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Canned Mackerel Fish Cake Recipe

Canned mackerel fish cakes are flavored with garlic, onions, chopped cilantro, Dijon mustard, hot sauce and lemon juice. These are then coated with seasoned panko breadcrumbs and pan fried in a cast iron skillet. Serve this with a spicy mayo remoulade and you have a flavor explosion situation.

Fish cake with spicy mayo sauce on top.

There is a version of fish cake in most countries that access to fish. Fish cakes usually contain fish, salt, egg and a starch. The binder often times is flour, cornmeal or breadcrumbs. You could also use corn, rice or potato starch or crumbled up crackers.

If you are using a fish that has too strong of a taste, you can soak it in milk for thirty minutes to dissipate some of the fishiness.

I like to add aromatics such as onion and garlic, spices such as smoked paprika, mustard or a smidge of curry powder. If it’s a strong tasting fish like mackerel, it can handle the spices and you can still taste the fish. If you are making a delicate tasting fish cake with something like shrimp or crabmeat, don’t use spices. You won’t be able to taste your fish meat. Nice herbs can round out the fish cake like dill, thyme or tarragon

Todays recipe I borrowed a binder technique from my Salmon Croquettes recipe and used mayonnaise instead of an egg. The canned fish is already cooked so we are basically just cooking the outside until crispy. By using mayo I don’t have to worry if the egg inside got cooked enough.

I like fish cakes with garnishes like fresh squeezed lemon juice or remoulade sauce which is super quick to whip up. It’s basically a spicy mayonnaise sauce. Just use jarred mayo and mix in your favorite flavorings like mustard, capers, relish, onions, herbs etc. There is no wrong way to make it as long as you like the flavor.

I have served fish cakes many ways including as an entree with sides like a crunchy slaw or a simple Thai cucumber salad.

Sometimes I make a more filling meal if we are really hungry and make a fishcake version of the Tipsy Texan. Just toast the buns, add fish cakes, top with slaw, pickle slices and banana peppers and drizzle spicy mayo on it.

What ideas do you have? I would love to hear. Maybe tacos?

Fish Cakes Step-By-Step

Soak your fish in milk while you chop your onions and gather the rest of the ingredients. Drain the fish and mix all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs.

The ingredients for mackerel fish cakes.
A bowl with salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard.
Canned mackerel in a white bowl with other ingredients stirred in.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Anything that won’t stick to the sticky fish cake is fine. Sprinkle the baking sheet with half of the breadcrumbs.

Scoop out the fish cake mixture with a tablespoon and form a ball in your hands. Coating your hands in oil or water will help it not stick to you. Place the ball on the baking sheet and press down until its about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle more breadcrumbs on top and press into the fish cake.

Mackerel mix in a bowl next to a plate with bread crumbs and a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper.
Sprinkling breadcrumbs on top of fish cake.
Fish cakes on a rimmed baking sheet.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with enough cooking oil to make it 1/4 inch deep. Place three of the fish cakes in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the pan. I like to use cast iron because it holds heat better. When you start adding fish cakes, the temperature of the oil can drop and more oil gets soaked into the breadcrumbs making it a greasier version. It’s less of a problem if you use something like cast iron or if you cook less fish cakes at a time. If you have a cast iron pan, try pre-heating it without the oil in the oven. It absorbs heat evenly and not just at the bottom thus having a higher heat capacity.

Three fish cakes in a cast iron skillet with oil.

Since canned fish is already cooked, it’s part of the canning process, we just want to heat the patty and brown the outsides. Flip the fish cake when ready and cook the other side.

Single fish cake on white paper.

Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to absorb extra oil. Enjoy as stated above.

A mackerel and slaw flatbread sandwich with remoulade spicy mayo.

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Fish cake with spicy mayo sauce on top.

Canned Mackerel Fish Cake Recipe

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Canned mackerel fish cakes are flavored with garlic, onions, chopped cilantro, Dijon mustard, hot sauce and lemon juice. These are then coated with seasoned panko breadcrumbs and pan fried in a cast iron skillet. Serve this with a spicy mayo remoulade and you have a flavor explosion situation.


  • 15 oz can of mackerel
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (red, yellow or white)
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha or Tobasco style hot sauce
  • 1 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. Soak fish in milk in a shallow bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Line rimmed baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle with half of the panko.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients except the cooking oil and breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove mixture from regrigerator and scoop out using a tablespoon. Make a heaping mound, that should be the right amount. Form a ball in your hand a place on baking sheet. Repeat until all patties are made.
  5. Flatten the balls and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the mixture.
  6. In a large skillet add oil and heat over medium high heat until the oil is shimmering and there are wisps of smoke. Carefully place three fish cakes in pan and cook until golden brown on one side. Then flip over and cook the other side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towls. Repeat until the remaining fish cakes are cooked.
  7. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and spicy mayo.


  • A cast iron skillet is helpful in this frying situation. It holds heat better and the temperature of the oil doesn't drop as much.
  • You can use other types of breadcrumbs or even cornmeal.
  • If you fish cake mixture is too wet, add some breadcrumbs or flour to thicken it up and make it easier to form the cakes.
  • Refridgerating the mixture helps it become stickier and makes it easier to form the fish cakes.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 719mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 23g

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