Atlantic Mackerel vs Spanish Mackerel – Are They The Same?


Atlantic mackerel and Spanish mackerel have many similarities. For this reason many people ask about their differences or if they’re the same. Let’s answer, is Spanish mackerel the same as Atlantic mackerel?

Spanish mackerel and Atlantic mackerel are not the same. Atlantic mackerel is the S. scombrus species, Spanish mackerel is the S. maculatus species. Spanish Mackerel weigh more and can grow twice as long as Atlantic mackerel. Atlantic mackerel is also found in Europe where Spanish mackerel aren’t found.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients, habitats and appearance.

Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.

Disclaimer: The above link and others in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

When someone is shopping in the fish market for fresh, whole fish or catching a mackerel in the water, it may not be immediately obvious which kind of fish they’re looking at. For this reason, we want to find out a simple method for identifying which fish is which.

How can you tell an Atlantic mackerel from a Spanish mackerel?

To tell the difference between an Atlantic mackerel and a Spanish mackerel is to check their body markings. Spanish Mackerel have yellow spots on the sides while Atlantic mackerel have wavy, dark lines on the upper sides. Spanish Mackerel have a gradual sloping lateral line while Atlantic mackerel have a level, blotchy line.

Other ways to tell the difference between an Atlantic mackerel and a Spanish mackerel are:

  • The Atlantic mackerel two dorsal fins both have spines. The Spanish mackerel front dorsal has spines and the second soft rays.
  • Spanish Mackerel are heavier and longer. Atlantic mackerel averages 12-17 inches long and weighs 2.2 pounds. Spanish mackerel averages 19-33 inches long and weighs up to 13 pounds.
  • Atlantic mackerel are found in Canada and Europe where Spanish Mackerel is not found.
  • Spanish Mackerel is found near Florida and the Gulf of Mexico where Atlantic mackerel is not found.

Atlantic mackerel and Spanish Mackerel species comparison

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Atlantic mackerel are from:

  • Family: Scombridae
  • Genus: Scomber
  • Species: S. scombrus
  • Common nicknames: Mackerel, Boston mackerel, common mackerel, Norwegian mackerel.

Spanish mackerel are from:

  • Family: Scombridae
  • Genus: Scomberomorus
  • Species: S. maculatus
  • Common nicknames: Spotted mackerel, spotted cybium.

Atlantic mackerel and Spanish mackerel are from the same family but are a different genus and species.

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Habitats

Atlantic mackerel habitats

  • Atlantic mackerel are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Canada down to the eastern coast of the United States to North Carolina. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, they are found from Iceland and Norway and south to Mauritania.
    • Atlantic mackerel are also found in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas.
  • Atlantic mackerel can be found in deeper waters from the surface dow to 660 feet deep. They prefer water above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spanish mackerel habitats

  • Spanish mackerel are found off the Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are far north as Massachusetts and south down to Florida.
  • Spanish mackerel prefer shallow waters and sand bottoms in depths from 10 to 40 feet.

Spanish mackerel and Atlantic mackerel are both found along the eastern coast of the U.S. but Spanish mackerel are found more south to the Gulf of Mexico. Atlantic mackerel are found more north in Canada.

Places where Spanish mackerel are found and Atlantic mackerel are not found:

  • Florida
  • The Gulf of Mexico

Places where Atlantic mackerel are found and Spanish mackerel are not found:

  • Canada
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Baltic Sea
  • Black Sea
  • Mediterranean Sea
Spanish Mackerel and Atlantic mackerel photo comparison
(top) Spanish Mackerel (bottom) Atlantic Mackerel

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Appearance

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Colors

  • Atlantic mackerel have an iridescent blue green back and upper sides, silvery white lower sides and belly. The top half of the body has 20-30 wavy black lines running down the length of the body.
    • There’s a dark streaky line running the length of the body half way up the sides, directly under the wavy lines and blueish green coloring.
  • Spanish mackerel have a greenish back, silver sides and belly. Spanish mackerel have yellow or olive green spots on their sides.

Spanish mackerel have a greenish back while the Atlantic mackerel’s back is iridescent blue green. Atlantic mackerel have wavy dark lines on their upper sides which Spanish mackerel doesn’t have. Spanish mackerel have yellow spots which Atlantic mackerel doesn’t have.

Dorsal Fins

  • Atlantic mackerel has two dorsal fins both having spines. The two dorsals are spaced far apart.
  • Spanish mackerel has two dorsal fins. The front dorsal has about 15 spines and the front is taller than the rear. The second dorsal has about 15 soft rays.

The Atlantic mackerel two dorsal fins have spines while the Spanish mackerel front dorsal is spiny and the second one having soft rays. Atlantic mackerel’s dorsal fins are spaced farther part than the Spanish mackerel’s dorsal fins.

Anal Fins

  • The Atlantic mackerel has one anal fin having soft rays with no spines.
  • The Spanish mackerel has one anal fin having soft rays with no spines.

Atlantic mackerel and Spanish mackerel have one anal fin each with soft rays and no spines.

Tail Fins

  • The Atlantic mackerel tail fin is forked.
  • The Spanish mackerel tail fin is forked.

Spanish mackerel’s tail fin is more forked than the Atlantic mackerel’s tail fin. The Spanish mackerel deeply forked tail fin resembles a boomerang.

Mouth

  • The Atlantic mackerel mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line.
  • The Spanish mackerel mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. Spanish mackerel have a single row of cutting edged teeth on both jaws.

Spanish mackerel and Atlantic mackerel have sharp teeth inside their mouth on the lower and upper jaws.

Body Shape

  • The Atlantic mackerel body is elongated, slender and tapers towards the tail fin.
  • The Spanish mackerel body is long, slender and tapers narrower towards the tail fin.

Spanish Mackerel and Atlantic mackerel have a long, narrow body which tapers towards the tail.

Distinguishing Marks

Atlantic Mackerel

  • Atlantic mackerel have 20-30 wavy dark lines on the upper sides running down the length of the body. 
  • Atlantic mackerel have a dark, narrow, blotchy line running down their body on the sides.

Spanish Mackerel

  • Spanish mackerel have a lateral line on the sides from the rear of the gill cover to rear. The lateral line begins higher and gradually slops down towards the middle of the body towards the tail.
  • Spanish mackerel have a dark spot at the front of the first dorsal fin.
  • Spanish mackerel have yellow spots on their sides.

Scales

  • The scales on the Atlantic mackerel are tiny.
  • The scales on the Spanish mackerel are tiny.

The scales on the Spanish Mackerel and Atlantic mackerel are small.

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Size and Weight

  • Atlantic mackerel averages 12-17 inches long and weighs 2.2 pounds.
  • Spanish mackerel averages 19-33 inches long and weighs up to 13 pounds. The females grow longer and weigh more than the males.

Spanish mackerel weigh much more than Atlantic mackerel and can grow two times longer.

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Lifespan

  • Atlantic mackerel lives up to 20 years.
  • Spanish mackerel lives up to 12 years.

If you’re interested in the differences between a king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, check out my article, Spanish Mackerel vs King Mackerel – What’s The Difference?

Diet

Atlantic mackerel consumes the following:

  • Copepods
  • Small fish
  • Squid
  • Plankton
  • Krill
  • Shrimp

Spanish mackerel consumes the following:

  • Anchovies
  • Shrimp
  • Small fish
  • Alewives
  • Squid
  • Herring
  • Menhaden

Mackerel and other fish are known for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.

If you’re eating low-carb or want to give keto a try, many of my clients have followed this 28-Day Keto Challenge with great success. Visit their website and check it out.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel: Tastes and Textures

One of the main reasons people chooses a particular fish to eat is its taste and texture. At the end of the day, nobody wants to eat a fish they don’t think tastes good. When comparing the two fish, does Spanish mackerel taste like Atlantic mackerel?

Atlantic mackerel and Spanish mackerel have a similar medium flavor taste. Their flavor is not considered mild or sweet. Atlantic mackerel and Spanish mackerel have an oilier flesh than other mackerel due to their higher fat content. Both mackerel have a similar firm texture which breaks apart into small flakes. 

What does Atlantic mackerel taste like? Atlantic mackerel have a medium taste. The flesh is slightly oily due to its fat content. The texture is firm and flaky. 

What does Spanish mackerel taste like? Spanish mackerel have a medium taste. The fish is slightly oily due to its high fat content. The texture is firm and breaks apart into small flakes.

Some people find mackerel tastes more like tuna than salmon. Depending where the mackerel was caught, it may taste slightly fishy to some people. Although most people don’t think it’s too fishy.

I polled members of food groups I belong to and some readers. The following are the results of my poll which consisted of 33 people. I asked which fish tasted better, Atlantic mackerel or Spanish mackerel?

  • 53% preferred the taste of Atlantic mackerel.
  • 41% preferred the taste of Spanish mackerel.
  • 6% said they had no preference between the two.

If you’re interested in the differences between a king mackerel and an Atlantic mackerel, check out my article, King Mackerel vs Mackerel: What’s The Difference? We Compare.

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Substitutions

It’s not always possible to locate the type of fish required for your recipe in the local fish market or store. In addition, you may have one fish already in the refrigerator ready to be used. If you have some Spanish mackerel, you may ask, can I substitute Spanish mackerel for Atlantic mackerel?

Spanish mackerel can substitute for Atlantic mackerel due to their similar medium flavors. Both fish can be cooked using similar cooking methods due to their firm textures. Spanish and Atlantic mackerel can be cooked by frying, searing, grilling, broiling or baking. 

Atlantic mackerel substitutes include the following:

  • Tuna
  • Catfish
  • Bass
  • Northern pike
  • Salmon
  • Bullhead

Spanish mackerel substitutes include the following:

  • Catfish
  • Tuna
  • Northern pike
  • Bass
  • Bullhead
  • Salmon

When substituting Spanish or Atlantic mackerel always stick to the following:

  • Same size and weight.
  • Stick with similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
  • Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
  • Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling 11.

How To Cook Atlantic Mackerel

Some people may find Atlantic mackerel a little fishy therefore the preparation is important. Many people soak the fish in icy water or milk, rinse the fillets and soak the fish again. Repeat this process until the flesh of the fish and the water become clearer. 

Popular ways to cook Atlantic mackerel include:

  • Grilling
  • Frying
  • Broiling
  • Baking
  • Searing

Atlantic mackerel flavor pairings:

  • Olive oil
  • White wine
  • Lemon
  • Cajun
  • Smoked paprika

How To Cook Spanish Mackerel

Popular ways to cook Spanish mackerel:

  • Grilling
  • Frying
  • Searing
  • Broiling
  • Baking

Flavor pairings for Spanish mackerel:

  • Italian dressing
  • Smoked paprika
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • White wine
  • Cajun

Quick Links To More Fish vs Fish Articles You May Be Interested In:

Mahi Mahi vs Halibut: What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Herring vs Sardines – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Tuna vs Salmon: Which is Better?

Brook Trout vs Brown Trout – Let’s Compare The Differences

How Much Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Cost

The prices for fish will vary depending on how the fish are caught and where they are sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label to see if it is farm-raised or wild-caught. Therefore, which fish costs more, Atlantic mackerel or Spanish mackerel?

Spanish mackerel and Atlantic mackerel fillets and whole fish have a similar price per pound. Whole Atlantic mackerel fish costs $15.98 per pound. Whole Spanish mackerel fish costs $15.59 per pound.

I checked the Fulton fish market online for prices:

  • Wild Spanish mackerel fillet
    • $22.40 per pound
  • Wild whole Spanish mackerel
    • $15.59 per pound
  • Wild whole Atlantic mackerel
    • $15.98 per pound

I also checked Citarella online for prices:

  • Whole Atlantic mackerel fish
    • $10.80 per pound
  • Whole Spanish mackerel fish
    • $13.19 per pound
  • Spanish Mackerel fillet
    • $20.56 per pound

I checked Fresh Direct online and found the following prices:

  • Wild Spanish fillet
    • $16.99 per pound

To save some money on fresh seafood, would you believe some can be purchased on Amazon? Check out their current prices and selection, Fresh Seafood.

Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel Nutrient Comparison

Below is a nutrient comparison of Atlantic mackerel and Spanish mackerel per four ounces raw:

Nutrient Spanish mackerel, raw (4 Ounces) Atlantic mackerel, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 158 232
Fat 7.1 g 16 g
Saturated Fat 2.1 g 3.7 g
Cholesterol 86 mg 79 mg
Protein 22 g 21 g
Omega-3 1.64 g 2.85 g
B-6 0.4 mg 0.4 mg
B-12 2.7 mcg 9.8 mcg
Thiamin 0.14 mg 0.20 mg
Riboflavin 0.19 mg 0.35 mg
B5 0.8 mg 0.9 mg
Iron 0.5 mg 1.8 mg
Niacin 2.6 mg 10.2 mg
Folate 1.1 mcg 1.1 mcg
Potassium 505 mg 356 mg
Magnesium 37 mg 86 mg
Phosphorus 232 mg 246 mg
Calcium 12.4 mg 13.6 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg 0.7 mg
Selenium 41.3 mcg 50.0 mcg

Nutrient Resources 12 13 14 15

Both mackerel contain a wide variety of similar nutrients. Spanish mackerel contains more of some nutrients while Atlantic mackerel contains more of others. Many people like knowing what fish is better for them. Therefore, which is healthier, Atlantic mackerel or Spanish mackerel?

Atlantic mackerel is healthier than Spanish mackerel due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals. Atlantic mackerel provides more B12, thiamin, riboflavin, B5, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and selenium than Spanish mackerel.

Spanish Mackerel also contains a good number of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, it provides more potassium, protein and similar amounts of B6 and folate.

Both mackerel contain a high amount of fat but it’s the healthy fat like the omega-3s which drives the number higher. Omega-3 fatty acids may be the best reason why most fresh fish are healthy. Keep reading the next section to find out why omega-3s are beneficial.

I recently published an article comparing Cero Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel. You can check it out here, Spanish Mackerel vs Cero Mackerel – What’s The Difference?

The Health Benefits of Atlantic Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel

Editor’s Note: The information on Foods For Anti Aging is meant to be informative in nature and not meant to be taken as medical advice. The articles and opinions on this website are not intended to be used as as a treatment, prevention or diagnosis of health problems. Before modifying or starting any new nutritional, fitness, exercise or/and supplement routine, always check with your doctor first.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Atlantic mackerel provides one of the highest percentages of omega-3 fatty acids in the seafood world. It provides 2.85 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per four ounces. Spanish mackerel provides 1.64 grams per four ounces.

The fatty acids provided help keep arteries healthy and are considered heart healthy.

The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Lowering triglycerides.
  • Reduce plaque buildup.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more regulated.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 16.

Studies suggest omega-3s boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, they’ve been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

I also compared Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Chub Mackerel in a recent article. Find out which mackerel tasted better in my reader poll, Atlantic Mackerel vs Pacific Chub Mackerel: The Differences.

Magnesium

Atlantic mackerel provides 86 mg of magnesium per four ounces. Spanish Mackerel provides 37 mg. Magnesium helps to calm and relax the whole body including blood vessels. It has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 17.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 18.

Magnesium helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

B Vitamins

Atlantic mackerel provides a higher percentage of 5 of the 7 B vitamins listed in the table above. The B vitamins provided include the following:

  1. B1 (thiamin)
  2. B2 (riboflavin)
  3. B3 (niacin)
  4. B5
  5. B6
  6. B9 (folate)
  7. B12

B vitamins help support the following:

  • Digestion.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Brain function.
  • Red blood cells.
  • Nerve function.
  • Energy levels.

Phosphorus

Atlantic mackerel provides 246 mg of phosphorus. Spanish mackerel provides 232 mg. Phosphorus has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

  • Promote teeth and bone strength.
  • Help the body manage and store energy.
  • Help the kidneys with waste removal.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Muscle contraction.
  • Promote healthy nerve conduction.

Potassium

Spanish mackerel provides 505 mg and Atlantic mackerel provides 356 mg of potassium per four ounces. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 19.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 20.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 21.

Calcium

Calcium which Atlantic and Spanish mackerel provide is important for blood pressure and the heart.

Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 22.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Muscles require calcium to function properly.
  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Improve nerve function.

Selenium

Atlantic mackerel provides 50 mcg of selenium per four ounces and Spanish mackerel provides 41.3 mcg. Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much attention in nutrient articles. I’m unsure why many people don’t write about it more.

Many studies 23 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system

Another Mackerel vs Mackerel article I recently published, Chub Mackerel vs Jack Mackerel: What’s The Difference?

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Walleye vs Cod – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare Them

Rock Bass vs Green Sunfish – Are They The Same? We Compare

Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

Pacific Cod vs Sockeye (Pacific Salmon) Which Is Better?

Halibut vs Flounder – Is There A Difference? Let’s Compare

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Wikipedia: Atlantic mackerel[]
  2. NOAA Fisheries: Atlantic Mackerel[]
  3. Mass.gov: Learn about Atlantic mackerel[]
  4. Delaware.gov: Atlantic Mackerel[]
  5. Fishwatch U.S. Seafood Facts: Atlantic Mackerel[]
  6. Wikipedia: Spanish mackerel[]
  7. NOAA Fisheries: Spanish Mackerel[]
  8. Delaware.gov: Spanish Mackerel[]
  9. Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Spanish Mackerel[]
  10. North Carolina Environmental Quality: State urges fishermen to learn the difference between king mackerel and Spanish mackerel[]
  11. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions[]
  12. USDA: Fish, mackerel, Atlantic, raw[]
  13. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, Atlantic, mackerel[]
  14. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, Spanish, mackerel[]
  15. USDA: Fish, mackerel, Spanish, raw[]
  16. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  17. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  19. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  20. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  21. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  22. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  23. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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