I have a real problem getting good mackerel. What I consider to be "real" mackerel is that served typically in sushi bars, which I assume is Atlantic mackerel on the east coast of the USA. This fish is characterized by its strong, distinctive oily taste and large amount of brown fat (glycogen). Normally when I buy "mackerel" from "Spain", which I assume to be Scomber scombrus (Atlantic mackerel), it looks and tastes identical to sushi mackerel.

I have read that in Japan there are over 30 kinds of mackerel, but only 3 of these types are considered Saba (good mackerel).

The problem arises that a different kind of "mackerel" is frequently sold which has no distinctive taste, no brown fat, and tastes more or less exactly like tuna. I notice, for example, that one maker when it says on their package "product of Spain" it is the good mackerel, but every year around the same time it changes to say "product of Thailand", and this indicates the bad mackerel tasting like tuna.

What are the good species and how can I figure which is which before buying it (assuming I can't see it inside can)?

(Just to illustrate how tough this problem check out this fish website, it shows a picture of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) but identifies it as Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus)! Not even the fisherman seem to know what they are catching.)

  • In Japan; the best mackerel is imported from Norway. Not 100% sure on the official type of mackerel. September and October are the best seasons; as the mackerel is "extra" fatty and considered the best tasting. How to get this to the US? Think we are stuck with spanish variant...
    – zerobane
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 20:58
  • Personally I like to use a bait rig with a mackerel jig for weight and 8 pound line. Works equally well as a trolling setup or for fishing off a dock/pier. Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 2:05

2 Answers 2


Simple: go to your local Japanese or Korean grocer. They will have your "good", oily, brown-fatted mackerel in the frozen section: look for or, better yet, ask for しおさば (shio-saba) in Japanese or godeung-eo in Korean. This is invariably filleted, salted, and quite cheap.

This is most commonly served grilled, which is ridiculously easy: pop in the oven/grill for 15-20 minutes skin-side down on foil and serve. My wife cooks this all the time, most recently earlier today for dinner! Sample recipe in English here, but you can skip right over steps 1-6 if you're using pre-salted fish.

And for avoidance of doubt, frozen salted fish is not suitable to be eaten raw. However, the friendly grocer can most likely tell you where he buys his fish, and in better Japanese shops may even have sushi-grade mackerel on hand.


Drisheen the Mackerel shown in the picture on the web site you have linked is the most common mackerel in the world and are what are used worldwide in Sushi bars. For best results lightly salt the Mackerel first and leave the fillets in a fridge to allow the salt to remove excess water in the fillets. Make up a mixture of 100ml sushi vinegar 30ml sugar and 20ml of salt and marinate the fillets in the vinegar brine to impart more flavour into the fillets before using the fish. To make sure the mackerel are fresh they should be on ice and look like those in the picture on the web site you have the link to. The fish should have round clear eyes and should not smell fishy or it is too late.

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