How to Choose, Store, and Prepare Mahi-Mahi

Everything you need to know about this versatile fish

Local mahi-mahi fish dish.

Veronica Garbutt/Getty Images

If you are looking for a lean, healthy fish that is not too fishy, mahi-mahi can be a great choice for you. At just 145 calories per six-ounce serving, mahi-mahi contains 31 grams of protein and one gram of fat. And because it is a fast-growing fish with a relatively short life cycle of about four to five years, mahi-mahi tends to be lower in mercury and other potentially harmful substances than some slow-growing fish that have longer environmental exposure.

Even though the brightly-colored mahi-mahi is occasionally seen labeled "dolphin," it’s very much a fish and is completely unrelated to the air-breathing marine mammals—dolphins and porpoises.

Mahi-mahi is the Hawaiian name for this fish, which sounds more appetizing than if it was called by its other names dolphin or dolphinfish. In Spanish-speaking countries, this fish is called dorado.

No matter what it is called, if you like fish, then you can call it delicious. Mahi-mahi is a versatile fish that produces excellent results using just about any cooking method. The mild, sweet flesh—which starts off pinkish but turns white as it cooks—is very lean but also quite moist and flavorful.

Follow these tips for purchasing, storing, and preparing mahi-mahi.

Mahi-Mahi Purchasing Tips

When buying mahi-mahi at the grocery store, there are a few things to look for when trying to pick out the freshest fillets at the fish counter.

  • Smell: Mahi-mahi should never feel mushy or smell fishy. Look for moist, resilient fillets or steaks that have a fresh, almost neutral scent.
  • Color: Mahi-mahi, whether fresh or frozen, is pink with red stripes or spots and occasional light brown or bluish tinges. Avoid fish with a dull color or dark brown areas, especially along the edges, as this may indicate age and the beginnings of spoilage. Dark red blood lines or spots are OK but should be trimmed before cooking for a milder flavor.
  • Skin: Skin should be moist-looking and shiny, not dry and lifeless. Skin color can range from silver to dark gray with small black spots and yellow or golden streaks.
  • Sustainability: Troll-caught and rod-and-reel caught mahi-mahi, especially those from Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific coast, are considered the most sustainable choice. Long-line caught mahi-mahi are a less desirable choice (due to by-catch issues) and should be avoided.

Mahi-Mahi Handling and Storage

Most mahi-mahi will be free of bones, but any you do find are likely to be large and long. They can be cut out, but it is much easier (and less damaging to fillets) to just remove them after cooking.

Fresh mahi-mahi can be stored tightly wrapped in the coldest part of the refrigerator for three to four days. Mahi-mahi freezes well and will keep for several months if properly wrapped and bagged.

what is mahi mahi
The Spruce Eats / Kaley McKean 

How to Cook Mahi-Mahi

Mahi-mahi is a lean fish, so take care not to overcook it or it will dry out. Depending on the thickness, it will only need three to four minutes per side to cook through.

If you are planning to grill the fillets, leave the skin on. The fillets will hold together better this way. Cook them skin side down on a moderately hot grill, and turn them carefully. For skinless fillets, use a flat grilling basket.

One great way to prepare mahi-mahi is to brush it with homemade chimichurri sauce and broil it, but you can also grill it, pan-fry it, skewer it, steam it, and more. Cut into strips and battered, it even makes tasty tempura. You can easily substitute this fish for any recipe that calls for tilapia or catfish.