Italian Fried or Grilled Eel Recipe (Capitone Grigliato o Fritto)

Fried Eel

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Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
669 Calories
45g Fat
21g Carbs
47g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 669
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 45g 58%
Saturated Fat 7g 36%
Cholesterol 304mg 101%
Sodium 249mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 7%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 47g
Vitamin C 75mg 376%
Calcium 89mg 7%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 894mg 19%
*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.)

Eel is a traditional part of a seafood-centric Christmas Eve dinner (La Vigilia di Natale) in many parts of Italy, particularly in the southern Italian town of Naples and often makes an appearance as part of the Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes as well. According to religious tradition, it was forbidden to eat meat on this night, leading to elaborate feasts featuring many types of fish and seafood.

It can be prepared roasted, grilled, or fried. This recipe covers grilling and frying, while the recipe for roast eel (capitone arrosto), another traditional Italian Christmas Eve dish, is also on this site. 

Eel meat is oilier than that of many other fish and is consequently ideally suited to the grill, though it also fries well.


  • 2 1/2 pounds (1 kilogram) eel

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 bay leaf per piece of eel

  • Dash of fine sea salt, to taste

  • Dash of freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for basting

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Additional Ingredients for Fried Eel:

  • Salt, to taste

  • Pepper, to taste

  • All-purpose flour

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Steps to Make It

Prep the Eel

  1. Gather

  2. Cut the eel into pieces about 3 inches (7 centimeters long). Rinse them with running water and dry them well.

  3. Crush the garlic cloves slightly with the flat side of a chef's knife, peel them, and cut them in half crosswise.

  4. Rub the surfaces of each piece of fish with the cut side of the garlic cloves. 

  5. Arrange in a shallow baking dish. Season the pieces with salt, pepper, and drizzles of the olive oil and vinegar and dot them with small pieces of bay leaf. Let them sit to marinate for at least 1 hour.

To Make Grilled Eel

  1. Arrange the prepped and marinated eel pieces on metal grilling skewers, alternating each piece with a bay leaf half.

  2. Grill the pieces over a medium flame for about 30 minutes, turning them frequently and basting them with additional olive oil.

To Make Fried Eel

  1. Gather the additional fried eel ingredients as well as the marinated eel pieces.

  2. Remove fish from the marinade. Dredge the fish in flour, shaking gently to remove any excess flour, and fry the pieces in moderately hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, until they are crisp and golden-brown on the outside.

  3. Pre heat oil in a pot to approximately 350 F. Fry the pieces in moderately hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, until they are crisp and golden-brown on the outside.

  4. Drain the eel well on paper towel and season to taste with flaky salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.


  • Suggested wine pairings: A Greco di Tufo white wine from the Campania region, or any other crisp, dry white wine.