Mahi Mahi In Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

This Mahi mahi recipe is restaurant delicious but astonishingly easy – on your table in 30 minutes!

Mahi mahi, also known as dorado, is a hearty, tender, flaky fish waiting to grace your dining table with this sensational recipe!  The mahi mahi is spice rubbed then pan seared until golden then bathed in an intoxicating, creamy lemon, garlic sauce. It looks and tastes fancy but is super quick and easy to make!  Serve this one pot mahi mahi recipe with mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice with a big green salad and garlic bread and you have one of the most tantalizing dinners of all time!  I’ve included step by step, detailed instructions on how to cook mahi mahi so you can master this recipe, even if you’ve never made fish before!

If your chicken dinners are becoming monotonous, turn to fish! You’ll love sheet pan fajita salmon, chipotle salmon with mango salsa, salmon in lemon piccata sauce, blackened salmon in creamy Cajun sauce, lemon Parmesan salmon, Asian BBQ salmon and mahi mahi fish tacos!

up close view of mahi mahi  on a stainless steel skillet with lemon cream sauce

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MAHI MAHI RECIPE

This mahi mahi recipe is your answer for easy, quick-cooking dinners that taste extraordinary delicious.  In less than 30 minutes, you’ll be sinking your teeth into tender, juicy, superbly seasoned mahi mahi enveloped in a dreamy sauce.  And while mahi mahi fish is more expensive than chicken, it allows you to serve the entire family in the comfort of your own home at a fraction of the price of dining out.

This mahi mahi recipe is so tantalizing because it’s layered with flavor.  First the spice rub. Often mahi mahi is simply seasoned with salt and pepper but that is a huge missed opportunity for flavor. I love dredging the mahi mahi lightly in flour combined with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and paprika to create a flavorful crust that insulates the fish and transforms it into stand-alone delicious and then absolutely hypnotic with the luscious, bright sauce.  

The sauce is made by sauteeing punchy shallots and zippy garlic then whisking in salty chicken broth, thyme, parsley and a splash of bright lemon juice and luscious heavy cream to create a mesmerizing sauce that’s silky, creamy, fresh and tangy.  The sauce is proud and punchy but not overwhelmingly tart as the lemon flavor is balanced by the decadence of cream. 

Add the mahi mahi fish back to the pan to be swaddles in the sauce and serve however you like it – with potatoes, rice or pasta or go low carb with zoodles or cauliflower rice.   Now all you need is a green salad or vegetable, and maybe some crusty bread to mop up the sauce to complete your sensational dinner.

WHAT IS MAHI MAHI?

  • What is it?  Mahi mahi is a mild, firm, lean white fish that cooks up beautifully tender with a mild flavor.  Mahi mahi is perfect for those new or neutral to seafood because it doesn’t taste overly “fishy.” 
  • What does mahi mahi mean?:  The word mahi-mahi comes from the Hawaiian name for the fish, meaning “strong strong” referring to mahi mahi’s power and speed.  It’s also known as dorado in some countries, meaning “golden” in Spanish, even though it can come in array of colors — bright blues, greens, and yellows.
  • Is mahi mahi dolphin?  There is some confusion about mahi mahi fish being dolphin (like Flipper) because it is also known as dolphin fish – but it is exactly that – a fish and not anything like the mammal dolphin. 
  • What size is mahi mahi? Mahi mahi fish grow up to almost 7 feet and 88 pounds! 
  • Where does mahi mahi come from?  Mahi mahi is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in tropical/subtropical oceans waters, primarily the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean with smaller populations also in the Pacific, mainly Hawaii. 
  • What does mahi mahi taste like? Mahi mahi is a firm-meat fish that falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to “how fishy” it tastes.  It is a milder tasting fish than salmon but stronger than cod. The texture of the meat is similar to swordfish; it’s lean, sweet, hearty, firm and tender and absorbs flavor easily, making it a chameleon of flavor.
  • Why choose mahi mahi?  Mahi mahi is a smart choice because not only is it healthy and less expensive than halibut, it is considered a sustainable seafood from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list. Scientists assume populations are abundant because they are highly productive and widely distributed throughout warm waters.
  • What is the best way to cook mahi mahi? Mahi mahi can be grilled, pan seared, broiled, or even fried.
  • Is mahi mahi high in mercury?  Many large fish contain high levels of mercury – but not mahi mahi. Mahi mahi fish is considered to have low to borderline moderate mercury levels due to its short life span of only 4 to 5 years.
  • Do you cook mahi mahi with the skin on?  No, you should remove the skin of mahi mahi unless you are grilling it because it is quite thick, tough and not tasty.
mahi mahi fish in a stainless steel skillet with lemon cream sauce garnished by chives

Is mahi mahi fish healthy?

Mahi mahi is not only delicious, but good for you too! It is a lean protein and excellent source of vitamins, amino acids, and fish oil that can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, fight inflammation, and maintain healthy functions.  Here are just a few of the health benefits: 

  • Lean Protein: a 3.5 oz serving of mahi-mahi contains about 85 calories, with less than one gram of fat and 18.5 grams of protein.
  • Low in mercury:  Mahi mahi is also a smart fish choice because its lower in mercury than many other fishes due to its short life span.
  • Vitamin B: mahi mahi fish is an excellent source of vitamins B-3, B-5, B-6 and B-12. B-3 helps in heart health by controlling cholesterol levels. It also maintains healthy skin, supports brain function and can prevent join problems like arthritis. B-5 helps make blood cells and converts food into energy. B-6 helps your brain and nerves in operations like mood control and hormone regulation. It’s also been proven to aid in liver function. B-12 helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy, and even assists in making DNA. (Pucci Foods)
  • Potassium:  helps to lower blood pressure and combat heart disease.  It also supports heart and muscle function and may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
  • Selenium:  a single serving of mahi mahi contains more than 100% of your recommended daily amount of selenium.  Selenium is an important mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions. It is critical for healthy heart function, metabolism and thyroid function. It also helps boost your immune system, fight inflammation, slow cognitive decline, and even reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: there aren’t very many sources of omega-3 fatty acids other than fish and flaxseed, making mahi mahi a key supplier.  This lipid is a healthy fat which provides essential nutrients that help lower blood pressure and reduce triglycerides which is key to preventing and managing heart disease.

HOW TO PURCHASE MAHI MAHI:

Mahi mahi is widely available either fresh or frozen at your grocery store.  Here’s what to look for:

FRESH MAHI MAHI

  • Skin:  Mahi mahi is sold as fillets at the seafood counter of your grocery store.  Try and select skinless if you have the option otherwise ask the butcher to remove the skin.  You can also remove it yourself which is easy to do, just work delicately and try not to remove the fish along with the skin!   If you have to select mahi with skin, look for moist and shiny looking skin as opposed to dry.
  • Smell:  Mahi mahi fish should have a fresh, clean neutral scent.   If it smells overly fishy, steer clear, as it’s a sign the fish isn’t fresh.
  • Color:  It should be pink with a few faint red stripes.  Avoid mahi mahi that’s dull, has brown spots or blue edges as these are signs that the fish is no longer fresh and possibly be going bad.
  • Size: Look for fillets weighing about 4-6 oz. and are about 1-inch thick. Thicker fillets remain juicier.  If you end up with thinner fillets, just take extra care not to overcook. 
  • Sustainability:  Look for troll-caught and rod-and-reel caught fish as opposed to long-line caught fish.

How long can you keep fresh mahi mahi in the fridge?

Fresh mahi mahi can be kept for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator before cooking if you’ve just purchased it or if you have just defrosted it in the refrigerator.  If you defrosted mahi mahi in cold water, it should be cooked immediately.

FROZEN MAHI MAHI

Frozen mahi mahi is a fabulous alternative to fresh because it is less expensive, freezer friendly (literally) AKA convenient, and super fresh – just frozen.  Frozen fish is frozen shortly after it’s caught which means it’s frozen at peak freshness.  So, unless you live coastal (and even then), it can be even fresher than the seafood counter by the time it’s purchased and you actually use it.   

Frozen mahi mahi usually comes in packs of frozen fillets that should be easy to find.  I know Costco sells a 3-pound pack of frozen fillets and even my Sprouts sells them.  Just make sure your package specifies “wild caught” for the best flavor. 

How to defrost frozen mahi mahi

  • Easy Defrost: The easiest way to defrost your mahi mahi fish is in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Quick Defrost: If you forget to defrost your mahi mahi, you can still defrost it the same day you want to cook it.  Keep the mahi mahi fish in its packaging (or else it can become water logged) and place the frozen mahi mahi in a colander then place the colander in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with cold tap water and let it sit for 15 minutes.   After 10 minutes, replace the water with new cold tap water and submerge the fish again.  Let mahi mahi sit an additional 10- 20 minutes.  If the fish isn’t completely defrosted, then repeat. 
two hands holding a tan plate of mahi mahi recipe with a single mahi mahi fish fillet with green beans and potatoes

WHAT IS IN MAHI MAHI SAUCE?

The lemon garlic cream sauce for this mahi mahi recipe is divine.  It’s made with just a few ingredients but delivers a delightful pop of tangy, bright, luscious flavors.  You will need: 

  • Lemon juice:  is the star of the sauce, so use freshly squeezed for the best flavor. I use two tablespoons but you can start with less and add more to taste.  
  • Shallots: you will need three tablespoons shallots. Please don’t substitute with any other onion as shallots are milder and sweeter in flavor with a hint of garlic and won’t overwhelm the sauce, but just enhance it.
  • Garlic:  use 3-4 garlic cloves depending on your garlic love.
  • Chicken broth:  low sodium please so we can control the salt.
  • Heavy cream:  is labeled “heavy whipping cream” and is what makes our sauce delightfully creamy.  It also balances the tanginess.
  • Cornstarch:  thickens the sauce without making it too thick or making a roux.
  • Seasonings:  salt, pepper, dried thyme, and parsley awaken the flavors of the sauce.

DO I HAVE TO USE HEAVY CREAM?

This mahi mahi recipe swaps the butter used in many lemon sauces for heavy cream so we get both flavor and a richer consistency to swaddle the mahi mahi.  If you’re looking to cut calories, you may replace the cream with evaporated or omit it and add butter to taste.  You can also omit both heavy cream and butter and squeeze fresh lemon juice directly over your spice rubbed, pan seared mahi mahi.  

CAN I MAKE MAHI MAHI recipe GLUTEN FREE?

Yes!  Simply swap the flour for gluten free flour and you’re all set.

Recipe Variations

  • Spice it up:  add a kick to the sauce with red pepper flakes to taste or add red pepper to individual servings.
  • Add vegetables:  tomatoes, corn, zucchini, peas, etc. would all be tasty added to the sauce. You would sauté most vegetables (other than peas, spinach, etc.) with the shallots. Spinach should be added to the sauce at the end of cooking; allow to wilt 1-2 minutes.
  • Add Parmesan:  whisk 3-4 tablespoons into the sauce at the end of cooking.  Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese grated on the finest holes of your grater for superior melting ability and flavor.
  • Add capers:  add 2-3 tablespoons capers for a tangy, briny explosion. Capers are flower buds imported from Italy that have been brined to mellow their bitterness.  The resulting brined capers are tangy, salty, lemony doses of flavOR.  They add both acid and salt which intensify the flavor of the sauce. They should be easy to find by the olives at your grocery store.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes:  purchase the sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water. They are usually located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store.  Rinse, chop and sauté with the shallots.  
  • Add artichokes: are tender, slightly sweet and nutty and divine in creamy sauces. Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste. Chop and sauté with the shallots.
up close of mahi mahi fish in a stainless steel skillet showing the beautiful golden seared exterior

WHAT PAN SHOULD I USE TO COOK MAHI MAHI?

You will want to use a heavy bottom pan that’s large enough to comfortably fit the mahi mahi fish fillets without touching. A large stainless-steel pan is ideal because it provides enough surface area and retains constant heat.  It also doesn’t leach into the food when cooking with citrus (like the lemon juice in this recipe), tomatoes, and vinegars like cast iron and aluminum pans do. I love my stainless steel saucepan as it’s virtually indestructible, distributes heat evenly, and won’t leech into the food. This more economical pan also has excellent reviews.

If you don’t have a stainless-steel pan, you can also use a sturdy nonstick skillet.

HOW TO COOK MAHI MAHI

Whether you are experienced at cooking mahi mahi or not, here are some helpful tips to cook mahi mahi perfectly every time with a golden exterior and tender interior:

  • Remove mahi mahi from the fridge.  Never cook mahi mahi or any protein cold straight from the refrigerator otherwise it will cook unevenly. Instead, remove the mahi mahi from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking.
  • Dry fillets.  Pat mahi mahi dry with paper towels before applying the spice rub. Wet or moist fish are more likely to stick to the pan and develop a lackluster crust.
  • Season mahi mahi.  Whisk the seasonings together with flour.  The addition of flour creates a crust that insulates the mahi mahi and helps prevent it from overcooking and also carries flavor.
showing how to cook mahi mahi by seasoning with paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper on a cutting board
  • Wait for a hot pan.  A hot pan doesn’t mean high heat, otherwise your mahi mahi will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside.  Instead, a hot pan means waiting until your pan is hot before anything touches the pan.  A hot pan creates a golden, flavorful crust that seals in the juices and keeps your mahi mahi tender and juicy. 
  • Adjust heat.  Once the pan is hot, add the oil and wait until it shimmers before adding the mahi mahi. You want the oil to be hot but you don’t want it so hot that it is smoking. Be ready to adjust the heat as needed so your fish cooks evenly.
  • Cook mahi mahi.  Add fish to the pan and cook approximately 4 minutes, flip then cook an addition 2-4 (will depend on thickness) minutes to your liking.  
showing how to make mahi mahi by searing mahi mahi in a stainless steel skillet
  • Don’t touch fish.  Let your mahi mahi fish cook undisturbed so it can sear properly and develop the charred, caramelized crust.  After the maillard reaction takes place, the caramelization will allow the fish to automatically detach from the pan. Don’t disturb the mahi mahi before this reaction or it can fall apart.
  • Don’t overcook. Take care not to overcook your mahi mahi because it will only remain buttery, juicy and tender as long as it isn’t overcooked.  It is better for fish to be undercooked than overcooked in my opinion.
top view of mahi mahi in a stainless steel pan with lemon sauce

HOW LONG TO COOK MAHI MAHI

Mahi mahi cooking time will depend on the type of pan you use, how hot your pan actually is, how thick your mahi mahi fish is and what temperature you like your mahi mahi.

A general rule of thumb is 3-4 minutes per side but the telltale way is to watch the color on the sides of the fish.  Starting with the bottom, it will change from raw to opaque white along the sides of the fish as it cooks.  Once the color has moved up to the center, it is usually time to flip and cook an additional 2-4 minutes.

You can accurately check the temperature of your mahi mahi with an instant-read thermometer.  Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the fish and when it reaches 137 degrees F, it’s done. 

If you like your mahi mahi more well done (which is flirting with dry fish) then you’ll want to lower the heat and cover the fish once you flip.  This will help the mahi mahi cook evenly without drying out. Alternatively, you can transfer it to the oven to finish cooking.

HOW TO MAKE MAHI MAHI SAUCE

The lemon garlic cream sauce is a tantalizing sauce dripping with tangy lemon flavor seasoned with shallots, garlic, and those buttery brown bits leftover from the fish.   Here’s how to make the EASY sauce:

  1. Heat drippings.  Heat the leftover drippings over medium heat. If there is more than a tablespoon or so of drippings, you might want to drain some off before you start.
  2. Sauté aromatics.  Add shallot and sauté while scraping up the drippings for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  3. Add liquids.  Whisk the chicken broth with cornstarch and add to skillet along with heavy cream, lemon juice, dried thyme, dried parsley, salt and pepper.
  4. Reduce sauce. Simmer the sauce until it reduces by half and thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Reducing the sauce not only makes it creamy but it concentrates the flavors.  Season with fresh parsley and or/chives. Taste and add additional lemon juice if desired.
  5. Add mahi mahi.  Add the fish back to the pan and spoon the sauce over the fish.  Serve immediately.
up close side view of mahi mahi recipe with a single mahi mahi fish fillet with green beans and potatoes

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT MAHI MAHI recipe

  • Storage: Mahi mahi fish should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. 
  • Microwave:  transfer a serving to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 1 minute followed by 20 second intervals until heated through, taking care not to overcook the mahi mahi.
  • Stove:  add mahi mahi to a nonstick skillet and heat over medium low until warmed through, taking care not to overcook the mahi mahi.

Can I freeze Mahi Mahi recipe?

You may freeze the spice rubbed and cooked mahi mahi for up to three months without the sauce.  The sauce should not be frozen because it will break and become a funny texture.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH MAHI MAHI recipe

This mahi mahi recipe is an easy weeknight dinner that doesn’t need any fancy sides. You can keep it simple with a sides of rice, a green salad and some crusty bread to mop op the sauce or here are some additional ideas:

up close of mahi mahi fish garnished with parsley and chives in lemon cream sauce

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Mahi Mahi

Mahi mahi, also known as dorado, is hearty, tender, flaky and waiting to grace your dining table with this astonishingly easy recipe! The mahi mahi is spice rubbed then pan seared until golden then bathed in an intoxicating, creamy lemon, garlic sauce. It looks and tastes fancy but is super quick and easy to make! Serve this one pot mahi mahi recipe with mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice with a big green salad and garlic bread and you have one of the most tantalizing dinners of all time! I’ve included step by step, detailed instructions on how to cook mahi mahi so you can master this recipe, even if you’ve never made fish before!
Servings: 4 -5 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Fish

  • 4-5 mahi mahi fillets 4-6 oz. each, 1-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Spice Rub

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tsp EACH garlic powder, onion powder, salt, paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice more or less to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Garnish (optional)

  • freshly chopped chives

Instructions

  • Mix together all of the Spice Rub ingredients in a medium bowl. Pat mahi mahi dry and rub spices into the fish.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy bottom skillet. Once hot, add fillets, turn heat down to medium and cook approximately 4 minutes, flip fillets over, then cook an addition 2-4 minutes to your liking (it will depend on thickness,; mahi-mahi should reach an internal temperature of 137°F). If fish is browning too quickly, then turn down the heat. Remove mahi mahi to a plate and tent with foil.
  • If needed, drain oil from skillet so you are left with about 1 tablespoon oil. Add shallot and sauté while scraping up the drippings for 2 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Whisk chicken broth with cornstarch and add to skillet along with heavy cream, lemon juice, thyme and parsley. Simmer until reduced by half and slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I use about ¼ teaspoon each) and add additional lemon juice if desired.
  • Nestle mahi mahi fillets back into the skillet and spoon sauce over the fillets. Garnish with fresh chives and/or parsley (optional). Serve immediately with rice, mashed potatoes or pasta.

Notes

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT 

  • Storage: Mahi mahi fish should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. 
  • Microwave:  transfer a serving to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 1 minute followed by 20 second intervals until heated through, taking care not to overcook the mahi mahi.
  • Stove:  add mahi mahi to a nonstick skillet and heat over medium low until warmed through, taking care not to overcook the mahi mahi.

How to freeze

You may freeze the spice rubbed and cooked mahi mahi for up to three months without the sauce.  The sauce should not be frozen because it will break and become a funny texture.

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48 Comments

  1. Karen Snyder says

    @carlsbadcravings This recipe is really good. Everything you needed to know about dealing with Mahi is explained in this post. Very thorough. I didn’t have heavy cream in my fridge so I substituted 1/3 butter and 3/4 milk. It was delicious. I will definitely be making this recipe in the future. Thank you for the wonderful post.

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Karen, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post and the recipe! Great call the heavy cream sub!

  2. Susan says

    I just made this, my family loved it, thank you for always putting out great recipes

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making them Susan! I’m so pleased this was a hit!

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