What Is Mahi Mahi?

This firm, white, mild-tasting fish is versatile and sustainable.

October 15, 2021
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Grilled portion of mahi-mahi with sauteed rainbow chard and new potatoes. Image could work for other kinds of white-fleshed fish.

Photo by: NightAndDayImages/Getty Images

NightAndDayImages/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

Let’s set the record straight right from the start: mahi mahi is often called dolphinfish but it is not dolphin. Mahi mahi is a fish and dolphins are mammals. Mahi mahi is also called dorado, Spanish for gold, an aptly descriptive name based on the beautiful gold and green flash of its scales. No matter what name we’re using, we’ll be dishing up tips and info about mahi mahi to ensure that when you get some you can cook it to perfection.



Raw fish fillets on a bamboo cutting board seasoned with salt and pepper

Photo by: Candice Bell/Getty Images

Candice Bell/Getty Images

What Is Mahi Mahi?

Mahi mahi are fish that live in warm waters and rarely grow over 30 pounds during their four-to-five-year lifespans. Mahi mahi means "strong" in the Hawaiian language because these fish are very vigorous swimmers. Mahi mahi have pale pink, lean flesh that cooks up flakey and white. It's firm enough to be grilled without falling apart and tender enough to be steamed. Mahi mahi are considered an eco-friendly seafood option because they grow and reproduce quickly and they are typically fished sustainably with hook and line.

What Does Mahi Mahi Taste Like?

Like many other tropical fish, mahi mahi is semi-mild and sweet tasting. It's similar to halibut in terms of flakiness, but also similar to swordfish in its denseness. If you can't find mahi mahi, you can substitute either halibut or swordfish for it.



cook cutting a piece of raw fish

Photo by: Juanmonino/Getty Images

Juanmonino/Getty Images

How to Cook Mahi Mahi

Before cooking you may need to prep the fish to ensure the tastiest, most tender results. Here's what to do.

  • Skin the mahi mahi. Unlike trout or salmon, the skin on a mahi mahi fillet is tough and inedible, so be sure your fillet is skinned when you buy it.
  • Remove the bones. If you’re cutting mahi mahi portions, you’ll have to carefully remove bones. Feel along the fillets with your finger; the bones will stick up and you can gently pull them out with tweezers. When baking a whole fillet, it’s easier to remove the bones from the cooked fish.
  • Remove the blood line. You’ll see a red line down the middle of the fillet, called the blood line. While the blood line is perfectly safe to eat, it will have a fishy taste compared to the rest of the fish, so we like to remove it by cutting it out with a sharp, thin knife.

Mahi mahi can be cooked any number of ways, but whichever technique you use, be sure to season right before cooking: you don’t want salt to draw moisture out of the fish.

To grill mahi mahi, lightly brush a very hot grill with oil to prevent the fish from sticking. Cook the fish on 2 to 4 minutes per side, and only flip it once so it doesn't fall apart. You'll know the fish is done when it goes from translucent to an opaque pinkish-white color.

When baking mahi mahi, it's a good idea to lightly oil the fish and use parchment paper in the pan so it doesn't stick. To determine doneness, take the temperature in the middle of the fillet with an instant read thermometer. Take the fish out of the oven when the thermometer reads 135 to 140 degrees F; the pan will stay hot and the fish will continue to cook for a bit.

Mahi Mahi Recipes 



Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Mojo, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

Grilling mahi mahi is so simple that if we had an indoor grill we’d be having it every day.



Photo by: Andrew Purcell

Andrew Purcell

Baking mahi mahi in a foil packet is a convenient technique no matter what you’ll be doing with the fish after it’s cooked. In this case, it makes tender taco filling.



Grilling this mahi mahi with curry paste on top gives the curry itself a high heat sear that brings out the flavors of all the spices.



Photo by: Justin Walker

Justin Walker

Ginger and scallion under the mahi mahi infuse the fish with flavor as it steams. The stacked steamer baskets make cooking fish and vegetables convenient and leave a burner free for cooking the rice.



Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

Fish is one of the best things to cook in a broiler, and in this recipe, you use it for toasting the almonds and broiling the asparagus too.

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