In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Jamaican Style Escovitch Fish.

This Jamaican style escovitch fish takes be back 21 years, when my friends and I would head down to Toronto to shop for records (remember 45’s and 33’s?) for our aspiring DJ business. That trip usually had us end up in the Jamaican community on Eglinton Ave where there were not only many record stores selling the latest dancehall tracks from Jamaica, but quite a few restaurants where we would get our curry goat, rice and peas and this lovely escovitch fish.

Over the years I’m had the opportunity to sample escovitch fish from many sources (even in Jamaica), but I have to admit that this recipe I’m about to share is as classic as it gets and I’m sure you’ll be quite please with the results.


You’ll Need…

1 Red Snapper (about 2 lbs)
1 scallion (green onion/spring onion)
3 sprigs thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lime
Vegetable oil for frying (about 1 cup)


3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 teaspoon allspice (see note below)
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 cup green pepper
1 scotch bonnet pepper
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar

Notes: I used the entire scotch bonnet pepper (including seeds). You can control the heat by using less and by not including the seeds. Typically pimento berries (allspice) are used in the sauce, but all I had available is the ground allspice. By adding the sugar it really balances the escovitch sauce, so though it may sound strange.. give it a try. If you don’t have a lime for washing the fish, you can use the juice of a lemon or a couple tablespoons of vinegar.

Clean and trim your fish even if your fishmonger already scaled it, do pass a knife over it to ensure there are no scales. Then pour the juice of the lime over it, give it a massage, then rinse with cool water and pat dry. Then using a sharp knife cut a couple slits across the belly of the fish (both sides) as you see in the picture below. This will allow for faster cooking and to help the salt, black pepper as well as the escovitch sauce to really infuse the fish.

Using the back of your knife hit the scallion to bruise it a bit to release it’s flavor, then fold it and tuck into the cavity of the fish. Also add the springs of thyme.. we want to perfume the fish from the inside as it cooks. Now rub the salt and black pepper onto the fish (both sides) and get ready to fry.

Make sure to pat your fish dry after you washed it as I mentioned earlier, or you will have a lot of hot oil splattering when you start the frying process. Heat the vegetable oil on a medium flame, then gently add the seasoned fish to the pan. Allow this cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until you have a nice golden colour and crisp outside. You’ll need tongs and a fork or spoon to flip the fish.. do be careful as we’re working with hot oil.

Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to soak up some of the excess oil

Next up it’s time to put the escovitch sauce together. Julienne the carrot, sweet pepper (use different colours if you like) and chop the onion and scotch bonnet pepper (slice thin.

In a saucepan add all the ingredients for the sauce, then place on medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow this to simmer for 3-5 minutes.. basically until the onion and sweet pepper (bell pepper) gets a bit tender. Here’s is where you can personalize this sort of pickle a bit. I like my sauce with a bit of crunch so I cooked it for 3 minutes.. you can cook for longer if you wish.

I know the average person from the Caribbean reading this recipe will shake their head thinking.. “vinegar”?  Vinegar is not something we use  or like in foods in most of the Caribbean (except for washing meats). But I assure you that the raw taste of the vinegar will be infused with the lovely flavors of the pimento (allspice) and the vegetables we add. The hint of sugar will also give it a sort of sweet and sour kick, which works well on the fish.

Place the fried snapper on a platter and pour the excovitch sauce all over it.. enjoy! You can store any remaining escovitch sauce in the fridge for a couple weeks.

Back in those days we never had enough money to get a fish each, so it usually meant sharing a plate with each other… the little extra money we had went to getting the latest Shabba Ranks record. Good times for sure! My good friend still does the DJ thing (he’s very passionate about music) and have made it into a huge business for him.

Before you go, don’t forget to check out the latest cooking videos, connect with me on twitter and join our community on facebook. oh yea! leave me a comment below – it’s appreciated.

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Jamaican Style Escovitch Fish Recipe.
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  1. Livia
    November 11, 2018 / 4:45 pm

    Thank you for this recipe. I’ve bern wanting to try to make this fir my friend but was afraid I would mess it up. This looks very easy. Thanks again.

  2. Pam
    October 22, 2018 / 10:56 pm

    Mr. Trini….I was born in Jamaica and this is one of my favorites. Love the term using the seasonings to “perfume the fish”. Love the recipes and getting new tips and ideas. Job well done! Thank you!

  3. Joan Brown
    October 22, 2018 / 11:44 am

    I loved the details +pictures provided. I will try again w/ your instructions.

    Thanks for the info.

  4. Andrew Geer
    May 7, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    Have you ever had the jerk sauce inside the snapper with cabbage, tyme, onions and carrots, then fried with the same toppins?

  5. April 8, 2018 / 5:12 pm

    I loved the taste. Never pan fried the fish before but it came out great.

  6. Debbie
    March 31, 2018 / 11:30 am

    This is a first for me and the hubby, couldn’t get red snapper so used sea bream and bake it in the oven. We are now both wondering where has Escovitch been all our lives. A big thank you and much love. xx

  7. Jeff Sadowsky
    March 21, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    Nice recipe and story about da’music store

  8. Barbara T
    January 3, 2018 / 12:01 am

    In using this recipe, I employed two variations with excellent results: (1) I use New Zealand snapper which is about $11/pound and (2) After pouring sauce over fish, I place in refrigerator for two nights.

  9. Lee Rha
    March 13, 2017 / 2:12 pm

    I love the idea of placing the green onion and thyme in the cavity of the fish. never thought of that before, but seems like a good idea for extra flavor….thank you!

  10. Camille Ali
    December 1, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    In certain Caribbean countries vinegar is used in cooked foods, in Trinindad vinegar and lime is used to wash meats, and rarely cooked with most sweet and sour sauce, mango, plum and different fruit chow uses lime or lemon juice. I tried this receipe the first time and substituted the vinegar for lime juice which did not taste to great, but on my second attempt stuck to the instructions with the vinegar and it came out perfect. Taste liked I bought it from the Jamaican restaurant.

    • Nicole
      April 1, 2018 / 1:39 am

      Lol that’s why it’s TRINIDAD!

  11. Shar Bella
    July 25, 2016 / 8:11 am

    My husband and I loved this recipe!! It was sweet, salty and savory. I will definitely make it again.

  12. Christopher Perreira
    March 25, 2016 / 3:38 pm

    In Guyana, Trinidad where we have lots of Portuguese(putagee) and Chinese(chinee) we use vinegar alot. In Garlic Pork at Christmas time and in Sweet and Sour Sauce for fried Wontons which I love, in Chow(pickled green mango)used as a side dish) and mango salad, mmmm…very tasty, also we use vinegar to make sours for black pudding, and other sours as well so it depends where you come from in the carribean. Also, the way we make escoviched fish is basically the same but we call pimento Allspice as you bracketed above! God bless,love the recipe…deliche!

  13. J
    March 25, 2016 / 2:42 am

    Hi Chris, I’ve just reconnected with this recipe as it’s one I remember from my childhood growing up in Jamaica. I was born in the 60’s and as a child, I remember my auntie cooking this dish in Jamaica and then my mum cooking it in the UK (where I now live) in the 70’s & 80’s – and both of them used vinegar. Escovith refers to the pickling sauce which, as a pickling sauce, needs the vinegar. Tastes over the years may have led to its exclusion but the original authentic recipe requires vinegar to be added to the sauce otherwise it’s not ‘escovitch’. Love your recipes..

    • admin
      March 25, 2016 / 9:51 am

      there’s 3/4 cup vinegar in this one

  14. Diitchaaa
    March 21, 2016 / 12:41 am

    Well. I tried this recipe for goodfriday lunch added some tomatoes to the base of the sauce. Used à little bit less vinegar. And slightlyfloured my fish before frying

  15. Alex
    October 28, 2015 / 11:13 am

    Hi Chris,

    I find it interesting you mentioned that vinegar was not common for cooking in the caribbean. I found your recipe because I just learned of escovitch from a 1983 BBC documentary on allspice. In the video they show two jamaican women cooking the dish with vinegar. Maybe it fell out of fashion at some point or maybe it was never used widely. I find this interesting and I look forward to also trying your recipe soon.


    • admin
      October 28, 2015 / 3:39 pm

      Alex… there’s some use (like escovitch) but it’s mainly for preserving peppers and pepper sauces (scotch bonnet sauces).

  16. August 21, 2015 / 4:24 pm

    I used to go to this jamaican restaurant in Spring Valley, NY and that was the last time I had Escovitch fish. That was more than 20 years ago. So, when I found this recipe, I had to try it. And, boy was it good. The taste was just like I remembered it. Since I now live in Florida, I have access to red snapper. Unfortunately, my local store had run out of red snapper, but they had yellow tail snapper. So, I used yellow tail snapper and it was delicious! My next time will be a red snapper. Can’t wait! And, next time, I will prepare it with rice and red beans.

  17. Elle W
    June 6, 2015 / 8:36 pm

    I tried this recipe with fillet red snapper and flounder and it was delicious. Very simple to make it.

  18. Elvin Fowler
    May 31, 2015 / 7:42 pm

    This has become my favorite recipe. I pour the sauce over the fish and leave it overnight in the refrigerator. Wow! Talk about “hot, explosive flavor!!

  19. Mahtin
    May 29, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    Born in USA but now that I’m here (in Jamaica) I had to google this recipe as some local restaurants have disappointed me terribly by deep (very much) frying the fish before adding the sauce and serving. Do Not Do This! This recipe is the proper way and I can’t wait to try it when I get home! (I live in Thailand now and have to ‘jerk’ my own chicken. (The Thais are not accustomed to this taste.)

  20. Travis
    April 2, 2015 / 8:15 pm


    Thanks for the recipe. I haven’t eaten escovitch in YEARS!!! Not since Apache’s in Brooklyn in the 80’s. One issue though… I don’t see where you’ve used the allspice? Is it necessary?

  21. Taris
    October 16, 2014 / 8:12 pm

    Thank you so much!!! My fav jamaican dish is Escovitch. As I have been all over Jamaica and the US tasting different escovitch dishes. Until now, I was intimidated to attempt to make it myself. This was my first attempt with plenty of room left to perfect, but the taste was awesome. I can’t wait to make this my friends, as they know Jamaica along with the culture is my adopted land!!!

  22. Pmuhammad
    September 20, 2014 / 5:42 pm

    I have used this recipe twice now and its awesome, although I don’t use white sugar raw sugar was great

  23. David Pruitt
    August 16, 2014 / 4:17 pm

    What are you talking about, they don’t use vinegar? The grocery store we went to in Negril had 7 or 8 brands of distilled cane vinegar, all for less than $0.70 per bottle. Our villa came with a chef. He made escovitch snapper twice, for us, and always used the vinegar and limes. Lemons were unavailable, or he’d have used them too.

    • captain mike
      August 16, 2015 / 4:02 pm

      Yes! Cane vinegar seems to be a real secret. It gives the tang without the smell of vinegar. Use in hot sauce recipes especially for an awesome taste.

  24. Denise
    August 14, 2014 / 1:17 pm

    Thanks for the pictures. I love that you put the herbs in the fish before frying. I purchased 2 sea bass today and was looking for a recipe.

  25. El-Rhonda
    July 26, 2014 / 12:05 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Thank You!

    I tried this recipe last week using tilapia (my local market did not have red snapper) and followed your directions step by step. It was wonderful. My culinary skills are modest, but this recipe made me look like an accomplished chef. 🙂

    Many thanks and I will add this to my one of my favorite dishes to make and share with friends and family.

  26. jules
    July 10, 2014 / 8:38 pm

    Thanks for the recipe…. Looks delicious.

  27. jules
    July 10, 2014 / 8:37 pm

    Looks delicious.. You made me bite my fingers… Thanks for the recipe..

  28. June 20, 2014 / 2:10 am

    HI chris how mch is it for a snapper and is there another fish you can use as an alternative

  29. Ms. Lady
    May 26, 2014 / 3:12 pm

    Hello Chris, I am an American lady cooking for a Jamacian man, I love your authentic jamacian recipes. Whenever we have a taste for island food I follow your recipes. I was just wondering Do you have a recipe for carribean conch fritters/ conch balls with a dipping sauce? If you do can you post it? I am going to try this snapper recipe sometime this week for the family. And like everything else I know its going to be wonderful. Thank you soooooo much for your time explaining step by step. You are the best!

  30. caroline
    May 7, 2014 / 9:50 pm

    Great Job – Thanks

  31. stephyb
    April 16, 2014 / 1:20 pm

    Chris, this looks real interesting. I have to try it your way for the easter holiday coming up. Love how you put the thyme inside the fish. Can’t wait.

  32. April 12, 2014 / 8:38 am

    Thank you so much for taking the time to educate your audience! You Rock Chris! Thank you to your wife as well for helping to support you while you spend time in the kitchen teaching us about some of the most flavorful food I have ever eaten!

    Rock on Brother!

  33. spicy trini
    March 29, 2014 / 2:57 pm

    Chris, try 1/2 cup vinegar plus 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. This mixture takes your recipe to another level. The taste is the bomb.

  34. Sandra Carter
    March 13, 2014 / 3:01 pm

    Hey Chris, do you hear that?? You hit the ball out the park again. I am a Trinidadian that loves Escovitch fish. Love, love, love this recipe. Thanks you.

  35. gmatic
    August 28, 2013 / 8:36 pm

    Fabulous explanation of an Escovitch fish. Your story along with your recipe is an inspiration among inspirations. I’ll be trying this one soon as I get paid.

  36. jennie
    May 14, 2013 / 10:13 pm

    I just returnrn home to California from a 8 day stay in Jamaica I’m originally from NYC so I have eaten lots of Caribbean foods but it was nothing like the freshest of the food in Jamaica so I had to cook some escovitch fish one of my favorites dishes and I must say this recipe hit it right my pic looks just like yours and the taste mmm…good will make for company now omg….delicious

  37. loraine
    May 7, 2013 / 12:19 am

    HEy Chris, did that escovich fish yesturday,had to omit tha pepper but, twaz tasty,keep sending those good recipes, also tried that coconut fried plantain good also

  38. March 17, 2013 / 1:55 pm

    Chris, your recipes deserve 3 gold stars…my hubby licks him fingers, my daughta comes home 4 tea instead of eating kfc! We luv u 4 sharing…recipes r amazing x

  39. Sojourner truth
    February 21, 2013 / 6:08 pm

    I love the way you taught this dish with such clarity. Thank you so much. It is greatly appreciated. Keep doing what your doing!! Sista!!!

  40. cinzia merlot
    February 2, 2013 / 5:50 pm

    hey Chris… I am going to Jamaica for six weeks to set up our winter home… next year it will be for six months… I am trying to learn to cook the Jamaican way… thanks for your site… love the fish! Can't wait to make it for a friend that was born on the island but now lives in Canada.. will let you know how I do with it.

  41. Fiona
    January 19, 2013 / 2:50 pm

    Maybe your oil wasn't hot enough. Make sure oil is piping hot

  42. Nay
    December 24, 2012 / 3:09 pm

    Hey I have a question I made the red snapper but it did not come out so good because when i turned the fish over it was stuck to my non stick pan why is that????

    • Ann
      December 31, 2012 / 4:06 pm

      maybe your pan was not hot enough,or even the oil was not sizzeling enough.

  43. Gloria Rentz
    December 23, 2012 / 8:17 pm

    Miss south fl,Caribbean restaurants,think I will prepare for tomorrow.also looking for a good stew peas recipe for my friend.

  44. earthpoweraromatics
    November 15, 2012 / 1:46 pm

    Wow! I'm salivating!!! Love it and must make this. I also love that you're a Torontonian, as am I. As a Guyanese living in Barrie, ON though, I'm really starting to get tired of not being able to find good quality Caribbean food here. I have to get back to the Tdot! Your recipes all look delicious Chris. Thank you very kindly for sharing ; )


  45. yanique
    November 14, 2012 / 2:05 pm

    As a Jamaican, I am IMPRESSED with your recipes and your easy-to-follow instructions.

    Keep up the great work here.

  46. e.sahadat
    November 12, 2012 / 6:42 pm

    this is on for next week dinner

  47. lucy
    November 4, 2012 / 9:06 am

    Very nice! Cooked this dish two weeks ago. Where having this for sunday dinner with rice and peas and salad yum!!

  48. Lil
    October 22, 2012 / 1:29 pm

    I know all about those Eglington trips! Thanks for the recipe-I am dying to try it out.

  49. Mongo Kenyatta
    September 23, 2012 / 2:51 pm

    Hey guy am all male over sixty and never cook in all my life, but I always wanted to, I've looked at a whole lot of recipes but did not understand how to really get started. Thank to your videos recipes am now cooking up a storm please keep up the good works, I could now prepare some good meals for my grand children. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  50. Abu Salayaw
    September 7, 2012 / 3:12 am

    You just made my mouth water. The dish reminds me of a meal a hamptons catering service served at a party. I'm not sure they used the same fish though.

  51. Kurleigh Clifford
    August 22, 2012 / 2:58 pm

    Trird that escovitch fish, it was hot and I took out the pepper seeds but it was gr8 though

  52. Jennifer Delice
    July 21, 2012 / 10:23 pm

    I'll be trying this tomorrow for sunday dinner.

  53. Lorraine
    July 18, 2012 / 4:35 pm

    I am trying this tonight ….looks delicious

  54. A.J.
    July 14, 2012 / 11:48 am

    I've been eating this my whole life and to be honest, I never knew it had a name until now. It was always just fried fish.

  55. kttours360
    July 14, 2012 / 9:06 am

    Would be good over a fillet also. YUM!

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