Ilish Macher Jhol Recipe | Hilsa Fish Curry

5 from 1 vote
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Indulge in the delightful flavors of Ilish Macher Jhol, a traditional Bengali dish featuring the prized hilsa fish.

This recipe combines the distinct taste of hilsa with potatoes and eggplants, creating a dish that’s aromatic and satisfying.

The addition of onions and tomatoes lends a subtle sweet and sour note, while the touch of green chilis adds a hint of heat.

It offers a flavorful culinary experience rooted in Bengali tradition. Let us dive into the details of this recipe.

Ilish Macher Jhol

Key Takeaways:

  • Traditional Bengali Delight: Ilish Macher Jhol is a traditional Bengali dish featuring aromatic hilsa fish, potatoes, and eggplants—a flavorful culinary heritage.
  • Balanced Flavors: Onions and tomatoes provide a subtle sweet-sour balance, while green chilis add a hint of heat to this savory dish.
  • Distinctive Ingredients: The recipe involves frying marinated hilsa fish, combining it with spices, vegetables, and creating a flavorful gravy.
  • Serve with Steamed Rice: Pairing Ilish Macher Jhol with steamed rice enhances the dining experience by melding rich flavors and contrasting textures.
  • Customizable and Aromatic: Adjust spices to taste; experience the dish’s aromatic hilsa fish, harmonious blend of veggies, and a nuanced blend of sweet, sour, and spicy notes.

The Ingredients:

  • Ilish or hilsa fish: 4 pieces (cut & cleaned)
  • Turmeric powder: 1 ½ tbsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tbsp
  • Mustard oil: 3 tbsp
  • Black mustard seeds: ½ tbsp
  • Onion: 1 piece (chopped)
  • Tomato: 1 piece (chopped)
  • Potato: 1 piece (cut into longitudinal pieces)
  • Eggplant: 1 piece (cut into longitudinal pieces)
  • Green chilis: 4 pieces (slitted)
  • Coriander leaves: 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

How to Cook Ilish Macher Jhol (Step by Step Images)?

1. Smear the hilsa fish with 1/4 tbsp of turmeric powder and 1/4 tbsp of salt. Let it sit aside for 10 minutes.

Marinating hilsa fish

2. Heat a wok and add 3 tbsp of mustard oil. Carefully place the four hilsa fishes into the hot oil. Lightly fry the fishes.

(Expert tip: Add oil as per your preference. Be cautious while adding the fishes into the oil, as it can cause splattering.)

Frying marinated hilsa fish

3. Flip the fishes and fry both sides until they are cooked as expected. Remove the fishes from the oil once they are done.

Flipping the fishes and fry both sides

4. Now, add 1/2 tbsp of black mustard seeds into the oil. Sauté them until they emit a pleasant aroma. Add chopped onions and stir-fry.

(Expert tip: Onions are optional.)

Adding black mustard seeds, chopped onions to the oil

5. When the onions are fried, add the eggplants and potatoes. Stir them for 2 mins. Add 1 tbsp of salt and mix everything well.

(Expert tip: You can use nigella seeds instead of black mustard seeds. Adjust the salt to your taste.)

Adding the eggplants, potatoes, salt and stirring

6. Add 1 tbsp of turmeric powder and 1 tbsp of chili powder then mix everything thoroughly. Add a small amount of water and stir until the turmeric aroma dissipates.

Adding turmeric powder, chili powder, water and stirring

7. Now, add the chopped tomatoes and stir until they soften. Once the stirring is complete, add 1 cup of water. Cover and let it cook.

(Expert tip: Tomatoes are optional. Add water according to your desired consistency.)

Adding the chopped tomatoes and stirring

8. Uncover the lid and add the fishes. Place four slitted green chilis on top. Mix everything nicely. Cover it again and let it cook for 5 minutes.

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Uncovering the lid and adding the fishes, green chili

9. After 5 minutes, the cooking is complete. Turn off the heat and add the chopped coriander leaves.

(Expert tip: Coriander leaves are optional.)

Adding the chopped coriander leaves

10. Ilish Macher Jhol is ready.

Ilish Macher Jhol is ready

11. Transfer Ilish macher jhol to a bowl.

Transferring Ilish macher jhol to a bowl

Pro Tips for Making Ilish Macher Jhol

Prepping the Hilsa Fish: Before cooking, coat the hilsa fish with turmeric powder and salt. This helps in enhancing the flavor and allows the fish to absorb these spices.

Frying the Fish: Carefully fry the hilsa fish in hot mustard oil. Be cautious, as adding the fish to hot oil can cause splattering. Adjust the oil quantity as per your preference.

Sautéing Ingredients: Sauté black mustard seeds until aromatic before adding chopped onions. While onions are optional, they bring a subtle sweetness to the dish.

Balancing Flavors: Adjust the amount of salt and spices like turmeric and chili powder according to your taste preferences. You can replace black mustard seeds with nigella seeds for a different flavor profile.

Adding Tomatoes: If using tomatoes, stir them until they soften, allowing their sweet and tangy flavors to blend in. Add water for the desired consistency of the gravy.

Cooking the Fish in the Gravy: Add the fried fish to the gravy, along with slitted green chilis. Cover and let it cook for a few minutes to infuse the flavors.

Finishing Touch: Once done, turn off the heat and add chopped coriander leaves for a fresh taste. Coriander is optional but adds a nice aroma to the dish.

What to Serve with Ilish Macher Jhol?

Serving Ilish Macher Jhol with steamed rice

Ideal Accompaniment: The perfect pairing for Ilish Macher Jhol, a traditional Bengali hilsa fish dish, is steamed rice.

Enhanced Flavor Experience: Steamed rice acts as an excellent base to absorb the rich flavors of the dish, allowing the aromatic hilsa fish, potatoes, eggplants, and savory gravy to meld together beautifully.

Complementary Texture: The simplicity of steamed rice offers a contrasting softness that complements the various textures within the dish, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Highlighting Flavors: Serving steamed rice alongside Ilish Macher Jhol allows the intricate flavors of the hilsa fish, spices, and vegetables to be savored distinctly with each bite.

Celebrating Bengali Cuisine: The combination of Ilish Macher Jhol and steamed rice encapsulates the essence of Bengali culinary traditions, providing a satisfying and flavorful meal that’s deeply rooted in cultural heritage.

How Does Ilish Macher Jhol Taste?

Ilish Macher Jhol Featured Image

Aromatic Hilsa Fish: The prized hilsa fish brings an aromatic and distinct flavor to the dish, enhancing its overall richness.

Harmonious Blend of Ingredients: The combination of potatoes and eggplants melds seamlessly with the hilsa fish, contributing to a well-balanced and satisfying flavor profile.

Subtle Sweet and Sour Notes: The addition of onions and tomatoes provides a delicate balance of sweetness and tanginess, adding depth to the dish without overpowering the fish’s inherent taste.

Hint of Heat: The inclusion of slitted green chilis towards the end infuses a gentle, warming heat that complements the other flavors, adding a nuanced spicy element.

Symphony of Flavors: Every spoonful offers a delightful medley of aromatic fish, mildly spiced vegetables, and a savory gravy that dances on the palate, offering a blend of tastes that celebrates Bengali cuisine.

Customizable Taste: Adjusting the spices and ingredients to personal preferences allows for variations in taste, letting individuals tailor the dish to suit their desired flavor intensity.

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Overall, Ilish Macher Jhol presents a delightful amalgamation of flavors—aromatic, subtly sweet, tangy, and a touch of heat—all coming together to create a memorable culinary experience deeply entrenched in Bengali culinary heritage.

Ilish Macher Jhol Alternatives

Ilish Bhapa: Explore the aromatic flavors of hilsa fish by preparing Ilish Bhapa, where marinated hilsa pieces are cooked to perfection with mustard paste, coconut, and spices, steamed to lock in the moisture and flavors.

Doi Ilish (Hilsa in Yogurt Gravy): Indulge in Doi Ilish, a dish that features hilsa fish cooked in a creamy yogurt-based gravy infused with subtle spices, creating a delightful blend of tanginess and richness.

Shorshe Ilish (Hilsa in Mustard Gravy): Try Shorshe Ilish, a classic Bengali dish featuring hilsa fish cooked in a spicy mustard sauce, offering a punch of flavor with a perfect balance of heat and tanginess.

Ilish Paturi (Hilsa in Banana Leaf): Delight in Ilish Paturi, where marinated hilsa fish fillets are wrapped in banana leaves and cooked, allowing the fish to absorb the unique flavors of mustard, coconut, and spices.

Ilish Korma: Savor Ilish Korma, a rich and creamy dish featuring hilsa fish cooked in a flavorful, nut-based gravy, infused with spices and a hint of sweetness from caramelized onions.

Recipe Card

Ilish Macher Jhol Featured Image

Ilish Macher Jhol | Hilsa Fish Curry

By Mita Mondal
Ilish Macher Jhol is a traditional Bengali dish renowned for its aromatic and flavorful preparation featuring hilsa fish, potatoes, and eggplants cooked in a savory gravy with spices like turmeric, chili, mustard seeds, and mustard oil.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marination 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 359 kcal


  • 4 pieces Hilsa fish (cut & cleaned)
  • tbsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp Red chili powder
  • ½ tbsp Black mustard seed
  • 1 piece Onion (chopped)
  • 1 piece Tomato (chopped)
  • 1 piece Potato (cut into longitudinal pieces)
  • 1 piece Eggplant (cut into longitudinal pieces)
  • 4 pieces Green chili (slitted)
  • 1 tbsp Coriander leaves
  • 3 tbsp Mustard oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Prepare the Fish: Rub the hilsa fish with 1/4 tbsp of turmeric powder and 1/4 tbsp of salt. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
  • Fry the Fish: Heat 3 tbsp of mustard oil in a wok. Gently place the hilsa fish in the hot oil. Fry them lightly, flipping occasionally for even cooking.
    (Expert tip: Be cautious as hot oil can splatter. Adjust oil quantity to your liking.)
  • Sauté Aromatics: Add 1/2 tbsp of black mustard seeds to the oil. Sauté until fragrant. Stir in chopped onions until they're golden.
    (Expert tip: Onions are optional.)
  • Add Vegetables: Introduce eggplants and potatoes to the mix. Stir for 2 mins, then add 1 tbsp of salt. Mix well.
    (Expert tip: Use nigella seeds as an alternative to black mustard seeds. Adjust salt according to taste.)
  • Spice Blend: Mix in 1 tbsp of turmeric powder and 1 tbsp of chili powder. Stir until combined. Add a bit of water, stirring until the turmeric fragrance fades.
  • Tomato Addition: Incorporate chopped tomatoes, cooking until softened. Pour in 1 cup of water. Cover and allow it to simmer.
    (Expert tip: Tomatoes are optional. Adjust water for preferred consistency.)
  • Combining Fish and Spices: Uncover and place the fried fish into the mixture. Add four slitted green chilis on top. Mix gently, cover, and let it cook for 5 minutes.
  • Finishing Touch: After 5 minutes, turn off the heat. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves for added freshness.
    (Expert tip: Coriander leaves are optional.)
  • Transfer it into a serving bowl and savor the aromatic delight.


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Freshness Matters: Ensure the hilsa fish is fresh for the best taste. Look for clear, bright eyes, and a firm texture to ensure its freshness.
Turmeric Magic: Prepping the fish with turmeric and salt not only enhances the flavor but also helps in reducing the fishy odor while cooking.
Oil Caution: Mustard oil is traditional and adds a unique flavor. Use it cautiously as it has a low smoking point. If you prefer, you can use other oils like vegetable or canola oil.
Aromatic Seeds: Black mustard seeds offer a distinctive taste. If unavailable, nigella seeds can be a great substitute, imparting a slightly different flavor.
Customize Spices: Adjust the amount of chili powder and salt to your taste. For a milder dish, reduce the chili powder or omit green chilis.
Tomato's Role: Tomatoes add a tangy sweetness to the dish. If you prefer a less tangy flavor, you can reduce or skip the tomatoes.
Consistency Check: Control the gravy consistency by regulating the amount of water added. Some prefer it thick, while others enjoy a more liquid consistency.
Vegetable Variations: Feel free to experiment with different vegetables. Besides eggplants and potatoes, you can add other favorites like pumpkin or okra.
Garnishing Freshness: Chopped coriander leaves at the end not only enhance the aroma but also add a fresh touch to the dish. Adjust the quantity as per preference.
Time and Patience: Letting the fish and spices cook together allows the flavors to meld. Patience during the simmering process results in a more flavorful dish.
Remember, while these notes provide guidance, cooking is an art. Feel free to personalize the recipe to suit your taste preferences and make it your own!

Nutrition Info (Estimation Only)

Nutrition Facts
Ilish Macher Jhol | Hilsa Fish Curry
Amount per Serving
Calories from Fat 189
% 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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Ilish or hilsa fish, known for its aromatic taste, becomes even more delightful when combined with potatoes and eggplants.

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The blend of onions and tomatoes adds a mild sweet and sour twist, while the touch of green chilis adds a bit of heat.

Overall, Ilish Macher Jhol is a highly flavorful dish, perfect when paired with steamed rice for a fulfilling culinary experience.

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