If you like to keep things simple, my Whole Roasted Fish recipe is for you. Whole fish, seasoned with fish seasoning and stuffed with slices of fresh lemon, garlic, and a few sprigs of thyme, before being placed into a searingly hot oven to roast.
Full Recipe Ingredients/Instructions are available in the
recipe card at the bottom of the post.
You can find important tips/tricks in the
Roasting a whole fish in the oven is one of the easiest and tastiest things you can do. Growing up, my stepdad would go fishing every other weeknight, and whole roasted fish was a common dinner occurrence in our house.
What I like most about cooking whole fish is how easy it is to add flavor. Lemon, garlic, and thyme are flavors that work together and, when paired together, complement the fish beautifully.
However, this easy fish recipe can be adapted to suit the flavors you and your family enjoy. If you want to swap the thyme for parley, dill, or rosemary, feel free to do that.
Here’s what you will need to make oven-roasted fish:
- Whole fish – I used 2 whole fish, gutted and scaled, weighing roughly 1lb each. Red snapper, sea bass, tilapia, or trout would be ideal.
- Oil – I use olive oil as it has the best flavor, but any other light-flavored oil will work here too.
- Seasoning – I season the fish with fish seasoning, a dry rub mixture that tastes delicious on fish.
- Fresh herbs – 3-4 sprigs of fresh herbs are added to the cavity of the fish. I’ve used sprigs of thyme, but rosemary, dill, or parsley would work equally well.
- Garlic – fresh sliced garlic is added to the cavity of the fish.
- Lemon – is sliced and added to the cavity of the fish.
How to cook whole fish in the oven
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
Rinse the fish under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
Make 3-4 diagonal cuts on both sides of the fish to help it cook more evenly and to allow the flavors to penetrate the fish.
Rub the fish with olive oil and season it inside and out with fish seasoning.
Stuff the cavity of the fish with sliced lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs.
Place the fish on a baking sheet or sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake the fish in the oven for 25-27 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C). The cooking time may vary depending on the size of the fish.
Once cooked, remove the fish from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
Serve the fish on a platter, garnished with fresh herbs and lemon wedges if desired.
These tips will help you make the best whole-roasted fish you’ve ever tried.
- Pat the fish dry before seasoning it. This helps remove excess moisture that can cause the fish to steam and become mushy, rather than roast.
- 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.
- 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.
- The parchment paper pictured is not mandatory, but I like to use it as it stops the fish from sticking to the baking sheet.
- Swap the thyme I’ve used in this dish for other herbs like rosemary, dill, or parsley.
- Season and spice this fish dish the way you like it. Want to add some chili heat? Add some red pepper flakes or sliced red chili.
- Try adding some finely shredded fresh ginger to the cavity of the fish.
- Add extra citrus by finely grating some lemon zest and mixing it with the fish seasoning before rubbing it over the fish.
What to serve with Whole Roasted Fish
I like to serve whole roasted fish garnished with some pickled red onions and a spoon of chimichurri for a burst of added freshness. Alongside, I’ll add some rice or potatoes and a couple of my favorite veggie sides.
Additionally, you can bake your fish with vegetables. Lay the vegetables on the base of your baking sheet and place the fish on top.
For potatoes, try my Instant Pot Green Beans and Potatoes, Air Fryer French Fries, or my Southern Potato Salad. When it comes to vegetable sides, try my Marinated Air Fryer Vegetables, Oven Roasted Cauliflower, or Oven Roasted Broccoli.
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.
- Look for clear eyes: The eyes of the fish should be clear, bright, and bulging, indicating that the fish is fresh.
- Check for firm flesh: The flesh of the fish should be firm to the touch and should spring back when pressed.
- 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.
- 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.
How to store
To refrigerate: Fish is a dish that is best served warm from the oven, as it overcooks really quickly when you try and reheat it. 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 roasted fish; it’s a dish best served straight from the oven.
If roasting fish in the oven, I like to cook the whole fish on the bone. I recommend fish weighing roughly 1 lb each, and red snapper, sea bass, tilapia, or trout would be my top choices.
The length of time will depend a lot on the size and thickness of the fish. I cook my fish at 425°F (220°C) and check it after 25 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C). If it needs a little longer, I’ll put it back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes. A cooked fish should be flaky and come apart easily when gently prodded with a fork.
Yes, roasting is a healthy way to cook fish, as you add very little oil to the dish when roasting it.
No, don’t be tempted to cover the fish when roasting in the oven, as the fish will steam rather than roast.
If you have tried this Whole Roasted Fish recipe or any other recipe on my blog, please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below!
Whole Roasted Fish
- 2 whole fish (such as red snapper, sea bass or trout) gutted and scaled, about 1 lb each
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2.5 tsp fish seasoning
- 3-4 sprigs fresh herbs (such as thyme or rosemary)
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 lemon sliced
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Rinse the fish under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Make 3-4 diagonal cuts on both sides of the fish to help it cook more evenly and to allow the flavors to penetrate into the fish.
- Rub the fish with olive oil and season it inside and out with fish seasoning.
- Stuff the cavity of the fish with sliced lemon, garlic and fresh herbs.
- Place the fish on a baking sheet, or sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake the fish in the oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C). The cooking time may vary depending on the size of the fish.
- Once cooked, remove the fish from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Serve the fish on a platter, garnished with fresh herbs and lemon wedges if desired.
- Feel free to add other flavors using different herbs, seasonings, or spices.
- Additionally, you can bake your fish with vegetables. Lay the vegetables on the base of your baking sheet and place the fish on top.