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Chai Tea Halibut

Brad Fenson

Chai tea might seem like a strange ingredient to marinade fish in, but when you stop to consider what’s in chai, it all makes sense. 

Chai tea is a blend of different spices, where cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise, and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg, and fennel may also be used. You can make your own blend of chai or purchase it at your local grocery store and add extra spice to taste. Make sure to steep a big pot of chai when preparing the marinade, so the cook can enjoy a hot beverage while preparing dinner.

In India, chai is not a flavor of tea; it means “tea” in Hindi. The tea is brewed with whole milk, but for use as a marinade, the milk has been left out.

chai tea halibut


  • 2 lbs boneless halibut, skin on
  • 3 cups chai tea (see below)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Cracked black pepper


1. In a sealable container or zipper bag, mix chai tea and brown sugar. Place the halibut fillets in marinade and place in the refrigerator for one hour. 
2. Remove fish from marinade and pat the skin side of the fillet dry. Spray the skin with vegetable oil or rub on canola oil with a paper towel. Brush olive oil on the flesh of the fish and crack fresh, black pepper over the surface.
4. Preheat your grill to 400 degrees and cook skin-side down for 12 to 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness and size of fillets. 

Do-it-yourself Chai Tea Brine (double batch)

  • 4 of a star anise star
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, or 2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 8 whole white peppercorns
  • 4 cardamom pod opened to the seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Fennel optional
  • 4 bags black tea, or 2 Tbsp black tea leaves
  • 6 cups of water

Combine the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer for several minutes to infuse the water with flavor. Cool and use as your brine.

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