Easy Cilantro Lime Grilled Fish Kebab Recipe

Serving grilled fish kebabs with broccoli.

If you’re a seafood lover, this healthy, flavorful fish kebab recipe is sure to be your new favorite.  We recommend swordfish for these fish skewers, but you can use any firm white fish or even shrimp in this recipe. The garlicky cilantro lime swordfish marinade is quick and easy to make and grilling swordfish is a breeze. This tasty meal is paleo, keto and whole 30 approved, low-carb and high protein, but that’s not why you’ll love it! It’s moist, meaty, punchy and flavorful.

a swordfish filet on a cutting board.

Swordfish kebabs are always a hit

Every family has their old reliable recipes that appear regularly on the dinner table. Dishes the whole family enjoys that are ready to eat in minutes. These cilantro lime fish kebabs are one of our favorites. They’re meaty, moist and flavorful with a kick of garlic and fresh cilantro and lime flavors. Bonus that the swordfish marinade works on any fish.

Tips for choosing swordfish (or any fresh fish)

  1. Make sure the fish looks and smells fresh (like the sea) — ask your fishmonger for a whiff.
  2. There should be no sliminess or signs of age.
  3. 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, but you can for other varieties.

Choosing fish for kebabs or skewers

When selecting your fish, ask for a piece of swordfish that’s between 1” to 1 1/2″ thick. That’s important because thin filets won’t do well on skewers and will tend to fall apart. Save yourself the hassle and ask for a thick piece.

A good fishmonger will do the trimming for you, just be nice when you ask. You’ll want him to remove the skin and the bloodline.

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What is the bloodline?

The bloodline in a fish is the set of nerves that run laterally along the fish and it can be responsible for fish, tasting “fishy.”  You can locate it by looking for the dark reddish brown or bright red area  area in the center. 

trimming the bloodline and cubing the swordfish for fish skewers.

Breaking down the grilled white fish to kebabs

Cut the fish into large, evenly-sized chunks about 1 1/2″ square or as close as you can get to it. (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.)

garlic, jalapeno, lime and cilantro for swordfish 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 swordfish marinade. 

Ingredients for swordfish marinade

  • Lime Zest
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno (if you don’t like spice, remove the white membrane and seeds — if you do — leave ’em in.
  • Cilantro
  • 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 the fish is doing its thing… you can heat up the grill.

tossing fish in swordfish marinade.

What else can I use the fish marinade for?

 This swordfish 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 fish skewers for a complete healthy meal.

threading swordfish onto skewers.

Tips for threading fish onto skewers

  • If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them for at least 30 minutes in water before putting the fish onto the kebab. If you don’t soak the skewers first, they’ll burn when you put them on the grill. Literally — flame! Soak your skewers first.
  • Use metal skewers that are flat and not round.  This will prevent the fish from spinning on the spit. Some skewers are even forked, adding a further layer of protection from that occurrence.
  • Use skewers that are 12″ to 18″ long with a metal or other protective handles (not wood — for the same reason as the skewers).

When Threading The Fish Onto Skewers, Don’t Crowd Them!

  • Leave about 1/4″ between each piece of fish on the kebab.  This assures that all the swordfish chunks will cook evenly, including the interior pieces. If you cram the fish too tightly on the skewers, some won’t get the benefit of the heat.

Pro-Tip: Make sure you have good grilling gloves and tongs for rotating and lifting the kebabs. 

fish kebabs after grilling.

How long do you cook the fish kebabs?

The key to grilling swordfish is not overcooking it.  These chunks are only 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 (375°-400°). This swordfish is succulent, tender and flavorful.

What if I can’t find swordfish? Can I substitute another fish?

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. 

Swordfish substitutes:

  •  Halibut
  • Sea bass
  • Kingfish
  • Monkfish
  • Walleye (for our Minnesota family)
  • Salmon
  • Tuna

Good For The Grill – Not Great For Kebabs:

The following varieties are flakier fish and might fall apart if you tried to kebab them. Instead marinate whole fillets in the swordfish marinade and grill them without the skewers. (I recommend a special grill mat or basket for these types of fish – affiliate links below).

  • Dolphin, (aka mahi mahi or dorado)
  • Snapper
  • Orange Roughy
  • Cod

If All Else Fails:

Use shrimp  – is perfect with this marinade. Look for large shrimp (U-20 to U-25). Peel and devein them before threading onto kebabs — and make sure you pierce the shrimp twice once through the head and again through the tail, so they don’t spin around on the skewer.

serving grilled swordfish.

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.

More grilled fish and seafood recipes: 

What to serve with fish kebabs:

marinated swordfish kebab on a plate.


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Print Pin
4.85 from 13 votes

Garlicky Cilantro Lime Swordfish Kebabs

Swordfish is made for the grill — it’s meaty, tender and satisfying.  With a simple bright marinade, it’s a delicious, quick meal any night of the week.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword #grill, fish, swordfish
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Paleo, Pescatarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6

INGREDIENTS:

FOR GARLICKY CILANTRO LIME MARINADE

  • 1 lime zested
  • ½ 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
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds swordfish about 1 – 1 1/2″ inches thick

Special Equipment:

  • wooden or metal skewers

DIRECTIONS:

  • 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.

NUTRITION:

Calories: 467kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 175mg | Sodium: 409mg | Potassium: 1130mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 420IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

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27 Comments

  1. Alicia Monnes says:

    5 stars
    Quick, easy and delicious!

  2. Bonnie gross says:

    So you use the zest but not any lime juice? I’m making it that way with lime wedges to serve table side, but am curious.

    1. Exactly. The lime zest has an intense lime flavor and sticks well to the fish. You can always squeeze a little lime juice over the fish when it’s done grilling, if you like.

  3. 5 stars
    This garlicky cilantro lime marinade sounds absolutely delicious! I am going to have to try this soon! Thank you for sharing! Pinning!

    1. I agree — putting some on the grill tonight!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh I just LOVE swordfish but we hardly ever eat it. This marinade sounds like it’d be perfect on so many proteins! But I love that swordfish is one of your go-to recipes for your family! Yum!

  5. 5 stars
    wow looks incredibly tasty besides swordfish is a wonderful option, I love that fish because it is mellow in flavor and can be paired with many different seasonings.

  6. Cilantro and lime are one of my favorite flavor combos. I love how you give so many helpful tips and tricks! This is easy enough for the weeknights too.

  7. Gwen @simplyhealthyfamily says:

    I am pretty much a pescatarian & love swordfish! Thanks for the fab recipe, definitely going to try this! Pinned!

  8. Nice marinade you use there! Grilled fish rocks! You got me hooked here 🙂

  9. I love swordfish but hadn’t thought to turn it into kebabs until now. This recipe could so easily be transferred on to the BBQ for summer! Love it!

  10. lovelyappetite says:

    5 stars
    This is a really good idea, I always want to try eating more fish but get complacent and just eat the usual beef, pork and chicken. After reading this I really want to give swordfish a go! It sounds like a great starter fish for people trying to eat more fish x

    1. If you’ve never had swordfish before, this is the one! It’s meaty, tender and flavorful!

    1. Swordfish is meaty and easy to cook on the grill. One of my favorites!

    1. Thanks Ilona! We make it regularly because it’s readily available in South Florida. Depending on where you are you could substitute another firm white fish.

  11. Renee Nicole's Kitchen says:

    Yum! I love cilantro and lime together. I’m putting it on salmon tonight, but this looks even better!

  12. This is a perfect combination of flavors for swordfish, and the skewers are perfect! I can see this would be a very versatile and much-in-demand dish for your family!

  13. Suzanne Spiegoski (@SSpiegoski) says:

    5 stars
    This looks utterly delicious! I love swordfish but never thought to grills it on skewers! And what flavor! Definitely pinning for later. Thanks for sharing!

    xo,
    Suz

    1. It really is and so simple! Grilling saves on dishes too!

  14. christinegalvani says:

    I love the cilantro/lime combination with fish! I love the skewers and the fish looks delicious!