Thick filets of mahi mahi pan-fried to a golden crisp, then simmered in a spicy tomato-based Creole sauce that packs a punch. This recipe is so flavorful, so filling, and so easy to make that you’ll want to mix this meal into your dinner rotation.
Mahi mahi seems to be the perfect fish for seafood tacos. It’s thick, firm, hearty, and has a nice mild-taste with a sweet undertone. Those flavors seemed amplified the fish is topped with crunchy purple cabbage, avocados, a Chipotle lime dressing, and wrapped in a warm tortilla.
With Lent here, I wanted to make a good seafood dinner and thought about preparing mahi mahi tacos just like I described. But didn’t. Another flavor has been in my head for quite some time now, and it got the better of me.
Shrimp Creole keeps coming up in my Facebook newsfeed. The Gumbo Shop keeps sharing their popular ‘taste of New Orleans’ platter that features the Shrimp Creole alongside their jambalaya and red beans and rice. There’s nothing wrong with that because it’s one of my favorite combination plates to get when we are in New Orleans. Muriel’s has a great Shrimp Creole, as well. Don’t you agree? But seeing this all the time has had me craving Shrimp Creole.
It’s been forever since I made a pot of Shrimp Creole at home. My wife has shellfish allergies so she bloats right up when she finishes her plate. But she fights through it… just kidding. I made a small batch and had the entire pot all to myself and it was. a. lot. of. Shrimp. Creole. for. one. person. Instead, I came up with a Chicken Creole for us to enjoy together and it is fantastic! I’ll have to share that recipe here again. (It was deleted in the diaster of 2016 when the website was deleted and I lost everything! I just never reposted it.)
Mahi mahi tacos flashed in my head for dinner. But that spicy Creole sauce? And the Pan-Fried Mahi Mahi in a Creole Sauce was born. We had frozen mahi mahi in the freezer and all of the ingredients for the Creole Sauce were in my pantry – and you probably have the ingredients on hand too.
If you or a loved one has shellfish allergies, I came up with another chicken recipe along the lines of Pascal Manale’s famous New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp. I created the New Orleans Style BBQ Chicken. Make sure you offer some crusty bread to soak up the buttery juices. It’s been one of my all-time favorite recipes. Check it out and let me know what you think.
WHAT IS A MAHI MAHI FISH?
Mahi-Mahi, also known as a dolphinfish or dorado, is a surface-dwelling fish found in the warm waters of the ocean. They call it a dolphinfish because it will swim alongside the boats like dolphins do. The name “mahi mahi” means “strong strong” in the Hawaiian language. You’ll find the meat of the fish is thick, tender, flaky, and has a delicious flavor to it. The fish also has lots of nutritional benefits, as well. It’s rich in niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium.
TIPS FOR COOKING MAHI-MAHI:
- To get the best flavor, it’s best to cook with fresh-caught mahi mahi or ones that were wild-caught and quickly frozen.
- When pan-frying, it’s best to rinse the fish filet first, then pat dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moister. This will allow the fish to brown quicker and more evenly.
- Make sure that the filets are similar in portion size with the same thickness. A 1-inch thick piece is perfect. This way the fish will all evenly cook. If they are overcooked, they’ll taste tough.
WHAT DO I NEED FOR THE CREOLE SAUCE?
This is a nice and quick Creole Sauce that packs some heat. The base of a Creole sauce is tomatoes. Creole anything with food means that it has tomatoes in it (Creole jambalaya has tomatoes, a Creole Gumbo includes tomatoes, Creole tomatoes…are…tomatoes…).
I like to add Crystal Hot Sauce along with a good Creole seasoning. My favorite seasoning blend is Tony Chachere’s or Slap Ya Mama. I make homemade blends from time-to-time but I think Tony’s is just as good, if not better. Plus, it’s already in a shaker. The brands can usually be found in grocery stores across the country, but if not, use whatever your favorite brand is – just make sure they’re from Louisiana. If you like to have a variety of Louisiana brands on hand, try Cajun Grocer. They have plenty of unique products. That’s where I order our items from.
The ground thyme adds a savory touch to the sauce that I think enhances the overall flavor. The same goes for the bay leaf. A bay leaf or two needs to go in all sauces because when it’s put in a water/liquid it brings out a minty-like flavor. It’s subtle. But it lightens up the contents of the pot that it’s in. It’s like that one friend who has that awkward joke at the wrong time. He’s just there to lighten the mood. That’s a bay leaf. You’ll be better off having one around. Or, it just goes in the pot because that’s what mama said to do. Either way. Always have bay leaves on hand – just don’t consume them.
THE STEPS TO COOKING MAHI MAHI IN A CREOLE SAUCE
Step 1: Make sure that the mahi mahi is thawed if it is frozen. Rinse it with water then pat it completely dry. Season the fish, on both sides, with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
Step 2: In a large pan over MEDIUM heat, melt the butter, and pan-fry the mahi mahi until cooked through – which is about 12 minutes. Halfway through, flip the filets. The fish will be tender and will easily flake when pierced with a fork. Remove from the pan once the fish is done.
Step 3: Add more butter to the already hot pan. Saute the diced onions and bell peppers until they’ve become tender – about five minutes, then add the remaining ingredients: a can of diced tomatoes, Crystal’s Hot Sauce, Creole Seasoning, ground thyme, a pinch of cayenne pepper (if desired), and the bay leaf. Bring this to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.
Step 4: Add the mahi mahi back to the pan and nestle the fish in the sauce and let it simmer, uncovered, for an additional 10-minutes. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and check the flavoring of the Creole Sauce to see if you’d like more hot sauce or salt and black pepper.
Serve the Mahi Mahi in a Creole Sauce over a helping of hot cooked white rice and garnish with chopped green onions or parsley. Offer more hot sauce at the table and enjoy! A nice side salad pairs well with this meal. It’s not pictured – not because we ate it too fast or anything – but I also served steamed broccoli with this.
Let me know what you think of my Mahi Mahi in a Creole Sauce in the comment section below. You can also tell me where your favorite spot in New Orleans is to get Shrimp Creole – I’m always on the lookout.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please share this with your family and friends! Thanks for stopping by and taking a look! Enjoy!
Pan fried Mahi Mahi in a Creole Sauce
- 2 12- oz mahi mahi fillet skinless and boneless, thawed if from frozen
- 4 tbsp butter unsalted, DIVIDED
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup onions diced
- ¼ cup green bell pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 14.5 can diced tomatoes with liquid
- 2 tbsp Crystal's Hot Sauce
- 1 tsp Creole seasoning
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- hot cooked white rice
- chopped green onions or parsley for garnishment
- lemon juice for garnishment
Wash and pat dry the fish. Then season the fillets with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
In a large frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over MEDIUM heat. Fry the mahi mahi for about 6 minutes per side, then remove and set aside.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter still over MEDIUM heat. Add the onions and green bell peppers and saute until they are tender - about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic to the pot and continue to saute for another minute. Scrap up any of the pieces that are stuck to the pan from the fish, as well.
Pour in the can of diced tomatoes, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, a pinch of cayenne, and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the mahi mahi back to the pan and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes, stirring the sauce occasionally to prevent it from sticking. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and check flavoring to see if it needs additional salt, pepper, or more shakes of hot sauce.
To serve, place hot cooked white rice in a wide-brimmed bowl, spoon 1/2-cup of the Creole Sauce over the rice, then top with Mahi Mahi. Garnish with chopped green onions or parsley. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice.
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Eric Olsson is the food blogger of RedBeansAndEric.com. He publishes new recipes and interviews weekly. He has developed recipes and written articles for the famous Camellia brand in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been mentioned in Louisiana Cookin‘ magazine and has had recipes featured in Taste of Home magazine – with his Creole Turkey recipe being runner up in their annual Thanksgiving recipe contest. He lives outside of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife and four children.