Mackerel (or Salmon) in Magic Sauce (Paleo, AIP, GAPS, Wahls)

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cooked mackerel served on top of cauliflower rice with scallions and sliced lemons on top

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.”
~ Barbara Sher

Embracing Change

As I said in last week’s healthy, sustainable seafood article, I grew up on Cape Cod, yet never liked the taste of fish. Of course, I didn’t like the taste of much back then, aside from wheat and sugar. Now that both of those are out of my diet, my tastebuds have expanded exponentially. I look at food differently now. I still want it to taste good, but since food is my medicine, it needs to be nutrient-dense as well. My research on seafood convinced me that it plays an important role in a healing diet. So, to truly challenge myself, I signed up for a seafood CSA, where I’ll be forced to try new varieties regularly. We had our first delivery this week, which included flounder and mackerel.

I froze the flounder and started searching for recipes for mackerel. It’s one of the top 5 healthiest and most sustainable seafood choices. A three-ounce portion contains over 2500 mg of omega 3 fatty acids and 300 IU of Vitamin D. In addition, it’s one of the most plentiful fish in the ocean and much less expensive than its healthy compatriot, salmon. However, it also has a reputation for having a strong “fishy” flavor, and that made me nervous. I was lucky enough to have fresh mackerel, caught just two days prior. It had no fishy scent, which is a good sign. I chose a recipe by Mark Bittman as inspiration. He suggested simmering the mackerel in a soy-based sauce and serving it over white rice. I paleofied the recipe, replacing the soy with coconut aminos, and the rice with cauli-rice. The result? It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. I also think this sauce would accentuate any meat or vegetable stir fry. I’m going to start calling it “magic sauce”. I loved this recipe so much, I’m hoping for more mackerel in future fish deliveries.

Update: If you don’t have access to fresh mackerel, I tested this recipe with salmon and it’s absolutely delicious. This is amazing, because I’ve prepared salmon countless ways and never liked it until today. My husband, who loves salmon, was worried the sauce would be too strong, but he ended up loving this recipe, too. A recipe that pleases both fish lovers and haters? That is magic!

Inspired by Mark Bittman

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Mackerel or Salmon in Magic Sauce | Phoenix Helix

Mackerel (or Salmon) in Magic Sauce (Paleo, AIP, GAPS, Wahls)

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  • Author: Eileen Laird
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 3-4 servings



  1. Lightly salt the flesh side of fish fillets and set aside.
  2. Add coconut aminos, sherry, water, honey, white wine vinegar, ginger slices, lemon zest, and crushed garlic to a large skillet. Don't turn on the heat yet.
  3. Cut cauliflower into small chunks and pulse in food processor until it reaches rice consistency. Set aside.
  4. Slice the scallions, putting white slices in one small bowl and green slices in another.
  5. Slice the lemon into thin slices and set aside.
  6. Make the cauliflower rice: Melt coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add white parts of scallions and sauté 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower rice and salt, and toss to blend. Let it cook 5 minutes, then use a spatula to turn the rice over. It’s easiest to turn the rice if you scoop from the center outward. Let it cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the green parts of scallions, more salt, and toss to blend again. Let some of the steam release from the pot, and then loosely cover, to keep warm while the fish cooks.
  7. Now, bring the sauce in the skillet to a boil, then reduce to simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, uncovered.
  8. Add the fish, skin-side down and swirl the pan so the sauce flows over the top of the fish. Simmer uncovered for 7 minutes. Then cover pan and cook 3-5 minutes more, until fish is cooked through. It will be warm in the center, and flake when tested with a fork.
  9. Serve the fish on top of the cauliflower rice. Remove the ginger and garlic from the sauce, and pour the extra sauce on top of the fish. Then garnish with lemon slices.


  1. The cauliflower stem is edible and nutritious, too! Include it when making your cauliflower-rice.
  2. Time Saving Tip: Many stores sell pre-chopped cauliflower rice in the frozen food aisle. A medium head of cauliflower is equivalent to about 4 cups of cauliflower rice.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Main Courses
  • Method: Stovetop

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15 comments on “Mackerel (or Salmon) in Magic Sauce (Paleo, AIP, GAPS, Wahls)”

  1. I am new to AIP. I would like to try this recipe. But I am unsure: is the dry sherry acceptable in the elimination phase of the AIP diet?

  2. Wow, this recipe was so delicious! I was a little anxious to try it because I’ve never had mackerel before, though I do like fish, it’s not something I cook often. Magic sauce indeed – it was sticky, sweet and had a depth of flavour that married perfectly with the unique flavour of the mackerel. I served it on rice for my husband with buttered steamed broccolini and he leaned across the table and high-fived me once he finished – winner! Thanks Eileen!

  3. I don’t believe I’ve ever had mackerel. Odd being that my dad was a crazed fisherman. I’ll look for it though. If I cannot find it I’ll pick up some salmon. I love having access to great fish here.

  4. I assume it tastes similar to salmon? I was considering getting some salmon into my diet, as I’ve been reading how good it is for you.

    1. Hi Becca. Each fish has its own flavor profile, but mackerel, salmon & tuna are all meaty fish with strong flavors that stand up well to the sauce. Salmon’s a great choice for omega 3’s – just be sure it’s wildcaught, not farmed.

    1. I am in LOVE with this sauce. I’m posting a recipe that uses it in a beef/broccoli/pineapple stir fry next week. It makes everything taste better! (Well, maybe not ice cream.) 😉

  5. Mmmmmmm – this looks delicious! I love fish and love your photo! Can’t wait to try this recipe out. Thank you for mentioning my…well, not MY liver, but you know what I mean…

    1. I’ve always loved the flavor of sherry in cooking. One of my favorite recipes growing up was sherried potatoes au gratin. I can’t eat that any more, but this recipe and yours is helping me enjoy that flavor in new ways.

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