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.
1 Red Snapper (about 2 lbs)
1 scallion (green onion/spring onion)
3 sprigs thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 teaspoon allspice (see note below)
1 large onion
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.
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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.
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!
I loved the details +pictures provided. I will try again w/ your instructions.
Thanks for the info.
Have you ever had the jerk sauce inside the snapper with cabbage, tyme, onions and carrots, then fried with the same toppins?
I loved the taste. Never pan fried the fish before but it came out great.
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
Nice recipe and story about da’music store
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.
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!
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.
Lol that’s why it’s TRINIDAD!
My husband and I loved this recipe!! It was sweet, salty and savory. I will definitely make it again.
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!
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..
there’s 3/4 cup vinegar in this one
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
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.
Alex… there’s some use (like escovitch) but it’s mainly for preserving peppers and pepper sauces (scotch bonnet sauces).
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.
I tried this recipe with fillet red snapper and flounder and it was delicious. Very simple to make it.
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!!
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.)
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?
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!!!
I have used this recipe twice now and its awesome, although I don’t use white sugar raw sugar was great
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the recipe…. Looks delicious.
Looks delicious.. You made me bite my fingers… Thanks for the recipe..
HI chris how mch is it for a snapper and is there another fish you can use as an alternative
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!
Great Job – Thanks
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!!!
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.
Maybe your oil wasn't hot enough. Make sure oil is piping hot
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????
maybe your pan was not hot enough,or even the oil was not sizzeling enough.
Miss south fl,Caribbean restaurants,think I will prepare for tomorrow.also looking for a good stew peas recipe for my friend.
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 ; )
As a Jamaican, I am IMPRESSED with your recipes and your easy-to-follow instructions.
Keep up the great work here.
this is on for next week dinner
Very nice! Cooked this dish two weeks ago. Where having this for sunday dinner with rice and peas and salad yum!!
I know all about those Eglington trips! Thanks for the recipe-I am dying to try it out.
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.
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.
Trird that escovitch fish, it was hot and I took out the pepper seeds but it was gr8 though
I'll be trying this tomorrow for sunday dinner.
I am trying this tonight ….looks delicious
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.
Would be good over a fillet also. YUM!