How to Make Tinapa (Smoked Fish) at Home and Use Them in Recipes

One of the truly simple delicacies we have in the Philippines is the tinapa, and this smoked fish happens to have a special place in Filipino culture. Tinapa couldn’t be any more simpler– made with only salt, water, and heat.

It’s a delicacy born out of convenience and practicality, as a way to preserve fish and have it ready to eat in a pinch.

Tinapa is usually eaten with a side of white rice. It makes perfect sense, because the rice mellows down the saltiness of the fish. You can use this saltiness to your advantage when you come up with your own recipes. Get creative! The recipes below will show you how to use tinapa in dishes, and you can start exploring from there.


How to Make Tinapa at Home

Traditionally, tinapa is made with milkfish or bangus. This time I’ll be using a blue mackerel. Have these descaled and cleaned before brining.

  1. In a container, combine salt and water at a 1:5 ratio. Submerge fish and leave for at least 1 hour. I brined mine overnight for the best flavor.
  2. Before grilling, leave them out to air-dry (or place them under the sun). Let them dry for at least 1 hour or until the skin in completely dry. This will help the smoke cling to the skin much better.
  3. Prepare your grill by heating it to 120C. Place a pan of water over the coals to help the fish stay tender.
  4. Oil the rack and cook fish for 2 hours, covered.


Now that you have your freshly smoked tinapa, it’s time to use them in the kitchen!



Tinapa pasta, carbonapa, tinapasta, call it whatever you like. All you need to know is that this tastes absolutely delicious! You can use freshly smoked tuna or the ones that come in the grocery.

  • 1 pc of garlic, crushed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 smoked fish
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g pasta noodles
  1. Shred the dish into flakes, discard the bones.
  2. Cook pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente.
  3. Heat your pan to medium high and add oil. Add crushed garlic and tinapa flakes and cook for 3 minutes, until it is just about to turn crispy. Discard garlic and transfer cooked pasta to the pan.
  4. Add egg yolks and mix. Add pasta water if needed to thicken the sauce. Add parmesan cheese and continue to mix until melted.

Tinapa Fried Rice

If you want an upgrade to your tinapa and white rice, try this recipe!

  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili, sliced
  • 1 lemon
  • flat leaf parsley
  • 1 salted egg
  • 3-4 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Make a gremolata by combining minced parsley, garlic, and grated lemon rind.
  2. Prepare the salad by slicing salted egg and tomatoes, drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside in the fridge for later.
  3. In a pan over medium heat, add oil. Fry garlic and onions for 3 minutes until aromatic. Add red chili and brown rice, cook for an additional 3 minutes. Transfer and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, add oil. Fry the fish for 3-5 minutes on each side, until you get a slight crispy skin.
  5. To plate: add rice, tinapa, tomato salad, and atchara for the sides. Top with gremolata, kecap manis, and black pepper.
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