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This simple canned mackerel pasta is quick, healthy, and delicious with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, fresh parsley, and a light olive oil sauce. It’s on your table in just 30 minutes!

You may also enjoy my Easy Canned Tuna Pasta or this Canned Salmon Pasta.

canned mackerel pasta close-up in a shallow bowl

Easy canned mackerel recipe

If you’re wondering what to make with canned mackerel, you’re in the right place! I love a good pantry pasta recipe, and it’s fun changing it up from canned tuna every so often.

Whether you’ve never tried mackerel and are curious or you have a couple of stray cans in your cupboard that need to be used up, having this bright and flavorful pasta in your arsenal is a must! It even gives off kinda fancy vibes, but it’s super simple to throw together.

If you’re already a fan of mackerel, you’ll also love making sandwiches with my Canned Mackerel Salad.

What does mackerel taste like?

  • It’s an oily fish, which is great for omega-3s, but some people will find it to be more of a “fishy” tasting kind of fish versus something milder like tuna. It does have its perks such as being fairly low in mercury.
  • Depending on the brand you buy, the taste can vary quite a bit, so don’t give up if you tried it once and didn’t like it!

Everything you’ll need

  • Pasta – I used penne, but any shape will work just fine
  • Olive oil – for frying up the garlic and the base of the light sauce
  • Garlic – I used three cloves of garlic, but you can use as much as you like depending on personal preference
  • Mackerel – I’ve tried a couple of brands recently when testing mackerel recipes, and King Oscar is my favorite. Here in Canada I buy it from Amazon.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes – they complement the fish really well
  • Capers – I always keep a jar on hand. They’re a great way to add a touch of tangy flavor and elevate a seafood dish!
  • Lemon juice – this gives some brightness to the dish
  • Fresh parsley – adds a pop of color and freshness
  • Parmesan cheese – as always, I recommend grating your own parmesan since it will melt more easily and taste a lot better than the pre-grated varieties. I use my Microplane to grate it!
  • Spinach – an easy way to get your greens in

How to make mackerel pasta

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

a can of mackerel next to a skillet with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and mackerel

Boil a salted pot of water for the pasta. When it’s nearly done, start making the sauce. Add the oil and garlic to a skillet and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in the mackerel, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and lemon juice and let it warm through.

adding cooked pasta and spinach and parsley to cast iron skillet with mackerel pasta

Reserve one cup of the pasta water prior to draining it. To the skillet, add the drained pasta, spinach, parmesan cheese, and parsley. Toss, gradually adding the pasta water as needed, until the spinach has wilted and the sauce is smooth.

Substitutions and variations

  • I use unsmoked mackerel for this recipe, but you can use smoked if you prefer.
  • This pasta recipe is very flexible, and you can make use of whatever is in your pantry. Feel free to add or substitute ingredients as needed. Kalamata olives would go really well in here if you happen to enjoy them!
  • This recipe will work with canned tuna or canned salmon instead of the mackerel.

What to serve with this pasta

  • I like it as a quick lunch idea, and it’s filling on its own. But if you’re craving more carbs, try a slice of crusty bread or Cheesy Garlic Bread.
  • It’s also great to pair with a light side salad. My Olive Garden Italian Dressing is a favorite with pasta.

Leftovers and storage

  • It’s best eaten right away, but leftovers will be okay for a couple of days in your fridge in a covered container.
  • Reheat over a low heat in a saucepan for best results.
  • This recipe probably wouldn’t freeze well.
canned mackerel pasta in a skillet

Questions about this mackerel pasta? Let me know in the comments below!

canned mackerel pasta close-up in a shallow bowl
5 from 1 vote

Canned Mackerel Pasta

This simple canned mackerel pasta is quick, healthy, and delicious with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, fresh parsley, and a light olive oil sauce. It's on your table in just 30 minutes!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 8 ounces uncooked pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans mackerel drained
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes drained & chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • Boil a salted pot of water for the pasta and cook it al dente according to package instructions. You will need to reserve some pasta water before draining it.
  • When the pasta is about 8-10 minutes away from being done, add the oil and garlic to a skillet over medium heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, give it a stir and cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the mackerel, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and lemon juice to the pan. Let it heat through for a few minutes.
  • Reserve 1 cup of the hot pasta water prior to draining the pasta.
  • Add the drained pasta, spinach, parsley, and parmesan to the skillet. Toss (this is easy with tongs or 2 large spoons), slowly adding pasta water (as needed… you won't use it all) and continuously tossing until the spinach has wilted and the parmesan cheese has melted into the sauce.
  • Season with salt & pepper as needed and serve immediately.


  • Serves 2-4 depending on how much pasta you make and what else you serve it with (it makes 4 reasonable/smaller portions). If you want to feed 2 people with lots of sauce, keep the sauce ingredients the same and use half the pasta.
  • Canned mackerel brands can vary a lot. King Oscar is my favorite brand to buy.


Calories: 459kcal, Carbohydrates: 52g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 56mg, Sodium: 568mg, Potassium: 833mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 2055IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 326mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

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  1. Anne Mulcahy says:

    I was looking for, what the heck can I do with canned mackerel. I found a recipe, thank you! my husband and I found this quit tasty.

    1. Natasha says:

      That’s great to hear, Anne!! 😀

  2. Luke says:

    Would you sub something for the tomatoes or just leave them out for someone who can’t eat tomatoes? We love mackerel, but have only used it in mackerel salad. This sounds delish!

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi Luke! I’d probably just leave them out. I’d say they enhance the dish but aren’t 100% necessary. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂