Last Updated on October 17, 2023 by Carne Diem
Protein: Seafood, Fish
Origin: Caribbean, Jamaican
Method: Grilled or FriedJump to Recipe
This fresh Caribbean red snapper recipe is seasoned and grilled to flaky perfection, before being served with a traditional Caribbean Escovitch sauce with onion, peppers, and Scotch Bonnet chiles. While this dish is more traditionally served fried, grilling the whole red snapper adds a wonderful smoked element to the Caribbean fish.
Table of contents
While Red Snapper Escovitch is an extremely popular dish in Jamaica, I was first introduced to this seafood dish while travelling to Grand Cayman. A local restaurant along the water was serving fresh catch of the day from the fisherman next door. The delicious red snapper was from the ocean to my plate in under 20 minutes. It ended up being one of my favorite meals of the entire trip, and I knew I needed to make this Grilled Caribbean Red Snapper Escovitch at home, when I got back.
What is Escovitch?
Escovitch is typically a fish dish that is traditionally fried, and then topped with a pickled bell peppers, onions, carrots, and Scotch bonnet peppers. The name is believed to be derived from the Spanish term escabeche, which means to pickle.
How to make Red Snapper Escovitch
Escovitch fish is typically fried, but we have grown to love this version where the whole red snapper is grilled over charcoal before being topped with the pickled escovitch sauce. We will take you through step-by-step instructions on how to make the best escovitch snapper, both the fried and the grilled versions.
To make this Grilled or Fried Red Snapper recipe you will need 4 fresh Red Snapper, cleaned and scaled. You will need assorted spices for the seafood seasoning and bell peppers, Scotch Bonnet peppers, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, allspice and thyme for the escovitch sauce.
Making Fried Red Snapper Escovitch
To make the fried red snapper with escovitch sauce you will need to prepare your seafood seasoning, make the escovitch sauce, and then fry the fish.
Prepare the Seafood Seasoning
This fish snapper recipe seasoning uses a simple homemade seafood seasoning that can be made in about a minute. Paprika, pepper, garlic powder and Adobo seasoning compliment the Caribbean fish perfectly. To make the seasoning, combine all of the ingredients for the snapper seasoning in a small bowl and mix to combine. This recipe should provide enough seasoning to flavor four fish.
Prep the Snapper
The red snapper should be cleaned and scaled. For the best red snapper escovitch, make sure you are getting the freshest fish possible, from a reliable source. Give the fish a brief rinse under some cold water, then place on a large cutting board. Next, cut 3 slits into the flesh of the snapper on both sides of the fish. Rub some of the seafood seasoning into the slits and then rub additional seasoning on the inside and outside of the fish.
Make the Escovitch Sauce for the Fish
To make the Jamaican pickled vegetable sauce, julienne cut the bell peppers and onion. Peel the carrot and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks. Finely dice the Scotch Bonnet peppers. We recommend wearing gloves when handling hot chili peppers and be sure to wash your hand well after cutting them. If you do not have access to Scotch Bonnet Peppers, you may substitute habanero peppers.
Heat a cast iron pan or skillet over medium heat. The sauce can be made indoors or, if you are grilling the fish, the entire recipe can be made on your grill.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan, then sauté the Scotch bonnet, allspice, and garlic for about 2 minutes. Next, add the onion, carrot, and peppers to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes.
Finally, add all of the remaining escovitch ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and reserve while you cook the fish.
Frying the Red Snapper
Fill a deep, heavy bottomed skillet with about an inch of vegetable or canola oil and heat over medium heat, or about 350-370 degrees. Fry the fish for about 4-6 minutes per side, then check for doneness.
Red snapper is safe to eat at an internal temperature of about 125 degrees, but we feel it is most enjoyable at a temperature of about 135-140 degrees. This temperature assures food safety while still keeping the meat moist and flavorful. Remove the fish to a paper towel lined dish or plate while you cook the remaining fish.
Making Whole Grilled Snapper Escovitch
To make snapper escovitch on your grill, prepare the fish just as you would for the fried version. Grilled whole snapper is one of our favorite ways to prepare this Caribbean red snapper recipe.
Heat your grill to about 400 degrees, and make sure your grill grates are well oiled. The fish can be grilled over direct or indirect heat. The cook time will be a little shorter over direct heat and you will get a crispier skin. Our preference is over indirect heat, as we feel the snapper cooks more evenly and develops a more pronounced smoke or charcoal flavor.
Grill the snapper, flipping about every 5 minutes. Typically, the fish will take about 10-20 minutes to cook, depending on if you are cooking over direct or indirect heat.
Serving the Jamaican Red Snapper Escovitch
To serve the Whole Caribbean Red Snapper top the fried or grilled fish with the Escovitch pickled vegetables. Spoon some of the additional liquid from the sauce for an extra tangy flavor. Salt to taste and serve with your favorite sides like Puerto Rican Arroz Con Gandules: Rice with Pigeon Peas, Caribbean Rice and Beans, or Jalapeno Black Eyed Peas with Smoked Pork Jowl.
What is Red Snapper and other FAQ
Red Snapper is one of the most highly prized offshore fish. The snapper's mild white flesh has a slightly nutty flavor, and the fish holds up well to multiple cooking methods including baking frying, and grilling.
According to WebMD, Red Snapper has a number of health benefits including being high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. It also contains high levels of nutrients like selenium which is good for thyroid health and your immune system. Red Snapper can contain some levels of mercury, so it is not recommended that you eat it more than 3 times a week.
Red snapper skin is 100% edible and the crispy skin from frying or grilling the fish is absolutely delicious. If you decide you do not want to eat the skin, it can easily be peeled back after cooking to get to the flaky white meat underneath.
Red Snapper does contain bones and some of them can be small. Care should be taken when eating the fish to make sure that you do not swallow any small bones.
For more great seafood recipes to make on your grill or smoker, check out some of these must try fish and shellfish recipes:
- New Orleans Style Chargrilled Oysters
- Maple Bourbon Hot Smoked Salmon
- Grilled Clams Casino
- Mahi Mahi Tacos with Chipotle Crema and Mango Salsa
- Grilled Feta and Orzo Stuffed Branzino
- Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks
- Spicy, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp: Bottle Rocket Shrimp
- Wood Fired Croatian Mussels: Dagnje na Buzaru
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Whole Red Snapper Escovitch
- 4 Red Snapper
- Vegetable Oil for frying
- 1 Sweet Onion
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1 Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper
- 2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers
- 1 Large Carrot or 2 small
- 2 Green Onions diced
- 2 sprigs Thyme
- ½ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Chicken Bouillon
- 1 Garlic Clove
- ½ teaspoon Whole Allspice
- 1 Cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons Olive or Vegetable Oil
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 2 teaspoons Black Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Sweet Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Adobo Seasoning
- In a small bowl, combine all of the seasoning ingredients and mix to combine.
- The red snapper should be cleaned and scaled. Rinse the fish a briefly under some cold water, then place on a large cutting board.
- Next, cut 3 slits into the flesh of the snapper on both sides of the fish. Rub some of the seafood seasoning into the slits and then rub additional seasoning on the inside and outside of the fish.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat. Sauté the Scotch Bonnet, garlic, and allspice for 2 minutes
- Add the julienned onion, carrot, and peppers to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Finally, add all of the remaining escovitch ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and reserve while you cook the fish.
Frying the Fish
- Heat about 1 inch of oil in a deep skillet, over medium heat, or between 350-360 degrees.
- Fry each of the whole fish for about 5-7 minutes per side, or when the internal temperature of the fish is about 140 degrees.
- Remove to a towel lined dish while you fry the remaining snapper.
Grilling the Whole Red Snapper
- Heat your grill to 400 degrees, and make sure your grill grates are well oiled.
- Grill the fish for about 15-20 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes. Remove when the snapper reaches and internal temperature of 140 degrees.
Serving the Red Snapper Escovitch
- Top the Caribbean Red Snapper with the escovitch sauce. Serve with your favorite sides like rice of grilled vegetables.