Ready in about 30 minutes, this easy baked red snapper recipe with bold Mediterranean flavors, fresh herbs, and bell peppers is a must-try! Be sure to read through for tips and watch the video below.
Mediterranean-style red snapper
One of the communal Mediterranean meals I grew up with is whole baked fish cooked on the bone, with fresh herbs and whatever vegetables happen to be in season.
And red snapper, which is a popular white fish with a beautiful redish skin, has a firm texture and sweet and subtle nutty flavor that make it the perfect choice for this kind of preparation. While it's great baked in fillets too, like with my baked red snapper recipe, whole snapper makes a show-stopping centerpiece with such little effort. And I'll let you in on a secret: Ask your fishmonger to clean and gut the fish for you so you'll have a whole fish ready to work with.
This easy red snapper recipe, seasoned with garlic and warm spices, and stuffed with bell peppers and fresh herbs is a take on one my mom makes. And it’s a hit, particularly served with a side of rice or roasted potatoes and a big Fattoush salad.
The key to flavoring a whole fish is to season the fish both outside and inside. I make a point of cutting some slits on both sides of the fish to insert the minced garlic and my trio of spices--cumin, coriander, and sumac. And don't forget the cavity: That cleaned gut makes the perfect pocket to carry more of the garlic, spices, fresh herbs, and even some of the veggies.
If you haven’t cooked snapper before, you may be wondering how to buy a good snapper for this recipe.
How to select fresh red snapper
Here in the U.S., wild-caught red snapper is sustainably managed and not over-fished, so it's one of the smarter seafood choices to make. Many grocery stores will sell snapper fillets, both fresh and frozen. And I've often had good luck finding fresh, wild-caught whole snapper, which is what I use in this recipe. Here is what to look for when buying red snapper:
- Shop at a place you trust. A good fishmonger should be able to tell you more about the fish: how long he's had on display, how to store it, and maybe even a few ideas for preparing the fish.
- Smell the fish. When buying any fresh fish, the first thing you should do is give it a sniff. Yes, of course fish will smell somewhat "fishy”. But fresh red snapper should not smell off-putting; it should smell mild and pleasant like the salty ocean.
- Examine the eyes and skin. The eyes of any fresh fish should look glossy and vivid. If the eyes look dehydrated, don't buy it. And look for tightly adhering, shiny scales, deep red fins, and pinkish-silver bellies.
Ingredients: What you’ll need to make this baked snapper recipe
- 2 large whole snapper fish – Ask your fishmonger to scale, gut, and butterfly the fish. You can ask to have the head removed, but I like to leave the head on as it provides moisture and flavor (and it looks quite impressive when the fish is cooked!).
- Garlic – You need 15 large cloves, minced and mixed with a pinch of kosher salt. The garlic goes into slits you’ll make in the fish, as well as into the fish cavity.
- Spices: Ground cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, and sumac – Cumin, coriander, and black pepper are warm, earthy, and pungent – pairing very well with sour, smoky sumac to build flavor on this whole roasted fish.
- Herbs and vegetables: Chopped fresh dill, bell peppers (different colors if possible), tomato, and red onion – Some of these will get stuffed into the fish cavity. The rest is arranged around the fish on a sheet pan. The slight sweetness and citrusy undertones in dill make it an ideal pairing for fish, while the vegetables add brightness, heft, and texture.
- Extra virgin olive oil – I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO. With its fruity flavor and mild lingering pepperiness, it is delicious for roasted red snapper.
- Lemons – Citrus and fish are a match made in heaven. The acidity in lemon juice helps to remove any lingering fishy taste or odor, and instantly lifts all the earthy flavors in this fish dish.
How to cook red snapper in the oven
This easy snapper recipe begins with seasoning and stuffing the whole fish, then baking it in a 425 degrees F heated oven with the bell peppers and vegetables for about 20 minutes or so. Here is how to cook snapper step-by-step (print-friendly recipe just below):
- Season the whole red snapper. Make 3 slits on both sides of each fish. Insert 15 cloves minced garlic (that have been mixed with a pinch of salt) into the slits and also inside the fish cavity (the cleaned gut). In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander, 1 teaspoon sumac, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and kosher salt. Use about ¾ of the spice mixture to season the fish, both the outside and inside (inserting some into the slits you made earlier).
- Prepare the vegetables and herbs. Chop fresh dill (you need ½ cup). Slice 3 large bell peppers (different colors), a large tomato, and 1 medium red onion into rounds. Stuff each gut cavity with as much of the dill and sliced vegetables as possible.
- Roast the whole fish. Place the stuffed fish on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Arrange the remaining sliced vegetables around the fish. Sprinkle the vegetables with a pinch of salt and the remaining ¼ spice mixture. Drizzle everything generously with good extra virgin olive oil. Roast on the middle rack of a 425 degree heated oven until the fish is cooked. Cooked fish has an internal temperature of 137 degrees F and will flake easily. Whole red snapper will take 20 to 25 minutes to roast.
- Finish and serve. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and transfer it to a serving platter. While the fish is still hot, squeeze the juice of one lemon generously over the top of the fish. Use the slits you made to help you cut and portion the fish. Serve with wedges of the remaining lemon and a side of your choice.
Make ahead tips
Whole red snapper is best prepared and roasted right when you are ready to eat it. But to save a bit of time, you can slice the vegetables a night ahead and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge.
What to serve with snapper
It never hurts to add a dip like tzatziki or baba ganoush. And for me personally, a big salad is a must! Try three bean salad, balela, Fattoush, or orange beet salad. Or, if you're a huge fan of peppers, serve with a fresh mini bell pepper salad–I love the contrast between the cooked and fresh peppers, and the flavors are perfect together.
Leftovers and storage
This snapper dinner is best enjoyed immediately. If you have leftovers, store in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Enjoy at room temperature, but if you must, you can reheat in a 350 degrees F heated oven just until warmed through. I am not a big fan of reheating fish because it tends to get too dry but adding a little water to your pan and covering the fish would help.
More fish recipes to try
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Mediterranean-Style Whole Roasted Red Snapper
- 2 large whole snapper fish, cleaned and gutted
- 10 garlic cloves, minced, and combined with a pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 bell peppers, different colors, sliced in rounds
- 1 large tomato, sliced into rounds
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into rounds
- Greek extra virgin olive oil, I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO
- 2 lemons
- Preheat the oven to 425 degree F.
- Pat the snapper fish dry. With a large knife, make two slits on each side of the fish. Fill the slits and coat the gut cavity of each fish with the minced garlic.
- To make the spice mix, combine the cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and sumac in a small bowl. Use ¾ of the spice mix to season the snapper on both sides; pat the spices into the fish pushing into the slits you made earlier. Keep the remainder ¼ of the spice mix aside for now.
- Stuff each gut cavity with the chopped dill, and as much of the sliced peppers, tomatoes and onions as possible.
- Place the stuffed fish in a lightly oiled baking sheet. Add the remaining sliced vegetables to form a frame around the fish. Sprinkle the vegetables with a pinch of salt and the remaining ¼ of the spice mix.
- Drizzle everything generously with olive oil.
- Place the baking sheet on the lower rack of your 425 degrees F heated oven. Roast for 25 minutes until the fish flakes.Transfer the fish to a serving platter and squeeze juice of one lemon all over it. Use the slits you made earlier to cut through and portion the fish. Serve it with wedges of the remaining lemon.
- To make things easy, ask your fishmonger to clean the fish and butterfly it so it's ready for use. You can choose to have the head removed, if you prefer. But I recommend leaving the head on, as it helps the fish retain moisture and yields better flavor.
- Make ahead tip: Whole red snapper is best prepared and roasted right when you are ready to eat it. But to save a bit of time, you can slice the vegetables a night ahead and store them in separate airtight containers in the fridge.
- What to serve along: With the veggies already provided in this sheet pan fish dinner, you hardly need to add any sides. But lemon rice or Greek potatoes are a couple of good options. It never hurts to add a dip like tzatziki or baba ganoush. And for me personally, a big salad is a must! Try three bean salad, balela, Fattoush, or orange beet salad.
- Leftovers and storage: This snapper dinner is best enjoyed immediately. If you have leftovers, store in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Enjoy at room temperature, but if you must, you can reheat in a 350 degrees F heated oven just until warmed through. I am not a big fan of reheating fish because it tends to get too dry but adding a little water to your pan and covering the fish would help.
- Visit the Mediterranean Dish Shop for quality extra virgin olive oilsand all-natural or organic spices. Create your own 6-pack or 3-pack of your favorites, like the cumin, coriander, and sumac used in this recipe!
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit. Enjoy!