This Jamaican fish escovitch recipe is savory, tangy, and has a little kick. Traditionally made with red snapper, firm white fish is sautéed with peppers, carrots, and onions.
With a Jamaican business partner, it probably doesn’t surprise you that I’ve been learning a lot about Caribbean cooking during my career. In fact, if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my other Jamaican recipes including Jerk Pork, Fish Tea (soup), and Jamaican Rice and Peas. This time I decided to tackle a seafood recipe I fell in love with during my visit to Jamaica earlier this year: Jamaican Fish Escovitch. Traditionally made with red snapper, you can use either a whole fish or individual fish filets. The whole fish takes a little longer to cook so I decided to share with you an easier, weeknight version using fish filets.
- Snapper: Ideally you can get your hands on red snapper as that’s what they traditionally use for this dish, but you could use white fish if you can’t get red snapper.
- Jerk seasoning: Depending on the brand, jerk seasoning can have different things, but typically it consists of cayenne, allspice, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, parsley, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
- Cayenne: A little goes a long way in giving a great kick of heat.
- Vegetable oil: I like to use vegetable oil when I pan fry because of its high smoke point.
- Carrot: Sweet and tender, and full of healthy vitamins and nutrients.
- Onion: I used a white onion for it’s mild flavor that caramelizes to be somewhat sweet to balance out the spice in this dish.
- Bell peppers: Use any color bell peppers you have! I’ll use yellow, red, or green peppers. They’re mild and sweet in flavor.
- Scotch bonnet: Very hot, so a little goes a long way, but they also have a surprising fruity undertone. You could also use a habanero pepper or skip it if you want to keep the dish milder.
- Thyme: Fresh thyme sprigs offer a wonderful aromatic, woodsy flavor to the sauce.
- Jamaican all-spice: Jamaican allspice comes from a specific allspice berry, and just adds a bit of extra Caribbean flair to the dish. You can use regular allspice as well though.
- Bay leaves: A wonderful aromatic ingredient that’s sole purpose is to flavor the sauce, and then be removed before eating.
- Rice vinegar: Adds a mild, tangy note to the sauce.
- Sugar: Sweetens and helps balance out the heat in this seafood dish.
How to Make Jamaican Fish Escovitch
To make sure I got the recipe right, I invited Vince in the kitchen with me, Chef and Owner of Irie Kitchen, a local organic Jamaican restaurant here in West Michigan.
One of the first tips I got from Vince is to gently slice the fish about 3 or 4 times, being careful not to penetrate all the way through. This allows the seasoning to get inside of the fish which results in a much more flavorful end dish. Additionally, this prevents the fish from curling up when cooking in the frying pan.
Next, you’ll want to season the fillets liberally on both sides with a combination of Jerk seasoning and your favorite all-purpose seasoning such as seasoning salt. Then, sauté the fish in a hot pan and cook until golden brown on both sides before removing from the pan.
In the same pan, you’ll begin cooking the carrots, peppers and onions. For added seasoning, we add in a bunch of aromatics including fresh thyme and a scotch bonnet pepper for a kick of heat.
Be sure to add salt and pepper as you go so that you develop the flavor throughout the dish.
For added tanginess, the veggies are seasoned with vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Taste as you go and don’t be afraid to add more vinegar or sugar if you prefer.
Before serving, return the fish to the pan to warm it back up. Season with some salt and black pepper to taste as well.
Then take your fish filets and lay them on a plate, and cover them with the delicious sautéed veggies.
The end result is a savory fish dish that is sweet, tangy and slightly spicy. Perfectly balanced and full of flavor, serve and enjoy your Jamaican Fish Escovitch!
Frequently asked questions:
Why is it called escovitch fish?
Escovitch (or escoveitch) was taken from the Spanish dish escabeche, which is a pickled then fried fish dish. Jamaica took the original Spanish recipe and made it their own, and gave it their own name as well!
What can I use if I don’t have jerk seasoning?
You could substitute creole seasoning or any other all-purpose seasoning blend will work just fine.
Can I cook the fish in the oven instead?
Absolutely! Simply bake it or broil it until it’s fork tender then top with the veggies.
More Delicious Seafood
- Grilled Shrimp Shawarma Skewers
- Easy Pan Seared Salmon
- Fresh and Flavorful Ahi Tuna Ceviche
- Parmesan Crusted Baked White Fish
- Baked Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
Eat It, Like It, Share It!
Did you try this fish and love it? The next time you make it, snap a picture and share it to your socials! Tag @thelemonbowl and #thelemonbowl so we can admire and share your dish.
Before serving, I like to garnish with a little freshly minced scallions. It’s delicious on its own or you can serve with Jamaican rice and peas.
Your fork is waiting.
Jamaican Escovitch Fish
- 4 snapper fillets (ideally red snapper)
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning (or your favorite seasoning such as Creole)
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ cup vegetable oil (or oil of choice)
- 1 medium carrot (peeled and cut Julienne )
- 1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 bell peppers, any color (cored and sliced)
- 1 Scotch bonnet (whole)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon Jamaican all-spice (or regular ground all-spice)
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar (or red wine)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- salt and pepper
- minced scallions (optional garnish)
- Season fish on both sides evenly with seasoned salt, jerk seasoning, and cayenne. Heat half of the oil (2 tablespoons) in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Saute fish until golden brown about 7-9 minutes, flipping once. Remove fish from pan; set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the same pan along with the Julienne carrots and a pinch salt and pepper. Saute carrots until they start to tenderize, about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in peppers, onions, and another sprinkle salt and pepper. Saute until they start to caramelize, about 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in all remaining ingredients (Scotch bonnet through sugar) and stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender, another 5-6 minutes.
- Return fish to the pan and cover with the peppers to warm the fish back up. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Divide between two bowls to serve. Garnish with minced scallions if you wish.