Yucatan Style Grilled Red Snapper

Grilled red snapper on ti leaves

Judd Pilossof/Getty Images

Prep: 2 hrs 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 2 to 3 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
291 Calories
13g Fat
40g Carbs
15g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 3
Amount per serving
Calories 291
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1215mg 53%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 14%
Dietary Fiber 16g 58%
Protein 15g
Calcium 98mg 8%
*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.)

Mexico's Yucatan is home to a number of excellent seafood dishes, and this one is a take on a classic found in Diana Kennedy's "Cuisines of Mexico." Grilling is one of the best ways to cook red snapper, and the spicy rub you give the fish adds a lot of depth to an otherwise mild fish. If you can't find snapper, try any of the following: Pacific rockfish, striped bass, any seabass, catfish, walleye, haddock or yellowtail. Make sure you have fillets with the skin left on for this recipe.


  • 1 lb skin-on snapper fillets
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 2 tablespoons achiote seeds (available in Latin markets)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano is best here)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil

Steps to Make It

  1. There are two ways to do this spice mixture: With whole seeds, which you then grind, or with powdered spices.

  2. If you have whole spices, toast the coriander, the cayenne pepper, black peppercorns, achiote seeds, and oregano in a dry pan over medium-high heat until you can smell them, shaking the pan often. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Skip this step if you are using powders because toasting them is tricky -- they burn easily. Incidentally, toasting makes the spices smell better in the finished dish.

  3. Achiote seeds, which look like little red nuggets, are a key to this dish. But if you cannot find them, you can substitute more paprika. It will not be the same but is an OK alteration.

  4. If you are toasting and using whole spices, grind them into a powder in a spice grinder.

  5. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a plastic container or plastic bag, add the oil and the lemon and lime juice.

  6. Put the fish fillets in the juice-filled container and move around to coat. Now sprinkle the spice mixture over the meat side of each fillet. Don't bother to spice the skin side.

  7. Lay the fillets skin side down in the container or bag, then let this marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours.

  8. After the fish marinates, remove it and pat the skin side dry with a paper towel. Coat it with a bit more oil and lay the fillets down on a well-oiled, preheated grill.

  9. To cook this dish, you will need an "open" space on your grill with no heat -- either one section of burners turned off, or a spot where there's no charcoal underneath. This is where you lay your fish down. If you cannot do this for some reason, wait until the fire is subsiding or turn the burner to its lowest setting.

  10. Grill the fish for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness. Do not flip. If you do, the fillet will fall to pieces. That's why you leave the skin on.

  11. Once the meat flakes near the head end of the fillet, carefully remove the fish and set it on a platter to cool for a minute or two.

  12. Serve with flavored rice, as a sandwich filling, or break it into pieces and use it for fish tacos; this is my favorite use for this dish.