How to Marinate Fish

How to Marinate Fish

As you prepare fish for baking, grilling, or frying, a marinade with olive oil can tenderize the fish to its softest and juiciest form. The process of marinating fish in an infused oil allows the fish to soak in the seasonings and liquids you add to the marinade, creating a truly delicious meal. Depending on the fish you use, marinating can take the fish to a new level of flavor.

Keep reading for tips on how to marinate seafood and fish before cooking.

How Are Marinades Used?

When it comes to fish and seafood, it is possible to marinate carefully cut selections without heating the meat. The natural acid in a well-made marinade coagulates proteins, preparing your fish for consumption without heat. Specifically, marinades used for pickling preserve the seafood, so it is ready to eat without taking additional steps. Still, you can marinate your fish before cooking it to ensure it is flavorful.

The types of marinating liquids vary depending on what kind of fish you are using. Typically, fish marinades have an acidic base made from citrus juice, wine or vinegar, which you can pair with olive oil for flavor and texture. After creating the liquid base, you can add herbs and spices that pair well with the fish — onion, garlic and parsley are just a few examples. From there, you can incorporate specific ingredients, like soy sauce, to achieve a certain flavor profile.

As you prepare your marinade, keep in mind how you plan to prepare the fish. If you want to grill the fish, you will likely need to use a marinade with a high olive oil content because of the high cooking temperature. Alternatively, when preparing raw fish like sushi, you will typically make a highly acidic fish marinade.

Overall, how you marinate seafood depends on the kind of fish you are using and how you plan to cook it — you have many options to elevate your meal.

Required Tools for Marinating Fish

Though you can prepare a marinade in any container of your choosing, the materials that work the best for storing marinades are glass, stainless steel, enamel, or glazed ceramic. Avoid using metal containers made from copper, aluminum, or iron. If you use metal forks or spoons to stir the marinade, make sure they are stainless steel. Otherwise, the metals can react to the acid in the marinade, changing the flavor of the fish.

How to Prepare a Marinade for Seafood

First, prepare the base. The best marinades for fish contain a base with:

All base recipes are customizable based on the fish you are cooking. Below are ideas for changing up marinade ingredients:

  1. Citrus juice: Although lemon and lime juices are often called for as the citrus component, you can experiment with orange juice, grapefruit juice and other out-of-the-box citrus juices.
  2. Wine: If you use wine in the base, go with a white wine to preserve the fish's coloration. If you prefer red wine, it is best in marinades for fish you are going to cook. Options like sherry, port or claret will add a quality flavor to the meat.
  3. Vinegar: Similar to wine, use white vinegar for uncooked fish and apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar for cooked fish for color purposes. 
  4. Oil: This component of the base permeates the fish — but too much oil can prevent the seasonings from adding enough flavor. A few healthy options for oil include olive oil, peanut oil and canola oil. Avoid using animal fat or butter, which will harden and coagulate when chilled.

Next, add your herbs and spices to your chosen liquids, mixing and matching using the following guidelines:

  • Spice blends: Try ground dill, cilantro, sage, rosemary, savory, oregano, parsley, mustard, caraway, chives, celery, tarragon, garlic, or onion.
  • Asian-style flavor: Use fresh ground ginger with soy sauce, teriyaki sauce or another sauce.
  • Sweetening ingredients: Adding brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, or mace to give the fish a nice crust.
  • Chopped fruit and citrus zest: Try diced mango, lemon zest or lime zest.
  • Spicy ingredients: Incorporate crushed red pepper flakes, paprika, cayenne pepper or jalapeño peppers.

Overall, you will want to keep the marinade simple. If you use too many ingredients, you may end up with a piece of fish that is too seasoned, ruining your meal. Always remember that you can add more seasonings to the fish, but you cannot take them away.

how to apply a marinade to fish

How to Apply a Marinade

Once you have prepared your marinade, rub it over the fish and seal the container tightly, placing it inside the refrigerator to marinate. Never let the fish sit at room temperature to marinate, as bacteria can grow on the surface.

Before you serve the fish, rinse off the marinade, and pat the fish dry with paper towels. If you will be cooking the fish, the marinade can remain on the fish, depending on your cooking method. If you have any leftover marinade that you did not use to marinate your fish, you can use it as a dipping sauce.

How Long to Marinate Fish

Because seafood is delicate, you only have to let the fish marinate for up to an hour — 15 to 30 minutes works best. If you let the fish sit in the marinade for too long, you will end up with an overly seasoned piece. However, in some cases, you may find recipes that require marinating for several hours, usually for dishes like poke or sushi. Otherwise, keep the marinating time short for seafood.

How to Know When a Marinade Is Done

When checking to see whether your marinade has absorbed, scrape off a small spot in the middle of the fish's flesh with a spoon. If the fish is firm and opaque, it is ready.

Note that how long it takes to marinate the fish will vary depending on:

  • The acidity: The marinade's ingredients may take longer to absorb.
  • The size and quantity: Typically, larger cuts take longer to cure, and more fish will take longer to marinate.
  • The desired flavor: If you want the fish's flavor to be more intense, the marinating process will take more time.

Use La Tourangelle Artisan Oils for a Delicious Fish Marinade

Use La Tourangelle oils for fish marinades


La Tourangelle sources ingredients locally and uses artisan techniques to craft high-quality cooking oils made with minimal processing. Our olive oil products and infused oils are flavorful and nutritious. You can use them for a wide array of cooking needs, including a delicious fish marinade.

Check our blog for more tips on marinating fish, how to marinate meats and other food ideas using infused oil products. If you have inquiries, contact us online for more information.

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