We’ve already showed you how to use sauces and compound butters to take advantage of the versatility of fish for easy, show-stopping dishes. Next on the list: simple marinades.
Unlike meat, fish marinades don’t require a long time to infuse the fish with flavor, so you can whip up an elegant, flavorful meal on short notice.
How to Use Marinades Successfully
Don’t Accidentally Cook Your Fish
As fish is more delicate than chicken or beef, avoid leaving strong citrus-based marinades on fish for more than 10 to 15 minutes or you will end up with ceviche. The acid in ingredients such as lemons or limes will “cook” the fish if given the time.
Properly Season With Salt and Pepper
Season the fish with salt and pepper just before adding the marinade. (Similar to acid, salting the fish too early can also dry it out.) The recipes below exclude salt and pepper for the most part, as we recommend that you to do that no matter what unless noted.
Get Your Cooking Time Right
Once you’re ready to cook the fish, pop it in the oven and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Note: All recipes below will generate enough marinade for 4 six-ounce fillets of fish.
Olive Oil, Lemon, & Herbs Marinade
This bright, citrus-and-herb marinade is perfect for summer, or anytime you’re looking for that classic and clean Mediterranean flavor. Serve the fish with roasted lemon- and herb-seasoned potatoes or grilled vegetables.
How To Do It: Combine ½ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), and fresh herbs (such as cilantro, basil, rosemary, or thyme) removed from the stems and loosely chopped. Brush the marinade on the fish and let sit for about 5 minutes before cooking.
Extra Credit: You can also use the excess marinade to brush on the vegetables before grilling for a continuity of flavors.
Mustard & Maple Syrup Marinade
The bold flavors in this marinade work best on meaty fish like salmon, barramundi, and grouper. For the maple syrup, we recommend using one that is grade B as it has a more complex flavor. However, a maple syrup that is grade A will work just fine.
How To Do It: Mix together 1/2 cup maple syrup and 4 tablespoons whole grain mustard and syrup. Adjust each ingredient to find a balance that suits your palate, then spread over the fish. Leave for 5 minutes or cook immediately. Finish with fresh herbs such as chopped dill or cilantro.
Extra Credit: Make extra to use leftovers over a salad for an easy lunch. The mustard-maple combination also works well brushed on potatoes or carrots before roasting.
Orange, Honey, & Ginger Marinade
An easy marinade, this orange-honey-ginger combo hits both the sweet and spicy notes: The concentrated sweetness of the honey, the heat of the ginger, and some lime juice to balance it all out.
How To Do It: Combine ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice with 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 4 limes), 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger in a shallow bowl. Coat the fish with the marinade 5 to 10 minutes before cooking.
Note: Lightly salt the fish beforehand as soy sauce in the marinade will add more sodium.
Coconut & Lime Marinade
This Thai-inspired marinade provides a rich and creamy flavor to fish, particularly to more mild white fishes. If you’re into spicy dishes, then we recommended Thai Bird’s Eye chili. If spicy isn’t your thing, opt for jalapenos or a pinch of dried red chili flakes instead. Use a shallow bowl to allow for easy coating of the fillets. Serve with rice and vegetables such as steamed snow peas or bok choy.
How To Do It: Combine 1 cup coconut milk, 2 tablespoons lime juice (from two limes), 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce, ½ tablespoon fish sauce, and ½ thinly sliced (seeds removed) Thai Bird’s Eye chili (optional), in a shallow bowl. Place the fish fillets in the bowl about 15 minutes before cooking, coating them with the marinade and turning over halfway if not submerged. Cook as desired, squeeze with additional lime and serve with lime wedges and fresh cilantro.
Miso & Ginger Marinade
This umami-packed marinade works well on buttery fishes like black cod or delicate to medium-firm ones like barramundi. As the miso and soy sauce already contain a generous amount of salt, you do not need to pre-salt or pepper the fish for this recipe.
How To Do It: Combine ⅓ cup white miso paste, ¼ cup mirin, ¼ cup sake, ½ tablespoon minced fresh ginger, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Adjust flavor as necessary, adding more sugar or ginger, if desired. Brush on fish and bake, watching carefully to ensure the top does not burn.
Note: This marinade should be added to the fish at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
Many marinades, including these, can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight Mason jar in the refrigerator. However, we don’t recommend storing them for more than a few days. When you’re ready to use, allow the marinade to come to room temp (especially when using an olive oil-based marinade), give the Mason jar a good shake, pour over your fish fillets, and consider dinner done.