Thursday, March 11, 2021

Pan-Seared Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple Salsa

Need an easy, healthy & cheap fish recipe for dinner? Try this pan-seared mahi-mahi topped with fresh pineapple salsa. This is one of the best ways to cook frozen fish filets when you're short on time. Serve it with your favorite sides for a quick weeknight meal in less than 30 minutes. (gluten-free, paleo & whole30)

Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa (Easy, Cheap & Healthy Fish Recipe)

If you've never had mahi-mahi before, you're in for a treat! It's a neutral-tasting buttery white fish, which makes it perfect for picky eaters. I like to think of it as a poor man's halibut because it's 1/4 of the price, but similar in taste & texture. 

Ever heard the phrase "champagne taste on a beer budget"? If you love halibut but can't afford to eat it often, this is an excellent substitute. 
While I love eating fish, I'm not great at remembering to stop by the store to pick it up fresh. So, I compromise by keeping 2-packs of frozen wild-caught fish in my freezer (usually salmon, mahi-mahi, and flounder) that I can pull out last minute for a quick meal. 

I'd really like to try baked swordfish soon since it's easy to find frozen and an affordable option for white fish just like mahi-mahi. 

I also keep cans of tuna and salmon in my pantry for making tuna patties and other tuna recipes.

The best part about frozen fish (unlike a huge hunk of meat like chuck roast) is if you forget to thaw it overnight in the fridge, you can simply run the bag under cold water in your sink for several minutes.

Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Cajun Seasoning & Pineapple Salsa

Once it's thawed (it doesn't take long) you'll need to drain and pat the filets down really well to remove as much moisture as possible. This helps the fish form a crust when you sear it in the skillet.

From there all you have to do is rub it down with a bit of cooking oil and generously season it with a mixture of dried spices, then you're ready to roll.

One of my favorite spice blends right now is this Cajun seasoning, which has a mixture of sea salt, paprika, celery seed, garlic powder, black pepper, coriander, cumin, onion powder, red pepper, oregano, basil, ginger, fenugreek, dill seed, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, and sugar. If it's not available on Amazon using the link above you can order it here through their website.

Tips For Cooking Mahi Mahi Fillets On the Stove

While the oven is certainly an easy option, I usually prefer searing the fillets on the stove-top (also called pan-frying) in a heavy-bottomed skillet or braiser (cast iron or enameled cast iron are my favorites). This quick-cooking method with higher heat helps to develop a beautiful crust that's packed with flavor. 

The key to a good crust is to:
  1. make sure your fish is as dry as possible (excess water will cause it to steam in the skillet)
  2. generously season both sides with a good spice mixture 
  3. heat the skillet to a higher temperature and leave plenty of room between your fillets (i.e. don't crowd the pan)
PSA: Fish fillets thawed from frozen last-minute are notoriously difficult to get super dry (in my experience), so just do your best and don't expect a restaurant-quality sear on it. If that's super important to you, then buy your fish thawed (or fresh) from your local fishmonger the day you plan to cook it.  

Pan-Seared Mahi-Mahi in a Cast Iron Skillet

Fruit Salsa for Topping The Mahi-Mahi

Once you've seared (or pan-fried) the mahi-mahi, you can serve it straight from the pan with a wedge or two of citrus (lime, lemon, or orange) to squeeze on top. Easy, simple, and delicious. However, if you have an extra 10 minutes to spare, I highly recommend fixing a quick fruit salsa to spoon on top of it.

The sweet and slightly spicy flavors of the salsa pair beautifully with the Cajun spices, citrus juice, and tender fish. Two of my favorites are mango avocado salsa and fresh peach salsa, but today we're focusing on pineapple.

Pineapple is my go-to fruit right now since it's bright, sweet, and ready to use straight from the store. No need to wait several days for it to ripen! If I have any leftover pineapple, I cut it into chunks and freeze it for pineapple banana smoothies or boozy pineapple slushies (with vodka or white wine).

To make quick pineapple salsa, all you have to do is chop some pineapple, red onion, and cilantro into small pieces and mix everything together with fresh lime juice + a bit of salt. If you like some heat, sprinkle a bit of cayenne pepper on everything OR add a minced fresh jalapeno. Super easy!

Healthy & Cheap Fish Recipe: Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa

What To Serve with Mahi-Mahi

Since the fruit salsa has tropical flavors, I like to serve the fish with coconut rice (cooked in canned coconut milk), cilantro lime rice (with basmati or jasmine rice), or cilantro lime brown rice

TIP: If you're in a hurry, microwave a packet of those shelf-stable par-boiled rice bags from the store (they are super popular right now). Trader Joe's also has microwavable frozen jasmine rice that works well. And there's always frozen cauliflower rice for a low-carb option.

Quick Cilantro Lime Rice: Heat up a bag of short-grain white rice, dump it in a bowl, add some finely chopped cilantro, a few tablespoons of butter, the juice from a lime, and some sea salt. Toss it lightly and you're ready to eat. 

I also like to pair the mahi-mahi with a vegetable, typically sauteed asparagus since it only takes 10 minutes to fix.  You could also prep some red cabbage coleslaw earlier in the day (if you have leftover fish you can use it for fish tacos) or throw together a side salad with leafy greens and top it with a quick homemade dressing like maple balsamic vinaigrette or red wine vinaigrette. If you don't mind turning on the oven, these honey glazed rainbow carrots would pair wonderfully with the sweetness of the pineapple salsa. 

Easy, Healthy, Cheap & Quick Fish Recipe: Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa

More Quick Dinner Recipes:

pan seared mahi mahi, how to, easy, pan fried, pineapple salsa
main dishes
Yield: 2 servings
Author: Elaina Newton - The Rising Spoon
Pan-Seared Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple Salsa

Pan-Seared Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple Salsa

Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 10 MinTotal time: 20 Min
Need an easy, healthy & cheap fish recipe? Try this pan-seared mahi-mahi topped with fresh pineapple salsa. Serve it with your favorite sides for a quick weeknight meal. (gluten-free, paleo & whole30)


For The Pineapple Salsa:
  • 1 cup of finely diced pineapple
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of finely diced red onion
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1-2 dashes of cayenne pepper OR 1 small jalapeno, minced (optional)
For The Mahi-Mahi:
  • 2 (6-ounce) skinless mahi-mahi fillets, patted dry (thaw first if using frozen)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of cooking oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (add more if your spice blend is salt-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (I used THIS Cajun seasoning)
  • 1/2  a lime, cut into wedges (for serving)


  1. Combine all the fruit salsa ingredients in a medium bowl, stir well, and set aside to macerate as you're fixing the fish.
  2. Coat both sides of each mahi-mahi fillet with cooking oil (I used 1 teaspoon total), followed by the sea salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, and Cajun seasoning.
  3. Place a 10 to 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet (I prefer regular or enameled cast-iron) over medium heat. When the skillet is warm, add the additional 1 1/2 tablespoons of cooking oil (or enough to coat the bottom of the skillet). When the surface of the oil is just starting to shimmer, add both fillets (it should sizzle, but the oil shouldn't be smoking).
  4. Cook the mahi-mahi filets for about five minutes on the first side (watch the sides and you'll see them go from transparent to opaque halfway up the fish), then flip and cook another 3-5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the filets) or until the fish is completely opaque, but not dry.
  5. Promptly remove the fillets from the skillet (they will overcook if left in the pan, even with the heat off), top each one with 1/2 the pineapple salsa and serve immediately with lime wedges and your favorite side dishes.


This makes a generous amount of pineapple salsa so unless you like to completely cover your mahi-mahi with it, you'll likely have leftovers. Most folks like to eat it as a dip with tortilla chips, but it makes a great topping for pork, chicken, cottage cheese, or scrambled eggs.

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Update (March 2021): This recipe was originally published in February 2017, but I've recently updated the post with a new recipe card + additional helpful tips.

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A quick & healthy recipe for pan-seared mahi-mahi (a budget-friendly neutral tasting white fish) topped with an easy pineapple salsa. Fix this in only 20 minutes for a fast, simple & yummy weeknight meal and save any leftover fruit salsa for snacking! (gluten-free, paleo & whole30)

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