Caribbean-Style Fish Stew


This bright, flavorful stew features a whole red snapper and is seasoned with thyme, garlic, ginger, lime, and Scotch bonnet peppers.

Caribbean-Inspired Fish Stew
Caribbean-Inspired Fish Stew. Photo:

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
4 servings

Red snapper is treated to bright, tangy flavors from the herbs and lime juice in this stew, while Scotch bonnet chiles lend it a little heat. The stewing liquid is made with tomatoes and fish stock, and is garlicky and full of thyme. No part of the red snapper goes to waste in this stew; the fish carcass is used as a base for the stock, and the fillets for the stew. The grated ginger and garlic used to marinate the fish references the ginger-garlic puree used in a lot of West Indian cooking, and adds even more flavor. 


  • 1 (3-pound) whole red snapper, filleted and carcass reserved 

  • 7 large garlic cloves, divided

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (from 1 [2-inch] piece)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

  • 1 medium (10-ounce) yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 2 1/4 cups)

  • 1 medium (8-ounce) green bell pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 1/4 cups)

  • 6 (4-inch) thyme sprigs

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Caribbean pepper sauce or 1 to 2 whole Scotch bonnet chiles (pierced with a knife)

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce 

  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions (from 2 small scallions)

  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime), plus more to taste 

  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Carefully score skin of fish using a sharp knife (do not pierce flesh). Grate 2 garlic cloves using a Microplane grater. Rub grated garlic and ginger evenly over flesh side of fillets. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

  2. Mince remaining 5 garlic cloves; set aside. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add fish, skin side up; cook until fish is golden brown and crispy around edges, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. (Do not wipe skillet clean.)

  3. Add onion, bell pepper, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add minced garlic, thyme sprigs, and pepper sauce; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  4. Add water and reserved fish carcass (cut if needed to fit into skillet). Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by about three-quarters (about 1/2 cup), 12 to 15  minutes. Remove and discard carcass and any small pieces of fish. Stir in tomato sauce, scallions, lime juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; bring to a simmer over medium. Carefully add fish, skin side down, to sauce; cook, undisturbed, until flavors meld, sauce thickens slightly, and fish is warmed through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. If desired, season with additional salt and lime juice to taste.

  5. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and Scotch bonnet chile (if using). Garnish with cilantro, and serve.

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