Mahi-mahi, while being readily available in some areas, is relatively scarce (if not completely unavailable) in others.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from making a recipe that sounds incredibly tasty!
What are the best substitutes for mahi-mahi? The best substitutes for mahi-mahi are similarly mild-flavored fish with tender and firm textures. This includes options like cod, halibut, and rainbow trout. You can also use white sea bass, salmon, grouper, and fresh tuna.
Today we explore the many aspects of choosing an alternative for mahi-mahi. We will not only discuss options that work well in texture and flavor but also ones that cater to many peoples’ needs!
What Is Mahi-Mahi?
We feel like every foodie has heard that unique word—it’s almost unforgettable! But, you would be surprised how few people know what mahi-mahi is! Some even think it’s a cocktail!
Don’t worry though, we don’t judge! To be perfectly honest, we also didn’t know what it was the first time we heard about it. It’s especially tricky if you’re not from a region that commonly has it in stock or on their menus.
So, mahi-mahi is a type of fish. It also goes by dorado (not the freshwater fish) and dolphinfish. The unique name comes from the Hawaiian language and translates to “very strong”.
It is commonly found off the shores of tropical and subtropical waters around the globe. They are exceptionally popular around Costa Rica, Hawaii, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Characteristics Of Mahi-Mahi
The fish itself has a compressed body and a single dorsal fin that extends from its head to its tail. They are very unique and easily recognizable. Their underbellies are beautifully golden and their tops are a bright shiny blue-green.
The meat is considered to be a lean white meat with a very mild and slightly sweet flavor profile. It is moderately firm in texture and has very large and moist flakes.
The color of fresh mahi-mahi should be light pink (almost translucent) and has a bright red bloodline that runs across the fillet.
Nutritional Breakdown Of Mahi-Mahi
Like most white fish, mahi-mahi is incredibly low in fat, and calories, and is packed with nutrients.
Omega-3 proteins are especially high in mahi-mahi fish, which is part of why so many desperately seek to include it in their diets more frequently.
It is also high in vitamin B6 and B12, phosphorus, niacin, selenium, and potassium. This fish is extremely high in protein and other healthy fats. And, it is one of a few fish that is relatively low in mercury.
This delicious fish is mostly used to be cooked. It can be prepared in many different ways. The most popular cooking methods would include pan-searing, grilling, roasting, and sometimes even poaching.
The main reason it isn’t used raw for sushi is because of its neutral flavor. The flavor of mahi-mahi will almost completely disappear amongst that of the other ingredients. So, it would be a waste to use it in such a manner.
That is exactly why it is almost solely used as a main ingredient. It should be prepared in such ways that its incredible texture is elevated with its slightly sweet flavor.
Don’t ever use strong marinades or sauces with it—then there’s no point in using the fish!
The 7 Best Substitutes For Mahi-Mahi
Today, we look at some of the best substitutes for mahi-mahi. In the list below, we all but guarantee that there is an option that best suits your needs.
Our list includes a variety of option that caters to varying budgets, flavor profiles, personal preferences, and availability.
We love cod as a substitute for mahi-mahi, and there are many reasons! First, the texture of these two fish is very similar. When cooked, they both form large flaky chunks which are juicy and soft.
Secondly, in general, it has white flesh (but it can also sometimes be pink when raw). This makes it a seamless substitute as many people won’t even be able to tell them apart once cooked.
The flavor difference between these is that cod has a fishier taste. So, if you don’t like that, use it in recipes that have a ton of other ingredients. Other than that, cod is mild in flavor and has a slight sweetness.
You can use cod as almost a perfect substitute for mahi-mahi. It can be pan-fried, poached, baked, grilled, roasted, and deep-fried.
Halibut is an extremely easy-to-find white fish. In fact, it is one of the few that can be virtually found across the globe and right throughout the year!
In terms of texture and flavor, it is very similar to mahi-mahi. Halibut has a very neutral and mild flavor.
It’s similar to other fish types like tilapia but has a sweet flavor than that even. Its flesh is also firm and thick which will make it cook in a very similar way to mahi-mahi.
This alternative is one of the best because its similar flavor and texture to mahi-mahi mean that you can use it in virtually the same way. You won’t have to make a ton of adjustments to the original recipe to get an equally flavorful one.
It even pairs with similar ingredients! The best way to prepare halibut is to grill it until it becomes flaky. Remember, it still has to be fully cooked to be safe to eat.
3. Rainbow Trout
Rainbow trout is very different from mahi-mahi. It doesn’t even have the same colored flesh. Rainbow trout is lightly pink or orange in color, has much smaller fillets, and is a freshwater fish.
So, why is it amongst the top alternatives for mahi-mahi? Well, it’s simple really. This fish has a very similar mild flavor to mahi-mahi and can be prepared in extremely similar ways. It is also very lean and packed with nutrients!
It is also an absolutely beautiful fish to put down on the table and will possibly spark a lot more conversation than an often boring-looking white fish alternative.
This alternative should be used as a substitute for pan-seared and grilled mahi-mahi. It will also produce a delicious delicate texture that is uber moist and juicy.
We don’t recommend pairing a ton of ingredients with trout. It works best with simple flavors like lemon and fresh herbs.
4. White Sea Bass
Sea bass is also well-known for its mild delicate flavor. It also has a slightly sweet flavor profile, much like that of mahi-mahi.
The flesh however is a bit different. While it is still very flaky, tender, and firm (like mahi-mahi), it is a lot more buttery.
This buttery texture makes it suitable for a lot more cooking techniques. So, essentially, you can use it in every way that you would mahi-mahi. We just don’t recommend using it raw. It simply isn’t as nice.
When substituting mahi-mahi with sea bass, try to do it with recipes where you have included other ingredients. Sea bass has a very fishy flavor, so might not be liked by people who are sensitive to it.
5 . Salmon
The only reason we haven’t placed salmon higher on this list is because of its price in many parts of the world.
Salmon, while very versatile, has quite a high price tag that makes it almost unaffordable for many people. But, if you have the opportunity, use this substitute!
Salmon has a beautiful almost mesmerizing color. It will jump out on your plate or platter and presents beautifully in almost any way you serve it.
When it comes to the flavor, it also has a mild flavor, but it is quite different from the previously mentioned substitutes. It is a much more oily fish option that is very rich.
This alternative will work best with mahi-mahi recipes that include citrus or buttery flavors. Try to avoid using smoked salmon as a substitute for mahi-mahi, because its flavor is completely different and overpowering.
Grouper is a very broad category of fish. So, choosing the ultimate one can be quite challenging. But, that is part of why we have included it in our list.
Because there are so many options available (over 400 in fact) it is easier to choose an option that works for you!
In general, the category includes very mildly flavored fish (even milder than sea bass and halibut). It also has a generally slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with simplistic dishes.
The red grouper is sweeter compared to the black grouper. In general, they also have very large and firm flakes that cook deliciously soft and moist.
You can use any grouper as a substitute for most mahi-mahi recipes. But, we prefer it with roasted or baked recipes. This fish also does well with citrus and delicate herbs.
7. Fresh Tuna
This alternative is a great option if you want to substitute the nutrients of mahi-mahi. It is also very high in omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, and vitamin B12.
And, it is a very lean fish option. While it undoubtedly doesn’t have the same color or even texture, it still makes a fantastic option.
Fresh tuna cooks beautifully. No matter what cooking technique you use, it will turn out tender, very flaky, and moist. And, while it may seem like it has a strong flavor, it is pretty mild.
So, this option will work well with pan-seared or stir-fried recipes, anything that will help retain its juiciness and flaky texture. Tuna doesn’t have to be cooked through either, so it can also be baked or roasted.
If you’re looking for some new recipes to use fish in, here are some great ones from the folks over at Tasty!
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