Ilish Bhorta Recipe | Mashed Hilsa Fish

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Ilish bhorta is a popular Bangladeshi dish that showcases the rich flavors of the country’s cuisine.

It is a traditional delicacy made with the Hilsa fish, also known as ilish, which is considered the national fish of Bangladesh.

The word “bhorta” refers to a type of mashed or pounded dish in Bengali cuisine.

In the case of ilish bhorta, the fish is cooked and then mashed with various ingredients to create a flavorful and spicy paste-like mixture.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ilish bhorta is a popular Bangladeshi dish showcasing the rich flavors of the country’s cuisine.
  • It is made with the hilsa fish, considered the national fish of Bangladesh.
  • Ilish bhorta has a unique taste that is rich, savory, and spicy.
  • Ilish bhorta is a cherished dish in Bengali cuisine, enjoyed with steamed rice or flatbreads, representing the culinary heritage of Bangladesh.

The Ingredients:

Ilish Bhorta Ingredients

  • Hilsa Fish – 2 tail portions, clean and cut
  • Onion – 3 pieces (chopped)
  • Dry Red Chilis – 4 pieces
  • Turmeric Powder – half spoon
  • Mustard Oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Salt – As required

How to Make Ilish Bhorta (Step by Step Images)?

1. First, marinate the Hilsa fish with turmeric and a pinch of salt. Leave it aside for 10 minutes

2. Next, lighten the earthen fireplace or preheat the gas stove.

lightening the earthen fireplace

3. Heat the pan and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot, add the Hilsa fish tail pieces.

Add the Hilsa fish tail pieces to oil

4. Fry the Hilsa fish pieces on both sides.

Frying Hilsa fish pieces

5. Take out the fried fish and add the four dried red chilis to the same oil.

Taking out the fried fish and adding the four dried red chilis

6. Now separate the bones from the fried Hilsa fish pieces by smashing it with a spatula and then using your hands to separate them.

Separate the bones from the fried Hilsa fish

7. Next, take the chopped onions and mix them with a pinch of salt. Then, mash the fried chilis and finally mix everything together perfectly.

Making Ilish Bhorta

8. Add 1 tablespoon of mustard oil.

Adding mustard oil

9. Ilish Bhorta is ready to serve.

Ilish Bhorta is ready

Pro Tips for Making Ilish Bhorta

Here are some pro tips to help you cook delicious ilish bhorta:

Fresh Hilsa: Start with fresh hilsa fish to ensure the best flavor. Look for fish that is firm, shiny, and has clear eyes. It should not have a strong fishy smell.

Proper Cleaning: Clean the fish thoroughly by removing scales, fins, and entrails. Rinse it well under cold water to get rid of any residual slime.

Marination: Marinate the fish with a combination of turmeric, and salt. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the fish.

Cooking Method: There are various methods to cook the hilsa fish for bhorta. You can pan-fry it with a little oil until it’s cooked and flakes easily or grill it over charcoal for a smoky flavor. Choose the method that suits your preference.

Deboning: Carefully remove the bones from the cooked fish. Hilsa has a lot of fine bones, so take your time to ensure all the bones are removed properly to avoid any unpleasant surprises while enjoying the bhorta.

Mashing Technique: Use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to mash the fish. This will help create a smooth and consistent texture. Make sure to mash it thoroughly to incorporate all the flavors.

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Spices and Seasonings: Use mustard oil for an authentic flavor. Add finely chopped onions, chilies, and spices like cumin powder, coriander powder, and black cumin (kalonji) for extra depth of flavor.

Adjust Spices: Taste the bhorta as you go and adjust the spices and seasonings according to your preference. Add more chilies for extra heat or adjust the salt and mustard paste to suit your taste.

Serving: Serve ilish bhorta as a main course with steamed rice or alongside flatbreads like roti or paratha. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves or sliced red onions for added freshness.

By following these pro tips, you’ll be able to create a delectable and authentic ilish bhorta that showcases the true flavors of Bangladeshi cuisine.

What to Serve with Ilish Bhorta?

Ilish bhorta is a flavorful and spicy dish that pairs well with a variety of accompaniments. Here are some popular options to consider serving alongside ilish bhorta:

Steamed Rice: The most common and traditional choice is to serve ilish bhorta with steamed white rice. The soft and fluffy rice helps balance the spiciness of the bhorta and allows you to savor its flavors.

Roti or Paratha: If you prefer bread, you can serve ilish bhorta with roti or paratha. These Indian flatbreads are great for scooping up the bhorta and provide a nice contrast in texture.

Luchi: Luchi, a deep-fried puffed bread made from all-purpose flour, is another delicious option to accompany ilish bhorta. Its light and airy texture pairs well with the bold flavors of the bhorta.

Remember, the choice of accompaniments may vary based on personal preferences and regional culinary traditions. Feel free to explore and experiment with different combinations to find your favorite pairing for ilish bhorta.

How Does Ilish Bhorta Taste?

Ilish Bhorta Taste

Here’s a description of how ilish bhorta tastes:

Rich and Savory: Ilish bhorta has a rich and savory taste that comes from the Hilsa fish. The fish itself has a slightly oily and buttery flavor, which adds depth to the bhorta. The spices used in the marinade and the cooking process infuse the fish with a warm and aromatic essence.

Spicy: Ilish bhorta is known for its spiciness. The use of green chilies, and other spices creates a spicy kick that lingers on the palate.

Umami Notes: The hilsa fish has a unique umami flavor that is enhanced through the cooking process and the mashing of the fish. Umami is often described as a savory, meaty, or brothy taste, and it adds a delightful richness to the bhorta.

Aromatic and Fragrant: The combination of spices, and mustard oil gives ilish bhorta a distinct aroma. As the bhorta is cooked and mashed, it releases a fragrant scent that entices the senses and makes the dish even more appetizing.

Complex and Balanced: Ilish bhorta offers a balance of flavors, combining the richness of the fish, the spiciness of the chilies, and the aromatic blend of spices. The flavors meld together to create a complex and harmonious taste profile.

Overall, ilish bhorta is a delightful combination of savory, spicy, and aromatic flavors. It showcases the unique characteristics of the Hilsa fish and the vibrant culinary traditions of Bangladesh.

Ilish Bhorta Alternatives

If you’re looking for alternatives to ilish bhorta, here are a few options that you can consider:

Ilish Bhapa: Bhapa means steamed in Bengali. Ilish bhapa is a popular Bengali dish where the hilsa fish is marinated with mustard paste, coconut, green chilies, and other spices. The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, resulting in a moist and flavorful dish.

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Shorshe Ilish: Shorshe refers to mustard in Bengali. Shorshe ilish is a dish where the hilsa fish is cooked in a tangy mustard sauce. The fish is marinated with a paste made from mustard seeds, green chilies, turmeric, and other spices, and then simmered in the sauce until it is cooked through. It has a distinct mustard flavor and is a popular alternative to bhorta.

Ilish Paturi: Paturi is a traditional Bengali cooking technique where the food is marinated with spices and then wrapped in banana leaves before being cooked. Ilish paturi involves marinating the hilsa fish with a mixture of mustard paste, coconut, yogurt, and spices, and then wrapping it in banana leaves and either steaming or grilling it. The banana leaves impart a unique aroma to the fish, and it is a flavorful and aromatic preparation.

Ilish Jhol: Ilish jhol is a lighter and soupy alternative to bhorta. In this dish, the hilsa fish is cooked in a spiced broth made with onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and various spices. It is a comforting and flavorful preparation that is often served with steamed rice.

Ilish Fry: If you prefer a simpler and crispier preparation, you can opt for ilish fry. In this dish, the hilsa fish is marinated with spices, coated with a batter, and then shallow or deep-fried until it turns golden and crispy. It is a popular way to enjoy the hilsa fish, and it pairs well with steamed rice or bread.

These are just a few alternatives to ilish bhorta that highlight the versatility of the hilsa fish in Bengali cuisine.

Each preparation offers a unique taste and cooking style, allowing you to explore different flavors and textures while savoring the deliciousness of the hilsa fish.

Recipe Card:

Ilish Bhorta

Ilish Bhorta (Mashed Hilsa Fish)

By Mita Mondal
Ilish Bhorta is a traditional Bangladeshi dish made from Hilsa fish, also known as Ilish. Bhorta refers to a type of dish in Bengali cuisine where ingredients are mashed or pureed.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 187 kcal


  • 2 pieces Hilsa Fish (tail portions, cut and clean)
  • 3 pieces Onion (chopped)
  • 4 pieces Dry Red Chilis
  • ½ tablespoon Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tablespoon Mustard Oil
  • Salt to Taste


  • Begin by marinating the Hilsa fish with a sprinkle of turmeric and a pinch of salt. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your cooking setup. If using an earthen fireplace, light it up. If using a gas stove, preheat it.
  • Heat a pan and add oil to it. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the marinated Hilsa fish tail pieces in the pan.
  • Fry the fish pieces on both sides until they turn golden and crispy.
  • Remove the fried fish from the pan and set it aside. In the same oil, add the four dried red chilies.
  • While the chilies fry, separate the bones from the fried Hilsa fish pieces. You can do this by gently smashing the fish with a spatula and then using your hands to separate the flesh from the bones.
  • Take the chopped onions and mix them with a pinch of salt. Then, mash the fried chilies into a paste-like consistency.
  • Combine the mashed onions, fried chilies, and separated Hilsa fish flesh together thoroughly, ensuring all the flavors blend well.
  • Finally, drizzle 1 tablespoon of mustard oil over the mixture to enhance the taste and aroma.
  • Your delicious Ilish Bhorta is now ready to be served.


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Hilsa Fish: Choose fresh and good-quality Hilsa fish for the best flavor. Look for firm, shiny fish with clear eyes and a fresh smell.
Marination: Marinating the fish with turmeric and salt helps to enhance the flavor and remove any fishy odor. Allow the fish to marinate for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate.
Cooking Method: Ilish Bhorta can be prepared by frying or steaming the fish. The recipe mentioned frying, but if you prefer a healthier option, you can steam the fish instead. Steaming retains more nutrients and keeps the fish moist.
Oil Selection: Traditionally, mustard oil is used in Bengali cuisine, including Ilish Bhorta, as it imparts a unique flavor. However, if you don't have mustard oil, you can substitute it with any other cooking oil of your choice.
Adjusting Spice Level: The heat level of the dish can be adjusted according to your preference. If you prefer a spicier bhorta, you can increase the amount of green chilies or add some red chili powder. Conversely, if you prefer a milder taste, reduce the amount of chilies accordingly.
Consistency: The texture of Ilish Bhorta can vary depending on personal preference. Some prefer a smooth paste-like consistency, while others prefer a slightly chunky texture. Adjust the level of mashing or pureeing the fish according to your desired consistency.
Serving Suggestions: Ilish Bhorta is traditionally served with steamed rice or flatbread, such as roti or paratha. It can also be enjoyed as a side dish with a Bengali meal.
Remember, cooking is a creative process, so feel free to experiment with the recipe and adjust the ingredients and flavors according to your taste preferences.

Nutrition Info (Estimation Only)

Nutrition Facts
Ilish Bhorta (Mashed Hilsa Fish)
Amount per Serving
Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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You can try this unique recipe when you are bored with your regular dishes.

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Ilish bhorta is a cherished dish in Bengali cuisine, featuring the flavorful Hilsa fish as its star ingredient.

Ilish bhorta is commonly enjoyed with steamed rice or flatbreads, and it represents the culinary heritage of Bangladesh.

Its unique flavors and cultural significance make it a beloved dish among locals and a captivating culinary experience for those seeking to explore Bengali cuisine.

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