Macadamia Nut–Crusted Mahi Mahi with Chili Coconut Sauce and Fennel and Papaya Salad

Many of my students requested a recipe using mahi mahi, so I responded with this one, which was inspired by our trips to Hawaii. The coconut and chili make a delicious combination with the crushed macadamia nuts and the fennel and papaya salad.

By Chef David Robertson, The Dirty Apron

Tuna Poke

Serves 4


Fennel and papaya salad

  • 1 large ripe papaya, peeled and seeded
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly shaved
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped
  • 3 sprigs Thai basil
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Chili coconut sauce

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Thai chili, seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 c vegetable stock
  • 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 11/2 Tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves

Macadamia nut–crusted mahi mahi

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c macadamia nuts, chopped and toasted until golden
  • 1/4 c panko crumbs
  • 4 mahi mahi fillets, each 4 oz


Fennel and papaya salad

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Chili coconut sauce

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and chilies and sauté for 2 minutes. Pour in the fish sauce and stir to deglaze the pan. Immediately add the vegetable stock, coconut milk, palm sugar (or brown sugar) and lemon juice, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Macadamia nut–crusted mahi mahi

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Using a food processor, whip the butter and macadamia nuts together until well combined. Add the panko crumbs and blend for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Season the mahi mahi with salt and pepper and place it on a baking sheet. Using your hands, spread the nut crust over one side of the fish. Bake until the fish flakes when touched with the tip of a knife, 9 to 10 minutes.

To assemble

Spoon some of the chili coconut sauce in the middle of each plate. Place the mahi mahi on top and mound several spoonfuls of the papaya and fennel salad alongside. Serve immediately.

Chef's Note: You can always substitute almonds or other nuts in place of the macadamia nuts.

Vegetable Stock

Yields 6 cups

  • 5 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bulb of garlic
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 10 sprigs of Italian parsley
  • 10 white peppercorns
  • 1 c white wine
  • 1 c coriander seeds
  • 7 1/2 c water

Place all the ingredients in a large stockpot, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the cooled stock to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to develop.

Set a fine chinois over a clean bowl and strain the stock through it. Discard any solids. Once cooled, will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

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