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Jerk Fish

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I enjoy cooking my Jamaican Jerk Fish when the sun is shining, and I have the grill on outdoors. One of the best fish to jerk is snapper, as it is a large, meaty fish that takes on the flavor and grills well on the BBQ. I marinate whole fish in my homemade Jamaican jerk marinade for at least four hours for maximum flavor.

A black serving platter topped with 3 whole snapper fish in a Jamaican jerk marinade garnished with Scotch Bonnet peppers, wedges of lime and sprigs of thyme.


 

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My best Jamaican jerk fish recipe uses my homemade Jamaican jerk marinade, which has the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. I use a combination of Scotch bonnet peppers, onions, thyme, garlic, and ginger, then add seasoning and other flavorings like vinegar, brown allspice berries, and ground spices to the mix.

I like to make my own marinades; that way, I can make them to suit my own palette. Feel free to adapt the flavors to suit your taste. For example, I like a spicy jerk marinade, so use 4 Scotch bonnet peppers, but if you prefer yours milder, cut back on the peppers.

Once the marinade is made and the fish has been washed, I coat the fish in the marinade and set it aside to marinate for at least 4 hours, but longer if time allows. Then I cook it over white-hot charcoal to add that smoky flavor.

If you love the fiery hot, spicy flavor of jerk marinade, then try some of my favorite jerk recipes, my Jamaican jerk seasoning, Jerk bbq sauce, Jerk shrimp, Jamaican jerk chicken,  Jamaican jerk chicken soup, or this tender jerk pork in the air fryer.

For other recipes where I cook whole fish, try my Air fryer whole fish or Oven-roasted whole fish.

Ingredients

Here’s what you will need to make the best jerk fish:

  • Fish – I use whole white fish, which are gutted and scaled.
  • Lime – I used lime in the water for rinsing the fish.
  • Jerk marinade – I use my own Jamaican jerk marinade.
Jamaican jerk fish recipe ingredients.

How to make Jamaican jerk fish

Start by soaking your fish in cold water and rubbing the fish with lime or vinegar. Rinse and pat the fish dry using a paper towel. Cut 3 slits into each side of the fish.

In a large dish, evenly coat the whole fish with the Jamaican jerk marinade. Be sure to get the marinade inside the fish as well. Cover the dish and let the fish marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight for the best flavor.

fish marinating in jerk marinade

Preheat your grill to medium heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, allow the coals to burn until they’re covered with white ash.

Place the marinated fish on the grill. Cook each side for 7-8 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. The skin should be slightly charred.

Once done, carefully remove the fish from the grill. Let them rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

A black serving platter topped with 3 whole snapper fish in a Jamaican jerk marinade garnished with Scotch Bonnet peppers, wedges of lime and sprigs of thyme.

Other methods for cooking Jamaican jerk fish

You can also cook this jerk fish in our oven or air fryer:

Oven: Place the fish on a sheet pan and place it in a preheated oven of 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast the fish for 25-27 minutes. 

Air Fryer: Place each fish in an air fryer basket and air fryer on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 14-16 minutes. Cook the whole fish in batches, and do not overlap. 

Expert Tips

These tips will help you make the best Jamaican jerk fish you’ve ever tried. 

  • Marinate the fish for at least 4 hours or overnight if time allows. The longer the marinate, the better the flavor.
  • I recommend scoring the fish by cutting diagonal lines in the skin before you season it. This ensures you get maximum flavor into the fish.
  • Only grill the fish once the charcoal is white, any earlier and you will burn the fish.
  • If you want to check the internal temperature of the fish once it’s cooked, a probe thermometer is the easiest way to do this.
A black serving platter topped with 3 whole snapper fish in a Jamaican jerk marinade garnished with Scotch Bonnet peppers, wedges of lime and sprigs of thyme.

Flavor variations

  • This recipe typically uses whole snapper, but would also work with sea bass, tilapia, bream, or trout.
  • I used lime to soak the fish, but you could also add vinegar or lemon to the water.
  • I’ve used my own Jamaican jerk marinade, but you can buy a store-bought marinade if you don’t want to make your own. My favorite store-bought marinade is Walker’s Wood.
  • Add some sprigs of fresh thyme to the cavity of the fish when you are cooking it.
  • For extra citrus, add slices of fresh lime to the cavity of the fish while it is being cooked.

What to serve with jerk fish

I love to serve whole jerk fish with wedges of fresh lime, and a few vegetable sides like my Jamaican coleslaw and Jamaican cabbage. Also served is my Jamaican festival, a delicious fried sweet dough, which is the perfect side dish with my favorite Jamaican recipes. If I’m grilling outdoors, I would like to have a glass of Jamaican rum punch in my hand, pure sunshine in cocktail form.

How to pick whole fresh fish from the market

Don’t be intimidated about buying whole fish from the market. Here are my tips for buying fresh whole fish.

  1. Look for clear eyes: The eyes of the fish should be clear, bright, and bulging, indicating that the fish is fresh.
  2. Check for firm flesh: The flesh of the fish should be firm to the touch and should spring back when pressed.
  3. Smell the fish: Fresh fish should have a mild smell, not a strong or unpleasant odor. If it smells overly fishy, it may not be fresh.
  4. Look for bright and shiny skin: The skin of the fish should be bright and shiny, indicating that it was recently caught and is fresh.
A black serving platter topped with 3 whole snapper fish in a Jamaican jerk marinade garnished with Scotch Bonnet peppers, wedges of lime and sprigs of thyme.

How to store

Make ahead: The fish is marinated in the Jerk marinade for at least 4 hours before grilling, but can be prepared the night before and left to marinate overnight.

To refrigerate: I recommend that you enjoy your fish served warm straight from the grill when it is at its best, as I find fish overcooks really easily when reheated. However, if you do have leftovers, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. When ready to enjoy, place in a hot oven to warm through, taking care not to overcook the fish and dry it out.

To freeze: I don’t recommend freezing this whole grilled snapper; it’s a dish best served straight from the grill.

FAQs

Why soak fish in vinegar before cooking?

Soaking fish in vinegar water, or lime juice as I’ve done here, helps to season the fish and you will end up with tender, sweeter tasting fish. The acid also helps to firm up the fish, which helps it to hold its shape when cooking.

What fish is best for grilling?

I prefer to grill large whole fish like snapper, sea bass, tilapia, bream, salmon or trout. These fish are thicker and cook better on the grill than thin filets of fish. If cooking thin filets of fish on the grill, I would recommend wrapping them in foil, rather than placing directly onto the grill.

How long will it take to cook a whole snapper?

The length of time will depend a lot on the size and thickness of the fish. Snapper fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) when measured at the thickest part, ensuring it’s opaque and flakes easily with a fork for safe consumption.

Is jerk marinade really spicy?

Yes, this is a spicy sauce, but as with all marinades, you can adapt the flavors to suit your palette. I use 4 Scotch bonnet peppers, as I like my food spicy. However, cut back on the peppers if you prefer a milder sauce.

If you have tried this Jerk Fish recipe or any other recipe on my blog, please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below!

A black serving platter topped with 3 whole snapper fish in a Jamaican jerk marinade garnished with Scotch Bonnet peppers, wedges of lime and sprigs of thyme.
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5 from 1 vote

Jerk Fish

Jamaican Jerk Fish is great to cook when you have the grill on. One of the best fish to jerk is snapper, as it is a large, meaty fish that takes on flavor and grills well on the BBQ.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword best jamaican jerk fish recipe, Jamaican jerk fish, Jamaican jerk marinade, jerk fish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Marinating Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 29 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 903kcal
Author Tanya

Ingredients

  • 6 whole white fish gutted and scaled
  • lime , lemon or vinegar for rinsing fish
  • 3/4 cup Jamaican jerk seasoning

Instructions

  • Start by soaking your fish in cold water and rubbing the fish with lime or vinegar. Rinse and pat the fish dry using a paper towel. Cut three slits into each side of the fish.
  • In a large dish, evenly coat the whole fish with the Jamaican jerk marinade. Be sure to get the marinade inside the fish as well. Cover the dish and let the fish marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight for the best flavor.
  • Preheat your grill to medium heat. If you're using a charcoal grill, allow the coals to burn until they're covered with white ash.
  • Place the marinated fish on the grill. Cook each side for 7-8 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. The skin should be slightly charred.
  • Once done, carefully remove the fish from the grill. Let them rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Notes

Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) when measured at the thickest part, ensuring it’s opaque and flakes easily with a fork for safe consumption.
You can also cook this jerk fish in our oven or air fryer.
  • Oven: Place the fish on a sheet pan and place in a preheated oven of 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast the fish for 25-27 minutes.
  • Air Fryer: Place each fish in an air fryer basket and air fryer on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 14-16 minutes. Cook the whole fish in batches, and do not overlap.

Nutrition

Calories: 903kcal | Protein: 185g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 333mg | Sodium: 576mg | Potassium: 3753mg | Vitamin A: 954IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 288mg | Iron: 2mg
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