Swoon over foodie merch in and out of the kitchen
Meiko And The Dish Logo - Pink

Fried Jamaican Escovitch Fish

Fried in a hot skillet, this easier spiced escovitch fish recipe is made with red snapper filets but is flexible. The snapper (or kingfish or mullet fish) is fried until tender and crispy then it is soaked in my homemade escovitch sauce, a spicy pickled sauce made with pan-fried onion, carrots, allspice, and scotch bonnet peppers. Serve with bammy or festival dumplings.

Overhead shot Escovitch snapper on white plate with pickled onions and bell peppers

The Best Jamaican Escovitch Fish I Ever Had

I got my first plate of escovitch from friend Stef’s mom, a spicy Jamaican lady who knew how to throw down. I haven’t had a better version yet but I’ve attempted and I’m pretty close. This tribute to her escovitch snapper recipe is a delicious blend of peppery, tart pickling, and slightly sweet flavors. Much like the popular ackee and saltfish, you serve escovitch fish with bammy (traditional cassava bread) or dumplings.

What I love about this variation of the authentic Jamaican recipe is how easy it is to prep and cook by using fish filets. Plus, it’s one of those recipes that taste even better the next day so it’s great for meal prep and for pescetarian and/or low carb diets.

The good news is, there is no one way of making escovitch fish. So, if you aren’t tolerant to too much spice, you could mellow it down by, say, removing the scotch bonnet pepper and using only allspice or Jamaican pimento. You can also remove the seeds of the pepper to ensure there is flavor but no heat.

Seasoned red snapper on sheetpan

Key Ingredients

Red Snapper: The most popular fish used for escovitch is whole red snapper but you can use any other firm white fish.

Onions & bell peppers: You’ll need both sweet bell peppers and onions for this recipe. I’m using red bell peppers in this recipe but you can use any colored or combination of colored peppers.

Carrots: Escovitch wouldn’t be the same without carrots because they bring a natural sweetness to the dish. You can use baby carrots or julienne (thinly slice) regular carrots.

Scotch bonnet peppers: These peppers are essential for Jamaican escovitch to give it its characteristic heat. If you can’t find them, you can use habanero peppers or jalapeño peppers. If you aren’t a fan of spice you can exclude the peppers or their fiery seeds.

Vinegar: White vinegar is widely used but you can use any light-colored vinegar, apple cider vinegar, cane vinegar, or white wine vinegar.

Pimiento peppers: Pimiento peppers, also known as whole allspice berries, are a key ingredient in escovitch sauce and have a flavor that’s a cross between cinnamon and pepper.

Thyme: This fragrant herb is very common in Jamaican cuisine. You can use fresh or dried thyme for this recipe.

TIP: While traditionally made with whole fish I prefer using fish filets to make this a quick and convenient weeknight meal. But instead of getting precut filets, ask your fishmonger to clean and cut “whole fish filets”. They are the full-length of whole fish (excluding the head) and are a lot easier to cook and submerge in the pickling sauce.

Fried fish

How To Make Escovitch Fish

You can make escovitch fish in 45 minutes and serve immediately but for best results aka a life-changing bite, allow the fish to sit in the escovitch sauce overnight to soak up all the flavors.

How To Prepare Fried Fish

  • Rub cleaned and dried fish down with lime, then pat fish filets dry. Liberally season both sides of fish.
  • Heat oil in heavy bottom skillet. Once hot, lightly dust fish in flour and add to the skillet skin side down. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

How To Make Escovitch Fish Sauce

  • In a separate skillet over medium-high heat, add all the vegetables and sweat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer cook until vegetables become tender. Remove from heat and let the sauce marinate for 5 additional minutes.
  • Pour sauce over the fish and serve warm. Alternatively, you can (SHOULD) let the fish soak in the sauce overnight. Then reheat and serve the next day.
Escovitch pickled vegetables

What Is Escovitch?

The word escovitch has derived from the Spanish word escabeche. This style of cooking, popular in Latin America and the Mediterranean was brought to Jamaica by the Spaniards in the 1500s.

The Jamaican variation incorporates an almost identical method of preparation wherein the meat, typically fish, is first fried, then soaked and doused generously in a pickling sauce. A slew of herbs and spices are used to season the dish. The escovitch sauce recipe generally uses pimento, vinegar, pepper, onions, and sometimes carrots.

Fun Fact: In the Caribbean, escovitch fish isn’t just served for dinner. It is also a major staple for holiday spreads and is commonly served for breakfast.

Escovitch Fish on white plate

Frequently Asked Questions:

What To Eat With Escovitch Fish?

There are no hardline rules for what to eat with escovitch fish. In classic Jamaican style, the delicious escovitch fish is savored with bammy, traditional cassava flatbread, or fried dumplings. However, you can also pair it with rice and peas, cabbage, hard dough bread, or boiled/fried plantains.

You can find some additional traditional Jamaica-inspired recipe ideas for pairing with escovitch fish.

What’s The Best Type Of Fish To Use In Escovitch Fish?

I personally prefer escovitch snapper for this recipe but other commonly used fish include kingfish, mullet, and even porgy. If you like your filets boneless, go with boneless snapper. The process does not change, no matter which fish you use.

Meiko holding a plate of Escovitched Fish

Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitute

Depending on where you live scotch bonnet peppers can be hard to find. Search your local Latin store and if you still can’t find them, substitute them for habanero peppers or jalapeño peppers.

How Do You Store Escovitch Fish Leftovers?

Put the escovitch fish in a shallow container and put a tight lid on it before placing it in the refrigerator. This will keep the dish fresh for up to five days.

Cooking Tips

  • Clean and trim your fish even if your fishmonger already scaled it. Biting into scales can ruin the whole experience so pass your knife over the fish to ensure they are all gone.
  • Cut slits into the fish to prevent it from curling while frying.
  • If using whole fish, fry for a few minutes longer to cook through.
  • Use gloves when working with scotch bonnet peppers and be sure to wash your hands throroughly after working with them.
  • To enhance flavor you can add some scotch bonnet pepper and pimento to the frying oil to start to infuse flavor while the fish fries.
  • If spicy food isn’t your jam, remove the seeds from the pepper to reduce the heat or exclude the peppers all together. 
  • Escovitch fish is best served the next day after the fish soaks up all the flavor of the sauce so plan a day ahead.
Overhead shot Escovitched Fish on white plate

Fried Jamaican Escovitch Fish

Fried in a hot skillet, this easier spiced escovitch fish recipe is made with red snapper fillets but is flexible. The snapper (or kingfish or mullet fish) is fried until tender and crispy then it is soaked in my homemade escovitch sauce, a spicy pickled sauce made with pan-fried onion, carrots, allspice and scotch bonnet peppers. Serve with bammy or festival dumplings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cool: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 257kcal
Author: Meiko Temple

Ingredients

Fish:

  • 2 (1.25 lb) snapper filets cleaned
  • 1 lime halved
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons allspice ground
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • olive oil

Escovitch Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion sliced ¼ – ½ inch thick
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced ¼ – ½ inch thick
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 sprigs thyme stems removed
  • 1 teaspoon allspice whole
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper chopped (opitional)

Instructions

To prepare fish:

  • Rub fish with lime, then pat fish filets dry with a paper towel. In a small bowl mix together salt, black pepper, allspice, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder. Liberally season both sides of fish.
  • Using a heavy bottom skillet like cast-iron or heavy non-stick, turn heat on to medium-high. Fill with oil to approximately ⅓ of the height of your filets and heat oil until it reaches 350 degrees.
  • Once hot, lightly dust fish in flour and add to the skillet skin side down to fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Fish is done once it turns opaque. Add fish to a casserole dish and set aside.

To prepare Escovitch Sauce:

  • In a separate skillet over medium-high heat, add onions, carrots, bell peppers, and garlic, and allow the vegetables to sweat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, whole allspice, white wine vinegar, water, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook vegetables until they become tender – approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the sauce marinate for 5 additional minutes.
  • Pour sauce over the fish and serve warm. Alternatively, you can let the fish soak in the sauce overnight. Then reheat and serve the next day.
Tried this recipe?Mention @MeikoAndTheDish or tag #MeikoAndTheDish

Notes

Cooking Tips:
  • Clean and trim your fish even if your fishmonger already scaled it. Biting into scales can ruin the whole experience so pass your knife over the fish to ensure they are all gone.
  • Cut a few shallow incisions into the fish to prevent it from curling while frying.
  • If using whole fish, fry for a few minutes longer to cook through.
  • Use gloves when working with scotch bonnet peppers and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after working with them.
  • To enhance flavor you can add some scotch bonnet pepper and pimento to the frying oil to start to infuse flavor while the fish fries.
  • If spicy food isn’t your jam, remove the seeds from the pepper to reduce the heat or exclude the peppers all together. 
  • Escovitch fish is best served the next day after the fish soaks up all the flavor of the sauce so plan a day ahead.

Nutrition

Calories: 257kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 1396mg | Potassium: 968mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2714IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 1mg

Equipment

Paper Towel
Bowl Set
Cast Iron Skillet – 12 inch
Casserole Dish
Medium Skillet
Chef’s Knife
Citrus Juicer

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

**The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Meet Meiko

Hey Friend, Hey!

Welcome! I’m Meiko, a Dallas-based food blogger who loves to share life and culture through food. There are no strangers around these parts only good eats. Let’s get to know each other better!

Did you make a recipe? Tag @MeikoAndTheDish so I can find you!

Never miss a recipe again!

Get the latest recipes straight to your inbox

Tried the recipe or have a question? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Real Foodies

wear their
food!

More recipes to fall in love with

Meet Meiko

Welcome! I’m Meiko, a Dallas-based food blogger who loves to share life and culture through food. There are no strangers around these parts only good eats. Let’s get to know each other better!

Popular Favorites

Sidebar ad space

Instagram

@Meikoandthedish

Sign up for email updates

Sidebar ad space

Scroll to Top