During my recent Tobago trip, I picked up some beautiful red snappers. Here I’m making a simple grilled whole red snapper recipe with Caribbean green seasoning and fresh citrus.
For this recipe, marinate the fish for 30 minutes, then wrap in banana leaves (or use foil) and grill in a preheated grill at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping once half way in between. If you use foil to wrap the fish, these times can be reduced by 5 to 10 minutes.
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Ingredients for grilled whole red snapper
For this recipe, I used:
- whole red snapper: or what we called red fish here in Trinidad and Tobago. I bought the whole snapper from fishermen at Pigeon Point (in Tobago) and they cleaned, scaled and froze the fish for me to take back to Trinidad. They did an amazing job!
- lime or lemon: citrus is needed to remove any fishiness from the snapper while defrosting, marinating and cooking. You can also squeeze some juice over the cooked fish when you are ready to serve.
- Caribbean green seasoning: this adds such amazing flavors to the fish. To make your own green seasoning, use chadon beni or culantro leaves, cilantro, thyme, garlic, ginger, fresh pepper and any of your favorite herbs. Find my simple recipe for Caribbean green seasoning here or pick up Mabel’s seasoning or Chief green seasoning from Amazon.
- oil: I used vegetable oil for this recipe. The oil helps the seasonings infuse and prevents the fish from sticking to the banana leaves (or foil) when grilling.
Equipment for this recipe
You will need a grill for this recipe. I have the Char-Boil performance stainless steel grill that runs on propane gas. The grill does a great job for us when BBQing and grilling chicken, lamb and fish.
I also used banana leaves to wrap the whole fish before grilling. The trees are very common in the Caribbean and there is always someone that you can ask for a leaf or two. I have a few in my backyard that I use; and, while in Tobago, I even picked a couple leaves along the roadside. In the US, you may be able to find banana leaves in the frozen section of your Caribbean and Asian supermarkets. Wrapping food in banana leaves before cooking is a very common technique in the Caribbean and is sustainable. The food also tastes better… but that’s my own anecdotal, biased opinion!
Of course, if you don’t have access to the leaves, you can always wrap the fish in aluminum foil. Since, it is metal, it will conduct heat better and you can reduce the cook time of the fish.
How to make grilled whole red snapper
Defrost red snapper
Step 1: Defrost the fish, if it is frozen. To do this, I placed the frozen fish in a deep baking dish and filled with enough water to cover the fish. I also squeezed half of a lemon into the water to remove any odor, freshness and fishiness. It took about an hour or so for this fish to defrost fully.
Step 2: Rinse the fish thoroughly once it has fully defrosted.
Marinate the fish
Step 3: Cut three or four slits along each side of the fish, almost to the spine. I also cut the mouth off, but that’s optional.
Step 4: Sprinkle salt, Caribbean green seasoning, oil and lemon juice over the fish. Massage the seasonings into the slits, the underbelly and onto the skin.
Step 5: Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes for the fish to marinate.
Cook whole red snapper
Step 6: Preheat the grill at 400°F.
Step 7: Remove the fish from the fridge and place on banana leaves or foil. If you are using banana leaves, be sure to wash them with warm soapy water. Sometimes, I also singe the leaves a little on the grill before using them. This helps to disinfect the leaves and make them more pliable and foldable.
Step 8: Sprinkle the chives, fresh herbs and lemon juice over and under the fish. You can also slice the lemon and place the slices underneath, on top and inside the underbelly of the snapper. Here I pulled a slice apart and stuck that into the underbelly.
Step 9: Wrap the fish with banana leaves or foil. To keep the leaves together, you can use a skewer or twine to hold everything together. If you are using foil, loosely wrap the entire fish.
Step 8: Place the wrapped fish on the preheated grill to cook. Turn over using a tongs (or two) after 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 9: Cook the fish for another 10 to 15 minutes. The snapper is completely cooked when the flesh is white and flaky, no longer translucent and the internal temperature of the fish is about 140 to 145°F.
Step 10 – Optional: You can also open up the leaves or foil while on the grill, squeeze some lemon juice over the fish and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to allow the liquid to boil off for a bit. Serve hot.
What to serve with grilled red snapper
Grilled red snapper can be served with grilled and fresh side dishes like grilled vegetables, boiled and seasoned corn, fresh garden salad, or even fruit and veggie salsas.
How to eat grilled whole red snapper
The skin of the grilled red snapper is edible. To eat the fish, simply use a fork and dig right in. The flesh is white, flaky and will fall off the main bone. But, there are tiny bones within the flesh that you may need to remove as you eat.
This red snapper does not have a fishy taste but takes on the flavors of the Caribbean green seasoning, herbs and lemon.
More recipes and sides
Grilled red fish recipe
Grilled Whole Red Snapper
- 1½ lbs whole red snapper (cleaned, scaled)
- 2 lemons (or limes)
- 1½ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp Caribbean green seasoning (with chadon beni, cilantro, garlic, ginger and pepper)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup chives and other fresh herbs
- Defrost fish, if frozen. Place in a deep baking dish, fill with water, and add juice of ½ lemon. Set aside until fish has defrosted completely (approx 1 hr).
- Rinse fish thoroughly.
- Make 3 – 4 deep slits along the side of the fish.
- Repeat the slits for the other side.
- Mix together salt, Caribbean green seasoning, oil and juice of ½ lemon.
- Massage the marinade into the fish, the underbelly, slits, and skin.
- Cover. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the grill at 400°F.
- Remove the fish from the fridge. Place on washed and singed banana leaves or foil.
- Add fresh chives and juice of ½ lemon to the fish.
- Place lemon slices underneath the fish. Add the slices to the underbelly and top.
- Wrap the fish tightly with the banana leaves or loosely with foil. Secure the leaves with toothpicks, skewers or twine.
- Place the fish on the preheated grill.
- Turn the fish over after 10 – 15 minutes.
- Cook for 10 – 15 minutes more.
- Optional: open the leaves or foil while on the grill. Squeeze more lemon juice and cook for 2 – 3 minutes more.
- Serve hot.