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Baked Red Snapper and Fresh Green Herbs Sauce

A Creative Dish of a Fish Typically Served in Puerto Rico
Publication of Discovery: Aug. 31, 2017
Issue: August, 2017

The red snapper is part of Puerto Rico’s gastronomy. You may eat very good fresh-caught red snapper in this Caribbean island, especially in food establishments located on coastal zones in the Municipalities of Fajardo and Naguabo (east side), Municipalities of Salinas and Ponce (south side), Municipalities of Mayagüez and Cabo Rojo (western side), or Vieques island.

Puerto Rico's restaurants have available a variety of culinary styles to cook the red snapper. You may order fried or baked red snapper, either the whole fish or fish fillet or steak. At this destination, the red snapper is typically served along with a local red sauce (“salsa criolla” in Spanish) or garlic-infused olive oil on top. Some people prefer to skip the dressing and just squeeze Puerto Rican limes to drizzle their juice on top of the fish.

Over the years, Puerto Rico’s gastronomical culture has evolved as people may taste new flavors while eating local food that has been prepared creatively. Below we share a baked red snapper with fresh green herbs sauce recipe, created by a Puerto Rican who has a great passion and skill to create dishes.

Baked Red Snapper and Fresh Green Herbs Sauce Recipe:

Yield: one whole red snapper

Main utensils:

“Pilón” (Mortar and pestle)
Oven grill pan covered with aluminum foil (greased with olive oil)


1 whole red snapper (1 - 1 ½ pounds) (cleaned)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
Salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion
1 cup white wine

Fresh Green Herbs Sauce’s Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil (optional to add more)
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (coriander) (“cilantrillo” in Spanish)
1 ½ tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Puerto Rican lime juice
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)

You may read the “delve!” subsection to learn about some of the limes referred to as lemons by Puerto Ricans.

Puerto Rican Harvest Garnish Options:

Locally grown sweet cherry peppers (diced)
Cherry tomatoes


A) Preparation Prior to Seasoning

1) Set the oven to 350° F (177° C).

2) Cover the oven grill pan with aluminum foil. Grease the aluminum foil with olive oil.

3) Cut the yellow onion’s ½-inch top and ½-inch bottom and discard these. Peel off the onion’s skin and discard it. Cut the onion into round slices. Any half-round slices may also be used. Leave the onion slices aside.

4) Mince the basil and leave it aside.

5) Make three vertical cuts on the top side of the cleaned whole red snapper until the knife makes contact with the fish bones. Turn the fish upside down and make three similar vertical cuts on its other side. Do not cut the fish’s head or tail. You may browse the photo gallery to see the vertical cuts on the fish.

6) Bend each side of the whole red snapper halfway for a few seconds. This will help the vertical cuts to expand a little bit.

7) Put half portion of the yellow onion slices on top of the greased aluminum foil covered grill pan, forming a bed of onions.

B) Seasoning the Whole Red Snapper

1) Crush the peeled garlic clove(s) in the “pilón” (mortar), using a pestle. Once you have 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic in the mortar, add salt (to taste), smoked paprika and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

2) Mix these ingredients in the mortar, making circular movements. Taste the seasoning to verify if you wish to add more salt and/or olive oil. Pour the red snapper’s seasoning in a container.

3) Spread the seasoning in the red snapper’s interior and vertical cuts and on top of both sides of the fish, using a basting brush (pastry brush). If you wish, add more salt (to taste) on top of both sides of the fish.

4) Put the whole red snapper on top of the bed of onion slices on the grill pan. Put the other half portion of onion slices on top of the fish.

5) Pour half portion of the white wine (half of ¼ cup) on top of the red snapper.

C) Fresh Green Herbs Sauce

1) Pour the extra-virgin olive oil in a blender. Add the fresh parsley, cilantro, minced basil, two garlic cloves, lime juice, and salt and pepper (to taste). Mix and grind these ingredients in the blender. Taste the fresh green herbs sauce to check if you wish to add more extra virgin olive oil, salt and/or pepper. Leave the sauce aside.

D) Baking and Serving the Red Snapper

1) Put the seasoned whole red snapper in the oven (already heated at 350° F) for around 20-25 minutes. To verify if the fish is ready, you may do a small cut on the fish to check if the white meat separates from the fish bones.

2) After 10-12 minutes in the oven, pour the other half portion of the white wine (half of ¼ cup) on top of the red snapper. Keep baking the fish.

3) You may serve the whole red snapper and garnish it with the fresh green herbs sauce, fresh parsley and minced sweet pepper. It is optional to drizzle the sauce on top of the fish.

For those who prefer eating red snapper fillet, drizzle the fresh green herbs sauce on top of the fillet. Garnish with minced sweet pepper and cherry tomatoes.

This red snapper dish may be served along with Puerto Rican mamposteao (mixed rice and red beans), tostones (fried green plantain slices), or yuca al mojo (local side dish mainly made of cassava and garlic-infused olive oil).

The Puerto Rican behind the previously mentioned recipe is José M. Ferrer Tanco, whose dishes have delighted many during special occasions.

tour provider: Yourself onto Culture
book here
where the crew ate: At Home
photograph by: N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all details with the pertinent businesses before planning your trip. Please be cautious. The company behind this publication assumes no responsibility for your safety when participating in the activities mentioned in this article. You are responsible for confirming whether you are capable of participating in any of these activities or tours, regardless of the effort level or any other information provided in this website.


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Santurce Marketplace ("La Placita") Place where you may buy some ingredients

18.45055 -66.07036
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Santurce Marketplace
("La Placita")
Place where you may buy some ingredients

equipment used

mind speak!

José M. Ferrer Tanco, San Juan, P.R.: “The red snapper’s white meat was tender. The fresh herbs combination resulted in a smooth flavor that allowed enjoying the fish’s taste; and thus, a sea flavor.” (translation ours).


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