You’d like a nice fish dinner, but aren’t sure if you can grill fish ?
Of course you can ! And grilled mahi mahi tacos is a great way to experiment with fish on a grill.
So let’s talk about how to make those tacos, and what to keep in mind when grilling fish.
Use fresh, wild caught mahi mahi
First, let’s settle on what to get when you go out looking for mahi mahi.
Of course, that’s the actual fish you’ll get, but you should aim for fresh caught. If you can get your hands on a wild catch, then the flavor will be even better, and your tacos will end up even better as a result.
As long as the mahi mahi is fresh, you should be left with minimal smell in the house after you’re done eating it, or grilling it.
You’ll notice the fish is fresh if it’s still got that pink-beige color, and hasn’t started to darken too much. If you’re buying whole fish, the gills should be still red, and the eyes clear and not yet cloudy.
However if you’re using fresh fish, you should look for a company that quick-freezes the fish and packs it into smaller pieces.
This usually means you will be able to get skinless, boneless mahi mahi like fillets or medallions.
Whichever you get, as long as it’s fresh it’s going to be the necessary texture.
After all, mahi mahi is one of the best fish to use for grilling since it’s got a firm texture, and keeps its shape without flaking too much when on the grill.
And the overall flavor of this fish is a good one for grilling, since it’s mild enough to taste like fish but not overly much.
If you can’t find mahi mahi, you can substitute with tuna steak or halibut, though the taste will be very different.
Remember to use citrus and garlic
Whenever you cook fish, and in this case as well, remember to use some citrus and/or garlic in a sauce or while cooking.
In fact, this applies to any and all sea food.
It’s the fresh tang of a lemon or lime that’s going to cut right through the fish’s aroma, and make it much more bearable for some.
In the meantime, the garlic will help cover up some of that flavor, the same way it helps game taste familiar.
Naturally, the best option is to use both citrus and garlic, and why not butter as well, to make everything mix nicely ?
How to make grilled mahi mahi tacos
Alright, let’s get to actually grilling the fish.
This recipe is for grilling fish on the grill, outside. Of course, you can adapt it to a cast-iron grill that can be used on the stove, if you have no other grill.
Or, you can even just sear the fish in a skillet and it will still come out great.
So, for grilled mahi mahi tacos, you’ll need:
- 1.5 lbs of mahi mahi, fresh caught
- 8 corn tortillas
- 8 skewers, pre-soaked in water
- salt, pepper, garlic powder
- olive oil
For the toppings/garnish:
- roughly chopped tomatoes
- canned sweet corn
- chopped red onion (can sub with scallions)
- finely chopped cabbage (white or red, both work)
- quality mayo, spicy or not
For the lime-garlic sauce:
- 3 oz melted butter
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- half a lime (can sub with lemon)
- chili powder
- handful of roughly chopped cilantro (can sub with parsley)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Now, I’m going to assume your mahi mahi is thawed or fresh, and can be worked with immediately.
Run the fish under cold water for a few minutes to make sure it’s completely clean, and no random bits of scale or bone are left.
Pat the fish dry, and on a cutting board either cut it into small pieces, or cut it into 8 larger pieces.
If you cut it small it will cook faster, but you risk it flaking.
Either way, in a small bowl add the salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic powder. Not a lot of olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the fish and hold the ingredients onto the meat.
Coat all the fish with the seasonings, and then thread them onto the skewers.
The skewers should be pre-soaked in water for at lest 30 minutes before grilling, so they don’t burn.
Heat your grill to medium
Make sure your grill is clean and is hot enough to handle the fish. Fish, like all meats, need instant heat. Any meat you put on a cold grill will end up sticking more than it has to.
Once your grill is sufficiently hot, lightly spritz or brush the grate with olive oil so the meat won’t stick. Even if the fish already had some olive oil, a little more will help keep things non-sticky.
Place the skewers onto the grill, preferably across the grate so it won’t slip between the bars.
Mahi mahi cooks fast, so 5-8 minutes total should be enough. All you need is to flip it on both sides, and once it becomes opaque, you’re done.
Transfer the meat pieces onto a plate, and let them rest for a minute.
Making the lime-garlic sauce
In the smallest sauce pan you have, melt the butter, and add the crushed garlic. It should not fry for more than 30 seconds, otherwise it becomes bitter.
Once the garlic is done, take the whole thing off the heat. Add the chili powder, salt, chopped cilantro, and ground cumin, and stir until combined.
Squeeze the lime as best as you can. The lime juice will interact with the butter and form a sort of vinaigrette, especially if you mix/whisk it fast.
If you’d like some extra lime flavor, grate a bit of rind into the sauce as well. Just a little.
Remember the finely chopped cabbage ? If you’d like, you can add most of this sauce to that cabbage, and a bit of mayo, and make a nice slaw to go with the tacos.
Reserve some sauce to serve with the tacos separately.
Grill the tortillas
On the remaining heat of the grill, add the tortillas and let them sit there for about a minute on both sides. They might develop some nice grill marks, which I think will add to the overall flavor and aspect of these grilled mahi mahi tacos.
Assemble the tacos
Once everything is ready – the fish grilled, the tortillas grilled/heated, and the lime-garlic sauce ready, you can start assembling the tacos.
Begin by roughly shredding the grilled fish with a fork. This makes it easier to distribute to into each taco.
If you were to leave the fish in larger bits, it would be hard to eat the taco, since it wouldn’t be an even mix of all ingredients.
The order in which you add your ingredients to the taco doesn’t matter, as long as you remember to first slather on some mayo to keep things together.
If you decided to make the slaw, you should still have some garlic sauce, which can be generously spooned over the toppings, to lighten everything up.
And you’re done !
Tips on grilling fish
When you’re grilling fish there’s always that dread that it’s not going to hold up, it’s going to fall through the grates, or it might dry out.
So let me help you out here, and give you a few tips.
Grilling fish on skewers (kabobs) will help cook the meat faster, and is easier to keep in one place, since the whole thing is on just one stick.
You can always just keep a whole fillet, and get one of those fish grilling presses. As long as you remember to very generously coat the whole thing with oil, you shouldn’t have mush of a problem with it sticking and it has no reason to fall through the grate.
Yet another idea is to use a grill mat. Those are thick sheets of non-stick material that can be placed directly onto the grill. They will withstand high heat, and they will keep your fish in one piece, and allow you to get that smoky grill flavor from the grill.
A good set of grill mats is on my Best Grill Mats page, where you’ll find them explained in more detail, and just how to use them.
Marinating fish before grilling is useful, but most fish take up seasonings really quickly so it’s not as important as marinating red meat.
If you do marinate the fish, remember to use crushed garlic (large pieces) in the marinade.
And as always, getting your grill hot enough is going to mean your fish will cook fast and won’t dry out.
Grilling mahi mahi to make delicious tacos is a bit of a task, but it’s doable.
As long as you’re careful with how long you let the fish sit on the grill, you should be able to get a nice dinner out of it.
Grilling is always going to be something that requires an eye for detail, being organized, and also creative if things go wrong. Grilling mahi mahi (or any fish) is a good exercise in that respect.