I am so excited to share this post with you – it is truly a bite out of Bora Bora, with strong island flavors and influences. Mahi mahi baked in banana leaves is a classic French-Polynesian dish, with a unique flavor you can only taste while on the island. Or if you follow this recipe, you can taste the island life! No passport or sunscreen required. Don’t be afraid to bake with banana leaves, they are so easy to use and infuse the most incredible flavor into a dish. Baking with banana leaves also elevates your dish, really giving it a ‘wow’ factor! It’s kind of like dressing to impress, except this time the banana leaves are your island tuxedo.
I first saw mahi mahi baked in banana leaves while in culinary school, and the flavors and cooking methods were something I had never seen before – which made me even more curious about this island-inspired cooking technique! Seeing this classic mahi mahi dish again in Bora Bora reignited my love for baking with big, green banana leaves! Mahi mahi, vanilla beans, and coconut milk are all classic French-Polynesian ingredients found throughout many local island dishes. This dish combines my favorite flavors we enjoyed so often while visiting Bora Bora. It is truly a bite of the island!
Where can I find the ingredients for mahi mahi baked in banana leaves?: Vanilla beans can be found at all grocery stores, located in the spice isle. Banana leaves are typically not found in your everyday supermarket, however, I was able to find shelves full of banana leaves in the produce section of my local Asian market. I bought two pounds for $3! Mahi mahi is most commonly found in the frozen seafood section. It’s not often you will find fresh mahi mahi at your local market, so I used frozen mahi mahi from Orca Bay from Sprouts for this recipe – and it worked perfectly.
Substitutions: You can substitute banana leaves with tinfoil when baking and mahi mahi can be substituted with cod fish or (for a meatier texture) swordfish or tuna.
Now, let’s talk about what you came here for ..
Mahi Mahi Baked in Banana Leaves with Island Slaw
First, start by setting your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then begin preparing the banana leaves. To prep the banana leaves, throughly wash, trim any discolored ends, and cut into square sheets. Place one cup of cooked rice in the center of the banana leaf square, then lay a uncooked mahi mahi 4 oz fillet on top of the rice. Season the mahi mahi with salt and pepper.
Fold the banana leaf to make a rectangular pouch with the fish and rice wrapped tightly inside. Secure the banana leaf bundle with kitchen string. Continue these steps until you have made all of the mahi mahi and banana leaf bundles.
When wrapping, don’t focus on perfection! Just focus on securing the bundles so the rice and fish don’t fall out. This step was the hardest – for some reason my banana leaves were extra fussy. Remember, the purpose of the wrapped fish is to infuse flavor, not look picture-perfect. That part will come later!
Place the mahi mahi banana leaf bundles on a baking sheet and pop them in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. In the oven, the banana leaves will become discolored and dry out, this is totally normal and all part of the flavor-infusing process. While you wait for the bundles to bake, prepare the island slaw and banana leaf placemats.
In a bowl, whisk lite coconut milk, juice from one lime, and a split vanilla bean exposing the black beans inside. Once the black vanilla bean specks have been extracted and the liquid ingredients have been thoroughly combined, remove the vanilla bean pod. Add four cups of shredded purple cabbage to the bowl and toss until all the cabbage is thoroughly coated in the coconut milk mixture. Set the island slaw aside, covered in the refrigerator, until the fish is cooked and ready to be topped with slaw.
(Optional) If you are lucky enough to have leftover banana leaves, you have the option to create gorgeous banana leaf placemats. Select the most beautiful, vibrant, and clean banana leaves and, using a bowl and a knife, carefully cut perfect circles using the bowl rim as your guide.
After 30 minutes, your mahi mahi baked in banana leaves will be ready. Remember when I said it doesn’t matter how perfect the banana leaf bundles look before they go in the oven? Check out the picture below. This is why! After the mahi mahi has baked in the banana leaf bundles, carefully (it’s hot!) remove the kitchen string and unwrap each bundle. Transfer the rice and fish from each bundle to a separate serving plate. If using the banana leaf circular placemats, place the fish and rice directly onto the leaf placemat.
Top each serving with one heaping cup of the island cabbage slaw. There might be extra coconut milk liquid in the bottom of the island slaw mixing bowl. Use it as extra sauce for each serving. It’s too creamy and delicious for it to go to waste – the slaw sauce is one of my favorite parts of this recipe.
Cut an optional lime wedge and squeeze with fresh juice, if desired.
Serve immediately and enjoy the ‘wow’s’ and ‘oohs’ from your hungry crowd. I guarantee they have never had mahi mahi baked in banana leaves before and this island-inspired recipe will take their tastebuds to paradise.
Cooking with banana leaves shouldn’t be intimidating. They are worth the grocery store treasure hunt, and infuse the most unique flavor into your food. Plus, they look really fancy and dress up any dish. No one has to know how cheap or easy they are to cook with! It will be our little secret 😉
This recipe is a true taste of the French-Polynesian Islands and I hope you enjoy this bite of Bora Bora I made just for you!
Mahi Mahi Baked in Banana Leaves with Island Slaw
A true taste of the island, this recipe combines my favorite flavors from Bora Bora. Baking with banana leaves infuses flavor into the mahi mahi, which is then topped with traditional French-Polynesian ingredients like vanilla bean and coconut milk mixed into a purple cabbage slaw.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- 1/2 cup light coconut milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- Juice from 1 lime
- 4 cups shredded red cabbage
Mahi Mahi Baked in Banana Leaves
- 1 lb of fresh banana leaves (can substitute with tinfoil for baking)
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 4 – 4 oz fillets of mahi mahi (can substitute with cod, swordfish, or tuna)
- light salt and pepper for seasoning
- 4 pieces of 4 foot long cooking string
- (optional) additional lime wedges for drizzling before serving
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Wash banana leaves and trim any discolored edges. Cut banana leaves into large squares, big enough to completely wrap the rice and mahi mahi inside (about 2 square feet).
- Place 1 cup of cooked rice in the middle of the pre-cut banana leaf square (or tinfoil if substituting), place mahi mahi on top of rice, then lightly season the fish with salt and pepper. Wrap the rice and mahi mahi in the banana leaves into enclosed rectangular bundles and secure with kitchen string (wrap string like you are wrapping a present for maximum hold).
- After all 4 banana leaf bundles have been made, place directly on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. The banana leaves will discolor, wilt, and dry out – this is normal and is part of the flavor-infusing process!
- While the mahi mahi is baking, prepare the island slaw by combining the light coconut milk, lime juice, and split vanilla bean exposing the black beans inside the pod. Whisk the liquid slaw ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined and the vanilla bean seeds are extracted from the pod. Remove and discard the split vanilla bean from the liquid and add 4 cups of shredded purple cabbage, combining until the shredded cabbage is thoroughly coated. Set the island slaw aside and keep refrigerated until the mahi mahi has finished baking.
- (optional) If you have extra banana leaves you can create banana leaf placemats to go on top of your serving plates. Place a serving bowl, rim-side down, on a clean banana leaf. Use a knife to trace the edge of the bowl, carefully cutting a perfect circle into the leaf. Place banana leaf circle placemats directly onto the serving plate, one placemat per plate.
- Once finished cooking, remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully unwrap the bundles of mahi mahi baked in banana leaves. Transfer the rice and fish of each bundle to individual serving plates (right on top of the optional circular banana leaf placemats) and top with one heaping cup of island slaw. Drizzle the remaining island slaw sauce and optional lime wedge over the dish before serving. Enjoy immediately!
- If using frozen mahi mahi, thaw the fish in the refrigerator the night before.
Nutrition info per serving
- (4 oz of mahi mahi, 1 cup cooked white rice (unseasoned), 1 cup island slaw)
- 1 serving of vegetables, 3.5 oz protein, 2 oz grain
- 484 calories, 16 g total fat (6.5 g saturated fat), 553 mg sodium, 70 mg cholesterol, 152 g carbohydrate (3 g fiber), 31 g protein, 20% DV iron, 9% DV calcium, 14% DV vitamin A, 74% DV vitamin C, 45% DV vitamin B6, 38% vitamin K
- Serving Size: 4
- Calories: 486
- Sugar: 18
- Sodium: 87
- Fat: 9
- Saturated Fat: 6
- Unsaturated Fat: 2
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 90
- Protein: 15
- Cholesterol: 22