A simple, flavorful garlicky cilantro lime marinade is perfect for any grilled white fish, but swordfish is my favorite for its thick, meaty texture and mild flavor. Learn how to grill swordfish flawlessly every time for a healthy, delicious meal.
Every family has their old reliable recipes. Ones that appear regularly on the dinner table. Dishes the whole family enjoys that are ready in minutes. Garlicky Cilantro Lime Swordfish Kebabs are one of our favorites. The cilantro lime marinade would work well for any grilled white fish, but depending on the type of fish you’re using, they may not be right for kebabs. Fish kebabs require a thick, sturdy cut that behaves more like meat than fish. Swordfish is ideal for grilling, because it cooks beautifully, without sticking to the grates.
How To Grill Swordfish:
You can grill a whole pice of swordfish, too if you don’t want to mess with cutting them into chunks, however, the chunks give the fish more surface area to coat and glaze the fish with that fabulous cilantro lime flavor.
Choosing The Swordfish
- Make sure the fish looks and smells fresh (like the sea) — ask your fishmonger for a whiff.
- There should be no sliminess or signs of age.
- When choosing whole fish, look for clear eyes on the fish. Swordfish can run several hundred pounds, so you probably won’t be able to use the “eye test” as a cue on its freshness.
- When selecting your fish, ask for a piece of swordfish that’s at least 1″ thick — preferably 1 1/2″.
Breaking Down The Grilled White Fish to Kebabs
- Remove The Bloodline. The bloodline in the fish is the dark reddish brown area in the center. If there’s a fishy tasting part of any fish (even a very fresh fish) it’s likely surrounding the bloodline. I always remove it, because I want a fresh seafood flavor.
- Cut the fish into large, evenly-sized chunks. You want the fish to cook at the same time and the best way to ensure that is to have each piece of fish trimmed to equal portions.
- Thread the fish onto skewers. Note: if you’re using disposable wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes to an hour before threading the fish onto them. If you don’t soak the skewers, they will burn (literally) on the grill — hello — they’re made of wood.
- I prefer metal skewers because they’re always ready to go when I am.
Ingredients For Garlicky Cilantro Lime Marinade
This simple marinade is ready in minutes and doesn’t require an all-day soak to permeate and flavor the fish. In fact, 15-20 minutes is all it takes for the fish to benefit from the cilantro lime marinade. You’ll need:
- Lime Zest
- Jalapeno (if you don’t like spice, remove the white membrane and seeds — if you do — leave ’em in.
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
Combine the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Add the chunks of swordfish and let it marinate for 15-20 minutes. While it’s doing its thing… you can heat up the grill.
Fun Tip: This marinade is very versatile. Sometimes I’ll make extra in a separate bowl and toss it with fresh vegetable chunks, like zucchini, onions and bell peppers. Skewer the vegetables as you would the swordfish and cook them at the same time as the grilled white fish.
Other Grilled White Fish Substitutes:
Depending on where you live, swordfish can be (1) expensive, or (2) unavailable. Either way, you have the option to substitute another firm-textured fish for the swordfish. Try:
- Sea bass
- Walleye (for our Minnesota family)
Other Good Grilling Substitutes
Good For The Grill – Not Great For Kebabs:
These are flakier fish and might fall apart if you tried to kebab them. Instead marinate whole fillets and grill them. (I recommend a special grill mat or basket for these types of fish – affiliate links below)
- Dolphin, (aka mahi mahi or dorado)
- Orange Roughy
If All Else Fails:
- Shrimp – is perfect with this marinade. Peel and devein them before threading onto kebabs — and make sure you pierce the shrimp twice toward the head and tail, so they don’t spin around on the skewer.
When Threading The Fish Onto Skewers, Don’t Crowd Them!
Leave about 1/4″ between each piece of fish. This assures that all the swordfish chunks will cook evenly, including the interior pieces.
Don’t Overcook Grilled White Fish (or any fish)
That said, the key to grilling fish is not to overcook it. These chunks are about 1 1/2″ so they don’t take a long time on the grill. Just a few minutes before flipping them. You want the fish to be moist and tender. Over-cooking makes them dry and tough to eat. I recommend no more than 3-4 minutes per side (sometimes less depending on the type of fish and how large your kebabs are.) on a hot grill. This swordfish is succulent, tender and flavorful.
Garlicky Cilantro Lime Swordfish Kebabs make a delicious, satisfying meal and are perfect for most healthy eating and diet plans. Serve them with quinoa asparagus and feta salad, tomatoes provencal, or this fattoush salad.
One other note – Seafood Watch advises consumers to look for “harpoon and hand-line caught swordfish from the North Atlantic, eastern Pacific, U.S. and Canada as Best Choices.” Swordfish caught by international longline fleets often snags unwanted bycatch, like sea turtles. (Longline caught swordfish from the U.S. Atlantic and Hawaii have strict bycatch regulations which have resulted in a “Good Alternative” rating by Seafood Watch.
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Garlicky Cilantro Lime Swordfish Kebabs
FOR GARLICKY CILANTRO LIME MARINADE
- 1 lime zested
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2-1 jalapeño pepper use half a pepper for milder flavor or the whole thing if you like spice, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 - 2 pounds swordfish about 1 - 1 1/2" inches thick
- wooden or metal skewers
- If using wooden skewers, cover with water and let soak for about an hour to prevent them from burning when you put them on the grill. If using metal skewers, skip to the next step.
MAKE THE GARLICKY CILANTRO LIME MARINADE:
- In a small bowl combine lime zest, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, black pepper, salt and olive oil. Stir to combine. Set aside.
PREPARE THE SWORDFISH:
- With a sharp knife, trim the skin from the swordfish. If your fish has a dark bloodline, trim it away and discard. Cut swordfish into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Add the remainder of the marinade to the fish and toss to coat. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
MAKE GRILLED WHITE FISH:
- Heat your grill to a medium high temperature between 375-400 degrees.
- Thread the swordfish onto skewers and leave about 1/4" in between the pieces of fish so they can evenly cook. Grill the fish for 3-4 minutes on one side or until they begin to get grill marks, then turn the kebabs and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Watch for hot spots and flare ups.
- Remove from grill. Allow the fish to rest for 1-2 minutes then serve.
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