Baked Whole Fish in Garlic-Chili Sauce

Whole baked fish
Ekaterina Smirnova / Getty Images
  • Total: 55 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
423 Calories
16g Fat
53g Carbs
21g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 423
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 21%
Saturated Fat 9g 46%
Cholesterol 49mg 16%
Sodium 1996mg 87%
Total Carbohydrate 53g 19%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Protein 21g
Calcium 712mg 55%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

While fresh whole fish is usually grilled outdoors in Thailand, in certain parts of North America we often have to come up with alternate cooking methods due to weather conditions. Here's a fish recipe that can either be baked indoors or on an outdoor grill. A variety of white-fleshed fish can be used, including red snapper, gray mullet, rainbow trout, tilapia or whatever you have that's fresh and good. If you prefer a more authentic approach, bake your fish in banana leaves instead of aluminum foil.


  • For the Sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • 1 to 3 red chilies (sliced, or 2 teaspoons Thai chili sauce, plus more to taste)
  • For the Fish
  • 1 to 2 whole red snapper (gray mullet, rainbow trout or tilapia, fresh or frozen)
  • 1 handful fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoon oil (if grilling fish)
  • Garnish: lemon slices or wedges for serving

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this fish dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Prep the Sauce and Fish

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat oven to 375 F or heat grill to medium.

  3. Stir all sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

  4. Place fish on a cutting board and score it by making vertical cuts an inch or more apart along the length of fish from head to tail. Turn fish over and do the same on the other side.

If Baking the Fish

  1. Place fish on a large piece of aluminum foil or banana leaf. Make sure the foil or leaf is big enough to cover and wrap the fish. 

  2. Drizzle 3 tablespoons (or more) of the sauce over the fish, covering both sides. Be sure to spoon some into the cuts you've made, as well as into the underside cavity. Reserve the rest for later.

  3. Bring the long sides of the foil up and over the fish, scrunching it together. Try to keep the foil off the surface of the fish, making a kind of shallow tent over it. Fold up each end and scrunch to secure. If using a banana leaf, fold the sides and ends of the leaf over fish to cover it. With banana leaf, you want the leaf to come into contact with the fish, as this adds to the flavor.

  4. Bake the fish in the foil directly on your oven rack. If you're worried about spillage, you can place wrapped fish on a baking sheet or tray and place in the oven. Fish wrapped in banana leaf will require a dish or tray, as a banana leaf is porous.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes or longer, depending on the size and thickness of your fish.

  6. Remove fish from oven and check some of the deeper cuts to see if the inner flesh is cooked. If fish still needs more time, return to your oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked.

  7. To finish the fish, remove from oven and open up the foil, scrunching it around the fish to create a kind of bowl. If using banana leaf, simply open up the leaf, which will have become drier and slightly crispy.

  8. Pour remaining sauce over fish and return to the oven.

  9. Turn oven to broil setting, and broil for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the fish is nicely browned and crisp-looking. Banana leaves will become quite brown and fragrant.

  10. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the fish with fresh coriander and basil. Add lemon wedges or slices.

If Grilling the Fish

  1. Brush your grill with a little oil to keep fish from sticking (if using a fish cage, it also helps to brush it with oil).

  2. Drizzle 3 tablespoons (or more) of the sauce over the fish, covering both sides. Be sure to spoon some into the cuts you've made, as well as into the underside cavity.

  3. Grill fish 10 to 20 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of the fish, and how hot your grill is). Allow fish to cook for at least 5 minutes before turning it the first time - otherwise, the skin may stick to the grill and tear.

  4. Use remaining sauce to baste as your barbecue, or pour over fish right before serving.

  5. Fish is done when inner flesh is opaque and no longer pink or translucent.

  6. To serve, top with fresh coriander and basil, plus wedges of lime or lemon.

How to Clean Fresh Fish

  1. Make a cut along the underside of fish from the head to 3/4 of the way toward the tail.

  2. Reach inside to remove guts and discard.

  3. Rinse fish inside and out.

  4. Remove scales by scraping a large knife along the fish's surface, scraping from the tail toward head until most of the scales have been removed.

  5. You are now ready to use in your recipe.


  • If using frozen fish, be sure to thaw it thoroughly before cooking. This can be done quickly by soaking fish in a bowl or sink of cool water.

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