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Saba Shioyaki: Salt Grilled Mackerel

Saba Shioyaki: Salt Grilled Mackerel

Saba-Shioyaki Salt Grilled Mackerel

Discover the simplicity and elegance of Saba Shioyaki, a salt-grilled mackerel dish. This classic Japanese dish is surprisingly easy to prepare at home, with unique but subtle flavors of sake and salt.

Salt Grilled Mackerel, or Saba Shioyaki, is a wonderfully simple seafood dish often served as an entree or part of a bento combination in Japanese restaurants across the United States. And while many people have probably tried it at a restaurant, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn how easy it is to make at home. Just 25 minutes, and you have an elegant, delicious Japanese dish, served over steamed rice.

Saba-Shioyaki Salt Grilled Mackerel


The nomenclature of the dish, Saba Shioyaki, is derived from two Japanese terms: Saba translates to mackerel and Shioyaki refers to salt (shio) and grilling (yaki). Indeed, salt is the sole seasoning required for this dish, drawing out the naturally robust flavors of the mackerel. This minimalist approach to seasoning is not to be underestimated, however, and we offer some advice on how to make sure your fish comes out perfectly a little further down.

Saba-Shioyaki Salt Grilled Mackerel

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Sake, or Japanese rice wine, is a staple ingredient in many Japanese recipes. For the Grilled Mackerel, sake is utilized to:

  • Add umami to the dish
  • Tenderize the fish
  • Produce a “plump” texture (termed “Fukkura” ???? in Japanese)
  • Counteract any potential fishy aroma


  • In this recipe, salt serves a dual purpose: not only does it season the mackerel, but it also helps extract water from the fish and neutralizes any undesirable odors.
  • For optimal results, the mackerel should be salted and allowed to rest for 20 minutes. This timeframe is critical: too brief a rest may result in insufficient salt absorption and persistent odor, while a prolonged rest can cause the flesh to tighten and lose its texture.

Saba-Shioyaki Salt Grilled Mackerel

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Saba-Shioyaki Salt Grilled Mackerel

Saba Shioyaki: Salt Grilled Mackerel

  • Author: Shannon Lim
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x


This staple of Japanese cuisine is surprisingly easy to prepare at home, with unique flavors enhanced by sake and salt.


  • 4 fillets of Mackerel (saba)
  • 4 tablespoons Sake
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Lemon/lime wedge


  1. Preheat the oven grill or toaster oven to 400F (200C).
  2. Pour the sake onto a round plate.
  3. Carefully coat each mackerel with the sake. Pat dry with paper towel and place on a new plate.
  4. Sprinkle salt generously on both side of the fish and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes… you should see the fish expel water, which makes the flesh denser. Wipe off any excess moisture on the fish using a paper towel.
  5. Place the fish skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper (spray or brush oil so it doesn’t stick). Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
  6. Flip the fish over so the skin is facing up, place tray on a higher rack, nearer to the heating element and grill for another 3-5 minutes.
  7. Serve hot with squeeze of lemon juice, and a side of rice or noodles.
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Keywords: Grilled, japanese, shaba, mackerel, salt grilled, salted, seafood, fish, quick dinners, asian food

View Comments (7)
  • Great recipe. I go to a Japanese resto to eat dish once in a while. Now I will try to cook it myself. Thank you.

  • More like questions than comments

    How long do you leave the fish to soak in the saki please . Can we use a charcoal grill ? And finally do we cut ( skuff) the skin of the fish to open it up thank you

  • Amazing amazing! Wasnt sure if I should’ve brushed off the salt off my mackerel but now I’m thinking I should’ve baked all off the salt on it and brushed it off after baking. I legitimately do not know.

  • This sounds bad because it’s so high in sodium!! I used to buy it at the Japanese store fresh in the fish cooler but not anymore because they put salt on it before packaging for sale. One World Market in Novi Mi

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