What Does The Red Snapper Taste Like: Curious Foodie’s Guide To The Depths Of The Ocean

When we turned forty, my hubby and I promised to do one new thing every day till the rest of our lives. Mid-life crisis kicked in, and we felt the urge to fill our time with new, meaningful experiences.

It was Mark Twain who said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.”, and we accepted this as our new motto.

However, as I am a passionate foodie, the easiest way for me to bring new, exciting things in our everyday life was through cooking. Also, my husband is a meat-lover and fish is not his favorite dish. He has particularly strong feelings about the Red Snapper, even though he never tried it – he dislikes its color, and “the mean look on its face.

Our new decision was a perfect excuse for me to introduce the Red Snapper to our kitchen. If you are also afraid to try this delicious fish, I am here to tell you everything you need to know about its taste and present you with some fantastic Red Snapper recipes that my hubby now adores!

The Taste and Texture of Famous Red Snapper

There is no surprise my hubby was so freaked out by this fish.

Red snapper is only one among hundreds of snapper species that are named after their "snapping" teeth. This strange-looking reef fish is usually harvested in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and along the mid-Atlantic coast.

However, Red Snapper has a gentle, sweet and nutty flavor. The fish is lean, moist and with a firm texture. Such combination makes it perfect for both mild and intense seasoning, which means you can use it to make whichever dish you like.

The raw flesh of Red Snapper is pale pink with yellow streaks, while its skin is deep red. As you cook the fish, the color will become lighter, but never completely white.


What to look for when buying Red Snapper?

First of all, you should know that many fish species are falsely marketed as “Red Snapper.”

Make sure to buy from a trusted source and ask questions before purchasing or you might end up with less desirable fish (West coast rockfish, for example). The only species that is allowed to be legally marketed as Red snapper is Lutjanus campechanus.

Also, when you are shopping for the Red Snapper buy it with the skin on. This is the only way you can verify the skin color and make sure you are getting what you want. Look for the bright red skin and if you’ve decided to take the whole fish, clear, bright red eyes.

As I mentioned earlier, we are talking about reef fish, which means there is the possibility of Ciguatera poisoning. Unfortunately, Ciguatera cannot be destroyed or eliminated by cooking. Checking if fish was harvested from known Ciguatera hot spots should be one of your priorities before purchasing.

Once you make sure that you are getting the right fish and a healthy one at the same time, you should check its freshness.

These tricks will help you recognize a fresh Red Snapper:

  • Big, bright and clear eyes are a green light, while dehydrated eyes are a sing you should stay away:
  • If the bloodline of the Snapper’s backbone is bright in color, the fish is fresh;
  • When you are buying fillets, firm, moist, elastic flesh that doesn’t separate and has no browning is a good sign. If you have a chance, poke the fillet with your finger. If you notice it bounces back, you can make a purchase.

How to Prepare the Red Snapper?

Most commonly, Red Snapper is baked, broiled, grilled, steamed, sautéed and poached.

As you can see, this is an extremely versatile fish, and all you need is a little bit of creativity, and any recipe will provide you with enjoyment. Lemon, butter, and chili peppers will make your snapper even more delicious.

If you went with the whole fish instead of fillets, there is some preparation that needs to be done before cooking. Remove the head, backbone, the tail, small pin bone and the fins to make sure you got rid of any potential choking hazard.

In only a few steps, your Red Snapper is ready to be cooked. Keep reading, and I will give you are some awesome recipes to get you started!


My Favorite Red Snapper Recipes

1. Crunchy Crumb-Coated Red Snapper

If you want to play safe, this recipe should be your choice.

There is no mistake when you go with the Red Snapper and breadcrumbs.

You can make a lunch for a family of four using this recipe. My hubby loves it so much that he made me promise I will make it at least once a month.

List of ingredients

  • 4 Red Snapper fillets (6 oz. each)
  • ½ cup of dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon-pepper seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt

Instructions

  1. Take a shallow plastic bowl and combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, lemon-pepper, and salt in it.
  2. Add fillets to the mixture, one at a time, and turn them until they are evenly coated on both sides.
  3. Place a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook fillets in oil. You should let each side cook for 4-5 minutes. You’ll know the fish is done once it starts flaking when you touch it with a fork.

2. Savory Red Snapper with Garlic, Cilantro, and Lime

Another classic in my cookbook.

Lime, cilantro, and garlic intensify Red Snapper’s mild flavor perfectly.

This is a straight-forward recipe that will feed six hungry people without any problem.

List of ingredients

  • 6 red snapper fillets with skin (6-8 oz. each)
  • ½ cup of fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of garlic (minced)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of fresh lime zest (finely grated)
  • 6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon of black pepper

Instructions

  1. Take a shallow baking pan and lightly oil it. While you are doing this, turn on the broiler and preheat it.
  2. Make sure to pat the fish dry, and brush it with half amount of oil and all of the salt and pepper you’ve prepared. After you’ve done this, place the fillets in a baking pan with skin sides up.
  3. Take a smaller bowl and mix garlic, cilantro, and lime zest in it.
  4. Broil the fish 6 inches from heat, until it is cooked through. It should be ready in 8-10 minutes.
  5. Once the broiling is done, transfer your snapper to a platter, skin sides up, using a metal spatula. At last, sprinkle it with cilantro, garlic and lime mixture and drizzle with remaining oil.

3. Spanish-Style Red Snapper with Matching Red Pepper Sauce

Red is the color of love.

When I introduced Red Snapper to my husband for the first time, I was going with this recipe that yields four servings.

It is very spicy, and I figured even if he doesn’t like the taste of the fish, he will love the sharpness of the aroma. I was right; he fell in love with this dish instantly.

List of ingredients

  • 4 skin-on snapper fillets (6 oz. each)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 cup of chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers (rinsed and drained)
  • ½ ounce of cubed sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper (freshly ground)
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon of ground red pepper

Instructions

  1. Soak the cubed bread in a small bowl of water for 5 minutes and then drain the liquid.
  2. Place the soaked bread, red bell peppers, one tablespoon of olive oil, sherry vinegar, half of the amount of salt and black pepper, ground red pepper, garlic and paprika in the mini food processor bowl. Process until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Cut three slits in the skin of each red snapper fillet. Then, sprinkle the flesh side of fish with remaining salt and black pepper.
  4. Prepare a large nonstick skillet by coating it with the remaining olive oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the red snapper fillets, skin side facing down and cook for 6 minutes. Next thing you should do is turn the fillets, so the skin side is facing up, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Place fillets on the plates and top each one of them with 3 tablespoons of red pepper mixture. At last, sprinkle it with parsley and your dish is ready to be served.

4. Exotic Red Snapper, Arugula, and Blueberry Salad

Who would think that “peppery” taste of arugula, blueberries’ sweetness and distinctive flavor of Red Snapper would make such a delightful combination?

Pecorino Romano cheese brings the additional twist to this recipe.

Invite a few friends over, pour them some white wine, serve this dish and see what happens.

List of ingredients

  • 4 red snapper fillets (6 oz. each)
  • 8 cups of fresh arugula
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 16 thin slices of Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chives (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • ½ + ⅛ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper (freshly ground)

Instructions

  1. Use a sharp knife to make shallow slashes in the skin of fish fillets. Make sure they are about one inch apart. Once you are done with this, season the fillets on both sides. You should do this with a half teaspoon of salt and quarter teaspoon of pepper.
  2. Take a large, nonstick frying pan and heat olive oil in it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, add the fish, skin side facing down. Cook for about 2–3 minutes. Use your spatula to flatten the fillets by pressing them down. Turn the red snapper fillets, and cook for 1–2 more minutes or until the fish is cooked through. At last, remove it from heat and keep warm.
  3. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the honey, Dijon, chives, and vinegar. Slowly add the water and extra-virgin olive oil while whisking constantly. Season the mixture with the remaining amount of salt and a little bit of freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Prepare another, large bowl and combine arugula and blueberries in it. Sprinkle vinaigrette over the salad and toss until everything is well combined.
  5. Divide arugula and blueberries salad evenly among four plates. Place four Pecorino Romano slices over each salad. Serve this delicious combination immediately with warm red snapper.

Conclusion

My husband got over his Red Snapper fear and fell in love with the fish instead. 

Since then, we’ve experimented with food a lot and tried so many new dishes. 

I can’t wait to tell you more about our experiences. I hope this nutty, sweet fish will find its place in your kitchen and your heart! 🙂

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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