little preparation. I like to buy two whole mackerel and grill both, eating one for supper then saving the second for salad.

Often you find recipes for tuna salad served in a hollowed-out tomato. This is a delicious way to enjoy the salad especially when summer beefsteak tomatoes are in season. Unfortunately, our tomato season is still several weeks away. I bought a few hothouse tomatoes the other day. They looked absolutely perfect, which should have probably given me a hint that their taste wouldn’t be as great. They were medium sized and extremely firm. I sliced a couple for a caprese salad, which is when I learned that they didn’t have a lot of flavor. I didn’t want to toss out the rest so I needed to be creative with how to use them. I came up with the idea of “tomato flowers” by using my apple corer to slice the firm tomato into very even slices, creating a “flower” in which I could serve a scoop of seafood salad.

I made a quick and easy salad using the meat from my leftover grilled Atlantic Mackerel , about ¼ cup each of chopped onions and celery and a little mayonnaise to bind it all together. The mackerel was so much more flavorful than the usual tuna and, served in a tomato flower, was actually quite elegant! But even a simple tuna salad can be a very pretty lunch when served in a tomato flower.

Here’s the quick recipe to grill Atlantic Mackerel. Eat one for dinner then remove the meat from the second to mix with onions, celery and mayonnaise to enjoy a new take on seafood salad. Sprinkle on a few celery seeds to add a bit more flavor and crunch.


Two whole Atlantic Mackerel (about 2 pounds each) – one for dinner, one for salad
Olive oil spray
¼ cup each chopped onions and celery
About ½ cup of mayonnaise or more to taste
Two firm, medium sized tomatoes
Celery seeds for garnish, optional

Have your fishmonger clean and gut the fish. I like to grill the fish whole – heads and tails still attached – but you can have the fishmonger remove them if you prefer.

Rinse the fish, inside and out with fresh water and lightly pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat your gas grill to high, covered, for at least 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and brush a little oil on your grilled rack (or fish basket) to make sure the fish doesn’t stick. Atlantic Mackerel is an oily fish so there is no need to coat the fish with additional oil.

Grill the mackerel for 8 minutes on each side.

A single mackerel is enough for two people to enjoy for dinner – serve half to each person with some lemon wedges on the side.

Let the second mackerel cool down then remove all meat, being careful to pick out any tiny bones. Mix the meat with some chopped onions, chopped celery and a little mayonnaise to hold it all together. Put the mackerel salad in the refrigerator to chill for lunch the following day.

To make a tomato flower, take a very firm medium sized tomato and carefully cut it with an apple corer, not cutting through the bottom. I like to set my corer on “thin” so I end up with 16 thin slices. I remove the center of the tomato with a paring knife then gently open up the “tomato flower.” Place a scoop of mackerel salad in the center and serve immediately.