My wife comes from a culture where preparation and eating of dried fish is very common (as long as one takes the proper measures to deal with the smell). She prepared for me recently a serving of dried mackerel, but it was sooooo salty that I could only bear to eat one or two bites. Can anyone recommend some sort of preparation method to counteract this excessive salty flavor?

  • Do you only want to eat it by itself? If you just want to experience the flavor, you could perhaps make dishes including it.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 11, 2011 at 17:10
  • Generally speaking, by itself. However, I still have a good amount of that mackerel left, so I need to get rid of it somehow.
    – demongolem
    Dec 11, 2011 at 17:13
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    What culture is that ? What kind of recipes that this culture use to prepare salted fish ?
    – Max
    Apr 14, 2017 at 12:57

9 Answers 9


The standard way to cook salt cod for dishes where you want to really remove the saltiness, such as brandade, is to soak it (for hours) in a couple of changes of water, and then simmer it in milk for half an hour to an hour. This might work with the mackerel. Not sure what you'd use it for after that, though.

  • Brandade definitely goes beyond my kitchen experience, but it looks like it is worth a try. Thanks a bunch.
    – demongolem
    Dec 12, 2011 at 15:44

As FuzzyChef indicates in his answer, the standard way is to soak in abundant cold water. The number of hours depends on the thickness of the piece. Some cod can be soaking for 48h with a change of water every 8-12h.

But, there is no need for simmering the fish in milk. You can use the fish as usual once the desired saltiness is reached.


If you don't mind the texture you could rehydrate the fish by soaking it in water for at least an hour. You could add them to a soup as well or eat with rice to help dull the saltiness.


Sprinkling a little lemon juice or vinegar on dried fish will mask the saltiness.


Spiciness is always a great way to mask saltiness. If you like spicy food, try crushed red pepper flakes in boiling vegetable oil for a flavorless spicy addition to any food.


I lived in Japan for eight years and have a Japanese wife. The reason the Japanese cook rice with no seasoning is because so many of the preserved foods they eat are so salty. I developed the habit years ago of eating large bowls of unseasoned rice along with small servings of salt preserved fish and vegetables. I might point out that the Japanese are among the longest lived people in the world so perhaps there is merit to this eating system.

  • This is interesting, but it doesn't answer the question
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Dec 12, 2013 at 0:39
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    Actually, if we accept that "add more water to an oversalted soup" is a good answer for other questions, I think that "serve it together with unseasoned rice" is a good answer to this one too.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 12, 2013 at 1:22
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    Agreed, the question does kind of imply that the OP is trying to eat just the fish, but I think that pointing out that the best way to eat it is with bland things to dilute the salt is fair.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 12, 2013 at 2:12

Soak it in starchy water for 4-5 hours


The best way to extract salt from mackerel is to soak overnight in sea water and then was in plain water. The chemical composition of the processed salt in the mackerel and the sea water are different and therefore neutralizes each other.


Granny to the rescue:

Depending on the recipe this is how my grandmother got rid of excessive salt in soup (so if boiling, this will be of great help)

Add potatoes cut in 4 lengthwise to the water: as they have a large surface-to-volume ratio, they will soak up lots of salt.

You can serve them both with the meal or you can keep them in the fridge to make potato salad next day.

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