Can you cook mahi mahi with skin on?

Yes, you can absolutely cook mahi mahi with the skin on. Mahi mahi, also known as dolphinfish or dorado, is a firm, flaky white fish that is popular for grilling and pan-searing. While the skin can be removed before cooking, keeping it on helps keep the fillet intact, adds flavor, and provides a nice crisp texture when seared. There are a few tips to ensure delicious results when cooking mahi mahi with the skin on.

Should You Cook Mahi Mahi with Skin On or Off?

There are pros and cons to cooking mahi mahi with the skin on versus removing it. Here is a quick overview of the main considerations:

  • Pros of cooking with skin on:
    • Helps hold the fillet together for easier cooking and serving
    • Adds flavor from the oils and fat in the skin
    • Provides texture contrast from the crispy seared skin
  • Cons of cooking with skin on:
    • Some people find the skin unappealing in appearance
    • The skin can make the fish stick to the cooking surface
    • Skin may be too charred or rubbery if not cooked properly
  • Pros of removing skin:
    • No risk of overcooking or undercooking the skin
    • Easier to season the fish evenly
    • Customize texture by adding crispy skin back after cooking
  • Cons of removing skin:
    • Fillet likely to flake apart, making cooking and serving more difficult
    • Loses the flavor and textural contrast the skin provides

Overall, keeping the skin on during cooking is recommended to get the full experience of mahi mahi’s flavor and texture profile. However, removing it is also fine if the skin is disliked or if very even seasoning is desired. Crispy seared mahi mahi skin can also be prepared separately as a garnish.

Preparing Mahi Mahi with Skin On

Properly preparing the mahi mahi fillets before cooking is key to getting crispy, flavorful skin without overcooking the fish.

Rinse and Pat Dry

Rinse the fillets under cold water and pat them dry thoroughly with paper towels. Residual moisture will steam the skin rather than searing it crispy.

Score the Skin

Use a sharp knife to lightly score the skin side of the fillets in a crosshatch or diamond pattern. This helps the heat better penetrate the skin to crisp it up.

Season Generously

Season the fish liberally with salt and pepper or other spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, etc. Getting lots of seasoning on the skin is important for flavor.

Let Sit Before Cooking

Let the seasoned fillets sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before cooking. This helps the fish dry out further and allows the seasoning and salt to penetrate the skin.

Use Oil

Coat the skin side with a thin layer of high smoke point oil like avocado, grapeseed, or refined coconut oil. This helps conduct heat for crisping the skin.

Best Cooking Methods for Mahi Mahi with Skin

Mahi mahi skin gets deliciously crispy when exposed to direct, intense heat. Grilling, broiling, and pan searing are ideal cooking methods. Poaching, steaming, and baking don’t provide the heat needed to crisp the skin.


Grilling over direct high heat is a top choice for mahi mahi skin. Make sure the grill grates are clean and well-oiled. Place the fillets skin side down and cook over direct heat until the skin is charred and crisp. Flip only once and cook the second side just until opaque throughout.


If grilling isn’t an option, broiling in the oven is the next best way to crisp mahi mahi skin. Place the fillets on a rimmed baking sheet skin side up. Broil 6 inches from the heating element for 4-6 minutes until the skin crisps. Flip and broil just until cooked through.

Pan Searing

Pan searing in a hot cast iron or non-stick skillet is another excellent option for crisping the skin. Use a small amount of oil and heat until very hot. Place fillets skin side down and cook over high heat until browned. Flip once and cook the second side briefly until opaque.


Baking mahi mahi fillets with the skin on is not recommended. The heat in most standard ovens will overcook the fish before the skin crisps. However, oven roasting at very high heat (500°F+) can work if you closely monitor cooking time.


Wet cooking methods like poaching and steaming will make the skin rubbery and slimy instead of crispy. Only use moist heat methods if removing mahi mahi skin prior to cooking.

Tips for Crispy Mahi Mahi Skin

Follow these tips when cooking mahi mahi skin-on to get the best results:

  • Pat the skin very dry before cooking
  • Use high heat like grilling, broiling, or searing
  • Flip only once during cooking
  • Cook the second side just until fish is opaque
  • Adjust heat to avoid burning the skin
  • Use a meat thermometer to monitor doneness
  • Let it rest before serving

Serving Mahi Mahi Skin On or Off

The mahi mahi skin can be served two ways:

On the Fish

For full flavor and textural contrast, serve the fish with the crispy skin intact. Use a fish spatula to carefully transfer the fillets to plates or a serving platter skin side up.

On the Side

If diners prefer to enjoy the fish without skin, simply use a knife to slice the skin off after cooking. Chop the skin into smaller pieces and serve as a crispy garnish on the side. This adds back some of the richness and crunch.

Complementary Side Dishes

Mahi mahi has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with a variety of flavor profiles. Consider these tasty sides to serve with your mahi mahi:

  • Rice pilaf or risotto
  • Quinoa or couscous
  • Roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • Sauteed zucchini
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Simple green salad

Sauces for Seared Mahi Mahi

A flavorful sauce enhances seared mahi mahi wonderfully. Here are some easy sauce ideas:

  • Lemon, butter, garlic pan sauce
  • Mango salsa
  • Chimichurri
  • Pineapple salsa
  • Creamy dill sauce
  • Puttanesca relish
  • Chile lime vinaigrette

Full Recipe for Mahi Mahi with Crispy Skin

This simple pan seared mahi mahi recipe yields perfectly cooked fish with an ultra crispy skin.


  • 2 6-oz mahi mahi fillets, skin-on
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley for serving


  1. Rinse fillets and pat very dry with paper towels. Score skin diagonally in a crosshatch pattern.
  2. Season fish all over generously with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet over high heat. Coat fish skin with oil.
  4. When pan is very hot, place fillets skin-side down. Cook without moving for 4 minutes until skin is crispy. Flip and cook 2 minutes on second side until opaque throughout.
  5. Remove fish to a plate and lower heat to medium. Add butter and garlic to pan juices. Cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  6. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour sauce over fish. Garnish with chopped parsley to serve.

For extra crispy skin, finish cooking under the broiler for 1-2 minutes after pan searing.

Storing and Freezing Mahi Mahi

Properly storing fresh mahi mahi preserves quality and reduces waste. Here are some guidelines:

Raw Mahi Mahi Storage

  • Keep fresh mahi mahi fillets chilled at 32-40°F
  • Store in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not the door
  • Place in a container or zip top bag on a bed of ice
  • Use within 2 days for peak quality

Cooked Mahi Mahi Storage

  • Let cool, then refrigerate in a sealed container
  • Use within 3-4 days
  • Can freeze for 2-3 months

Freezing Raw Mahi Mahi

  • Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet before packaging
  • Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil, or freezer bags
  • Remove as much air as possible
  • Label with name and date
  • Use within 3 months for best quality

Is Mahi Mahi Healthy?

Mahi mahi is considered one of the healthier fish choices. Here are some of its nutritional benefits:

  • High in protein – about 28 grams per 6 ounce serving
  • Low in fat and calories
  • Rich in B vitamins like niacin, B6, and B12
  • Good source of potassium, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin E
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA
  • Low mercury level fish

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish like mahi mahi at least twice per week for improved cardiovascular health. Pregnant women should confirm current guidelines on safe mercury limits when choosing fish. But for most people, mahi mahi is a healthy, nutritious choice.

Common Questions

Is mahi mahi a good fish for grilling?

Yes, mahi mahi is an excellent fish for grilling. Its firm, meaty flesh holds up well on the grill. The fillets won’t fall apart easily. Mahi mahi also has enough fat content to keep it moist over the high heat of the grill. The rich-flavored skin gets nice and crispy over the direct grilling heat.

Should you flip mahi mahi while cooking?

It’s recommended to only flip mahi mahi once during cooking. Let the first side – usually the skin side – sear undisturbed until crispy. Then flip and cook just until the fish is cooked through on the second side. Less flipping minimizes the risk of the fish breaking apart before the skin sufficiently crisps.

Is mahi mahi high in mercury?

No, mahi mahi is actually one of the safer fish choices when it comes to mercury levels. It contains less than 0.25 parts per million (ppm) mercury on average. That is well below the 0.5 ppm limit considered safe by health officials. Pregnant women can likely eat mahi mahi in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Can you eat raw mahi mahi?

Mahi mahi can be consumed raw as sashimi or in recipes like ceviche. However, this is not recommended for some individuals. Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems should avoid raw or undercooked fish due to infection risks.

Is the mahi mahi skin edible?

Yes, mahi mahi skin is completely edible when cooked properly. It has a crispy, savory texture that adds richness. The skin also contains healthy fats and oils that complement the lean fish. Simply crisp the skin side as desired while cooking the fillets.


Cooking mahi mahi fillets with the skin on is a flavorful approach that adds aesthetic appeal, textural contrast, and enhanced flavor. Grilling, broiling, or pan searing with the skin on encourages crisping for the best results. Allow it to sear undisturbed before a quick flip. Then use caution not to overcook the fish. Serving the crispy skin on or on the side is a delicious option. Follow proper storage guidelines for safety and maximum freshness. Made correctly, mahi mahi cooked with its skin is a tasty and healthy fish dinner.

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