7 Up hot sauce king mack fillets

Grilling king mackerel filets that have been soaked in a 7 Up hot sauce marinade makes for a great fish dinner on a warm June evening.
Grilling king mackerel filets that have been soaked in a 7 Up hot sauce marinade makes for a great fish dinner on a warm June evening.

Don’t be afraid of oily fish; this recipe will turn on your taste buds

While we’ve had some warm weather already, summer will arrive June 20. And you can expect temperatures to rise. The good thing is that fishing has been heating up, too.

Spanish mackerel, bluefish and king mackerel are three fish typically available along the beaches of the Carolinas without requiring a long run on a late spring or summer day. However, folks have contrasting opinions on their quality as table fare. Opinions range from “I love them,” to “There’s no way I’m eating that.”

These are fish with gray meat, and many folks consider them to be oily, with a strong flavor. This recipe is designed to counteract the stronger flavor. And for lack of a better description, it bleaches the meat and turns it much lighter, often to white, with the combination of marinating and cooking. Don’t let the hot sauce scare you, either. At this amount, even the most sensitive palate doesn’t taste it. However, those who like its flavor and the spice can easily add more to kick it up a notch — or three.

These fish are good for you, too. So if you make them taste good, you could be doing yourself a favor by eating them more often. They contain Omega 3 fatty acids that lower triglyceride levels, decrease the potential for cardiac issues, help alleviate arthritis and have other health benefits. And I promise they’ll taste better than you are thinking. This has been an introductory recipe for years. And folks who previously didn’t care for them, now enjoy them prepared this way.

Recipe contains easy steps

It seems like there are numerous steps in the preparation, but they flow together. This is really a simple recipe. Once marinated, the fish can be fried or baked. But it’s best grilled and eaten on the deck or patio enjoying the cool-down at the end of the day.

To insure top table quality, begin by putting mackerel and blues in the fish box and covering them with ice as soon as they hit the deck. This is the right thing to do with any fish, and especially so with oily fish. When cleaning them, take the time to remove all the red meat, skin and gristle. That means the fillets are just prime meat. It takes a few more minutes, but it’s time well spent. If you take the time to do this once, I am certain it will become one of the ways you prefer mackerel and blues. And it helps people who won’t eat them to enjoy them.

7 Up hot sauce king mack fillets

Not everyone appreciates the taste of mackerel and bluefish. They have grayish meat that has more flavor. And some folks consider them to taste strong. Some say it’s an acquired taste, and maybe it is, but I like it.

I grew up in a commercial fishing family, and we often ate what wouldn’t sell. The flounder, trout and drum were usually sold. We were left with the fish with a stronger flavor. That wasn’t an issue with me, however. These fish actually have some taste and aren’t easily overpowered by the marinade, spices or breader used when cooking them.

Besides, even though I had already developed my tastes, I was an adult and had been eating them for years when health researchers determined the Omega 3 fatty acids they contained are beneficial to our health. I guess I was just a couple of steps ahead on the healthy eating front. Enjoying game and fish will do that for you.

This recipe is an easy way to prepare these fish, and it just happens to turn their meat from gray to white while they are cooking. The quality and flavor of fish can be seriously impacted by how they are handled on the boat. And by how they are cleaned. Getting them covered in ice immediately is important anytime, especially when the temperatures are in the 90s and the sun is bearing down. Don’t just throw fish in the fish box or cooler. Be sure they are down in the ice and fully covered.

Clean thoroughly

The next step is cleaning them thoroughly. Mackerel and bluefish have bloodlines running down their sides. These are removed easily with a sharp  knife. I split the fillets at the middle of each side and make sure to remove any bloodlines, red meat or bones that run from the backbone. Remove the rib cages to make it a true fillet. Try not to rupture any of the internals, and rinse the fish often while cleaning.

The citrus juices in 7 Up help break down the meat and neutralize the flavor. It’s not as strong as squeezed citrus used in ceviche. Other drinks with citrus juices exist, but the ones I have tried are too sweet.

I don’t know exactly how the hot sauce acts with the citrus, but it does. Even though you don’t taste any spice or heat, the flavor of the fish isn’t the same without it.

The author puts king mackerel fillets on a grill that’s been preheated to medium.
The author puts king mackerel fillets on a grill that’s been preheated to medium.

The kind of hot sauce is important. This works best with a Texas Pete, Louisiana, or similar hot sauce. For this meal, I used Trader Joe’s Chili Pepper Sauce. It doesn’t have any salt and is about two-thirds up the hotness scale. You don’t notice this in the cooked fish, but you will if you add more at the table.

I don’t fry fish very often, but if you want to, roll the fish in the breader rather than just sprinkling some on. Be cautious not to overcook it. If you wait until the breader is browning, you will overcook it. It will cook a little once removed from the hot oil.

One thing to always remember is that all fish dishes are best with fresh fish you caught earlier the same day. Enjoy!


  • 2 pounds of king mackerel fillets
  • 1 cup of 7 Up
  • 2 tsp of hot sauce (Trader Joe’s Chili Pepper Sauce)
  • 1 cup spicy seafood breader
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Non-stick cooking spray


Clean the fillets so there is no red meat, any bits of skin, gristle or anything that could influence its taste remaining. Wash the fillets, pat them dry and place them in a Ziploc bag.

Mix one cup of 7 Up and 2 teaspoons of hot sauce. Pour the 7 Up/hot sauce mix over the fillets and work the bag so the mixture penetrates all around the fillets. Work all the air out of the bag and seal it. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Preheat grill to medium. Spray a vegetable tray with non-stick cooking spray. Remove fillets from bag, allow to drip, and place on a plate or platter. Sprinkle seafood breader on the top side of the fillets. Place fillets on grill, with the breaded side down. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, turn the fillets and cook 4 to 6 more minutes. Remove and serve hot.

Frying and baking are also options

This can also be fried or baked in the oven. If frying, liberally coat both sides of the fillets with breader and fry. At 350 degrees, the fillets will cook in just a few minutes. If baking in the oven, cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Cook at 350, turning once at 4 to 6 minutes, then another 4 to 6 minutes.

Serve this with whatever sauces you prefer with seafood. Some folks like this with tartar sauce. I like to mix a little of the hot sauce used for the marinade with some tartar sauce.

This combines well with a variety of vegetables. Potatoes are a favorite side, and they can be baked or fried. I have served it with baked shredded sweet potatoes and green beans. That’s a little unusual, but it works. A fresh green salad or lettuce wedge is a great way to begin. Just add your favorite beverage, and all will be well.

Click here for information on pier fishing for king mackerel.

About Jerry Dilsaver 1172 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.