This Mexican Fish Recipe is a Veracruzana style fish made with a whole red snapper, lime juice, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and is baked to perfection.
I don’t understand how I have spent most of my life cooking fish in fillets. If you were to ask any chef, the best way to make a fish is whole. The meat is juicier, more tender and full of flavor because of the bones. Many may think cooking a whole fish is intimidating, but it is no easier than baking in fillets. You can tell if the fish is fresh by the smell - a fish should NOT smell fishy! It should smell clean and of the ocean. Check the eyes as well. The eyes should be clear, not cloudy. The gills should be bright red or orange, not brown. The fish should feel firm, and should not dent when you poke it. Ask them to gut, clean, scale and butterfly the fish before buying.
What is Mexican Style Fish?
Mexican-style whole roasted fish, also known as "pescado entero asado" in Spanish, is a traditional dish in Mexican cuisine that involves roasting a whole fish, typically red snapper or sea bass, in the oven or over an open flame until it is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.
To prepare the dish, the fish is usually seasoned with a mix of herbs and spices, such as garlic, onion, oregano and garnished with cilantro or parsley. The fish is then roasted on a bed of vegetables, such as sliced onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers, until it is cooked through.
Once the fish is fully cooked, it is often served with a variety of garnishes and accompaniments, such as fresh lime wedges, salsa, and tortillas. It is a flavorful and festive dish that is perfect for sharing with friends and family.
Why should you roast a whole fish?
Roasting a whole fish has several benefits:
- Flavor: Cooking a whole fish with the bones intact can add a lot of flavor to the dish. The bones release their juices into the meat, making it more succulent and flavorful.
- Nutrition: Eating a whole fish provides more nutritional benefits than just eating fillets. The bones contain calcium and other minerals, and the skin is high in healthy fats.
- Presentation: A whole roasted fish can be an impressive and visually stunning dish that makes for an eye-catching centerpiece at a dinner party or special occasion.
- Versatility: Roasting a whole fish allows you to experiment with different herbs, spices, and flavorings. You can stuff the fish with different ingredients to create a variety of flavor combinations and experiment with different cooking techniques, such as grilling or baking, to achieve different textures and flavors.
Mexican Fish Ingredients
- Red Snapper
- Lime juice
- Olive oil
- Bell pepper
- Fire roasted tomatoes
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make Mexican Fish Recipe
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Open the butterflied snapper and season the inside and outside with salt. Make 5 parallel 3-inch long slashes on each side of the snapper, slicing almost through the bone. Stuff the inside of the fish with parsley. Add the snapper on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a medium skillet on medium heat, add the oil and wait for it to shimmer. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the oregano and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. Squeeze the lime juice into it and give it a nice stir.
Pour the sauce over the fish and place the whole fish in the oven. Bake about 20-30 minutes, until the fish flakes with a fork and the flesh is opaque in the center.
Voila - you have a Mexican Fish style recipe!
Hint: Don’t be shy to ask them to inspect the fish yourself before buying. Remember: it shouldn’t smell fishy, the eyes should be clear and the gills should be red or orange.
- Fish: Go to your local fish market and ask the fish monger what is their freshest fish they have. I used red snapper for this recipe, but you could use a whole weakfish or seabass. Then, ask them to clean, scale, and butterfly the fish for you. They less steps you need to do, the better.
- Lime: I love using lime juice for this recipe. You can alternatively use lemon instead if that is all you have on hand.
- Oil: I love using olive oil, but you could use vegetable oil, avocado oil, or sunflower oil.
- Onion: I love using yellow onion for this, although you can use white or red onion as well.
- Garlic: I love using a ton of garlic for this recipe. The more the better! Use fresh garlic for best results.
- Bell pepper: The color of the bell pepper doesn’t matter. I used a yellow bell pepper, but you can use red or green.
- Oregano: If you happen to have Mexican oregano, that is perfect for this recipe. If not, use regular oregano.
- Tomatoes: I love using fire-roasted tomatoes in a can for this, but if you only have regular diced tomato that works too.
Mexican Fish Recipe Variations
There are many variations of Mexican-style whole roasted fish recipe, and here are some of the most popular:
- Veracruz-style: This recipe involves stuffing the fish with a mixture of onions, garlic, tomatoes, olives, capers, and chili peppers before roasting it. It's a tangy and flavorful dish that is typical of the Veracruz region of Mexico.
- Yucatan-style: This recipe involves marinating the fish in achiote paste, a spice blend made with annatto seeds, garlic, oregano, and other spices. The fish is then roasted and served with pickled red onions and lime wedges.
- Acapulco-style: This recipe involves stuffing the fish with a mixture of shrimp, crabmeat, and breadcrumbs before roasting it. It's a decadent and luxurious dish that is popular in the coastal town of Acapulco.
- Baja-style: This recipe involves coating the fish in a beer batter and deep-frying it until crispy. The fish is then served with a variety of toppings, such as cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and crema.
- Sinaloa-style: This recipe involves stuffing the fish with a mixture of cheese, tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers before roasting it. It's a hearty and flavorful dish that is typical of the Sinaloa region of Mexico.
Check out this Smoked Fish Dip for a light appetizer.
To roast Mexican-style whole fish, you will need the following equipment:
- Baking dish or roasting pan: A large baking dish or roasting pan is necessary to accommodate the size of the whole fish. Make sure the dish is deep enough to hold the fish and any vegetables or seasoning that you plan to add. I love using my Caraway baking sheets for best quality.
- Oven or grill: You can roast the fish in the oven or over an open flame on a grill. If using an oven, preheat it to 375°F (190°C) before roasting the fish.
- Aluminum foil or parchment paper: Use aluminum foil or parchment paper to wrap the fish and keep it moist while it roasts.
- Knife and cutting board: You'll need a sharp knife and cutting board to prepare the fish for roasting and to slice it before serving.
How to store Mexican Fish
If you have leftover Mexican-style roasted fish, it's important to store it properly to maintain its freshness and quality. Here are some tips for storing leftover fish:
- Cool the fish: Allow the fish to cool to room temperature before storing it. This will prevent moisture from building up and keep the fish from becoming mushy.
- Store in an airtight container: Place the fish in an airtight container, such as a plastic container with a lid or a resealable plastic bag. Make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent air from getting in.
- Refrigerate promptly: Place the container of fish in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking it. If you're storing it for longer than a day, it's best to consume it within 3-4 days.
- Reheat properly: When reheating the fish, make sure to do so properly. You can reheat it in the oven or on the stovetop, but be sure to add some liquid, such as broth or water, to prevent it from drying out. You can also reheat it in the microwave, but be sure to cover it with a damp paper towel to retain moisture.
- Freeze for longer storage: If you're not planning to eat the fish within a few days, you can freeze it for longer storage. Place it in a freezer-safe container or bag and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you're ready to eat it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating it.
Mexican Fish Recipe Top tips
Here are some top tips for making a delicious Mexican-style whole roasted fish recipe:
- Choose a fresh fish: The quality of the fish you use is important for the flavor and texture of the dish. Choose a fresh fish that has clear, bright eyes, firm flesh, and a clean smell.
- Scale and gut the fish: If you're buying a whole fish, make sure to have it scaled and gutted by the fishmonger. You can also do it yourself with a scaler and a sharp knife.
- Make deep cuts: Make deep cuts into the flesh of the fish to allow the seasonings and flavors to penetrate. This will also help the fish to cook more evenly.
- Use a flavor-packed seasoning blend: Mexican cuisine is known for its bold and flavorful seasonings. Use a seasoning blend that includes chili powder, cumin, garlic, and other herbs and spices to add depth and complexity to the dish.
- Add aromatics: Add aromatics, such as sliced onion, garlic, and herbs, to the inside of the fish before roasting. This will infuse the fish with flavor and add moisture.
- Use a cooking thermometer: Use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature of the fish. The fish is done when the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C).
- Serve with fresh toppings: Serve the fish with fresh toppings, such as chopped cilantro, diced tomato, sliced avocado, and lime wedges. These toppings will add brightness and freshness to the dish.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove